Finish All Books on W.A.W. List – check!

It’s only been a week since I went back to school with meetings galore and I’m already missing the feel of a book in my hands and my head in another world of stories.  I have a tendency to get lost in the author’s characters and their lives and this summer was no different!  Our school librarian did another book club of the William Allen White Children’s Book Award 3rd-5th Grade Master List for 2016-17 and this summer I attended all but one of the meetings.  I did, however, read ALL of the books!


I didn’t start in any particular order although I didn’t want to overwhelm myself by choosing several novels to read in a 2 week time-frame before our club met. That would be mean of me to hog all of the books!  I’ll give you a run-down of each title based on the list.


  1.  El Deafo by Cece Bell – This was an interesting book format like a comic book.  It told the story of a girl who had a hearing disability as she went to school and made new friends. Visually pleasing and a well-told story.
  2. Life on Mars by Jennifer Brown – Although this story was a little hard to get into it, once you did, it was a great read. I learned things through the characters in this story that I didn’t know about space.  I would think this would be easier for a 5th grader to read than some of my 3rd graders.
  3. The Map Trap by Andrew Clements – Ahh, who doesn’t like a book by Andrew Clements? Frindle is one of my favorites and this one ranks up there with it. I would love to be able to read this during Social Studies when I’m teaching about maps!
  4. Absolutely Truly: A Pumpkin Falls Mystery by Heather Vogel Frederick – This might be my favorite on the list.  Great characters, great story, and who doesn’t love a mystery? I would say that this one is also targeted to a higher level reader.
  5. Half a Chance by Cynthia Lord – I really got into the characters of this one – friends and multi-generational with photography, lakes, loons, and canoes. Refreshing summer read.
  6. Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin – Dare I say that this was my least favorite?  Not because it wasn’t well-written because it was.  I think it hit a little closer to home based on a student experience of my own that I had had. The title was catchy and I loved the way the character focused on homonyms.
  7. Hello, I’m Johnny Cash by G. Neri – Written like song lyrics, this book was good. I had previous knowledge of Johnny Cash as my son loves his song “Boy Named Sue” and I’d seen movies about this infamous “Man in Black“.  In this story I learned some different facts that I didn’t know before!
  8. Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell – A very inspiring book of a gal who followed her dreams.
  9. Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with Great Whites of California Farallon Islands by Katherine Roy – I not only read this book during Shark Week but I was also going to San Francisco this summer!  Alas, I didn’t see the Islands or any sharks on my visit but I sure learned a lot by readings this book!
  10. Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh – Usually when you hear about desegregation you think of Rosa Parks. I enjoyed learning about a different family and their struggle from a different view point.


So, not only can I recommend these books to my own students, but I also completed a “review” for the library!  I mean, how I can expect my students to read them if I don’t?

P.S.  I not only read these 10 books this summer but 12 other novels. Now do you see why I’m missing getting lost in my fantasy world?  Time to get back to real life!


Lazy Days of Summer?

In looking back at a recent email where the sender had asked what I had been up to this week, I thought long and hard.  What have I been up to this week?  Here it is already Thursday and even though the days seems to pass by in a blur, I couldn’t actually say that I had done much.  Well, I did go to a baseball game with all 3 of my kids on Monday night (hey, $1 tickets through KwikShop, couldn’t pass it up!), ran track night Tuesday night (my awesome running group), church group Wednesday night (DivorceCare), did some baking (banana muffins and brownies – yum!), cleaning, watched the latest episode of Zoo, and finished an entire library book (they’re due on Friday) so I did do something, just not as much as I would usually accomplish.

This morning I made sure I was going to do better than that.

So, I hit the weeds.

This was supposed to have been a vegetable garden.  Although I didn’t seem to get around to it this year.  I meant to.


Instagram caption: “My vegetable garden. Hey, at least the weeds aren’t too crazy – yet! #keepingitreal #haventgottentoityet #notenoughtime

Geesh, it had gotten ridiculously crazy.


A third of it was already weeded by this point. And I had a huge blister on the palm of my right hand to show for it!

The dogs were chasing around a humongous wasp the entire time, which was like, 2 hours in the semi hot sun, that seemed to think I was disturbing its area.  It kept landing on the fence around the garden but, fortunately, never on me!  I never found a nest so hopefully it just moved away but it certainly kept my fur boys busy!


Cooper finally gave in to the heat and wasp chasing and collapsed in the cool earth under the bay window in a section that I hadn’t weeded yet.

I had some potted plants that weren’t fairing too well in the heat, despite the constant watering and their location, so I planted them in this really-next-year-it’ll-be a vegetable-plot.  They’re likely going to die anyway so at least it’ll look nice for a day or two. Okay, I’ll be honest, I’m hoping they’ll last longer than that since it took me so long but I won’t hold my breath. At least my neighbors will be happy not to have to look at the overgrown mess that was there before! (You might be asking why is there an old tire in the garden? I saw somewhere on Pinterest that they made a planter out of it so I thought I’d give it a try. I may regret it later . . . )


The finished product, including the fence, to keep the dogs out of it! Granted, Cooper can jump it in a single bound but it does slow him down.

I worked very hard this morning to accomplish this, then went inside to change clothes and headed to the Y for a treadmill workout with my daughter, who had missed her cross country conditioning this morning (likely on purpose because it was early!).  After getting in my miles (our group run was scheduled for 6 pm tonight, but I haven’t been doing well with the heat/humidity and the heat advisory was brutal today – 108 degrees – so the treadmill had to suffice), a quick drive to MacAlister’s for their free iced tea day (free drinks! Yay!), lunch at home, then preparing for book club. Book club is always fun (a post on that coming up soon!), then dinner, which my son didn’t want to eat.

I feel quite accomplished with today. Is it time for bed yet?


A Summer of BTMs!

BTM = Book Talk Meetings! Not be confused on what we actually call our school (not in a derogatory way, mind you. They actually represent the initials of our school!)

Our librarian is absolutely FABULOUS. This summer she asked the staff of our school if we were interested in participating in a summer book club. There were 14 staff members/teaching friends that were so she got 30 copies of the 11 titles on the William Allen White list for grades 3-5 for the 2015-16 school year for us to read. Woo hoo! Free reading books!  Our directions were as follows:  “Please read one or more of the titles on the Master List to discuss at each meeting you attend.  We can exchange books so as many of us as possible can read as many titles as possible.  Bring any notes you may have on the book or any teaching ideas that come to mind as you read.  I will have copies of reading slips for you to complete as well so we can display those around the library and start motivating kids to read these books as well.” Sounded simple enough!

The official list bookmark the student's received this Fall.

The official list bookmark the student’s received this Fall.

I did my reading faithfully, and read 7 of the 11 titles. I missed the first meeting due to my race in Frisco, CO but I couldn’t wait for the next one.  It was a very warm summer afternoon and I took a sweater just in case the AC was too chilly.  I shouldn’t have bothered. When I arrived, I learned that their air conditioning was broken!  Nothing a cold one couldn’t fix . . .


My “cold one” with a few titles up for grabs for our reading club.

So, which titles did I read?  My interest was definitely piqued by the title The Boy on the Porch by Sharon Creech.  It was very well written but it wasn’t what I thought and I was disappointed by the ending.  Another novel was next: Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes.  I really enjoyed this one and I was seeing a common theme of stories in the South.  Maybe it was just a coincidence with the first two titles. #3? White Fur Flying by Patricia MacLachlan.  A good story about dogs that the younger grades would enjoy. A couple of fast reads: A Splash of Red by Jen Bryant and Mary Walker Wears the Pants by Cheryl Harness.  My last book to read was a picture book called Parrots Over Puerto Rico by Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore.   My favorite book had to be Gingersnap by Patricia Reilly Giff. The story was set in 1944 during World War II where the main character left town to find a family member and went on an incredible journey.  It was a refreshing story and, although appropriate, didn’t seem to be a child’s book.

Unfortunately, I only made it to a couple of the meetings due to conflicts or being out of town.  I had every intention of making it to the last one but missed the email with the time change. Me, being the loser here, went too early and ended up going home and taking my oldest son out to dinner instead. Maybe that was meant to be instead of intellectual book discussion.

Such a fabulous idea for the summer with promise of continuing this school year and starting a new list for next year.  I, for one, will definitely be doing it again with the hopes of being able to make it to more meetings.  And maybe next time I should check my school email more frequently around book club time!

another author visit

After going to my first author visit and book signing of  Beth Hoffman (I wrote about it here), I knew that when I saw that Clare Vanderpool  (Newbery Award winner AND local author!) was going to be at our local bookstore, I had to take my daughter. We had both read Moon Over Manifest, me with my book club, her just because she wanted to.

It was crowded, standing room only when we got there. We chose a spot so we could see her clearly. Her talk began right on time and we enjoyed hearing her tell us about how her life had changed since receiving her award as well as answer questions. After about an hour, we waited in line for her to sign her newest book, Navigating Early. It was a wonderful experience for us both!

Author Clare Vanderpool

Author Clare Vanderpool

Jocelyn and author Clare Vanderpool

Jocelyn and author Clare Vanderpool


Bring it on, 2013!


This picture was a part of the Chocolate Village in the Keystone Lodge.

I usually dread the beginning of a new year. I’m not sure exactly why. Maybe because it’s the end of a year. Maybe it’s because I didn’t feel I had accomplished enough. Regardless, 2012 had it’s share of challenges but I haven’t regretted anything which is definitely a good thing!

2012 Recap:  

  • Girl Scout leader to co-leader and merged with a new troop. Great move for the girls – and me! Letting go of some of my responsibilities was a big deal for me. I also let go of the being a coordinator for Box Tops and labels at the school
  • I’m still the Cub Scout treasurer. Last year, though, as Wesley will be advancing from Webelos II to Boy Scouts in March/April.
  • Moved schools and grade levels from 3rd back to 4th, my 1st building move since having started teaching. Scary, indeed, but love our new administration!
  • Ken took me on an Alaskan cruise to celebrate my 40th birthday and our 20th wedding anniversary in June. Great memories! Several trips to CO, too, not only for the snow but also to escape the KS heat.
  • Celebrated fun birthdays! My daughter officially became a teenager and my youngest son turned 10 – double digits. Where did those years go?!
  • Built some very special friendships that have continued even though we’re now spread all over. I wrote about it here.
  • Taxi driver between soccer practices/games, football practices/games, and cross country meets. Love watching my children participate in activities.
  • Went back to running with few issues with my knee – thank goodness! Ran my first 10-mile Turkey Trot and have continued to run.
  • Lost track of all of the books, magazines, etc. that I’ve read. I LOVE to read! Bonus? Book club!
  • Completed many projects around the house, inside and out.

2013 Plans:

  • Continue to build existing relationships. This isn’t just with my girlfriends but also family and other friends. 
  • Experience life. Even though it bothers me that the house isn’t perfect, laundry isn’t always finished and dust bunnies are in the corners, I need to let it go. Take Buddy to the dog park or for a walk. Enjoy the children’s activities. Plan family activities such as a game night or a movie night at home. Schedule a date night with my husband. Or even better yet, be more spontaneous!
  • Celebrate special events – or not. My oldest son will turn be 16 this year. Say what?! He’ll also be taking a trip abroad with his high school to Spain in May. How cool is that? That’s worth a celebration! Ten years ago we started a new tradition of an ice cream social on the last day of school. Why not start a new tradition or just celebrate being together?
  • Keep myself healthy with exercise. I’m back into running and am planning on running my 2nd 1/2 marathon in May. If all goes well with that race, I’ll run the full marathon (yes – the full 26.2 miles!) in October. I’d like to cross train as well with cycling and weights at the Y. I’ll have to schedule my training in order to accomplish this!
  • Keep myself (and the family!) healthy with proper eating. I don’t do too badly in this area as I haven’t had pop in nearly 3 years. Chocolate and sweets are my downfall as my willpower plummets and my body retaliates. I want to try new recipes but cook healthier on a budget. A challenge I’m sure since I don’t particularly like to cook and I don’t spend a lot of time in the kitchen!
  • I always have plans for cutting back on financial obligations (401b plan will be paid off in late May, nearly paid off my Odyssey, looking into loan forgiveness for my student loan which when that goes through my loan will be nearly paid off, and putting more into savings. After all, my oldest son is a sophomore in high school which means he’ll most likely be going to college in a couple of years!
  • Many house projects, starting with kitchen counters, finishing up the basement, deck staining, remodeling the downstairs bathroom and others!  Accomplishing things like this really makes me feel good since I’m a major list-maker and checking things off is exhilarating!
  • A vacation or two? I love Keystone so I’m sure I’ll end up there sometime this year! Nothing else is planned yet, although I’d like to go back to England with the family. Won’t be happening this year as that’ll be REALLY expensive!
  • Volunteer appropriately. I got in over my head in years past as I couldn’t say no. It got better last year when I went to special events only at the Humane Society, co-leader for Girl Scouts, kept up with Cub Scouts, dropped the school Box Top/labels coordinator, and limited blood donations. My children keep me busy enough with their activities without having to pile up all of this as well! Now I don’t feel guilty (or as guilty, I should say!) as I did before.

So, there you have it! I doubt it’s everything but it gives an insight on my thoughts from the past year and the upcoming year. It’s not unlike me to add to  what I’ve already been working on.

Big plans for 2013? Projects, concerns, goals? I’m sure I’m not the only one with a list like this!

and we’re off!

Summer vacation is here with a vengeance! My to-do list is a mile long and I’m not totally sure if that’s a good or bad thing! Have I accomplished much yet? Perhaps. Here’s a run-down:

* I’ve worked on my daughter’s room (it’s amazing what kind of things you can find hidden in her closet and under her bed), going through the closets and drawers for a fall consignment sale, and sorting through toys that she no longer uses. She is, after all, going to middle school next year!
* I’ve painted the walls, trim, and doors of the new mudroom and just the other day helped my Dad put down the tile. Next up, grouting and base boards!
* I’ve spent several hours over many days at the pool. I DO have 3 children, remember!? And with the pool being just down the street at the end of our cul-de-sac, why not?
* I’ve read books. Aaahhhh, my guilty pleasure but something I don’t have a lot of time to do during the school year. So far I’ve read Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool that was chosen as a part of my book club and Life’s a Beach, a novella by Malena Lott as well as a couple of others. Many magazines are great to flip through at the pool, too.
* I’m also a taxi driver. Or at least it sure felt like it this week! Jocelyn had Girl Scout camp four days this week and Wesley had Cub Scout camp three days this week. I was either driving to or from somewhere to pick up or drop off at least three hours a day! It would have been worse but thank goodness for car pools!
* Gardening has been low on my list but my strawberries have been picked and eaten as have been lettuces, and weeding (my least favorite aspect of gardening next to bugs) has been accomplished.
* I am back into my running routine – sort of. Unfortunately I’ve gained some migraines and I’m not sure if they’re related to my running, hydration levels, or the fact that’s it been crazy hot here already. Either way I’m monitoring it but I won’t be ready for that half-marathon in October if I don’t get my training in!
* Making spreadsheets of finance reports went quickly, thankfully! I still need to remake some for grades for next school year but that shouldn’t take but a bit of tweaking.
* Spending time with family has been key. We’ve been to Cowtown, cooked out, and even had the treat of my niece staying with us for a weekend while our Wesley went to stay with them. Orange Leaf has been frequented a time or two as well as making s’mores with our handy dandy indoor S’mores maker!

Well, it’s a good start anyway, and I’m enjoying my time at home with the children with some sort of relaxation. That’s got to be my favorite part of summer – spending time with family!

Jocelyn and Addi enjoying the sun at the side of the pool.

a signing at watermark

Other than hanging out with friend and author Malena Lott, I’ve never met an actual author before. That changed on the evening of November 4th.

I’ve been a member of a book club for about a year now through a chapter of BookEndBabes in which I have met some fabulous women. I was hesitant at first as I’ve always read for pleasure and I wasn’t sure if analyzing characters and getting into the nitty gritty of a book was something I was interested in. Although I did miss a couple of sessions due to life getting in the way, I have read every book that we voted on. I didn’t always care for them but I definitely read some that I would never have picked up otherwise. One of the books that we read was Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman. What a wonderful book! It is well-written with superb characters that grip you and taken you with them on their journey. It was also a favorite of our book club so we were thrilled to hear that author Beth Hoffman was coming to Watermark Books! Amazingly enough, even my schedule allowed me to attend!

Beth Hoffman is a lovely and warm woman who encouraged us to not settle and to go for our dreams. She told us her story of how she got to be where she is today and about her characters in CeeCee. We laughed and we cried and had an incredible time that evening. My signed copy of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt will be forever treasured and I am in the process of re-reading it now that I’ve gotten to know a bit about the person behind the scenes. Thank you, Beth, for a wonderful experience! And a huge thank you to my wonderful friends in book club who enjoy books as much as I do!

Terri, Jennifer, Deena, Beth, Dani, Deb (me), and Pam at Watermark Books.