While I'm away...

Happy Tuesday!  I'm currently on a trip up North {I'm writing this before bed Monday} to the New York State Children's Mental Health Services Coalition.  I'll be gone until Wednesday night with our 3 Directors and 5 of my colleagues to learn about various methods and listen to seminars for working with our population of clientele.  Some seem very interesting, and there is even one on mindfulness & meditation- which I am super excited to attend since meditation pretty much saved me from self-destruction a few years back.  I'd love to learn new ways to incorporate both mindfulness & meditation into my classroom.  It should be fun because the people I am attending the coalition with are totally awesome.  Plus, we represent the diversity of our agency- our directors, 2 family life specialists / direct care, a teacher assistant / direct care,  our program manager / recreation therapist, our behavior prevention specialist and myself, lead teacher / education.  Not only do I truly like the people I am going with {both as co-workers and as friends}, but they are all amazing at what they do.  It is bound to be a good time to bond & grow professionally as well.

Dark Places: A NovelWhile I am gone, I am bringing books with me.  I haven't finished Dark Places  by Gillian Flynn yet, so that is coming along- I hope to finish it on the ride up to the coalition.  I also packed When Rabbit Howls by Truddi Chase to read during down-time.  When Rabbit HowlsWe'll have to see how well I do staying awake in the car & reading versus falling asleep!
Be back Thursday with a review!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Thankfully Reading Weekend Wrap-up

What fun I had!  I'm sad to see that this weekend is over.  I got the opportunity to meet new {to me} book bloggers and read about great books.  The Thankfully Reading Weekend expanded my blogger community and made me feel welcomed.  I am extremely thankful for that.

I didn't get a ton of reading done.. I had a busy weekend with family & friends who were in town for the holiday, as well as finishing up some craft projects for Christmas and writing my lesson plans & sub plans for the coming week.  However, I did get some reading done!

I finished Flower Children by Maxine Swann, Firegirl by Tony Abbott and Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls.  I also started Dark Places by Gillian Flynn.  Flower Children, Firegirl and Dark Places were on my list to complete this weekend, along with Voluntary Madness which I opted not to read this weekend and instead fill in with Ways To Live Forever, a pre-read for my classroom library.  As far as review posts go, I will hopefully get to them later this week after my conference.

I'm not entirely happy with my reading this weekend, but when I look at the big picture and see the 4 gifts I crafted & wrapped, visits I had, and Christmas cards I finished... I am happy and thankful for this great weekend!
I'm so very glad to have met all of the other participants and hope to continue to frequent your blogs and keep mine up to date as well.  Hope everyone else had a fun weekend!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

I'm grateful for....

Jen {of Devourer of Books} has asked...
..what reading community are you thankful for?

I agree with Jen that reading is a solitary activity, but is much more enjoyable when there are people to share it with.  I must say that I am grateful for the blogging community and the support, ideas, memes, challenges, suggestions and encouragement- even if I'm not that great at the blog-world or keeping up with it!  {I promise that I am trying to stay on top of it more!!}  I started blogging to remind myself what I was reading and what I thought about it... then I thankfully stumbled upon the huge book blogger community!  {Shout out to the crafting blogger community too!- I'll post pictures soon, promise!}
I'm also fortunate enough that Joe enjoys reading and will let me babble on about books and has no issue with my B&N obsession {he is just as bad!}

So, what about everyone else?

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Beth Fish Reads asks us to...
share a picture of our TBR pile

I have 3 TBR piles- a mental TBR pile of all the books I want to read but don't own, a stack of YA books that I have to pre-read before adding them to my class library, and a pile of books I've purchased and/or won that I have yet to read

Obviously, I don't have a picture of my mental TBR list, but here are my other two stacks:

The left is most of my TBR... I have a few
books shoved in my shelves that are Joe's books that I want to read and haven't pulled out to add to my pile.  This is a center square on one of my 4 bookshelves.  The right is a bad angled shot of my YA books to pre-read... they normally end up stacked in "my room" (a spare bedroom that we converted into a walk-in closet/craft room/office for me)

Maybe if I feel ambitious later on, I will take a picture of our 4 separate bookshelves... and the little piles next to each shelf since we are beginning to overflow and need to buy a 5th shelf!

Hope everyone has been enjoying their Thankfully Reading Weekend!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


I'm thankful for...

Jenn (of Jenn's Bookshelves) asks us to...
...write a post about the book you are most thankful for.

What a difficult {and loaded} question.  I could say I am most thankful for a childhood favorite {The Velveteen Rabbit} or the novel that I tore through as a teenager {To Kill a Mockingbird}.  Maybe I could say it was the novel that changed my mind about it all {The Doors of Perception} or the one that made my choice of venue {an in-patient psychiatric hospital for adolescents} for my career in teaching a forever-choice and not just a passing experience {A Child Called It}.  Perhaps I should say I am most thankful for one of my favorite books {like The Dharma Bums, Brave New World, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Breaking Open the Head, or 1984}.

But I think I will say that I am the very most thankful for my very most favorite and life-changing book ever.  It is the book that is always on the tip of my tongue when asked "what is your all-time favorite book?" or "what is a good book to read?" or "what was the most powerful book you ever read?".  It is also the book I have read and re-read.  Not to mention that I've owned multiple copies of it as well.

Therefore, I give you:
{my current copy}

I read this young, before it was required reading at my high school.  Then I read it again for my English class in high school.  Again over the summers following, and again in an English Lit course in college.  I read it with my summer school class of teenage boys, I've suggested it to our high school students and staff alike.
This book changed me.  I can't remember now what it was that made me originally fall in love, but it definitely solidified my love of literature.  I think I also loved the drama- the drama in the book and the drama surrounding the book.  I've fought for the book in heated debates.  Basically, I love it.  The raw human experience, both within the book and in the world of literature scrutiny.

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

Thankfully Reading Kick-off!

This year I am joining in on the Thankfully Reading Weekend hosted by Jenn from Jenn's Bookshelves, Candace from Beth Fish Reads, and Jen from Devourer of Books !  I'm excited to join (even if it is a bit late- it started this morning!)

To kick it off... here is my plan for the Thankfully Reading Weekend...

My pile of books to read is enormous... while I wish I could dedicate my entire weekend to reading, some of my weekend will be taken up with lesson plans for next week and some seriously detailed sub plans for Tuesday & Wednesday (I'll be out of town at the NYS Coalition for Children's Mental Health Services), Christmas card making and family visiting.  Knowing that I cannot dedicate my entire time to reading, here is my humble reading list {from which I will probably pick 3}, with my sweet pup Benji:

Flower Children by Maxine Swann
{I started Flower Children last night and have a bit more than half to finish. So far, eh.}
Firegirl by Tony Abbott 
Voluntary Madness by Norah Vincent
Dark Places by Gillian Flynn
{which I've had listed as my 'current read' but haven't actually picked up yet}

I will be spending my reading on the couch.  And the second dusk hits, I will be curled up next to the fireplace with a glass of wine, probably with Benji laying on my feet!

I really hope to get through all my books & write up some posts- I've been slacking!
Happy reading!!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow



Room: A Novel
Rarely do I purchase hardcover books... not only do I think they're too expensive, but I kind of hate the bulk of them.  However, I was dying to get my hands on this book and after passing it a million and one times at B&N I just picked it up.
Room by Emma Donoghue is a novel about a little boy, Jack and his world.  Jack grew up in Room.  He has never stepped outside the 4 walls of this small room and he has never met anyone outside of his Ma and Old Nick.  The novel is told from Jack's perspective... all he knows is Room and what he sees on Tv, although the reality of Tv is not at all real to him.  With no windows, fresh air or contact with anything outside of Room, Jack's knowledge of reality is skewed.  To Jack, Room (and Wardrobe, Lamp, Remote, Ma...) is all the reality there is.  There is no world outside of the 4 walls.
As the story unfolds, we learn that Jack's Ma was abducted and forced into Room by Old Nick.  She has been there for years with nothing more than the food Old Nick supplies and what is in Room.  Ma does have the daily necessities, but what good is a bed or food or Tv when you're locked away and held against your will?
When Jack was born, Ma had something to live for.  She lived for Jack and she lived to protect him from Old Nick and the harsh reality of his existence.  For 5 years of his life, all Jack knows is that Room and what Ma teaches him.  Ma leaves out a lot- for instance, what is beyond the 4 walls of their Room.
When Jack begins to ask more and more questions, Ma beings to 'unlie' and starts revealing the truth behind Room.  Jack and Ma hatch a master plan to free themselves once and for all from Old Nick.  As it happens, we see it from Jack's eyes.  The scary idea of Outside and the plan of escape.  Jack has to be brave and save his Ma.
Once Jack and Ma are free of Old Nick, an entire new story evolves.  Jack must discover this new world and make sense of what he has missed for 5 years.  How can a little boy who has known nothing of the world make sense of it?  And how can Ma transition back into the world she has been locked away from?

Emma Donoghue weaves a beautifully tragic story.  She uncovers the resiliency of both Jack & Ma and leads the reader down a dark path towards freedom.  I have already loaned this book out to multiple people and have encouraged my Mom and her book club to read this for their next pick.  I loved this novel- it pulled my heart.  Everyone should read this... everyone!

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow

October Book Bin

Each month, I make a book bin to place in my classroom.  It always holds books that pertain to that month (Holidays, Season, Birthdays, Themes etc.), activity books and games, plush 'friends' to read to, stickers and stencils, toys and often some sort of 'light'.  The actual bin also pertains to the month and theme.. sometimes it is a holiday-specific tote (like October) or a basket with decoration (like the bin you'll see for November).  I also try to find "book bags" as well- I didn't make any for October or November, but have a few for December which I will share.  The "book bag" is a tote or small bag which contains a book or two, activities that go along with the book and often a toy and a plush to read with... it is a good "school to home" connection.

Hopefully I will start remembering to take pictures while the bin is set up in my room- unfortunately I didn't think of it for my October bin (or my November bin).  So, without further ado... here is the October book bin from my classroom!

Halloween & Fall paperback books from the bin:

Halloween & Fall chapter books from the bin:

Monster-ghost puppet, plush witch, light up Jack-o-Lantern (we sat n the dark around this and read 'ghost stories'), Halloween sign, cackling and light up jack-o-lantern key chain (that I pushed allllll the time and the kids absolutely LOVED- and also worked as a transition signal)

My cauldron of "fun"- filled with spider rings, creepy crawlies, stencils, pencils, tattoos and craft kits... it was also filled with candy goodness!!

 The bin all put together (minus the keychain- that was actually on my work keys)

October activities: History of Halloween, Halloween activity games (and a lot of other fun Halloween, fall, apple and harvest activities), creepy window-cling eyes and stickers

write to be understood, speak to be heard, read to grow


Penguin-Putnam Warehouse Sale!

Last week Joe & I went to the Penguin Putnam Warehouse Sale... lucky for us it is only 10 minutes away!  I've gone every year since college when I was student teaching so I could begin building my classroom library.  This year was the first year I bought books both for my class and for myself.  My classroom library is pretty robust after a few years as a Scholastic BookClub member & yearly visits to this book sale.
I also was on a tight budget this year (unfortunately, new tires beat out books) so I tried to get the biggest bang for my buck by purchasing a few for me, a few for my class and a few as gifts for my nephews & niece.  This year I got $310 worth of books for $45!!  Woohoo! 

Here is a peek at my loot:

Books for me:
Flower Children, Voluntary Madness, Candy Girl, Three Cups of Tea (young reader edition), When Rabbit Howls, Delicious, Wintergirls

Books for family:
2 Mad Art Draw-on/Wipe-off Holiday Books, Jan Brett Little Library, Mr. Birthday, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Books for my classroom December bin:
Snow is my Favorite and my Best, Gingerbread Friends, Santa Duck, Welcome Comfort, The Legend of the Poinsettia, The Night Before The Night Before Christmas, Penguin's Snowy Day, The Night Before New Year's

Books for my classroom listening station:
Wee Sing for Christmas, Return to Hundred Acre Woods

Books for my classroom December activity bin:
The Nutcracker (sticker book), Ornament coloring book, Mad Libs activity book

Books for my classroom February bin:
Everyone Says I Love You, Be My Valentine Peter, The Night Before Valentine's Day
Everyone Says I Love You is a beautiful pop up book- each page says "I Love You" in a different language with a pop-up that matches the region where the language is used.. here is a peek at the beautiful pages- English (America- Statue of Liberty) and French (France- Eiffel Tower)