Friday, December 30, 2011

Friday Poetry: Sonia Sanchez

This week writer/playwright/poet/activist/ Sonia Sanchez was appointed official Poet Laureate of Philadelphia. It's the first time we've had one, and I am so glad it's her. She has had a brilliant career with and extensive list of published works, awards and accomplishments. (Bio here). I have listened to her read her work over the years, as she has been a professor at Temple U., where she is still Poet in Residence. She has a powerful voice, speaking beautifully of justice and the strength of her people. Her recently published book Morning Haiku includes tributes to Emmitt Till and Eugene Redmond. I quoted one of her haiku poems back in 2008 on this blog and included a video of her reading.

One of my favorite poems of hers is this one:

by Sonia Sanchez

(after the spanish)

forgive me if i laugh 
you are so sure of love 
you are so young 
and i too old to learn of love.

the rain exploding 
in the air is love 
the grass excreting her 
green wax is love 
and stones remembering 
past steps is love, 
but you. you are too young 
for love 
and i too old.
...the rest is here. 
Another of my favorite poems of hers is this one:

Personal Letter No. 3

nothing will keep
us young you know
not young men or
women who spin
their youth on
cool playing sounds.
we are what we
are what we never
think we are.

... the rest is here.

I seem to be on an old folk's love poem track these days. Go figure.

You can read more about Sanchez and the Poet Laurette program here in the Philadelphia Inquire article. Today's Friday Poetry round up is hosted by Julie at The Drift Record. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Girft Books for Boys

I'm enjoying a trip to my local indie bookstore to pick up a few beginning chapter books for my first and third grade boys for Christmas gifts. Here's what they're getting:

Alvin Ho: Allergic to Girls... Written by Lenore Look, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham. I got a couple Alvin Ho books because they are such fun adventure stories about a quirky second grader with just enough anxiety balanced by  creative problem solving.

Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Suite (with Audio CD) by Anna Harwell Celenza, illustrated by Don Tate. I've heard so much about this book! I am really looking forward to sharing it with my 9 year old, who is always asking for more biographies.

Zac Power books: Poison Island and Deep Waters, by H. I. Larry. Exciting spy kid with super crime fighting powers! A fun website with games and parent-friendly forums! Total boy appeal!

Freddie Ramos Takes Off and Springs Into Action by Jacqueline Jules. A kid with superpower sneakers - what fun! "An ordinary boy in a city neighborhood learns how to use his new-found powers for good.  Illustrations by Miguel Benitez lend just a touch of comic-book style to this chapter book adventure." (Author's website quote).

And to balance the reading material I've made some Japanese fabric balls called Temari. Perfect for playing keep-away, indoor soccer, or hoops in the upstairs hall when the weather outside is frightful. I learned how to make these in the book omiyage by Kumiko Sudo. If you are handy with a needle and thread they are quick and easy, all made from scraps and so fun to stuff in a stocking.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Reading the Winter Solstice with Kids

The First Day of Winter by Denise Fleming. Henry Holt & Co. 2005. This was a delightful gift my boys received a couple years ago. What better way to celebrate the coming of winter than to sing a song to a snowman as you create him? Magical. Check out the author's webpage for a sock snowman activity.

And of course, we have new mittens all ready for the snow!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Edublog awards; Teaching poetry sites

This week the 2011 Edublog Awards were announced. I have spent some time browsing all the greatest educational blogs and have found a few new-to-me winners. In the interest of Friday Poetry I would like to highlight a favorite of mine: A Media Specialist Guide to the Internet (because you never know when you will need a cybrarian!). I've been reading this blog for a while and always find it rich with ideas and resources. This week blogger posted a wonderful list of 34 Websites for Teaching Poetry. If you are teaching poetry or just enjoying it with children and young people you will want to check out these wonderful poetry websites!

I am having fun playing with this linked site, among others. Magnetic Poetry for Kids (here's my current draft of a short poem:)

She's also linked to the Library of Congress Poetry Web Guides, listing all sorts of poetry lessons.

Now please don't forget to save some time to check out all the other poetry related sites rounded up this weekend by Kate at Book Aunt.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Paper Chains for the Christmas Tree

One of the activities in our Advent Calendar this week is to make paper chains for the Christmas Tree. I remember making them as a child in red and green construction paper. I've made them as a teacher with first grade classes for many years. It is a great joy to introduce them to my own two boys, who had never made them before.


I consider myself privilaged and honored to be the one who teaches them this! It's such a simple craft but so satisfying to watch the chain grow. I'm keeping a copy paper box full of cut paper strips (left over from one of our other gift projects) and glue sticks out, and they add to the chain in random minutes morning and evening. As it grows they discover some intuitive math activities that warm a teacher's heart. We made patterns, measured the table with it, and I anticipate them measuring themselves and the length of the dining room before we wind it around the tree. If you haven't done this with children for a while, or ever, I suggest you indulge in it soon!


And here's a book we are reading this week that compliments the "simple gift" theme - Ezra Jack Keat's Little Drummer Boy. Offering ourselves and our joyous passions to the Christ Child and to each other; the delights of this season!

Friday, December 09, 2011

"Just Enjoy Him" she said, and she did.


I am sad today, after hearing the news that my dear friend Judy (from the blog Just Enjoy Him) passed away yesterday. She had been battling inflammatory breast cancer for almost four years. We thought she had many more years but it was not to be.

Judy wrote about her life with such humor and honesty and courage. I started reading her blog back in 2007 when I first discovered adoption blogs. She adopted her son from Viet Nam in 2002. He's just about six months older than my son Buddy. Along with Judy I learned so much from adoption bloggers; from first moms, adoptees and other adoptive parents. She was able to put into words so many of the thoughts and feelings I was discovering at the same time. I always admired her spirit and irreverent spunk. I am so grateful to her for leading the way for so many of us. She took her blog name from her determination to enjoy her son with every fiber of her being, and to let go of the worry and anxiety that can come so close on the heels of adoption. She was honest and open about parenting struggles, and humble enough to learn from others and change her perspective to fit what her child needed. Her "Energy Boy" was the light of her life, along with her husband. Their joy leaked out of every pore.

She was also a librarian and generously shared her experience and insight with me when I began looking for a job in an academic library. When she discovered she had cancer, in December of 2007, we were all shocked and heartbroken. So many in the blogging world rallied around her and drew strength from her determined fighting spirit. I had a cancer diagnosis just a year later and felt as though I had been prepared by her example of how to deal; how to fight; how to love my life no matter what came. I had two surgeries and recovered. She had several surgeries, chemo in several regiments, a much longer battle, and then remission. Last year it came back and she was back in the fray. I have prayed for her, listened to her, laughed with her, and cheered her on in so many ways. I miss her voice, her insight, her snark, her irrepressible Facebook posts, her beautiful beaming smile and her silly planking photos.

There is just no way to tally up all the ways Judy gave of herself, or all that we gained by her courageous determination to share what she was learning and experiencing. Here is one of my favorite blog posts of hers where she shares some key points of what she learned along the way.

Heavy on my mind today is the weight of all her family has lost. Her husband and son are in my prayers this night. Judy had an unstoppable faith that was strong enough and deep enough to be angry at God and still hang on for a blessing. I pray for that tenacity and hunger for her family as well.

Jenna at Chronicles of Munchkinland posted about Judy, and Margie  at Komapseumnida did too. Bear's Mommy posted for Judy @ On Icarus' Wings.

If you have blogged about her passing leave me a comment and I will link to your post.


Friday Poetry: words on rocks

One of the gifts I am making my six year old son is a rock collection with words. Sort of a sight word vocabulary drawn from the creek bank. He loves rocks and collects them. On one recent nature walk he filled his pockets so full his pants fell down when he tried to run down the path ahead of me.

I love

He is learning to read and collects words. He reads signs everywhere we go. He reads me books every night before bed, often pausing in the reading to copy favorite words into the spiral notebook he has taken to carrying everywhere he goes. It slows down the story a bit but who can resist the power of claimed words?

great hope

I am quite taken with the fun of writing words on rocks. Once you start it's hard to stop! I left a lot of them blank, just so he could add his own selection, but I had to include many of my favorite beginning reader's words. I also found an old circus cookie tin to store them in. Carrying that around is a satisfying armful!

circus tin

Just for you, in honor of Friday Poetry, I have composed a haiku out of rock words:


One of the Advent calendar activities this week was to clean, fill and hang the bird feeders. I've been seeing a lot of chickadees in the forsythia bushes outside the dining room windows. Have you ever thought of writing words on rocks and making poetry or stories out of them?

Check out the other Friday Poetry posts rounded up by Robyn at Read, Write, How.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store."


The other day our Advent calendar activity was to make these paper stars. I am so happy with the way they came out! The red one I made out of an old Christmas card.


It was a little too stiff and hard to get the glue to stick without holding it together for a while. I tried using pictures from the World Wildlife Fund Catalog, after we made our donation online. The photos of the birds and animals made adorable stars!


Then the holiday book we read was one of the sweetest things yesterday. Cuddled up under a quilt I was charmed listening to my youngest child read How The Grinch Stole Christmas. It has to be one of our all time favorites and it just moved me to hear my six year old read it himself for the first time. We have seen the animated movie so many times, (not the latest version, just the wonderful old cartoon version), and have also enjoyed the play performed with my oldest son doing the Grinch, that we practically know it by heart. We could discuss what was coming next and anticipate our favorite bits. We also had a good discussion about why the Whos wake up singing even without any presents, packages, boxes or bags. Definitely a holiday classic that can't be skipped!

Here is one more paper star that is hanging in front of the entry hall mirror. You should try some of these - they are lots of fun and not difficult!


What Christmas crafts are you enjoying?

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Counting down to Christmas

It seems hard to believe but Advent is already here! This year we are counting the days to Christmas with a new Advent calendar I made out of felt stockings. (I shared directions to how I made them at my cousin's blog She Who Makes.) In each stocking is a card with a family activity to help us celebrate and prepare the way for the Savior's birth.

The picture above is a bit misleading because today's stocking is actually number 24. Since I have two sons at home they are taking turns pulling the cards out of the stockings, and Buddy's on the even numbered days. He pulled out the card that says, "Gather the Christmas books and read a story." We had to hunt around the book collections and find all the old treasures. I have collected a lot of Christmas books over the years and pulling them out is one of my favorite holiday activities!

Today we start reading The Way to Bethlehem by Inos Biffi, illustrated by Franco Vignazia. (Eerdmans, 1997).  From the introduction:

"Leading Children to Christmas - Today, Christmas is often reduced to a routine exchange of presents. This small book brings together words and images to guide children to the true Christmas, the Christmas that the Church has never ceased to celebrate. Derived from the Gospels themselves, this little volume simply retraces their account of the expectation and coming of Jesus. In addition, it recalls those saints who in various ways were close to the Child that first Christmas."

The gorgeous illustrations are painted in a medieval style in vibrant colors, pulling readers into the story by the passionate expressions on the character's faces. I plan to read a short selection each evening as we light the advent candles on our supper table. Other more friviolous stories will be read at bedtime to be sure!

I am unemployed this Christmas and planning to have a very simple, homemade holiday. I'll be posting about the gifts and decorations we made and the stories we read as we make our way toward Bethlehem. Won't you join us and share your celebrations?