Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Finding Our Words

Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge ...
I am excited to explore my newest passion, writing,
with slicers from Two Writing Teachers.

As I sit here struggling to find the right words for my post I can't help but think of my dad who just had a stroke. The stroke effected the left side of his brain, the language center. He has aphasia. A condition that has taken both receptive and expressive language from him. His brain is full of  knowledge and experiences from the last 84 years of  his life. He knows people, places and things, but he struggles to put words to match those faces, names and objects. His eyes and mannerisms communicate his fear, frustration, sadness, recognition and hope. 

Putting things in perspective I know that trying to find the right words to write today are not nearly as important as my dad learning words again so he can express his thoughts, needs and wants.  I have not lost the written word, I merely have the desire to improve.  Re-learning language to communicate through spoken words is a long and difficult process. With hard work and determination I have faith that we will both succeed in finding our words.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Foto Friday

In learning how to maximize my understanding and correct usage of operating my Nikon D3200 to the best of my ability, I have decided to take it S-L-O-W. Each week I will focus on one or two camera features (depending on the complexity). I will read information and practice using the feature(s) in my picture taking.

Week #2 ~ Point and Shoot Photography
                ~ Scene Mode

This week I looked for shots to fit each of the "modes".  Below you will see one picture for each of the scene mode settings on the Nikon D3200 camera.

 Dowses Beach

Not Following the Rules
(Action Mode)

Walking the Jetty/Beach

 Kids Being Crazy

Flowers Blooming at the Botanical Gardens
(Close Up)

I'm not sure what it is that the camera actually does differently with each setting. I know it has to do with lighting, speed and aperture.  As I move into using the manual mode I will compare my scene mode pictures with manual taken pictures to observe and make changes for improvements.  The modes are a great way to assist an amateur photographer.  It helped me keep in mind the type of subjects to look for when photographing and to be aware that with each of these modes the eye will be paying attention to the subject differently to make the best photo.

This week when framing subjects I tried to be cognizant of space, lighting and shadows.When taking pictures I tried to take a number of frames of the same subject making subtle changes. Sometimes just the smallest change made the biggest difference. Looking back at my pictures this week I learned that the best photos were either the very close subjects, or the pictures taken further away. Pictures I took with a lot of middle ground were not as appealing to me. I also noticed that extra color or objects in the background are not needed, and do not enhance a photo.  They often distract and take away from the focus. 

Photography really is a lot of trial and error and consistent practice.  I would like to understand the difference between "auto" and "scene" modes".  Are there differences in exposure if a person has their picture taken in auto mode versus portrait mode?  With my photos, I feel there are too many variables to tell.  More to explore...

Until next week . . . Smile :) Sonria :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge ...
I am excited to explore my newest passion, writing,
with slicers from Two Writing Teachers.

I always look forward to a low key Spring Break. Our week is usually spontaneous and relaxing. We catch the Boston Marathon on Monday and then see what other activities will occupy our time during the week. I enjoy being unscheduled. I enjoy the reading, walks to town, just hanging out and the chance to just get up and go with no urgency or sense of time. With that being said, there is no denying that I also feel the need to "escape". An escape from the typical, from the every day routine of work, home, cook, clean, errands, activities, repeat five days a week. Even spending days off at home, there is the pull of laundry, cleaning, cooking etc. My ultimate escape is the ocean. The sand, the water, the beach. Ahh! We were so fortunate that my sister offered her Cape house for the second weekend of our Spring Break.

As soon as I stepped on to the sand, my feet sank, my body relaxed and my heart filled with joy. I can't put into words how the ocean pulls me into another world. It creates a sense of calmness, peace and tranquility. Walking along the shore I came across this design of shells and it spoke exactly to what I was feeling.

It didn't matter that it was 48 degrees and windy. My hood covered my ears and my down jacket wrapped around my body keeping the chill away. The sun was shining, there was an ocean breeze, the waves were crashing, and that makes me feel like I'm in a DREAM.

Three days of escaping to the beach allows the leisure of time. Time to lounge in the morning with a cup of coffee. Hours of playing games and dancing to music with the kids. A stretch of the day reading. Daily walks to collect sea shells. The ease of eating out and being served. My escape to the beach was the perfect way to end a week, and I look forward to my next escape to the beach, even if it's just for a day trip.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

I'm a Fan...

...of Linda Urban

I fallen in love with Linda Urban's writing. Every book I have encountered I feel connected to the characters, and I come away thinking she has captured me as a young girl or one of my past or present students. 

First, it was Hound Dog True. Mattie is a young girl struggling to fit in, her shyness being her biggest obstacle. I could relate because I was and still am shy. My favorite quote from this book being, "You can't have brave without scared." Those very words are what finally got me to write. Write because I am a writing teacher. I need to model for my students and I want to get better. I need to practice what I preach. I tell my students that all learning requires practice,  practice makes better. I am glad Mattie was brave in finding comfort in who she is and for being an insightful young girl.

After finishing Mattie's story in one sitting I knew I needed to find other books Linda authored. Zoe, a fifth grader from A Crooked Kind of Perfect was her next character I was introduced to. Urban's simple writing made me feel I was truly listening in on a pre-teen, "I have gone over to the dork side." A typical thought and feeling of a girl struggling with friends and family. Zoe made me laugh with her frank way of speaking. She is real and true to herself.  She is also dedicated to piano playing with a sense of responsibility, "You can't just get up and walk away every time you mess up. You'd never get anywhere.” Another great lesson for readers to take away from Linda's believable characters.

I eagerly awaited the release of The Center of Everything and it did not disappoint. Linda does a fabulous job of creating a thoughtful and worrisome character, Ruby, who as most youth, think that she and her problems are the center of everything. Too often we minimize kids worries, but they are small adults with loads of questions and worries. Linda portrays this in Ruby's struggle to make sense of her world and for her wish to come true.  She has a typical friendship with Lucy where there is misunderstanding and reconciliation, and then there is Nero. A boy who may annoy some for his asking "why"about everything, but in my book is wise for his years. I love his questioning the world and wish more people would not just take information at face value. He will be successful in life.

When I have book talked a title of Linda's to my students, a waiting list is quickly filled and the book begins to be passed around the classroom. I can't wait to share her latest, The Center of Everything. Linda's books are appealing to a fifth grade audience (and I can be very convincing), so I anticipate a reading lottery and a lengthy waiting list starting tomorrow in Room B023. 

There are two more books of Linda's that I have not (yet) read and I look forward to all future books she publishes.  If you haven't already, I hope you embark on the the realistic journey Urban brings you on in her books.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Foto Friday

In learning how to maximize my understanding and the correct usage of operating my Nikon D3200 to the best of my ability,  I have decided to take it s-l-o-w. Each week I will focus on one or two camera features (depending on the complexity). I will read information and practice using the feature(s) in my picture taking.

Week #1 ~ Point and Shoot Photography 
               ~ Auto mode

My first exploration in using my camera I took shots of people, places and things that were present and looked interesting. I did not look for shots or put much thought into the background, sunlight, or shadows.  I wanted to get a feel of holding the camera in my hands.  I experimented with holding the camera in landscape and portrait position, and with the distance I was from the subject.

As much I was tempted to edit with cropping I decided I wanted my first photos to be untouched, so I could reflect on ways to improve and have evidence of my growth.

I enjoy looking at and critiquing my photos. I can see a number of flaws in the pictures. My observations help me plan the improvements that should be made.  Now, I have have an idea of what to look for and what to avoid as I continue on my photography journey. 

Photo Prompt - Signage


First Sandbox Play of the Season
Performing on the Town Commons
A Walk Around the Neighborhood

Flowers for Mommy

The Best Big Brother
Charlie teaching Helena to ride her bike

Shooting Hoops


Smile :)   Sonria :)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Marathon Monday

Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge ...
I am excited to explore my newest passion, writing,
with slicers from Two Writing Teachers.

Marathon Monday is a joyous day. An occasion many Bostonians and surrounding towns look forward to year after year. After yesterday it will never quite be the same. My eyes tear up, my heart breaks a little more each time I get a glance at the news.

Ever since I was young, I cheered on the thousands of runners. Whether I was at the starting line in Hopkinton or along the route in Ashland, Natick, Heartbreak Hill, Kenmore Square or volunteering at the finish line in Boston, I did not miss the opportunity to be a part of Boston's and my family's tradition to encourage the inspiring individuals to complete their goal or dream of finishing 26.2 miles. It was watching these dedicated runners, that sparked a desire in me to one day run and finish the Boston Marathon. I did it not once, but three times (all unofficial, as a bandit).

Yesterday, as I was watching from the sidelines, as I do each third Monday of April, I felt the community come together as one. The spectators line the streets with encouraging signs, cups of water and oranges to hand off to the athletes. People watch for and anticipate the blue lights and sounds of a police car siren that announces the approaching elite runners. After three waves of runners, the sidelines continue to stay packed with people praising, applauding and offering high-fives to every last participant that runs, walks, limps and struggles by to the finish line. The kindness, the happiness, the smiles, laughs, dedication and determination was in the air. As the runners pass they smile, wave, and even thank their cheerleaders. The Boston Marathon is a race for both the runners and spectators. It is amazing how Boston communities come out of the woodwork to cheer on strangers. For the duration of 26.2 miles there are people to cheer on the runners. The spectators are as dedicated as the runners. Someone, somewhere took that joy away April 15, 2013.

But, I have faith. Bostonians and marathoners will be back. I will be back. I vowed that someday, again I would endure the 26.2 miles. I feel I still have one left in me if I dig deep enough. More than ever I am dedicated to making that happen. I will not let evil defeat Boston's tradition. It is part of who we are as a city and who I am as an individual.

My prayers and love go to families, friends, runners, spectators and the city of Boston. Peace!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge ...
I am excited to explore my newest passion, writing,
with slicers from Two Writing Teachers.

Working my passions...I finally took the financial plunge and dropped a substantial chunk of money on one of my passions. For as long as I can remember I have had a camera and  have loved taking pictures.  I am the annoying one snapping candids and calling to people to “smile”, trying to capture the  perfect picture at a memorable event.  For years I have wanted to take my camera clicking to a new level and get a "real" camera. Finally, after much researching 35mm SLR cameras, I decided to go with the Nikon D3200.

I literally know nothing of “real” photography language and its meanings. Speed? Aperture? I have a lot of reading and experimenting to do, and I am looking forward to every minute of it. I also know I will be driving my kids, family, friends and students batty with my new “toy”.

In school, I am beginning to implement "The Passion Project" with my students. It is a time designated for the students to learn and engage in what interests them.  We have discussed what drives us, how we learn best, passion, interests, and projects. Students are at the phase of the project where they are determining how they want to spend their time and energy to gain knowledge.  I am participating along side the students during our designated times twice a week to model learning with a passion, persevering through the "boring", or difficult times and demonstrate various learning tools. As the students, I am setting up a plan of how I will spend my time during Passion Project. I have manuals, books to read, a CD to learn from and I am taking an on-line class to guide me in gaining skills. In addition to research, I will practice the art of photography by taking lots of pictures. I will have fabulous subjects right at my finger tips.

Of course, I will be spending numerous hours outside of class time to practice my passion, but when life gets in my way, I will have the Passion Project to rely on and further pursue knowledge on picture taking.  My hope is for my students to share the same enthusiasm and desire to learn.

My first two photos with my new Nikon D3200...auto setting.
As I learn and practice I will share new photos.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

They Grow So Fast

My first Tuesday Slice of Life Challenge ...I am excited to explore my newest passion, writing, with slicers from Two Writing Teachers.

April showers bring May flowers. It also brings April Fool's Day, the Boston Marathon, April vacation, warmer weather and my son's birthday. In just 3 days he will be double digits, the big 1-0. It 's hard to believe. Time really does fly by when you're having fun, parenting. The day he was born in Guatemala, I was moving into our new home in Massachusetts. Coincidence? I'm not so sure. Each year when celebrating his birthday, we also honor his adoption story. I remember everything from "the phone call", his pictures, the preparing, the waiting and w-a-i-t-i-n-g, the traveling to Guatemala, the very first time he was placed in my arms and his arrival home on Christmas Eve 2003, as if it were yesterday. I share tales from our time in Guatemala; his meeting his buddy Sammy in the lobby of the hotel before he met me, his crying from wearing shoes that were too small, eating eggs for breakfast and squash for dinner from Mimi's plate, driving in Roberto's truck without a car or seat belt to visit Antigua. We love the reminiscing and the making of new memories.

Each year he grows taller, smarter, wiser. He makes me so proud. Proud of his hard work in school, playing the cello and participating in sports, exploring new things, but mostly for being a boy of character. He's kind, caring, thoughtful, helpful, grateful, and responsible. Could I ask for anything more? Everyday I am thankful for being blessed with my amazing son. I love you, Charlie. To infinity and beyond!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Poetry Tag

 April is poetry month.  We read, discuss and write poetry all year, but in April we do a more intense study.  This year our class is playing "Poetry Tag" inspired by the book Poetry Tag Time.  Each day a new student or teacher will be tagged "it". They will then write an original peom based on the poem of the day. Today we read Mary Lee Hahn's poem Green Door.  I demonstrated how to read, reflected and then use the poem as an inspiration to write your own.  Below is Mary Lee Hahn's poem and then my "tag poem".

Green Door
by Mary Lee Hahn
I'm searching for
the green door.
Behind it, stashed,
is spring warmth.

Behind the green
door flowers bloom,
sun is shining,
no more gloom

of grey cloud skies
and winter snow,
of ice and slush
and frozen toes.

When I find the
door I'll fling
it open wide and
in we'll spring.

***** Tag: Ms. Kilpatrick is it *****

Revolving Door
By Ms. Kilpatrick

Yellow door
Long days
Short nights
Green leaves
Sunshine, hot

Brown door
Dark approaching
Colorful leaves
wind, cool

White door
Short days
Long nights
Bare trees
Snow, cold

Green door
Light approaching
New life
Budding trees
Rain, warm

Revolving door