Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Wordless Wednesday

I've seen Wordless Wednesday appear on Twitter so I thought I'd give it a try. Click here on Wordless Wednesday to see what others are posting. 

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****

Just to give the picture some context (I know it's supposed to be wordless, but...), this Coast Guard helicopter landed on the Life Flight helo-pad at the hospital as part of a drill. I was at the pediatrician's office with my daughter with a front row seat (out the office window) of the drill. Pretty amazing to be so close...

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****
As a Nerdy Book Club member, I cannot help but include a wordless book as part of my Wordless Wednesday post. 

Where's Walrus?

Where's Walrus? by Stephen Savage visually tells the story of a walrus who escapes from the zoo and manages to disguise himself from the zookeeper by wearing a variety of hats throughout the city. I wondered, though, was the walrus really able to hide or was the zookeeper just following along on the walrus adventure? Either way, this is a fun book with simple illustrations that are quite appealing.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BE with family - Slice of Life 2013

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz. Click on Two Writing Teachers to be taken to their website to learn more about this week's Slice of Life.

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****

I'm back home after time down in Southern California with part of my biological family. In a previous blog post I shared that I am adopted and that I have relationships with both of my biological parents. I am particularly close to my biological father and his family who are the family in SoCal. I refer to my biological father as "Tatay" (Tagalog for father). I consider Tatay's  wife, my "step" mum, to be a close personal friend, and his three children are, without question, my younger brothers and sisters. Their children are my nieces and nephews. We may not have been raised together but we claim each other as family. I could not be more proud of my younger sibs-Mark, Natalie, and Matt. They are amazing people!

The Gomez grandkids
I was in preschool when my adoption took place. I briefly reunited with both biological parents when I was in high school and then didn't have relationships with either parent until in my 30s. I'm closer to Tatay because the relationship has been developing for longer - in some ways it helped that he had children because I wanted to get to know my youngest sister and my younger brothers (I was adopted with my biological sister, Suzanne, and I have a younger brother, Steven, also adopted, from different biological parents).
I'll be honest. It was awkward having my mom and dad and then these other people in my life who were parents and siblings. I didn't know how to balance everyone's feelings. For many years, I wondered "how do I reassure my dad and mom that I am not trying to replace them?" and "how do I develop meaningful relationships with my siblings without making them feel like I am trying to move in on their dad?" and "how do balance the biological parent and friendship relationship?" It has taken a lot of openness and trust on all of our parts to make the relationships work. I often wonder if the awkwardness of everything was all me. I just didn't want to hurt or offend anyone. I will be eternally grateful to Denise, my "step" mum, who has answered every question I have ever had about the circumstances of our adoption. She is a kind and generous woman who I am proud to call my friend.

Where is this all leading? My favorite part of our trip to California centers around the weekend that we spent in Carlsbad. My daughter, Maddie, was able to spend quality time with her cousins; in particular, she had time with her "girls", Cali and Ava. The girls begged for Maddie to have a sleep over and even argued who got to sleep with Maddie. In the end, Maddie spent two nights away from me, which is a first for both of us. (I didn't know what to do with myself without her around so I finished Rump by Liesl Shurtliff, and read Sidekick by Dan Santat and Bobby vs. Girls (Accidently) by Lisa Yee. Yep! Living large!) Maddie ran in circles with her "boys", Tyler & Ryder (both Maddie's age) and Mason (the youngest of the crew). The kids swam together, played together, shared iPads, and cuddled together. My heart could not have been happier.
Maddie, Cali, Ryder, Tyler, Mason, & Ava
I don't know what the life of adoption is like for others. For me, it's difficult to imagine my life without my biological family as part of my family. I love each one of them and appreciate how they've added to who I am. My daughter is surrounded by even more people that adore and love her. My life is richer because of each one of them. 

I suppose the older I get the more sentimental I become. At this point in my life, I have learned to take advantage of time with family. It may not always be convenient to get together but when opportunity presents itself it is so important to take the time to be with the ones you love. I am very appreciative of my Gomez family. Thank you for the memories this past week.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BE Childlike - Slice of Life

A Slice of Life is a weekly blog hosted by Two Writing Teachers, Ruth Ayers and Stacey Shubitz. Click on Two Writing Teachers to be taken to their website to learn more.

*****     *****     *****     *****     *****
This week my husband, Mark, brought home a digital camera that he was given as a 'thank you for your service' for 25 years at Georgia Pacific - Toledo. Maddie took the camera around and provided us with a photo journal of her journey around the house.
Maddie, the photographer, before she got her hands on the camera
 Maddie's favorite people, Daddy & Mommy

 The flora ...
 and the fauna.
Not sure of the inspiration behind the front door photo.

The Maddie-sized vehicle...
 compared to the Daddy-sized vehicle.
The amazing thing about Maddie's photographs is that they are all her. No one showed her how to use the camera nor did anyone point out what she should photograph. For a three year old, these are GREAT!
As I thought about her little photo journey, perspective came to mind. In her mind, there's no fear of pushing buttons or worry that she might break it. She just goes for it. What to take a picture of is not a question. She just walks around and photographs whatever tickles her fancy. The parallel for me is the number of times I've limited myself because of fear. Fear of rejection. Fear of not being any good. A lot of opportunity; a lot of growth; a lot of deep relationship building has likely escaped based on fear. I intend on being more like Maddie. More childlike. More uninhibited and just going for it.

#TreatTuesday - Blueberry Waffle & Rump

Thank you to my Twitter pal, Niki Ohs Barnes, for the #TreatTuesday meme inspiration. Yum!
For more #TreatTuesday inspiration check out Shannon Houghton.

Blueberries picked from bushes in our yard!

How exciting to have a day where I can partake in two of my favorite pastimes-treats & books! My treat today may look like a simple waffle, but when you are a person that doesn't eat a lot of wheat (we are transitioning to a Paleo/Primal way of living) then a waffle is a real treat. Add to that, the delicious blueberries that we have in our own yard and dollop of whipped cream and, well, let's just say it was a home run. Even better is when your food manages to be color coordinated with your book cover (Yep! I'm reading Rump by Liesl Shurtliff)...sorry folks, I'm not normally like that with being all matchy matchy.

Speaking of Rump, it's been on my TBR (To Be Read) list but quickly moved to the top when my Twitter pal, Niki, was tweeting about a #virtualbookclub that would talk about the book. I am realizing as I read this book that I am going to have some serious #booklove for "The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin".

Monday, July 15, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 07/15/13

Inspired by my Twitter Pal, Jen, this post is about what I read this past week and what I plan on reading in the week ahead. Like Jen and others, on Mondays my post will be in the form of meme. Jump over to Jen's blog, Teach Mentor Texts, to learn more about It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 

  Here's what Maddie and I read together this past week:

 Maddie and I do far more reading than what gets documented. She is a typical three year old and loves to have the same books read and reread to her over and over and over and over again. She's rotating (again) through her Pinkalicious books and Llama Llama books. We'll see what tickles her fancy this week. The Dora #bookpic is included because that was a time when she held the book up and said to me, "Time for our #bookpic , mommy." Apparently, we take a lot of pictures with our books. 

Here's what I finished this past week: 
This was an audiobook that I LOVED! I will be writing up my first review this week about.

Our Hero (Babymouse, #2)
My first Babymouse read and I adore her. I'm stalking her at my public library.
Super Amoeba (Squish, #1)
This was my first introduction to Squish. I'm stalking the Amoeba, too.
Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit (Lunch Lady, #5)Lunch Lady and the Field Trip Fiasco (Lunch Lady, #6)
 I'm a HUGE fan of Lunch Lady and have no qualms checking out every copy I haven't read just to read them. They are NEVER at the library long. Still waiting for books 2 & 3. 

I seem to have developed quite an ADD habit with reading lately. I still have NOT finished The One and Only Ivan or Choice Words. Choice Words is a small book but full of things that are really forcing me to stop and think. I read, digest, and then go back to it.  

Reading in progress: 
Choice WordsTeach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator
The One and Only Ivan
I started a new audiobook which I am excited about since it's a throw back to my youth:
The Secret Garden
And, I added this book to my reads for the week in preparation for #virtualbookclub on 7/22/13. 
Rump: The True Story of Rumpelstiltskin
I started out strong this past week with Teachers Write! and kind of waned toward the end as unexpected day trips and an overnight trip to Grandma's took over. My intention is to get back in the swing of things and get cracking EVERY day. I love the interactions with Kate Messner, Gae Polisner, Jen Vincent, and the amazing guest authors and fellow Teachers Write! campers. I've noticed that I am writing a lot of poetry so I'm going to include Poetry Friday (also inspired by my Twitter pal, Jen from Teach Mentor Texts) in my writing and reading week. You'll also see Slice of Life again. At the very least, I'm writing (and reading) far more than I have in the past and feel extremely happy with that. 
What are you reading and writing this week? 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Teachers Write! Tuesday Quick Write - 07/09/13

Thank You!
Home and heart open to those born of others
Never knowing the physical nature of bearing a child
        You have birthing pains all your own

The incessant questions
    Just trying to figure it out
                        Sort it out
                            Find the rationale for 
How come you gave me away?
Why wasn’t I good enough to keep?
What did I do wrong?
        Small one, you are enough for me.
        You are as my own flesh and blood.
        I love you

Parents who adopt
        Mom and Dad
        Thank you 

Note: Today's post is a thank you letter to all parents who adopt children. People that know me well know that I am adopted and that I have relationships with both of my biological parents and their families. The feelings expressed do not represent feelings that I experience or feel at this time in my life. I thank my own biological parents for having the courage to make what I understand was a difficult but necessary decision. I am who I am today because of the choice they made - thank you. 
My sister, Suzanne, and I were adopted together by Richard and Teri Takano.

 Tuesday's Quick Write was hosted by author Amy Ludwig VanDerwater. Amy is the author of Forest Has a Song, a poetry book for children.Forest Has a Song: Poems  
To see Amy's prompt for today's posting, please follow the link to Kate Messner's website. 


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Slice of Life - Todd Whitaker and Twitter Saved My Life

Tuesdays, for the month of July, are dance class days for Madeline. This is her first dance class and she couldn't be more thrilled. She is in a Creative Dance class for 3 to 5 year old dancers so there is some instruction but I love how the dance instructor isn't overly structured but she does enough instruction that Maddie feels that she is in ballet. Dance class has given me a unique opportunity to observe Maddie as a student. It's a cool perspective to see her interacting with a teacher: moments where she is totally focused and other moments where she just spins around in a circle so she can feel her little skirt flutter. It's precious, really. I have found that I need to hide in the building during dance class otherwise Maddie spends her time looking at me through the glass window, mouthing little tidbits of how she feels to me. Today, I tucked myself in a corner, read Babymouse #2 (how come I waited so long to read graphic novels?), and then still had time to think about where I am at with "things" right now.

It's pretty amazing how having a child changes your filter as an educator. I suddenly run everything through the "would I want my child in that type of school?" and "do I want my child in that type of instructional setting? that kind of teacher?" After a five year stint as a teacher on special assignment and then as an elementary principal, I requested a return to the classroom (motherhood and a dying dad made everything overwhelming). My school district was supportive and honored the request. I knew I'd be rusty, but I never prepared myself for the depths of despair I would experience.

I was assigned to a school where I found the parents and community to be incredibly supportive and welcoming and a staff that was highly skilled and the epitome of professional. It was also a school that had a highly prescriptive reading program, Kindergarten through 6th grade. The reading program did not match my teaching philosophy nor did it match anything I had read from Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer. When I approached my team and my administrator about my concerns with the structure of the prescriptive reading program, I was told that decisions had been made prior to my arrival and that I was expected to be part of the team. It was a difficult year...I found myself teaching in a way that I hated. I didn't inspire readers or writers. That trend would continue for another year.

I felt that there was some hope the 2nd year at this school when the administrator agreed to a book study for Daily Five and CAFE. At the same time, our school was notified that we were in "Improvement Status" so any hopes of doing something other than the prescriptive textbook were quickly shut down. We were going to do more of the same and everyone needed to be on the same page. Any leverage I thought I had with a National Board certificate quickly evaporated. I didn't have a reading endorsement so my research and experience meant nothing to my administrator. Why didn't I just close my door and do my own thing? Being in Improvement Status meant that every classroom that was at a tested grade level was under intense scrutiny and those not following the script (me) were directed to be part of the team. I threw in the towel. Honestly, a part of me died. Remember the Maddie filter? I remember thinking that I wouldn't even want my own child in my classroom.

When the opportunity to mentor 1st and 2nd year teachers became available, I jumped at it. Not only was it a way to grow professionally but it was also an escape for the dark place I was in. During the spring of 2013, I decided to log onto this dormant Twitter account I had. I don't even recall what sparked the motivation to play around. I decided to see if one of my educational gurus, Todd Whitaker, was on Twitter. He is so I followed him. It was divine intervention that he posted about "Twitter being free professional development" and "Twitter is THE way to expand your professional learning network". I have no qualms with saying that Todd Whitaker saved my life.

Once I embraced Todd's Twitter advice, I began by following Donalyn Miller, my other education guru, and from there the network grew. As a result, I feel the parts of me that I thought had died are coming back to life. I read. I write. I blog (say, what?!). And I tell people I work with about what I'm doing. The PLN that Todd spoke of has, in essence, nursed me back to health. I have a long ways to go, but I'm at a place where I've regained confidence, I feel that I have something to offer professionally, and I have passion, again. More importantly, I would put my own kid in my classroom.

So, my slice of life is a deep and sincere appreciation for those in my Twitter PLN who have opened their arms to me, embraced me as one of their own, and accepted me as I am. 

Teachers Write! Monday Quick Write - 07/08/13

You can't take it with you.
I still hear ma's voice say this to me every time I came home crying from school because people made fun of my clothes or when I didn't have the same purse or shoes as the girls my age had. Guess it was supposed to be some sort of comfort. It wasn't. They still had and I still wanted. Those same feelings of inadequacy followed me through high school and college and into adulthood. Only now, the stakes are higher. Bigger house. Fancier cars. Expensive hair and nails. Wish I didn't give damn, really.

You can't take it with you.
That's what dad said to me every time my eyes widened at the money he was spending on the remodel of his home or another plush vacation for himself and ma. He spared no expense. But, let's get one thing straight-this is guy who was a real tight-wad when I was growing up. I mean, he stashed money in places that even ma couldn't find. Borrow money from dad to go to the movie? Forget it. I suppose it comes from growing up with nothing-ya hang on to what you got. That's what made the spending spree so odd. I suppose that would have been the time to borrow a few bucks, right? 
...none of knew about the terminal cancer eating away at his lungs...

You can't take it with you.
I'm a saver. I'm a rainy day fund kind of gal. I'm the exact opposite of my husband. Here I am thinking we are building up a nice little fund so that we have something to fall back on when that big tree in the back yard falls on our house and that guy goes out and buys a new shotgun! What???? At the very least we should be putting away for our daughters college or wedding fund. Sigh. All I get when I talk to him about it is "Babe, might as well spend it while you can. You can't take it with you." Yeah, like I haven't heard that before.

You can't take it with you.
Some people may disagree with the way I raise my daughter. I'm what the doctor called a "mature mother". I think he was trying to politely tell me that I was an old lady having a kid. Well, being mature and all, I find myself cherishing every moment with my little girl. I will not clean the house just so I can cuddle with her on the couch or so we can play dress up in her bedroom. We read books and go on long walks. Every moment of my day is spent with her. I may even indulge her just a tad...I'm firm when necessary, but I do what I can to give her everything her heart desires and then some. At night, I'll just crawl in bed with her so I can listen to the rhythm of her breathing and gaze at her beautiful, angelic face as she sleeps. Nothing in my life is more perfect than her. As she reaches out and touches her little hand to my face, I breath another thank you to the Lord for this special gift because you can't take it with you.

Thank you, Jo Knowles, for today's inspiration!


Monday, July 8, 2013

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 07/08/13

Inspired by my Twitter Pal, Jen, this post is about what I read this past week and what I plan on reading this week. Like Jen and others, I will my Monday post will be in the form of meme. To learn more, go to Jen's blog at 

Here's a look at what Madeline and I read together this past week:

As you can see, we got some Mo Willems in this week. I made a comment to my mom about the Pidgeon which resulted in several new books for Maddie's library. We visit the public library today so her reads for the week are usually determined by that visit. 

Now for MY reading...I didn't make my #bookaday goal for the week. Here's the one book I finished. 
Love That Dog

Reading in progress:
Choice Words
This book was recommended by Donalyn Miller at a one day workshop in June she presented at in Salem, Oregon.
Teach Like a Pirate: Increase Student Engagement, Boost Your Creativity, and Transform Your Life as an Educator
I am reading this as part of a Twitter #educoach book study facilitated by Jessica Johnson.

This is an audiobook for me, read by Ed Asner. Loving it so far!
Last week I said I was going to read One and Only Ivan but didn't. This week is the week that I am going to do it!

The One and Only Ivan
I'm also on the look out for mentor text for my Teachers Write! What originally started as a plan to write about my dad/Maddie's Papa, has morphed into family research about my parents' and Mark's parents' stories. I still intend on writing a picture book story based on Papa and found Grandfather's Journey in our home library. Some of my time at the public library today will be spent finding other mentor texts like Allen Say's book. 

Grandfather's Journey

Have a TERRIFIC week of reading and writing!!!!!