Thursday, January 31, 2019

My Heart by Corinna Luyken {Mental Wellness}

My Heart by Corinna Luyken had me at hello first page.  As I read, "My heart is a window" my whole body relaxed and I gave a sigh.  A window lets you look out and lets you look in.  Have you ever had those moments in life when your emotions slide?  Corinna Luyken shows us it's our heart guiding that ride on the slide in the next page.  The entire book is describes how our heart guides the different emotions we have.  She shares the positive and uplifting and ones where we hurt; needing time to recover.  

"Some days it's a puddle.
Some days it's a stain."

She encourages readers over three two page spreads that our hearts can grow and grow and grow.  She makes us accept some days there are barriers blocking us from others and some days our heart is broken.  Then she offers the reader hope because broken can be mended.  She reminds us our heart is a guide and empowers us because we get to decide the direction our heart goes.

Emotions make our lives tricky and unfortunately there are times where emotions are perceived as bad.  Emotions are not bad.  Emotions are good, they help us feel, connect, and process.  When we struggle with emotions we need to learn to ride the wave.  Feel the emotion and by acknowledging the emotion our heart can be more restful; making us more mindful.

The illustrations are done in gray monotones and bursts of yellow to represent the heart on each page.    I hope readers notice how the heart is used within each illustration.  A small detail enhancing this story.

I've ordered three copies of this book for my three daughters; high school and college age.  One will get it this Valentine's day and the other two when there is a need.  Books can offer guidance and healing.

"Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act." (mental I hope you find this post helpful in supporting mental wellness. "Wellness is an approach to preventing illness and prolonging life as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases." (  Let's be proactive in and out of our classrooms.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Winter Stitches {Poetry Friday}


Winter Stitches

winter is a thrifty seamstress
randomly stitching
crystal threads
adding shimmer and shine

winter creates open spaces 
thread like paths
connecting moments
of nature, naturally

@Mandy Robek 2019

Last weekend there was a warning for large amounts of snow and we ended up with rain.  This photo was what I woke up to while staying in a lovely local Bed and Breakfast with friends.  I love finding moments to stop and notice surprises in nature.  Also, it was so helpful to have my mentor and friend Mary Lee Hahn conferring with me as a writer - win win weekend.

Thank you Tara at Going to Walden for hosting Poetry Friday this week.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Ruby's Worry {Mental Wellness}

Ruby's Worry by Tom Percival is a great companion to the book I shared last week, Jack's Worry.  Ruby loves to swing and explore.  Ruby is happy child and one day she discovers a worry.  The worry was very small.  She went on with her day until she realized the worry wasn't leaving her and it continued to grow.  She was very surprised to discover no one else at school could see her worry.  Her worry thoughts were ruminating.  I love comparisons Tom Percival makes for how big Ruby's worry is - "It filled up half of the school bus."  As the story progresses the worry which is represented by the color yellow grows bigger and the background of the story grows darker.  Luckily, Ruby finds a boy in the park and notices he has a worry too!  You can just sense her worry thoughts slowing down.  Her new friend shares his thinking with Ruby and she then opens up to him sharing her own thoughts.

Together they support each other and the worries go away.

One strategy to stop worry thinking is talking about it which can be very hard.  I love how Tom Percival has the boy model sharing his own thinking which guides Ruby to share her own thoughts.

"Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act." (mental I hope you find this post helpful in supporting mental wellness. "Wellness is an approach to preventing illness and prolonging life as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases." (  Let's be proactive in and out of our classrooms.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Laughter and Giggles {Slice of Life}

Laughter.  Giggles.  Tears of fun.  I look around the room and think I'm blessed.  I'm blessed for the company of seven friends.  I'm blessed for time with women I adore and look up to for inspiration and guidance not only as a teacher; as a friend and a human.  Putting the day to day grind of life on pause brought me more than I expected.  It reminded me how fun it is to laugh and giggle so hard you begin to cry.  It reminded me how fun it is to spend time with just adults; all trying their best each day.  It reminded me we all have stories to tell and by spending the time to share and listen to stories we create further connections.  That feeling of connection is a catalyst to keep going forward.  To try each day and keep looking for moments of laughter and giggles.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for foster this writing community.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Dear Cathy, Nonfiction 10 for 10 is Coming!

Dear Cathy,

I've really enjoyed talking with you and creating plans for our SEVENTH nonfiction picture book sharing event.  My students and I co-revamped our nonfiction library to launch a nonfiction reading unit and it was so fun to uncover some gems on my shelf.  Up until this week in our classroom our nonfiction section of our library was being neglected.  It makes me sad to see students not drawn to the wonders of nonfiction.  

As an elementary student myself I loved reading about explorers and how to books.  Does anyone even talk about Magellan anymore?  Presidents were also on my library check out plans; John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson to name a few.  Then there's the fifth grade report on the state of Texas; my grandparents had just visited there and I was enthralled with bluebonnets.  This may surprise you or not Cathy - in sixth grade we were to research a European country and I wrote a request to study Japan.  My uncle had just married my aunt who was Japanese.  It was approved and learning about a different culture beyond my own soared.  

Nonfiction books open doors, foster inquiry, and allows readers to learn new things.  Something I want to help my students discover is how nonfiction books help us make connections between topics and disciplines.  Nonfiction readers can have passions, to be read lists, and favorite authors.

That's why this event is so wonderful.  Our eyes can see possibilities for nonfiction in new ways.  I can't wait to have old and new friends join us, Cathy.

Stay safe during the storm that isn't really happening,

Event Details - 

On the day of the event, we'll ask that you visit this space, my blog to add your nonfiction link to the conversation.    This is different than in the past as we have been hosting on Google Plus. Google Plus is shutting down this spring and we decided using a platform we trust and know would be best to keep promoting nonfiction book love.
  • What:  10 nonfiction picture books you can't live without!
  • Hashtag:  #nf10for10
  • Hosts:  @mandyrobek@cathymere@jacbalen 
  • Who:  Anyone interested --- educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.  
  • When:  Sunday, February 10th
  • Where:  All posts for 2019 will be linked in my space:  Enjoy and Embrace Learning

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Jack's Worry by Sam Zuppardi {Mental Wellness}

Jack's Worry by Sam Zuppardi is a book I'd put in every classroom and maybe every home.  It's a book for the very young, those in the middle, and adults of all ages.  Worries happen.  Jack has been preparing for his first trumpet concert every day and there is joyous music playing across a two page spread.  The big day comes and so does a perfect shade of blue big oval worry.  He tries to ignore this worry; it follows him.  He tries to do different activities; it stays with him.  Both of these strategies are distress tolerance skills.  As the story progresses, so does the size of Jack's worry.  It turns from a warm blue to dark gray.  I love how it's not black.  You can come back from gray!  When Jack faces his worry, he finds the words to talk to his mom and share the root of his worry.  She validates his thoughts and the middle of the worry turns a warm soft yellow.  Then the worry shrinks.  He discovers his friends have worries too and begins playing his trumpet with them and accepts when the worry comes true because he's enjoying himself.  Thank you Jack for showing readers - pushing through worry thoughts can lead to enjoyment.  

"Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act." (mental I hope you find this post helpful in supporting mental wellness. "Wellness is an approach to preventing illness and prolonging life as opposed to emphasizing treating diseases." (  Let's be proactive in and out of our classrooms.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Literally Lighter {Slice of Life}

Last night I realized, my one little word is going in a direction I didn't plan.  My hand is holding a paint roller and going up and down.  I change directions left and right; usually at an angle.  I'm brightening the white that was previously below the dining room chair rail.  I give the baseboard and the chair rail a coat of brightening white too.  Over the weekend my husband and daughter took the just right shade of red for twenty years and made it North Star.  

My one little word is light.  I'm physically embracing that as we repaint the entire first floor; one room at a time.  I think light has bigger plans for me and if I look for them I'm going to learn and feel more this year.

As I finished painting, I wanted to know what North Star meant.  Maybe my paint color choices have more guidance.  North Star is also referred to as Polaris; the star the entire northern sky circles around.  It's not the brightest star which is often assumed.  It's the 50th brightest star.  I hope my one little word lets me circle around it and find new meanings/guidance all year.  One can easily find the North Star and maybe that's why I made the connection between painting our home lighter and my one little word light.  

Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering the Slice of Life writing community.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

I shifted our classroom chapter book section this past week and brought out new titles while keeping the many of the ones we began the school year with.  I have readers progressing as transitional readers and students not quite there yet.  I had to move things around a bit physically and wanted to make sure our community embraced everyone needs different things.

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae is the perfect book for this discussion.  Gerald can stand still quite well and has difficulty moving around which makes the yearly jungle dance hard for Gerald to do.  Gerald is bad at dancing.  Different animals begin to dance and when Gerald tries to take a turn the lions say some hurtful things to Gerald.  By this point, the class was attached to Gerald and our room filled with sad moans.  

Gerald leaves the dance and begins to walk in the moonlight.  A cricket meets Gerald and shares my favorite line in the story, "But sometimes when you're different you just need a different song."  The cricket offers Gerald some sound advice and new music.  Gerald returns to the dance with a skip in his step and more.

I shared this book during an OCTM Twitter Chat and I was surprised a couple of people didn't know about it.  I started this blog in hopes of sharing books that were new to me and old ones I adored.  Stay tuned for old and new books.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

The Dreamer by Il Sung Na

Another lovely book to read at the beginning of a new year.  While this book encourages readers to dream, dream big, and take action it also realizes that sometimes we like to do what started the journey of dreaming big.  Dreamer by Il Sung Na is a charming story of a pig who loved birds.  He loved sitting and watching the birds.  He wanted to join them and takes some steps to make that happen.  He learns and gathers and builds.  He shows the reader what it takes to preserve.  He has to make modifications and get help from others.  His dream becomes a reality and at the same time he still enjoys watching the birds.  As we think about setting goals and changing, I think it's important to acknowledge we don't need to change everything and there are many good things about each of us.

Monday, January 7, 2019

imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera

It's Monday and I'm sharing a poetry book.  I can't wait for Poetry Friday to roll around this week because I'm going to read this new book today in class and I want you to know about it as soon as possible.  A new year naturally fosters reflection and thoughts about goals.  I'm going to read imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera because I want my students to be inspired to think about what they can do now and how that might lead to something different and then that might lead to big actions.  

This is not only a poetry book, it's a biography of sorts.  We met the author Juan as a child picking chamomile flowers whispering to their fuzzy faces.  Readers follow Juan as he does other he grows and does daily living activities.  I so enjoyed the careful language used to describe and share these daily living activities; hopping chickens, hungry birds, and evening forest are just a few examples.  As Juan grows, we learn about his travels to a new country and learning a new language in a new school.  This journey is portrayed with facts and I was surprised how much the warm toned illustrations helped my heart feel empathy.  Lauren Castillo's combination of pen and foam mono print adds more than just color to the beautiful text.  

This book naturally lends itself to being an interactive read aloud.  Each page ends with imagine...a simple way to cause the reader to stop and reflect.  The very last page encourages the reader even further, "imagine what you could do."  I see some potential here for jotting some thoughts in our writer's notebooks.

I'd like to thank Candlewick Press for this review copy and addition to our classroom library.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Light {One Little Word}

Light is my one little word for 2019 and I've been exploring what it means for me which means I went to for some grounding.  As a noun, LIGHT is something that makes things visible.  As a verb, several phrases for LIGHT called to me; to kindle, ignite, to turn on, to give light to, to cause/brighten, especially with joy.  I always enjoy finding synonyms for my one little word to help me through the year and this year I found; shiny, rich, clear, glowing, bright, sunny, vivid, brilliant, included, and aglow.  

I signed up for one of Ali Edwards classes in 2016 that guides monthly thinking about your one little word and I'm hoping to use that each month to help me stay the course with my one little word thinking.  I just finished reading Die Empty by Todd Henry and there were so many tidbits to ponder and guidance for some things I want to change.  I think 2018 brought new challenges that I embraced and at the same time some of me went into autopilot mode - maybe I drifted for a bit.  I don't like drifting.  I found drifting had feelings of being lost.  I need to reconnect, create, and work on my own wellness.

I've chosen light and hope it becomes a part of each day; physically or emotionally.  I want to take actions/steps to help myself feel and think lighter.  I want to support those I love and spend time with.  Maybe that's making things lighter for them or bringing them some light.    

When I pick a one little word it often has some intentions which help foster the purpose and connection to my one little word.  Ali Edwards had us look at five areas and I'll share just a sneak peak for each one here.

Creative/Work - I want to use what I have.  I am a collector of books and projects.  I need to act and do.  I want to write and share again professionally and personally.

Emotional - recognize, accept, and ride the wave of emotions I have and others close to me.  

Physical - exercise regularly again and try new recipes.  I want to physically reduce and use what we have while taking steps to help save the Earth.

Relationships - embrace, accept, guide gently, and listen.  Spend time in person with others and hold back judgements.  Connect with others in current communities and maybe join some new communities.

Spiritual - This can be summed up quite simply - reconnect and find help navigating day to day life.

Thank you for being part of my journey with LIGHT this year.
Thank you Two Writing Teachers for fostering this writing community.