It’s a Page Turner

Posted by Jen on June 9, 2009 in Education, Mommyhood, Wonder(ful) with Comments closed |

I’m always pleasantly surprised when something in my present life tugs on threads from the past. My heart gets full when I see patterns and connections. There is something real in the patterns – something that’s random and wild, yet predictable.  Those tugs feel like little moments of coming home again.

The other night, Little Man and I were talking about what he’s learning at school. He’s getting closer and closer to kindergarten and his preschool teachers are really doing a good job with readiness skills. One of the things they are doing is reading and talking about A LOT of books. [His teacher LOVES the library and talks about books and reading all the time ... heart is singing here!]!

Little Man is excited about the books they are reading – especially one. A chapter book about a little girl in kindergarten – one Miss Junie B. Jones. [Little kids are soooo cute when they say chapter book ... there's awe in every word. I love it!]

The mention of the Junie B. series made me all warm and fuzzy inside.  See, about 15 years ago, I read the Junie B. series to my students and we all fell in love with her – and Barbara Park, the author. My students and I couldn’t get enough of  her books. We bought out the book fair and emptied piggy banks when the Scholastic Book orders went around. It was a reading frenzy. I loved it. We loved it. It was a true reading community – amazing things happened.

About 10 years ago, I had the absolute privilege of meeting Barbara Park in person. She was doing an on-camera appearance in the studios where I worked. She was there to talk to students about reading and writing – her work.

Just before her visit to the studio, it was discovered that many of the folks in our little production group weren’t familiar with her books. So, I spent an hour a day reading them out loud in our cube area. By the time Ms. Park arrived, everyone knew Junie B. and loved her. [Yep, there's a pattern here. If you don't know these books, you should get to know them!]

After the shows, she sat and talked to a few of us about writing and teaching. I didn’t get much work done that day … in fact, maybe none.  She was wonderful and gracious and delightful to talk to. [Grown-ups are sooo cute when they talk about meeting amazing authors who "get it" and are willing to talk about it ... there's awe in every word.]

It’s hard to believe that it’s been so long since I’ve spent time with Junie B. So, I was excited when Little Man brought her home. And, last night, some 15 years after first meeting Junie B., I passed on my collection of her stories to my Little Man. It was good.

Tonight, he and I read about Junie B., that Grace, Mrs., Lucille, and Meanie Jim. None of them have changed much in all this time. Junie B. is still her silly, honest, ornery old self. She hasn’t aged a bit … not one. And I love that.

Little Man can’t wait to read on! My old friend has captivated my son … I can’t wait to see what happens next!

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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5 Things – Kindle 2

Posted by Jen on May 31, 2009 in 5 Things, Online and Lovin' It! with Comments closed |

OK … going to start this one out directly. I LOVE my Kindle 2.

I did quite a bit of research before purchasing. There are a lot of opinions out there about which eReader to buy (they are a bit spendy) and, frankly, about whether eReaders are just another flash-in-the-pan gadget in the first place.

Most of the research I read ferreted out the typical back-and-forth-nobody-wins type arguments common when reading opinions about gadgets. But, I made up my mind when I read these sentences in the last review I read.

The Kindle looks like a sexy and futuristic piece of electronics, while the Sony Readers look like artful interpretations of books. And there’s the rub: the Kindle line captivates techies while Sony Readers seem to appeal more to those who just want to read books.

Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief – MobileTechReview.com

So, I aligned myself with the techies [which feels right], entered the appropriate 16 digits, and became part of the Kindle family.

Without further ado, here are my 5 Things about the Kindle 2 – in no particular order.

kindle250021. Immediate gratification

OK, remember that I’ve aligned myself with the techies. We techies are by-and-large ready to “work through the issues” that come with new technologies. But … no challenges here! I opened the box, plugged it in, and opened my first book in less than 5 minutes. [All done in a rather hectic space between meetings at work, I might add.]

Once the juice was flowing, the books I ordered from Amazon were downloaded before I knew it. The device came registered to me [and "called" me by name - which was a tad creepy, really] … this was truly a plug-and-play deal. I love the immediate gratification of it.

[Some might liken this whole ready-to-read phenomenon to, say, buying a new "real" book and being able to read the first chapter in the parking lot before driving away - not that I would do that!]

2. Phenomenal cosmic power, ity-bity living space

OK, that billing might be a tad on the dramatic side, but really, the Kindle puts a lot into a fairly small package.

The Kindle 2 is just a tad smaller than my eee PC [which is another LOVE IT product for me]. It fits easily into my purse, my computer bags, my camera bag, and the diaper bag. So, it’s uber portable which is a HUGE plus because I can carry it anywhere. I’ve got all of my current reading with me “just in case”. Nice.

Despite this portability, the specs say that my Kindle will hold 1500 books. I think that’ll cover me, thank you. Oh, and the best part? Wait for it. NO DUSTING!

Oh, and did I mention that I’ve had this baby for over two weeks now and haven’t had to recharge yet. I’ve used it for at least 2 hours each day. Um. Yeh. fantastic!

[I did turn off the EVDO "Amazn Whispernet" connection because I live where Sprint service is spotty. I'm absolutely certain that's the reason for the long battery life. I'm OK with that! It's still pretty cool!]

3.  Reading experience – eInk

eInk is just cool. Agreed? Good, now we can move on.

The reading experience on my Kindle so far has been great. I have had little/no eye strain and I’m reading just as quickly as I would with a “real” book. In fact, I might be reading faster. The 6-inch diagonal screen only holds so much text so I’m finding that I’m doing a better job of focusing only on the single page in front of me – no catching words on the opposite pages and getting distracted. [Not that I get distracted or anything. Interesting idea from an educational perspective, I might add.]

I like that I can adjust just about everything I need to make my reading experience more comfortable … and I like that I don’t have to force the book open to catch the text near the binding. [I'm a please-don't-break-the-binding gal.]

4. Automagical everything

If I fall asleep while reading or, more likely, if one of the kids needs me right away [let's say when something crashes to the floor and breaks into millions of tiny pieces, for example], I don’t have to worry about losing my place. I like that.

If I want to take notes, highlight text, or look up something in the dictionary? It’s all right there. Easy peasy.

If I want to know how much I’ve read and how much I’ve left to go? No problem. The percentage completed is always at the bottom of the page.

If I want to buy a new book. Click. Click. Download. Done.

[OK, it won't go get me a Coke with ice. I might have to submit a feature request. ]

5. Possibilities

I think that one of my favorite things about the Kindle 2 is that, in the space of two weeks, it’s become one of my “must carry” items and I’m “just” using it to read a book. This, of course, means that everything/anything else it does is an absolute bonus!

I suppose I should mention that it’s not a perfect device. It’s not. But, my new friend Kindle and I have run into only one snag so far – and it’s not actually a “bug” or “design flaw” of the Kindle itself.

I was flying for business this week and realized that the Kindle was part of that “please turn off all electronic devices” thing. Everyone around me was reading and I was left waiting until they gave the all clear. To date, that is the only “problem” I’ve had. [This might have something to do with the fact that I bought it with realistic expectations of what it could and could not do.]

So, there they are. My 5 Things about the Kindle 2. I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities while curling up with a good book.

Happy reading, everyone!

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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Wordle Schmerdle

Posted by Jen on May 7, 2009 in Creativitiness, Education, Online and Lovin' It! with Comments closed |

So, I’ve been in a creative rut for a few weeks. It happens. But today I read a blog post about why teachers should use Wordle. What?

I’d not heard of Wordle, but intrigued, I trundled over and … well, just cool. So I wordled this blog post.

Created at www.wordle.net

I must say, I just love this. So many applications … some serious, some just for fun.

Go visit! Make your own … I’d love to see what your Wordle art looks like!

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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Blissful Sunday

Posted by Jen on April 25, 2009 in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of..., Wonder(ful) with Comments closed |

Have you ever had one of those days that was so good it made you smug? You know. The kind of day that seems to have been conjured out of a scene from a great historical romance novel [not that I read those] or from a Lifetime Original Movie [not that I watch those] or from someone else’s life.

Bliss.

Let me see if I can paint you a picture. Close your eyes. [Wait! No. Don't. That won't work!] Ahem.

The sun snuck up over the horizon while we were all sleeping and was well into its task of warming up the day when I heard Little Man say, “Mom, can it be morning? I can’t sleep anymore and I hear the other kids getting up.” I shooed him out of the room to get what I imagine was a less-than-completely-nutritious breakfast with his friends. I took a few minutes to myself, threw on beach attire, and headed to the kitchen for breakfast.

In short order, everyone was fed, dressed and ready for the beach! And, the fun began.

camp480179

With a very delicious and refreshing drink in one hand and BK in the other, I made the short trek to the beach as Husband, Little Man, and some of the others set up “camp” for the day. To our delight, the tide was out and the tide pools were just begging to be explored. The sun was brilliant and the breeze kept the temperature near perfect.

dolphin480185

As we were playing, another beach-goer approached and said that there were dolphins playing not far from where  we were sitting. In short order, my camera and I were on a boat heading their way thanks to a local vendor! Dolphin watching in a small boat is amazing.

After my dolphin adventure, it was time to head to one of the beach houses for a massage. Husband and the kids were playing in the tide pools, so I slipped away.

bkpools480392I was looking forward to this massage! Some of the others in our group had described theirs as “the best massage they’d ever had” … sounded wonderful. Changed and ready to be deeply relaxed, I closed my eyes. It was then that I heard Amazing Grace being played in the background. I don’t remember much of that hour other than it was the perfect combination of relaxation and rejoicing.

BK was napping when I recovered from my relaxed haze so I went to relieve Husband. To my surprise, I found a sleeping baby in an empty house (once Husband returned to the beach)! Windows open. Beach breezes blowing in. This is also known as the PERFECT reading environment.

Once we’d all had naps and lunch, it was back to the beach for more playing and discovering! Nothing to do but enjoy the day and play!

This was how I spent last Sunday. It’s still so fresh that I can close my eyes and mentally return to that beach and its relaxing breezes. These words and pictures don’t do it justice.

I know we’ll be back there again. Until then, I’ll look for bliss in small things. Like the little giggle I just heard on the baby monitor. The giggle that tells me BK is awake, happy, and ready to play with her mom!

Ahhh, bliss.

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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Jesus Fell On My Toe (and Other Easter Blessings)

Posted by Jen on April 13, 2009 in Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of..., Wonder(ful) with Comments closed |

Our little family had a wonderful Easter. We were able to spend time doing all sorts of things … bike rides, visiting, play in the park, and of course, hunting for treats.

One of my most favorite things about Easter this year was that, after a couple of years of searching, I think we’ve found the right church for us! It’s fitting that our first service (and, frankly, theirs) was on Easter Sunday.

So here it is a day later (a day that was not so wonderful as Easter) and we are back to the normalcy of life. Except that tonight, God decided to drop a little Jesus on me. Don’t you love how that happens sometimes??

Little Man and I were getting ready to go to bed when he sort of randomly picked up the crucifix that sits on Husband’s night stand. [He's done this before. In fact, he seems to be very intrigued by the crucifixion.]

Tonight, after he told us that Jesus was nailed [always an emphasis on that word - always] to the cross and died, he looked at me and said, “Mom, this was what yesterday was all about.”

I was stunned. I didn’t think he was listening. Frankly, I should have known better.

We kept on talking about how Jesus got off the cross and the tomb was empty. That He then went to live in Heaven with God.

Without much pause, he said, “Our Odie is in Heaven with God. So’s Skeeter.” [This made Husband, who had just walked in to get something, mushy inside.]

Somewhere in the midst of all of this seriousness, Little Man must have dropped that crucifix on his toe. I honestly didn’t see him do it and he didn’t mention it. But, all of a sudden, his voice filled with tears.

LM: Mom, my toe is hurt and there’s blood, but I’m OK.

Me: What happened? Did you hurt your toenail?

LM: It happened when Jesus fell on my toe.

Me: (smiling) Jesus fell on your toe?

LM: (with the slightest bit of impatience) Not the real Jesus, Mom. The metal one.

Me: Oh. Are you OK?

LM: (bravely and with a sniffle) Yes. There is blood, but I’ll be OK. It’ll heal soon.

Me: Do you need a band-aid?

LM: I think so.

Me: OK, Daddy’s downstairs where your band-aids are. Go ask him for a band-aid.

I took this time to open Twitter … because, really, how many times do you hear the phrase, “Jesus fell on my toe.” As I was composing my tweet, I had to backspace and start over because this is what I heard.

LM: (now wailing at the bottom of the steps) IIIIIII neeeeedddd aaaa baaannnddd-aaaiiiidddd!

Husband: Jen, what happened?

LM: (sobbing loudly) Jesus fell on my toe and it’s bleeding and I need a band-aid.

Me: He wasn’t sobbing when he left me, he had a small cut. Really.

Husband: OK, let’s get you a band-aid and get you upstairs.

So, I’m all a Twitter when the boys get back upstairs. Little Man has calmed down and Husband is helping him with the stress of having Jesus fall on his toe. The conversation resumes.

Me: (sincerely) Love, are you OK?

LM: (sniffles) Yes. My toe will start healing now. I’ll have to walk carefully on it.

Husband: I don’t think Jesus meant to land on your toe, bug.

LM: For real, Jesus is supposed to watch us and take care of kids.

Our Easter blessings were many this year and they continue still … a beautiful day, time with friends and family, a new church home, and a sweet childlike reminder that sometimes we have to go through some pain to get to what’s real and good and true.

For real.

Hope you had a very Happy Easter!

I'll be hoppin' along now ...

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