Archive for the ‘Inspirations’ Category

No Words

Our family: Jessica, me, Tom, and Jon

My husband, Tom, passed away peacefully in the early hours of Sun. Sept. 23, the first full day of fall. We will all miss him terribly. When confronted with the choice of two weeks (with no treatment) or two months (with more chemo and hospital procedures), he bravely chose two weeks. “What can you do in two months that you can’t do in two weeks?” were his words of wisdom that will echo in my heart forever. Tom was generous, thoughtful, intelligent, witty, and inquisitive through his very last day on this earth.

Our newlywed son, Jon, and his wife Brittany, and our daughter, Jessica, did so much to care for him in the past three years since his diagnosis with multiple myeloma. We are both proud of them and thank them for their love and strength. Please pray for comfort and healing for them during this very difficult time.

Tom’s memorial service will be held Sat. Sept. 29 at 11 AM in the chapel at Grace Presbyterian Church (at Beltway 8 and Westheimer in Houston) with a reception following at Royal Oaks Country Club from 12-3.

We thank Vitas Hospice for the angels who helped us care for Tom during his final two weeks at home. There were no more hospitals, no more treatments, no more labs… just time at home with his family and close friends… which is where he wanted to be. Tom asked that donations be made in his honor to the SPCA. He loved his Great Dane, Atlas, who was also by his bed until the end.

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Do you remember the touching story of 11-year-old Dalton Sherman who gave a convocation speech at the Dallas Independent School District (DISD). What an amazing child! Watch his speech on YouTube and you will be inspired!

I believe that we should develop our children’s oral language. That language is the foundation of all reading and writing they will do in their years at school and beyond. Language is a powerful tool.

I like to begin by allowing children to talk at school! When I was a child, a quiet classroom was a good classroom. We were expected to sit and listen for most of the day. Today’s students need opportunities to talk with each other and with us. I believe in teaching children to do “buddy talk,” turning and talking to a partner about what they are thinking at selected times in a lesson I’m teaching. Then I have several of them share with the class what they discussed.

They also use this technique while working at literacy and math work stations. During small group instruction, I sometimes teach oral language lessons. To view a lesson like this, see the clip called “Pre-Emergent Readers” from my new video series, Think Small! Engaging Our Youngest Readers in Small Groups.

We use a familiar book from read aloud and have children in the small group take turns retelling the story. My goal is to have them use more sophisticated vocabulary and longer, more complex sentences each time they retell it. It can also be used in a work station for practice once I’ve taught with it.

What are you doing in your classroom this week to build your students’ oral language?

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One of my favorite things to do at the annual IRA convention (which was in Chicago this year) is to look at all the wonderful children’s books for sale in the exhibit hall. This year I shopped with my daughter, Jessica, in mind. She is living and working in Little Cayman for 6 months. Lucky girl! It is for an internship she’s doing as a grad student at University of Florida where she is working on a Master’s in Ecology.

Part of the time Jessica works with students from ages 10-13 who come to LC on an overnight class field trip from the other islands. She introduces them to marine biology and conservation (and shows them the lionfish she’s studying). She is documenting her work here and just got a grant funded for an underwater video camera. I suggested she think about creating a science-related book with photos to use in her training with the kids here.

I could only choose a few books (because my suitcase in Chicago was already packed to the max), so I picked three:

·     The Story of Snow: The Science of Winter’s Wonder by Mark Cassino with Jon Nelson, Ph.D.

·     Water Sings Blue: Ocean Poems by Kate Coombs

·     Manfish, A Story of Jacques Cousteau by Jennifer Berne

Fortunately, I was flying to Little Cayman to visit my daughter the day after IRA! So when I arrived, I shared these titles with Jessica. She can’t wait to use the ocean ones with her kids. The snow book will be used as a mentor text for her. Who knows? Maybe she’ll be the next award-winning science writer for kids!

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The past two weeks have been filled with travel and conferences. First NCTM in Philadelphia, then IRA in Chicago. It is always so nice to get out and meet with so many talented and passionate teachers and her so many inspiring presentations. Here is a picture of me signing books at the Stenhouse booth at IRA. See you again soon at a conference!

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On a cold Sunday afternoon, my favorite things to cook are a big pot of soup or a roast in the oven. Here’s my favorite vegetable soup recipe:

Deb’s Christmas Vegetable Soup

3 cans each: peas, green beans, corn

Add 1 bag baby carrots & chopped cabbage (1/2 head)

Put it 1 lb. ground beef (crumble it up- don’t need to precook it)

Add 2-3 large cans of V8 juice to fill large pot

Simmer 2-3 hours. Add rivels 15 min. before serving.

Rivels: (these are PA Dutch mini dumplings)

Mix in small bowl with fork: 1 egg and ¾ cup flour with a little salt. Drop into soup and stir to break up.

And my favorite roast beef recipe, cooked in my large red Le Creuset Dutch oven:

Chipotle-Coffee Pot Roast (from Country Home magazine)





1/4  TSP. SALT










See the Country Home magazine website for directions.

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Favorite gift ideas

With the holidays approaching, I always am looking for interesting gift giving ideas. Here are some of my favorite sensory gifts:


For smell…

  • Aveda Soothing Aqua Therapy Bath Salts, discovered at a hotel- These smell like the ocean and are addictive!
  • Votivo Travel Candles (love Deep Clover)
  • a bouquet of fresh flowers from a local market- My favorite flower shop in Houston is AJ’s Urban Petals

For taste…

  • Toffee to Go from the St. Petersburg, Fl Farmer’s Market
  • Homemade Sea Salt Caramels from above; email donbarnordstrom@gmail.com
  • homemade bread from a local bakery or farmer’s market

For touch…

  • Crocheted hats from fiber artist, Nancy Bossert
  • Crabtree & Evelyn Citron Honey and Coriander Skin-Quenching Body Lotion
  • soap from Black Kettle Soap Company in Houston. My favorite is Charcoal Soap with Clay. Their Etsy shop can be found here.

For sight…

  • lovely calendars for the new year
  • time spent outdoors hiking a new trail or driving to an interesting new place- do a search for “day trips”
  • tickets to a museum

For sound…

  • a fountain, a walk to a waterfall, or a stroll on the beach- can’t beat the sound of water for soothing!
  • a new CD or an iTunes gift card
  • tickets to a concert

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Being the mom of two grown children, many of my favorite children’s books come from long ago. One of the best times of day was when we’d cuddle together at night and read books together. Here are some I loved and shared with Jon and Jessica:


I collect poetry books. Here a few of my new favorites:

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My favorite things: movies

Watching movies is something I enjoy doing to relax! Recently, I set up a special room in my home where I can watch movies using my laptop and an LCD projector. I don’t own a TV, so I just show the movies on a blank wall. Such fun!

Here are some of my favorites:

  • Something’s Gotta Give with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton is my number one favorite movie of all time and is one of the few movies I own! The house in this movie is the star in my book!
  • Julie & Julia with Meryl Streep is another favorite. (I liked it much better than the book.) Since I love to cook, I especially enjoyed this movie. I own a red Le Creuset Dutch oven just like in the movie and its my favorite thing to cook in.
  • It’s Complicated with Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, and Alec Baldwin cracks me up. Again, the house is pretty incredible. You’re probably sensing some patterns by now.
  • Letters to Juliet with Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave is a new favorite movie. Such a sweet love story!
  • Annie Hall with Diane Keaton. I do enjoy Woody Allen movies.
  • Recently I borrowed Bridesmaids from my neighbor. What a hoot!
  • It’s a Wonderful Life with Jimmy Stewart is a movie I’ll be watching in the next few weeks. Love it even when it’s not the Christmas season!
  • The Bishop’s Wife with Cary Grant (1947) is another wonderful old flick.
  • Casablanca with Humphrey Bogart… doesn’t get much better than this!

What are some of your favorite movies? Always looking for good ones to rent!

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Why I Write

Today is the third annual National Day on Writing. People all over the country share the reasons why they write on Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. Here is my contribution and I would love to hear from you: why do you write?
Why I Write
I was born a writer. From the time I was in kindergarten, I remember making cards, writing stories, creating poetry, and composing letters for family and friends. I write everyday and still am making cards, writing books and poems, and writing letters for those I love.
I write to express myself. Writing things down helps me organize my thoughts and communicate them to others. If I had a choice, I’d often prefer writing over talking. Writing brings clarity.
I write to remember. Many days I record my thoughts and ideas in special notebooks. I’ve been doing this for over 25 years. This written history helps me reflect over the many seasons of my life. Writing often brings order and helps me solve problems.
On this National Day of Writing, I hope you take time to write by yourself and with your students. Create, express yourself, remember, enjoy!

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Two favorite reading spots

Two of my blog readers sent in photos of their favorite reading spots after I shared mine in a recent post.

The first one is from Peggy from Colorado, whose husband built the flagstone patio all by himself!

The second one is from Gayle from Ohio, whose reading “cottage” is a converted three-season porch with a fireplace and bookshelves. In the picture are her Kindle, loaded with Literacy Work Stations and many other professional development books, and a copy of Spaces & Places and Math Work Stations.

Happy reading, everyone!

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