up in my favorite place

My favorite state:  Colorado

My next favorite state:  Michigan

Notice that Illinois isn’t in my top two…but that is where I live, suburbia.  Dave and I are up in our family summer home raking acorns so a mover will get through and bringing truck loads of 100-year-old  junk from the basement, to a landfill.  Today I was a junk yard dog, filthy from head to toe, not wanting to even admit that I was paying and tossing.  We are up here to clean for my family, to get ready to sell a sweet little house, on a beautiful little lake, in my second favorite state.

Many of you have done this too.  Cleaned, sorted and sold.  It is painful, each precious thing seems to be a memory.  Of course it is easier to start in the basement, the trash bin of the north. We haven’t had garbage trucks since my aunt passed away…so it has accumulated.  So this is where we’ve started.  My parents have decided that this house must go mainly because of the taxes.  In Michigan, they gouge the out-of -staters.  I have no idea why, but they do.  For example:  my parents pay the same amount in taxes for the large two-story house in the Chicago suburbs as they do for this little house that is an eighth of the size of their big house.

So…it is heartbreaking, this big clean up.  We need this sale to be able to care for my parents as they age. I have to keep my eyes on what is really important.  It is selfish, I know to want it not to sell, I really wish that we could afford it. Maybe it would be a possibility if I sell my house in suburbia…but I can’t do that, because then we wouldn’t be able to be close enough to care for our parents or enough to ever visit my favorite state.  I go round and round about these decisions.  But there is one thing I know…

This little house has been a blessing sent from God and my great Aunt Emeline.  I

love this cozy little house,

in this cozy little town,

in my second favorite state, Michigan.

PS I think I will have to post up why Colorado is my favorite state soon.  I wonder where you love to travel…I wonder what it is like to live where you live?  For example, if you live in Michigan or Colorado, do you ever go on vacation out of your state? I guess I would just stay put and gaze out my window at the spectacular mountains.  But maybe you love to visit our crazed city of Chicago.

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‘the process’

This has to be short, very short.  I am so wordy these days.  My friends are coming and our process begins again.  We are three former literacy teachers/coaches and retired last year.  Many predicted that we wouldn’t be able to keep our hands out district pot…because we love to give. And at least one of us love to get our own way.  That would be me.  Oh, I guess that would also be my two other friends as well.

We started out writing opinion units that we integrated with literacy.  We need to use the literacy time and integrate, because of time…there never is enough time!  We presented these units in February and have started work on a district scope and sequence and pacing guide.  We are doing this with only about 50 other classroom teachers.  We get their ideas, and then we work on the guide, using Big Ideas and Essential Questions to guide our work.  We are using current district materials for the most part, and on-line tools.

The resulting work looks good, we think…at least on paper.

However, we all have spent our entire lives in the classroom.  There have been many moments that I have questioned whether I would have been able to keep with this guide, or whether I would have even wanted to.  I admit, there has been moments of what I would call ‘holy discontent’.

The point, however is this,  we want the teachers to try it this way and then make suggestions for what needs to be changed.  This is meant to be a flexible document and one that takes 2 to 3 years to develop.

One of the vehicle’s that we will use to get feedback is a blog that will be created just for this purpose.  I am excited to hear the voices of teachers again.  The Next Generation Science Standards that have been adopted and that we are integrating are incredible, but for the most part have many baffled.  Our teachers are used to teaching units, different units at every grade level.

So we are trying out…everything is one big experiment, it seems.  I always loved creating a hypothesis when experimenting.  I hypothesize that there might be some excitement around these changes! And it is pretty important to listen.

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Kelly Marie’s gotcha 3

Our writing informs our lives.  I knew that I needed to go back and revisit this story and add-on and revise from the beginning of March, but I was too angry to.  It has been one of those years in foster parenting that has been very, very difficult for our family.  And yet we continue to hold on to Kelly and continue to work through our issues.  Fostering a teenager through her twenties is for the strong, and especially this year I have not felt strong. But we are hers and she is ours. 

slice buttonThis was unusual for Dave…after a Sunday message at church he turned to me and said,

“I don’t know what, but I think God is going to be asking us to do something big- that’s gonna change our lives.”

I do remember thinking that this is definitely out of character for my guy that makes sure that he is well researched before making any big decision at all.  He checks the money, he checks the mood, he consults his mother, he wants me to ask my father… yep, God must really be talking loudly today for him to even be telling me this.

The next week, he came home on Tuesday and told me that he found you sitting at a table in the Media Center at school.  You had wanted to let  him know that you wouldn’t be able to play for him this season because they were placing you in another foster placement out of our school district. Dave knew instantly, this was it, this was the big thing and that no…she would be definitely living at our house instead.

The next week we got you set you up in Jeff’s old bedroom upstairs.  Dave told you that he would paint the room whatever way you wanted. You chose ‘Pepto’ pink with stripes down one side of the wall,  I didn’t like hot pink.  Dave just smiled and painted away.  Your clothes were moved in.  I noticed you were a ‘keeper’ like me…a trunk of cheap stuffed animals and all the dresses and dried flowers from important events.   You said, not to worry, that you wouldn’t get in our hair.  You said you’d be off to college soon and that you were an ferociously independent type of girl.

You hung your pictures back from Jr. High…friends and more friends of every nationality, every creed.

Dave wanted to be your dad, he even looked like you.  You called him ‘Papa’.  You called me ‘Nanc’.

You gave your story to us, it told of the day when you thought you were going on a fun mini-trip to a hotel.  You remember that you had your ‘swimmies’ on your arms when you were pulled away from your mother. You thought you were meeting a new friend in a giant building called ‘court’.  

You’ve been waiting all this time to be back with your mommy.  It’s been years of waiting and now you are in another placement my family…and that dream still continues to pulse inside of you.

Don’t worry sweet Kelly, “You can call me Nanc. I know you have a mom.”  I want that dream to stay alive for her…but I’m fearful of all things big and little… realizing early that years in a group home and then in placements that hadn’t worked out had to have taken a toll.  One day I asked you if you had any pictures of your little girl self.  You said , “not a one…but you said you looked just the same only smaller.”  I tried to imagine, but didn’t want to imagine, a little curly-headed girl with swimmies reaching out to a mom that was walking away.

I think we’ve come to the place eight years later that you are my girl and I am your Nanc , and I’m very happy about that.  Now you have a different dreams that includes a vast array of friends and older folks that have fed into your life for many years…you hope and yearn for the day when you will be a mom, who will hold on tight and never let go….never let go…never let go.

PS because I like them….I am proud of my girl…tell your story…tell it to the world- a story of strength, of perseverance, loyalty and love.

PSS because I just can’t resist…Kelly is realizing part of her dream in June.  Papa will be walking her down the aisle, to begin her new life with her best friend, Matthew. xo nanc  

Papa and KB


slice buttonbuddy boy

you’ve been my pride and joy,


except when you were


climbing to the top cabinet,

or when you showed you creative talent,

marking up our favorite chair-

with permanent marker

you brought music to our lives,

some of the notes, of course, were flat,

like many little boys,

as they are growing,

but in my eyes you rocked our house with

all your jazz,

your creative energy fed our lives,

and currently gives hope to many.


little boy minds

become men who care,


to create a positive song.

Note to all my friends:  Raising this boy has been joyous, but not an easy one.  He has found his path, works with youth at Mile High United Way, the greatest organization on the planet, that’s what Jeff would say.  He is now able to use his skill with people and digital media (short film) to change lives.  I am very proud that his brain is now fully formed at age 28.  He also is engaged to a very special person, Brittney, who also devotes her life to serving people.  Here’s a pic of Jeff when he was a pretty young music student.  He loved his big bass from the start and still does!

love you Bud xo mama

Scan 1

Pie Anne (Em)

slice buttonFirst born,

 in the middle of a dust storm,

You have brought a flurry of energy ,


Wanting your own way,


We try to teach you God’s way,

And you listen,

Your eyes light up this weary world,

Traveling now the path that he sets before you,


...Pie Anne, on her wedding day, captures in one photo a lifetime of love that she has brought to our family.
…Pie Anne, on her wedding day, captures in one photo a lifetime of love that she has brought to our family.

getting there…

slice buttonI woke after the alarm tried rousing me.  Cloudy days make me want to sleep, and this week has been full of low gray clouds.  I buzz out the door with only time for coffee.  I grab an apple thank, goodness.  My friends and I work hard on the pacing guide…only two grade levels left to go.  I buzz when we are done to meet my parents and get yet another look at an independent living community in the suburbs.

Generally, I know the direction to go and start traveling.  I pull over half way because it feels like I’m traveling too far north.  I try putting in the directions using the navigation on our new car.  It says that it can’t read my cell phone.  I worry that I left my cell phone…somewhere.  I continue on the way and the road eventually begins to bend east.  I wish I just had an old map..but they are in the old car.  I keep guessing as I see the suburbs one after another.  I know that eventually I will hit a road that I know.  Finally I see a sign…I’m in the right suburb.  I know that the community is on the northern side of this town.  I turn left, north again.  Suddenly I’m upset, because I’m in another suburb after about three miles.

This can’t be right, ”

“ERRR, I’m so mad at myself that I didn’t print out directions.”

Now I’m starving and thirsty.  I can’t stop, because I want to find the place first and then find a place to relax and get a sandwich.  I decide I’m too far north.  I turn around and start heading south and keep looking for familiar roads.  One appears, I think I’m getting close.  The only trouble is , I know that this large independent living community is not off a big road.  I start weaving through neighborhoods, back and forth, up and down streets.  I finally find it…yipee!

Then there is still about 15 minutes left so I decide to go out looking for any fast food I can find.  There is nothing close and I was too afraid to venture too far off course, because of my propensity for the word, LOST.  So I went back and pretty grumpy and getting grumpier by the minute.  I wait and wait pace and pace because my parents were late.  I couldn’t call them, because I didn’t have my phone, oh wait, they don’t have a phone either!

Finally they arrived…the best part of the day was that it looks like finally my parents will be moving from their very large,old and hard to keep up with two-story house.  And the day suddenly became brighter, and me… less grumpy.

Bringing it together…


Hand in Hand

Mentor Texts,

Nonfiction Mentor Texts,

I Read It But I Don’t Get It,

Catching Readers Before They Fail,

Is That a Fact, 

Revisit, Reflect, Retell,

Literature Circles,

Bringing Words to Life,

After the End, 

The Energy to Teach !

These books are oldies and goodies!  Recent titles are on my i-pad….how to I do a stack poem with them?  Thank you LC (Elsie),  for the energy you give me from your posts…your commenting love..I am forever grateful. xo nanc

PS If I was doing a dissertation…it would be how reading and writing should be integrated, all day, every single day!

PSS Long live Donald Graves and his followers…the famous Carol from Carol’s Corner and Penny Kittle to name a few.  I learned from his books, the perfect mentor texts.  I am still learning from Carol, Penny and all of you!