I got to spend time with my daughter, son-in-law and granddaughters from Wales. It’s been years since we were together. My husband took our 10 year old out to the beach to teach her to surf.The little ones played in the sand and got their feet went in the ocean. I couldn’t wait to see the cousins meet for the first time. To hear my son and his youngest sister laugh took me back to when they were children. We kayaked, took walks, saw sunsets together and watched their children play. Our otherwise quiet home was filled with sounds of love and joy. These moments are what is important.
I said goodbye to my family from Wales. They came for a short visit as we have not seen them in years. I stood in line at the airport waiting for their turn to put their bags on the scale and show their passports. I looked at how much my granddaughters have grown since I last saw them. The tears came with intensity. Their presence brought life, laughter and love to my otherwise lonely, quiet house. I prefer a messy house full of love and life to being alone in a quiet, tidy house.
They divided their time in California to accommodate divorced parents. The stark contrast in climate and lifestyle was quite dramatic. They saw the high desert and the beach on their visit. We learned that time spent in a car to travel to any attraction is not worth our time. It was a unanimous decision (after the fact) that enjoying our beach town offered all the excitement that we could ask for. We made the long journey to Big Sur, and it is breathtaking, but being together at home was a much better use of time. The oldest grandchild learned to surf.
I can still hear their laughter. Cousins meeting for the first time is magical. I have a greeting card that says, ” She said she usually cries each day, not because she is sad, but because the world is so beautiful and life is so short.”
Ever since I was a child I have loved books. I found the joy of traveling in my mind to exotic places where I could experience adventure, and become someone else. I could be a scientist, an explorer, a hero or a villain. Each book brought new possibilities.
Everywhere I went I would be sure to bring a book. Being called a bookworm was not offensive to me. I preferred reading to interacting with those who didn’t share my fascination with books. I can only assume that a person who doesn’t enjoy reading has not found the right book that captures their interest. To this day I carry a book with me (sometimes on the Kindle app on my phone).
I like to explore various genres to broaden my choices and gather information. There is much to be gained by selecting a book on a topic that has been on your mind. I knew I liked pictures of New Zealand, but reading about it and learning customs, culture and history has increased my knowledge base substantially. When discussing a topic it is always better to have facts from reliable sources. I never realized how much I would enjoy nonfiction books, but the information enhances my vocabulary while strengthening my knowledge base. A real win!
Historical fiction and thrillers are the latest genres that appeal to me. I have had the pleasure of joining two online book clubs and have engaged in discussions with a few authors. It opens up an entire world once your mind is open to learning from an author’s perspective. It’s often surprising when I find myself challenging my own long held beliefs. In that way books are helping me grow my mind.
I like to think that even if you did not have the opportunity to grow up in a loving, nurturing, healthy home, you can still create that kind of home for your own children. It is never too late to start building the kind of life you want. I am blessed with great kids and like to think I am much wiser as a grandma than I was as a mother. Time and experiences along the way helped to shape my priorities. I know how much laughter, forgiveness and feeling confident are essential elements in every day life.
My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters are visiting here from Wales. Every second with them is a treasure. Sitting at the dining room table as I listened to my daughter, I thought of how proud I am of her and her capacity to love. My oldest granddaughter helped me in the kitchen. The little one celebrated her 5th birthday here, in the US, complete with a unicorn theme. These moments are precious. There aren’t enough of them. All I want to do is make memories that they will cherish and pass on to their children one day.
I was in the grocery store to pick up a few items. I wore my mask and assumed that others would also. Not so. I pushed my cart through the produce section and a very large man yelled at me, “You don’t need a damn mask!” He scared me. I got out of the store quickly. The sign on the entrance said, “Masks required.” About half the people I saw were not wearing masks. I am fully vaccinated, and even got a booster shot. I am protecting others, as well as myself. What if I had a kidney transplant? What if I had a compromised immune system? The what ifs are endless. I should not have to respond to such an unfiltered verbal assault, and to be honest, I was too frightened so I did not respond.
The cases of Covid are going up in our little area. I am being responsible and this is a public health emergency. Hopefully we can all see that. We will all die someday, but if you know there is a vaccine that will provide some protection, why not take it? I watched my mother die gasping for air, and I imagine that being on a ventilator isn’t much fun. I lost an aunt and an uncle to covid. I hope that we all make it through this horrible virus. I hope we care about our fellow citizens enough to do what will help them survive.
Children need to practice reading skills by reading aloud. This helps them develop fluency. A child can read to a sibling, a pet, their toys, and even plants. Their reading becomes enjoyable when they have someone or something to share in the experience.
When I taught second grade I set up an experiment. My hypothesis was that plants that are read to do better than those that aren’t. I had the same type of plant (pathos) in opposite sides of the classroom. One plant was read to daily and one was not. Students clamored to be the reader. They kept a notebook of their discoveries. It may have been happenstance, but the plant that was read to flourished in contrast to the plant that did not have a child read to it. I’m not a scientist, but I am a reading teacher with a creative mind. My experiment was a success! It got students reading and writing.
I imagine that a sibling or a pet would love the attention. Anything that encourages reading is a good thing.
It’s good medicine to laugh. It’s even better to have a belly laugh. This is a great way to begin the day, a meeting, the school year. According to Psychology Today, “A hearty chuckle releases endorphins, feel-good neurotransmitters and endorphins are part of the reason laughing is so contagious. Laughing also has many health benefits such as increasing blood flow and improving mental and physical resilience. In fact, it’s not unlike a vigorous workout session.”
“The eminent psychologist on laughter, Robert Provine, Ph.D., of the University of Maryland, agrees that laughter isn’t really about humor. He contends that it’s more about relationships. Cutting-edge humor straight out of Comedy Central is great, but people actually laugh more in conversation and through interaction. Provine has unearthed a few facts on laughter including:
I began searching the internet for resources to give my online students who are in a Masters level course to earn their teaching credential. I have weekly resources for them that coincide with the week’s topic. I took a look at a topic that generally has them confused, the difference between phonemic awareness and phonics. I wanted the clearest information that would be easy to understand. Boy, did I go down a rabbit hole!
I could tell students a thousand times how important it is to know the sounds that make up words, and they always refer to phonics instruction. Most students are able to learn both the letter and the corresponding sound, but for some, the two skills do not stick. That is why it is important to teach sounds first. A child who can recite the alphabet but doesn’t have knowledge of the sounds, will not be able to read. There are important distinctions between phonemic awareness and phonics.
Phonemic awareness refers to the sounds in words. Not the letters, the sounds. The word cat has three phonemes: /c/a/t/. You can practice phonemic awareness in the dark because it does not include sight, just sound.
Phonics is awareness of both the letters and their sounds.
If child cannot read, you must go back and teach sounds. It is the only way they will be able to decode.
I spent part of the day with my grandson. It was just the two of us. When it was time to take a nap I asked him to select two books that I would read to him. He ran into his room and brought back two of his favorites. I always say, “Be sure you are comfortable so you can enjoy the story.” He got a pillow and put it right near me. We looked at the pictures first and found things we liked. We talked about what the story might be about. He snuggled next to me as I read to him. When I finished, I told him that I was very tired and needed to rest my body. He looked at me and said, ” You’re a good grandma and I love you.” He put his arm around me and fell asleep that way. I think I will remember that moment for the rest of my life. I thought about how good it is to be alive to witness those kind of moments. In spite of all the bad times, events that make me want to disappear, there are moments that are precious beyond words. I am grateful that I lived to have moments like this; to see that there are sparkling moments in life that are just around the corner.
We all know when someone cares about us. Students come to school hoping they will be liked and accepted. A teacher that takes the time to know each student creates a solid foundation of trust. Learning is often connected to experiences and emotions. When a child feels secure, learning can move into long term memory.
From the start of the school year find out what your students are interested in. What do they want to know more about? Use an interest inventory. Share your hobbies, favorite sports, songs, movies. Take time to establish an atmosphere of security and respect.
Class meetings are a good way to teach social skills, establish community and foster open communication. Regularly check the status of the class. Encourage problem-solving with teacher guidance.
Give sincere compliments. Model how to show appreciation.
Teachers, I hope you have a safe, productive, positive school year!
Always tap into a student’s prior knowledge, building on what they know. Help them make connections by using visuals, engaging in partner share, review previous lesson. Moving forward to new subject matter requires assessment to determine if there is a need to reteach.
Know your students! Some can take leaps while others require review and rehearsal. There is much to be gained by assessing exactly where your students are.
Students flourish when they are recognized and appreciated. There are so many ways to help a student feel great about their success. I like to honor each improvement with a visual representation of their accomplishment. When done selectively, this is a way to boost self-esteem in students, particularly those who don’t generally get recognized.
A medal that a student can wear on the playground lets other children know of successes. It can be worn home so parents can also acknowledge improvement.
This book should be on every teacher’s desk as a resource for promoting an inclusive classroom. It is important to remember that dependent does not mean deficit. We want all students to work to their full potential. Here is just one sampling of the valuable guidance from acclaimed author, Jaretta Hammond:
Relies on the teacher to carry the cognitive load most of the time
Unsure how to tackle a new task
Needs scaffolds to complete a task
Sits passively until teacher intervenes
Poor retention of information
“I don’t get it.”
Relies on the teacher to carry some of the load temporarily
Uses strategies and processes for tackling a new task
Will attempt new tasks without scaffolds
Has a way to get unstuck
Has learned how to retrieve information from long-term memory
Children learn phonological skills from infancy. Phonological awareness involves a continuum of skills that develop over time and are crucial for reading and spelling success, because they are central to learning to decode and spell printed words.
Phonological awareness is the ability to recognize and manipulate the spoken parts of sentences and words. Examples include being able to identify words that rhyme, recognizing alliteration, segmenting a sentence into words, identifying the syllables in a word, and blending and segmenting onset-rimes.
***Remember that Phonological Awareness is an umbrella term that covers sub skills. It deals with SOUNDS, not letters. When students know sounds, you can then introduce letters. PHONICS combines sounds and letters.
After you teach a lesson, even a mini-lesson, always make sure you scan your group to insure they have a clear understanding of what you have taught. Moving on without a check does a disservice to students. Form a small group to reteach the lesson. The hand method is a good visual that goes a step further than “thumbs up, thumbs down.”
Check For Understanding Strategy
3‐2‐1/ Fist to Five/ Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
4‐3‐2‐1 Scoring Scale
Students communicate their level of understanding to teacher using their fingers
Students should get in groups of four where one student is A, the n next is B, etc. Each student will be asked to reflect on a concept and draw a visua l of his/her interpretation. Then they will share their answer with each other in a zigzag pattern within their group.
The capacity matrix is a charting technique used to break down topic areas into steps for achieving a specific result. It identifies tasks, knowledge levels, and understanding of the topic area.
Circle, Triangle, Square
(Circle) Something that is still going around in your head, (Triangle) Something pointed that stood out in your mind, (Square) Something that “Squared” or agreed with your thinking.
Electronic surveying devices that give instant feedback and data
Decisions, Decisions (Philosophical Chairs)
Given a prompt, class goes to the side that corresponds to their opinion on the topic, side share out reasoning, and students are allowed to change sides after discussion
Each student will be given a ticket to complete before leaving the room answering: What is the most important thing I learned today? What questions do I still have? These tickets can be given to the teacher when exiting the room or upon entering the next day. The teacher uses this information to guide the instruction.
Every Pupil Response
Each student receives a pink and yellow card. Each color represents a specific response. Students raise the card to provide the correct response to a teacher directed question.
Given a concept, students sort or write various examples/non‐examples
Given examples/non‐examples, students determine concept
Fill In Your Thoughts
Written check for understanding strategy where students fill the blank.
Check For Understanding Strategy
Flag It Function Aerobics
Handprint Human Graph Interlocking Paper Plates
Students use this strategy to help them remember information that is important to them. They will “flag” their ideas on a sticky note or flag die cut…
Students demonstrate their knowledge of transformations of functions by physically moving their arms and body
Draw your handprint. In each finger, write one thing you learned today.
A kinesthetic activity where students in the class physically move to create a histogram, where each student represents a data point rating their view .
Give One, Get One
Cooperative activity where the students write response to a prompt, meet up with another student and share ideas so that each leaves with something to add to their list
Students form an inner and outer circle facing a partner. The teacher asks a question and the students are given time to respond to their partner. Next, the inner circle rotates one person to the left. The teacher asks another question and the cycle repeats itself.
Pop It (Bubble Wrap)
Students write what they want to know about a topic on a dot sticker. Place each sticker on the bubble wrap. When a topic is covered, the student pops the bubble.
Project Study Group
Analyzing incorrect responses in multiple choice questions
Quick Writes Rubric Say Something
Student Data Notebooks
A timed writing in response to a question or prompt (can be used before, during, or after instruction)
A scoring guide using subjective assessments that is generally composed of dimensions for judging student performance.
Students take turns leading discussions in a cooperative group on sections of a reading or video
Students are divided into two teams to identify correct answers to questions given by the teacher. Students use a fly swatter to slap the correct response posted on the wall.
Check For Understanding Strategy
Timed Pair Share
Triangular Prism (Red, Yellow, Green)
Given a prompt, students pair up and share their perspective for a given amount of time, taking turns (A talks, B listens, then B talks, A listens)
Students give feedback to teacher by displaying the color that corresponds to their level of understanding
Given a set of vocabulary terms, students sort in to given categories or create their own categories for sorting
Take and Pass
Cooperative group activity used to share or collect information from each member of the group; students write a response, then pass to the right, add their response to next paper, continue until they get their paper back, then group debriefs.
Teacher poses a question and students list three items. All students stand. Teacher randomly calls students to share , if their topic is called they sit. Teacher continues til all students are sitting.
Today was the perfect day to take out our kayaks. My son, daughter-in-law and grandkids joined us on this sunny day. I paddled with them out to dunes to let the kids explore the dunes. They are no strangers to the area as their home is very close to the bay. We were treated to otters and seals who seemed to greet us. There were lots of families who had the same idea on this gorgeous day. The kids love to climb the hills and slide down. They both love to wade near the shore, and there were a few tears when it was time to leave. Such a lovely way to spend a Saturday.
Buy a Grandma Kayaker a coffee
My blog is fueled by coffee and active grandkids. If you would like to treat me to a coffee, it is
appreciated. Thank you!!
My husband treated me to dinner at a very nice restaurant recently. What did I do the moment I sat down? I pulled my phone from my purse and checked emails and Facebook. It’s become a habit, even though I know it’s not only rude, it robs me of being completely in the moment. I have been making an effort to stow my cell phone in another room before I go to bed. It’s not a coincidence that I am sleeping better. I made a list of things I could do rather than checking my phone:
Write a letter to the person or business that you appreciate or are concerned about. It could be a family member or a friend you haven’t heard from in awhile. Write a compliment to a business that is doing good job during a pandemic. Make their day.
Read a book that you have been meaning to get to (not during dinner).
Go through your closet and drawers and donate items you do not wear. Put the bundle in your car to remind you to drop it off.
Clean out your refrigerator and make sure you dump outdated food.
Clean window ledges, and your windows while you’re there.
Plan out your next vacation. List possibilities.
Go to dinner without your cell phone. Leave it in your car. Enjoy precious time.
When I taught a Special Day Class there were children in my classroom with a variety of differences. I think back on my time with fondness and deep appreciation because I learned that growth is not always measured by a test. I learned so much about patience, acceptance, compassion and inclusion from my exceptional students. They showed me what determination is and how to keep going when the going gets tough. I remember the way they cheered each other on when their classmate’s effort resulted in improvement. They smiled easily and didn’t shy away from taking a risk because they celebrated all effort. They taught me to do the same.
I learned not to limit them, because they had large imaginations that never ceased to amaze me. . They loved being exposed to possibilities. When I saw that the previous teacher used scripted copies of black and white text, I asked for real books. I was told that is was, “subject to debate.” I incurred the wrath of my principal when I asked to be on the “debate” team. I simply wanted my students to have access to the same books that other students were getting. Here is my favorite quote on inclusion:
My youngest daughter lives in the UK. I live in California. When she shared the news of her pregnancy, I began a series of Letters to My Granddaughter. I felt the urgent need to capture all my emotions and keep a living record of my joy and hope for the future. I wanted my words to wrap her in love, and assure her that I will always be grateful for her life. This tiny girl reminds me of her mama; so sweet. As I held her I thought about how love is limitless. She is in my heart wherever I am.
Here are a few letters I wrote before she was born;
December 31, 2011
Right now you are preparing for your entry into the world. We are all very glad that you got this far and we are anxious to meet you. Your mom and dad smile when they talk about you. I got to see your movements across your mom’s belly via a wonderful invention called Skype. I knew that a baby in utero can hear sounds outside the womb, so every time I talk to your mom, I tell her to say that I love you. Soon I will get to say that myself. Your cradle is amazing, complete with fairy lights all around your room. You are so loved already. There are a billion things I want to show you! I live near the ocean and plan to show you tidepools and teach you what I know about the sea. Summers will be our time.
I love you,
January 2, 2012
It is New Year’s Eve and I don’t like to go out of my house on this day. Some people think that to celebrate you must drink and alter your mind. I think it is not a good idea to begin the new year with anything but a clear head full of hopes for the future. I hope you will have an easy birth. Our celebration will be clear-headed joy and we will be drinking in the moment. We are anxious to dance with you, sing to you, and hold you. Birth is the greatest celebration of all.
I love you,
January 12, 2012
2012 is the year you will be born, so it is already filled with hope. I have so many things I want to accomplish this year. I want to be the best grandma a child could ask for. It will be a year of changes for your parents because they will be on a new journey, one in which there is no guidebook. Being a parent will be their primary job. They are both busy professionals, but you will be their reason for living, and making a living. They don’t know it yet, but every single second they spend with you is worth more than any time doing anything else. It goes by so quickly. My hope for the new year is that I can get to see you as much as possible.
This picture brought to mind how my cousins and I would make do with whatever was handy to create our own environment for play. We didn’t need expensive toys or electronic devices to entertain us, our imaginations did the work. Our creativity flourished in our grandmother’s garage that housed boxes of old clothes that we used to put on plays. We draped a sheet across the wire that held the garage door and it instantly became a theater. We didn’t care if we had an audience or not. A refrigerator box became a puppet theater.
I remember learning about the lifecycle of frogs long before second grade. The little stream near our home was host to tadpoles, frogs and dragonflies. We were keen observers and had conversations about our discoveries. Holding a caterpillar or a snail was a science lesson. The lessons and experiences gained from outdoor play are stored in longterm memory. I think the most important aspect of outdoor play is that it supports children’s problem-solving skills and nurtures their creativity, as well as providing rich opportunities for their developing imagination, inventiveness and resourcefulness.
Nature promotes the use of executive function skills.Executive function skills are the life skills we use at every age, and that help us stay organized and independent. With unstructured play in nature, children are using creativity to solve problems and working memory to make up stories. They work their flexible thinking skills by testing boundaries and learning how to stay safe while exploring, creating, and having fun. They are strengthening and challenging their own life skills just by playing!
I have put together a list of books for your child’s first day back at school. These books are best for ages 3-8. It’s a good idea to read aloud and discuss with your child their hopes and fears about a new school year. Be proactive and do this before school begins. The books I have on this post are useful, and I have used many myself in various classrooms. They are always a big hit with students. Parents, this is a good opportunity for you to prepare your child for school in the fall.
Another delightful Pigeon adventure from the wonderful author Mo Willems.
. Great for ages 3-5.
Little Critter is a bit nervous about starting school today. There’s a lot to be done before he can even get on the bus—he has to pick out his clothes, find his backpack, pack the perfect lunch, and say good-bye to Mom. Join Little Critter as he gets ready for this exciting day. Lift the flaps and find out what surprises are in store for Little Critter on his first day of school! Ages 3-6
With its heartfelt message and colorfully whimsical illustrations, “Our Class is a Family” is a book that will help build and strengthen the class community. Kids learn that their classroom is a place where it’s safe to be themselves, it’s okay to make mistakes, and it’s important to be a friend to others. When hearing this story being read aloud by their teacher or parent, students are sure to feel like they are part of a special family away from home. Great for Ages 4-7
Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
(This book is also available in Spanish, as El Día En Que Descubres Quién Eres!) Ages 5-8
Lena doesn’t want to miss out on her first day of school, but she can’t go without her favorite shoes! How can she convince them to be brave? Ages 4-8
The first day of school is right around the corner! And everything is bigger for Bigfoot — especially back to school problems like getting a haircut, trying on new clothes, and finding new shoes that fit! Told from a giant (and very hairy) point of view, Back to School with Bigfoot deftly tackles the worries kids face as that first day of school draws closer, and ends on a colossal high note!
This is a humorous book that will calm the jitters of the first day. On the first day of school, new classmates are asked to share what they would most like to happen in the upcoming year. Some kids’ hopes are familiar while others are off-the-wall. Whether it’s looking good on picture day or skateboarding at school, everyone’s wishes are shown in humorously exaggerated illustrations. Ages 6-8
Miss Mingo, a flashy flamingo, starts off the year by inviting all creatures big and small to share something special about themselves. Did you know that Cricket hears with his legs, Snake smells with his tongue, and Frog enjoys eating his own skin? Visit this multi-species classroom for a nonfiction storybook filled with learning — and laughter.
Guided reading is an instructional practice or approach where teachers support a small group of students to read a text independently.
You select books that students can read with about 90 to 94 percent accuracy. Students can understand and enjoy the story because it’s accessible to them through their own strategies, supported by your introduction.
They focus on meaning but also use problem-solving strategies to figure out words they don’t know, deal with difficult sentence structure, and understand concepts or ideas they have never before encountered in print.
You should choose Guided Reading Program books for students that:
Match their knowledge base
Help them take the next step in learning to read
Are interesting to them
Offer just enough challenge to support problem solving while still supporting fluency and meaning
You work with a small group of students with similar needs.
You provide introductions to the text that support students’ later attempts at problem solving.
Each student reads the whole text or a unified part of the text.
Readers figure out new words while reading for meaning.
You prompt, encourage, and confirm students’ attempts at problem solving.
You and your students engage in meaningful conversations about what they are reading.
You and your student revisit the text to demonstrate and use a range of comprehension strategies.
I’ve been putting up daily reminders to focus on the importance of a healthy attitude based on my values. Reframing negative thoughts is becoming part of my daily practice.
Today I am in my upstairs bedroom while installers are putting in new flooring. I learned that my daily practice is working. I called my son to tell him what progress is being made on the massive flooring project. I mentioned that I was told not to walk on the stairs until morning. He said, “So you’re basically trapped upstairs.” I told him ,”I prefer to think of it differently because I have a bed, bathroom, and kitchen , so I have everything I need for now.” I also told him that sometimes having alone time is great.
It really helps to begin each day with the intention of feeding the mind a healthy diet .
I never get tired of seeing this view. Today it is foggy and there isn’t much chance of sunshine to make a stunning sunset, but most of the time the treat at the end of the day is the colors on the horizon.
My fourth and fifth graders loved experiments. This was a fun way for them to get a close-up view of germination. We planted sunflower seeds by pressing them onto a moistened cotton ball. We used clear plastic gloves and taped them to the windows. The students documented the progress in their science journals. Great fun!
When we studied bones we got a bit creative and used qtips.
After a light rain, I thought about walking on the beach to look for seagrass. I identify with seaglass. I have been broken, beaten against rocks, swept away by winds, and over time my sharp edges have been smoothed by the battering of the elements. I have emerged triumphant and reformed.
I am bombarded with thoughts, a steady stream of reactions, opinions, and what ifs. Some are helpful, some are not. After I read Emotional Agility by Susan David, I realized that what I needed was to be aware of how the negative thoughts do not serve me or align with my values. How did I get to my age and not internalize this? My runaway thoughts have caused misunderstandings, mistakes, and regret.
One of my favorite quotes from her book is, “Who is in control; the thinker or the thought?” Such a simple question, but it has the power to pull me into the present moment with a keener insight into how my thoughts can effect my actions. Another quote that I love is, “Don’t believe everything you think.” After I read her book, I subscribed to her newsletter (free). Every so often I will receive a bit of wisdom that reminds me to keep in check. I take a look at my values, what I cherish, the beliefs I hold. It has helped me get centered. In a world that seems upside-down at times, this book was just what I needed.
So many tourists visit our little town, and not just during the summer. The cooler ocean air brings many people from the valley to our area to escape the heat.
The roughed coast of California offers sights that visitors from other areas seldom, if ever, see. I live in a place that is an escape for many. Being a desirable vacation destination means it gets unusually crowded with tourists on holidays. The rest of the time it is peaceful and quiet.
Up the coast we have a viewing site for elephant seals, and if you look up into the nearby hills, you will see Hearst Castle, where zebras, cows and llamas roam the area. The sunsets cause drivers to pull over and to stare in awe. I’m grateful that I live in this beautiful, peaceful place.
Having lived in the high desert for too long, the 23 years I have been on the Central Coast have given me a firm belief that being near the ocean restores body and mind. I am grateful to be lulled to sleep by the waves. Some nights I can hear the seals on the rocks.
I used to live in the high desert where it can reach 120 degrees F in the summer and sometimes snows in the winter. To be honest, I never felt like it was where I belonged. I longed to live near the ocean where I could feel the cool ocean breeze. I am sure that the high desert has its own charm, but I never saw it. I used to dream about someday living so close to the ocean that I could hear the waves crashing on the shore. I remember a trip north and stopping at The Rock in Morro Bay. The parking lot was packed and the surfers were lined up waiting to catch waves. I sat in the car and wondered what kind of work might afford me the opportunity to someday live in this incredible coastal area. It was a dream I held in my heart.
It sounds trite to say that we never know what the future holds, but I do believe that setting an intention and moving in the direction of your dream, coupled with prayer and doing the legwork, results in positive outcomes. I had lessons to learn and there were many. I always kept my dream of living near the ocean.
I have been a happy coastal resident for 25 years. If you are going to dream, make it big, hold tight to it, be open to change, work hard and give thanks in all things.
I was still a teenager when I had my son. I had no idea how to raise a child. I only knew that holding him was the best feeling ever. I knew that loving him would be easy. I had the luxury of staying home and caring for him while his dad went to work. My son received my full attention. I read to him from a variety of books. Teaching him was my full-time job. Playing with him, singing to him, and resting next to him are sealed in my memory. The number one song at that time was The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face. I sang it to him at every nap and bedtime.
When my grandson was born all those sweet memories were visible in his beautiful face. He is inquisitive, fearless, and incredibly loving. I know my son will have the joy of his life with his own son. I am a blessed grandma.
When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.
This photo of my granddaughter serves to remind me to savor the images and times when I was captivated by someone or something. The sense of wonder is a cause for celebration. She was at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and stood inside a tunnel that allowed her to see a wave breaking above her. That sense of awe is something that children encounter often as they have new experiences, ones I have taken for granted. They unabashedly show their feelings, and it is beautiful to watch.
I think it is my grandchildren that opened my eyes to a renewed appreciation for nature. They most definitely savor new experiences. They are expressive and inquisitive. The newness of everything and their sense of wonder is contagious. I am filled with gratitude for the privilege of being a part of their lives. I hope they keep their sense of wonder and embrace new experiences with the same curiosity and enthusiasm.
Many years ago I went through some rough times. I was a single mother living in the high desert. There were times when there wasn’t much money and very little to look forward to. I was in a dark and lonely place with little hope, and blinded to possibilities that were available. At the time I didn’t know where to turn. The feeling of isolation and hopelessness engulfed me. I remember spending days wondering when this endless, trapped feeling would end.
I took a class at the community college to build my confidence. I learned about grants and loans I could apply for that would help me pursue a career of my choosing. I wondered what I was good at (other than cooking, cleaning and raising kids). I thought about teaching because I loved teaching Sunday School. Before I knew it I was completing coursework that would lead to a teaching credential. I learned that education unlocks the door to opportunity and a life of possibility. For me it was life-altering.
I encourage anyone who feels like they are trapped and feeling hopeless to investigate what opportunities await them through coursework. Baby steps enable the confidence to take giant leaps of faith. Go toward a better future.
City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert is set in New York during the 1940’s. After flunking out of Vasser, Vivian is sent to live with her aunt, the owner of a shabby theater, The Lily, to repair and create costumes for showgirls. The cast of amateur actors and dancers perform melodramas for the locals who are grateful for the low ticket prices.
It’s the cast of characters that is most appealing, particularly Vivian, the protagonist, who acts as the narrator. At 90, she reaches back in time to tell her story when she is asked, “Who were you to my father?”
She weaves a tale of a wild nightlife, her first love, and mistakes she makes in a world that is new and intriguing to her. She quickly assimilates to the New York nightlife only to regret her indiscretion with the husband of Edna, who lets her know, in no uncertain terms, who she really is. That same man changes the character of the theater as well as Vivian.
I found myself highlighting so many of Gilbert’s witticisms. This is definitely a good read, even with the raunchy sex scenes. It is, after all, a coming-of-age story. Gilbert has a gift for putting you in the setting, describing vividly everything that takes you into the book. I could almost feel the feather boas, and hear the laughter from the audience. I am so glad I took it off of my “To Be Read Shelf.”
If I could go anywhere in the world, I would choose Wales. Hands down it is the most magical, natural, serene land of peace I’ve ever visited. When I read Tintern Abbey by William Wordsworth in college, so long ago, I knew that one day I had to see this inspiring place. Little did I know that my daughter would marry and move to Wales. She and my son-in-law took me to see Tintern Abbey. Stepping inside the ruins, I immediately felt drawn to the beams of light that streamed through the remains of windows. The sense of holiness is overwhelming.
There are a variety of landscapes and landmarks that are scattered throughout Wales. Each one is impressive historically as well as aesthetically.
Snowdon is the highest mountain in Wales. Snowdonia’s magnificent scenery is accentuated by stark and rugged rock formations, many of volcanic origin, whereas the Beacons generally have softer outlines. In the winter it is a wonderland. There are plenty of waterfalls. The uplands are girdled on the seaward side by a series of steep-sided coastal plateaus ranging in elevation from about 100 to 700 feet.
There is a village, Eyam, where the villagers isolated themselves during the plaque. https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-35064071 I spent hours looking at the preserved village realizing how selfless the people were to protect others from the deadly disease.
I don’t know how many people can say that their daughter is their best friend, but I can. Katie was a quiet, loving little girl who collected rocks that caught her eye. Her bedroom closet was home to an assortment of rocks that very quickly became a quarry. I used to beg her to clean her room. If I had a crystal ball I may have been able to predict that later in her life she would find archaeology fascinating. I passed by the bathroom and heard her singing in the shower when she was eight years old. This quiet little girl never sang for anyone in her family until I heard her sing. She was part of a singing group in High School where she performed many solos. She aspired to be a rock star (rocks again). My beautiful daughter fell in love in the mountains of Santa Cruz where she met a young British man. They were both camp counselors for the summer. After high school she moved to England to go to college and be with her love. She earned a PhD in Anthropology and Steven is a medical doctor who also has his PhD. They have two lovely girls who are as inquisitive and caring as their parents. Katie has grown into the smartest woman I know. Her capacity to love is limitless. She is wise beyond her years, someone who I call on for advice and validation. I am in awe of her kindness and patience. Today is her birthday and I think I received the greatest gift when she was born. Thank you, God, for this sweet baby girl of mine.
I have taken a break from any kind of “must do” or social media that tends to take me down a rabbit hole. I have been taking an internal inventory of my values to make sure I am living in alignment with them. It has been a journey of the soul, one that has opened my eyes to the many missed opportunities to right the wrong and stay true to what is important to me. My daily routine includes time on the treadmill listening to music that I love. I put flowers in a vase on my dining room table to remind me of the beauty outside my door. An afternoon nap recharges my energy and reminds me that rest is restorative. I now make my own frozen yogurt so I know exactly what is in it. My experiment in eating 90% plant- based food has proven to be beneficial. I discovered how good cherry tomatoes are as a snack. I squeeze a lime into my water and add crushed ice. I am making simple changes that heal body and mind.
My grandson turns two on Monday and he tugged on my blouse the other day. I turned around and he said, ” I love you, grandma, so so much. You’re a good grandma.” I picked him up, held him, and wanted to freeze time. It really is the little things that feed our soul. There is no doubt that when you stop to acknowledge the good, actively move in the direction of your values, and disconnect from anything that gets you off track, you enjoy the little things. I wish you joy.
I was on my way home from work when my husband called me to ask how I like the Pyrenees. I told him that I absolutely love them. I thought he was referring to the mountain range I saw while traveling through Spain and France. He meant the dog breed. He told me he was at the animal shelter and he wanted me to stop by. What I didn’t know is that my husband had spent hours in an outdoor pen playing fetch, petting and getting acquainted with what I thought resembled a small white horse. I couldn’t say no when he asked if we could take him home.
Once inside our house the giant white dog galloped upstairs and took a bite out of the edge of the coffee table. Not satisfied with that, he went for my Ugg boots and tore them to bits. We chased and yelled, until he came to a stop near my rocking chair. We tried to get him downstairs by enticing him with treats, but not before he bit the legs off my rocking chair. I just cried. My husband kept saying, “ He’s scared and hasn’t learned yet.” I named him Max because he reminded me of the naughty boy from Where the Wild Things Are.
We thought we would try putting Max in the backyard. He chewed the top of our spa cover. I told my husband that either the dog receives training in order to extinguish bad behavior or we find a new home for Max. I obviously lacked the same patience and optimism that my husband had. My husband attended training classes every Saturday and after two months we had a different dog. Max is my husband’s best friend and they are inseparable. It turns out Great Pyrenees are very loyal, protective and gentle.
As for the tiny fur ball, she did not get along with her siblings so I rescued her. I did not name her, but Tootsie seems to fit. She is quite the alarm system when anyone approaches our house. I learned about Great Pyrenees; they are guardian dogs for sheep. I think Max considers Tootsie a baby lamb and he is very protective. Can you tell which one is the trouble maker? Fortunately we have a lovely dog park at the end of our road. The dynamic duo are the best of friends.
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More than just thinking positively and with confidence, you have to put it into action. Action, actually, is the key to developing self-confidence. It’s one thing to learn to think positive, but when you start acting on it, you change yourself, one action at a time. You are what you do, and so if you change what you do, you change what you are. Act in a positive way, take action instead of telling yourself you can’t, be positive. Talk to people in a positive way, put energy into your actions. You’ll soon start to notice a difference.
I have learned to stand up straight, literally and metaphorically. I have the worst posture so I make an effort to imagine a strong magnet pulling me upright. I look and feel better when I stand straight. It draws my attention to the fact that bad things can be corrected with determination and actions. I liken it to being in alignment with my values. I don’t want to be pulled down! Onward and upward for me.
Somehow I can’t believe that there are any heights that can’t be scaled by a man who knows the secrets of making dreams come true. This special secret, it seems to me, can be summarized in four C s. They are curiosity, confidence, courage, and constancy, and the greatest of all is confidence. When you believe in a thing, believe in it all the way, implicitly and unquestionable. – Walt Disney
Children will own the names you call them. Choose your words carefully. This is good advice for teachers, but especially important that parents know this too. They are a child’s first teacher. Call them scholars, call them friends, call them writers, call them mathematicians, call them scientists, call them teachers, call them helpers, call them readers, call them thinkers, call them loved.
Facts You May Not Know: Their Brains are under construction and not fully formed.
Your brain does not keep getting bigger as you get older
Your brain doesn’t finish developing and maturing until your mid- to late-20s. The front part of the brain, called the prefrontal cortex, is one of the last brain regions to mature. It is the area responsible for planning, prioritizing and controlling impulses.
Many mental disorders appear during adolescence
(schizophrenia, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and eating disorders—emerge during this time)
Teens should get about 9-10 hours of sleep a night, but most teens don’t get enough sleep. A lack of sleep makes paying attention hard, increases impulsivity and may also increase irritability and depression.
Recognize that there is an emotional connection in learning. If students think you care and are invested, then they will care and be invested. Also, be aware that they can’t always control their emotions and don’t always know why they make the choices they do.
•Recognize there is a physical connection to learning. The brain essentially uses glucose and oxygen as food. Adding kinesthetic activities to instruction circulates oxygen and glucose in students’ brains, increasing the efficiency of student learning. Plus, moving around & talking are WAY more fun than taking notes.
•Teens need more sleep than children and adults
•Although it may seem like teens are lazy, science shows that melatonin levels (or the “sleep hormone” levels) in the blood naturally rise later at night and fall later in the morning than in most children and adults. This may explain why many teens stay up late and struggle with getting up in the morning. Teens should get about 9-10 hours of sleep a night, but most teens don’t get enough sleep. A lack of sleep makes paying attention hard, increases impulsivity and may also increase irritability and depression.
•There is another part of the brain that is fully active in adolescents, and that’s the limbic system. And that is the seat of risk, reward, impulsivity, sexual behavior and emotion.
•So they are built to be novelty-seeking at this point in their lives. Their frontal lobe isn’t able to say, “That’s a bad idea, don’t do that.” That’s not happening to the extent it will in adulthood.
It gives me great joy to put my love into each quilt. They sleep under a blanket of love. I have a Babylock Spirit Embroidery Machine that I use for the designs.
Hooded bath towels
I make hooded bath towels for kids of all ages. If you have a special character in mind, email me (Caysunset@gmail.com) and I will see if I can make it for you.
$30 each and mailing within US is an additional $10.
One of the pleasures of summer is that I usually travel to visit my darling granddaughters in the UK. I established a tradition of buying new shoes for the girls at my favorite shoe store, Clarks. Once they were able to walk, we would go into a city center to get their feet sized properly. The clerk would take a photo and present it to the parents. I extended the shoe buying to include their parents. There is comfort in knowing that I left them with something useful that plants their feet firmly on the land we all love so much. I love the idea of establishing traditions. It’s my hope that the memories will be a source of joy and that they will continue this tradition or make their own. I can’t wait for our next trip to Clarks.