Journal

What’s Important

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.





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Journal

Truth

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.”

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Journal

Grow Your Mind

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.

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Journal

Family Time

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.



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Journal

Stay Safe Out There

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.



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Literacy Resources

Reading Buddies

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.

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Journal, Teacher Tips

Don’t Be Afraid to be Silly

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.”

Interesting facts:

“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:

  • Laughter bonds people through prosocial behavior
  • It’s a contagion
  • Women laugh 126 percent more than men
  • Mating would be nowhere without it
  • Men want to generate laughter and they need women who will laugh
  • Women are commonly laughter appreciators”

Here are some research-supported tips for using humor to increase retention:

Do

  • Use humor to enhance classroom joy
  • Use humor to develop a sense of community
  • Use content-related humor
  • Use age-appropriate humor
  • “Sandwich” humor between instruction and repetition

Avoid

  • Sarcasm
  • Cruel or inappropriate humor
  • Forced humor
  • Off-topic humor
  • Too much humor



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Literacy Resources

The Rabbit Hole



The first use of the phrase falling “down the rabbit hole” comes to us thanks to the great Lewis Carroll who introduced the term in 1865 in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the story, Alice literally falls down the hole of the White Rabbit, taking her to Wonderland.

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.


So, here’s what I found:



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Journal

Life is Good

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.



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Teacher Tips

Connect With Students

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!

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Teacher Tips

Scaffolding

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.

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Teacher Tips

Toot Their Horn


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.

We all like to be recognized for our successes.


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Diversity in the Classroom, Literacy Resources, Teacher Tips

Independent vs Dependent Learner

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:

Dependent Learner

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.”


Independent Learner:

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

“Oh, I see how is related to…..”


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Literacy Resources

Continuum of Phonological Skills


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.


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Teacher Tips

Quick Check for Understanding


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


ABCD
Whisper
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.

Capacity
Matrix
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.



Clickers


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

Entrance/Exit
ticket
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.

Example/Non‐Example
Given 
a
 concept,
students 
sort 
or 
write 
various
 examples/non‐examples
 

Example/Non‐Example
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


Description


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

Onion
Ring
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


Slap
It
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)


Word
 Sort


Description


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.

Whip
Around
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.







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Journal

Kayaking on the Bay


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.


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Journal

Disconnect


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:

  1. 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.
  2. Read a book that you have been meaning to get to (not during dinner).
  3. 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.
  4. Clean out your refrigerator and make sure you dump outdated food.
  5. Clean window ledges, and your windows while you’re there.
  6. Plan out your next vacation. List possibilities.
  7. Go to dinner without your cell phone. Leave it in your car. Enjoy precious time.



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Diversity in the Classroom

I Hope You Dance

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:

I hope every child gets to dance.






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About Me, Journal

Grandma’s First Contact

Featured Post

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

Dear Granddaughter,

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,

  Grandma

January 2, 2012

Dear Granddaughter,

     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,

     Grandma

January 12, 2012

Dear Granddaughter,

 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.  

     I love you,

Grandma






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Journal, Wisdom

Outdoor Play

I used a card table and a sheet

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!






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Book Recommendations, Children's Books, Literacy Resources

Books For The First Day of School

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!

Ages 4-8


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.







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Literacy Resources

Guided Reading

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.






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About Me

FEED YOUR MIND

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 .

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Uncategorized

Another Sunset

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.







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Journal

Growing in a Glove and Dem Bones

Quite a few years ago when I taught a 4/5 combination class

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!


Dem Bones

When we studied bones we got a bit creative and used qtips.






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Journal

Seaglass = Mermaid Tears

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.


Click here to view a video about seagrass.


Seagrass began as a bottle of some sort (perfume, soda, whiskey, etc,)


The rarest color to find is pink, and some purple.


All shapes and sizes


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Book Recommendations

Thoughts in Our Head

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.








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About Me, Journal

My Beach Life

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.





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Journal

Dream Big

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.



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Journal

Son of My Son

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.

The Talmud







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Journal

The Sense of Wonder

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.






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Journal

Seeing The Light

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.






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Book Reviews

City of Girls- a review

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.”







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Journal

Take Me back

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.






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Journal

I Wish






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Journal

Moods

There are mood changers all around us if we look for them. Here’s my list. I encourage you to make your own.

  1. When you smile at someone and they smile back
  2. Fresh flowers on the kitchen table
  3. Find an intact sand dollar
  4. Iced tea on a hot day
  5. Lay in a hammock
  6. Look at old photos
  7. Setting out a hummingbird feeder
  8. Sing in the shower
  9. Keep a journal
  10. Baking bread
  11. Watercolor painting
  12. Volunteer
  13. Walk outside for 30 minutes
  14. Look at the stars
  15. Donate unused items
  16. Plant vegetables
  17. Visit the animal shelter
  18. Write thank you notes
  19. Read a classic
  20. Listen to your favorite music







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Journal

My Daughter

Dr. Katie

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. 







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Journal, Wisdom

Finding Joy

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.








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Journal

Rescued

Who Rescued Who? 

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.

Tootsie and Max

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Journal

Confidence

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

https://zenhabits.net/25-killer-actions-to-boost-your-self-confidence/

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Journal, Wisdom

Name Calling

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.

I don't ever... EVER call people names or say things to bring them down.  I've been there, I've been call… | Words quotes, Quotes about love and  relationships, Words

A book
I highly recommend to build a child’s confidence.




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Literacy Resources, Teen Brain

The Teen Brain

Teenage Brain Under Construction Workshop

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.



References: 

•“The Teen Brain: Still Under Construction.” National Institute of Mental Health. National Institute of Health. 2011. Web. 2 Jan. 2014.

•Bruer, John. Frontline Interview. Inside the Teenage Brain. 2002. Web. 2  Jan. 2014.

Dearborn, Grace. “Rebels with Applause: Brain-Compatible Approaches for Motivating Reluctant Learners.” Conscious Teaching. 2013. Web. 2 Jan. 2014.

Giedd, Jay. Frontline Interview. Inside the Teenage Brain. 2002. Web. 2 Jan. 2014.


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About Me, Journal

Quilts for Grandkids

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.

$40.00


Post retirement activities. So fun.



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Journal

Tradition


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.

Quotes about Building a tradition (19 quotes)





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