Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas Traditions

One of my family’s favorite Christmas traditions is decorating the tree. After getting the conifer as vertical as possible in the tree stand, Dad hangs the lights. Then each ornament is unwrapped and held up as excited questions bounce back and forth. “Do you remember when…?” and “How old was I when I made this?” Memories of days gone by swirl around us as we carefully place each treasure in its place of honor amid sticky pine sap and needles as sharp as knives. The cats watch with interest — thinking (I am sure), “Yay, cat toy!

But the best part of decorating our Christmas tree is also the tastiest—Grammie Forbes’s caramel corn. My family enjoys this treat just one day each year. We plan this day carefully; making sure everyone will be home. As the children get older, finding a compatible schedule for everyone is becoming trickier but not impossible, as this is an event no one wants to miss.

Making homemade caramel corn is classic kitchen chemistry. After mixing the butter, sugar, and corn syrup you then bring it to a boil. Not the 212 degree F boil of water, no the 290 degree F boil of almost hard crack candy. My favorite part is the final step of mixing the vanilla and baking soda into the hot liquid, creating an almost volcanic eruption. Stir, stir, stir or it boils over the sides of the saucepan!

One year, we almost had a caramel corn calamity! While in the middle of mixing up a batch of my grandmother’s caramel corn, I had an uncontrollable urge to text my daughter to see if she was on her way. I interrupted my kitchen duties to tap out a message on my cellphone.

Meanwhile, back at the stove, a saucepan of sugar, corn syrup, butter, and vinegar boiled merrily as the needle on the candy thermometer inched toward the goal of 290 degrees F. Usually I tend this molten mixture closely, stirring frequently until it turns creamy amber. Too hot and it burns, too cool and it stays sticky, never reaching that crisp, crunchy, melt-in-your-mouth heaven that is Grammie Forbes’s Caramel Corn.

I snapped my phone shut and mixed in vanilla and baking soda. The foaming froth of scalding liquid threatened to bubble over the rim of the pan. I quickly stirred it over the waiting popcorn, coating every kernel. It wasn’t easy waiting for it to cool enough so a sample wouldn’t burn my tongue. I popped a morsel into my mouth and chomped down … only to discover that my teeth stuck together!

 With visions of pulled fillings, I kept my teeth clenched and waited for the sugary sealant to melt. Finally I was able to open my mouth. Argh! The batch hadn’t reached the proper temperature! It turned out to be a soggy ruined mess! Only one thing to do—throw it out to the squirrels. They wouldn’t notice or care.

Back to the drawing board, er saucepan, for me. I made another batch of caramel corn, this time focusing on the task at hand. The result? Perfect. Melt in your mouth. Sweet, buttery, crunchy. Alternating between hanging ornaments and munching on caramel corn, the family agreed that it was the best Christmas tree decorating session yet. Thanks, Grammie Forbes!

Do you have a favorite family tradition? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Are You a Gracious Gift Receiver?

Let’s face it, most kids get gifts at one time or another, especially at birthdays and certain holidays. Sometimes the gifts are just what you wanted—that special toy or article of clothing. Other times, however, you might get what you consider, a “dud” of a gift. You know, socks, or something you don’t quite like.

What’s a kid to do? Do you say, “Yuck, I don’t like this!”? Do you throw it on the floor and stomp on it? Some kids do this sort of rude behavior, but I don’t recommend that. It could hurt the feelings of the person who took the time and money to get you something. Even if it’s not what you expected or even want.

No, it’s important to thank the giver no matter what. And really put in the effort to be sincere. Nobody likes a fake thank you. Take a breath; look at the giver, smile, and say thanks. It won’t kill you to be nice. Some kids in this world never get gifts, good, bad, or ugly. Be grateful for what you have.

Have you ever received a "dud" gift?  How did you react?  Leave me a comment.  I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Positive Self-Talk and Achieving the Impossible

One of the biggest roadblocks to success in school is negative self-talk. That’s when you think in your brain, “I can’t do this.” As soon as you start thinking that, your brain shuts right down. Of course, once your brain has shut down, you can’t learn. This is a vicious cycle! And very frustrating!

This week my fourth graders tackled long division. After my glorious lesson involving the mnemonic device “Does McDonald’s Sell Cheeseburgers?” (Divide, multiply, subtract, check, bring down), only two people grasped the concept.

We kept working and working on it and more and more students caught on. But not before one student put their head down on their desk. I knew the student was thinking that deadly phrase, “I can’t do this.”

Negative self- talk happens to all of us at one time or another in our lives. The best strategy is to recognize it, stop it, and turn it into positive pep-talk. The absolute worst thing you can do is give up. That’s what this student did. As I continued to demonstrate, they refused to watch. They sat there at their desk with their eyes squinched shut. As a result, they are very far behind the rest of the class who didn’t give up. The rest of the class is getting it.

And now those who have resisted learning their basic math facts are finding out how important those pesky facts are! They are able to do the long division but it takes them twice as long as those who have their basic facts memorized. I tried to warn them.

Here are some strategies when you get frustrated and start to hear “I can’t do this” in your head.

1. Picture a big stop sign. This will stop your negative self-talk.

2. Think “This is hard, but I’ll get it soon.”  Now picture the word "Go" in your head.

3. If you can, take a break. Go for a walk or shoot some hoops, etc.

4. Have a drink of water or a healthy snack.

5. Promise yourself a reward when you’re done.

6. Set a timer and get going! You can do this!!!

I hope you found this helpful! Have you ever overcome any negative self-talk? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Halloween Gorilla Prank

I love Halloween!  I’m never a clown—I’m usually a witch for October parties.  At school I wear black pants and a black turtleneck with a sandwich sign that looks like a math flashcard.  I tell people I’m a basic math fact and if you don’t memorize me I’ll come back to haunt you!  Scary, huh?

My favorite Halloween prank of all times was when I wore my gorilla costume and sat on a lawn chair on my front deck.  My plan was to let the kids come really close and then I’d jump up and growl at them.  My theory was that they’d be so scared they would scream, drop their candy, and run away.  Then I would get to eat all of their candy.  Bwah-hah-hah!

Oh yes, they approached the house.  I could hear them debating whether I was real or not.  They bravely got closer.  I put my plan into action, jumped up, and roared at them!  They screamed and ran away—with their bags of candy clutched in their little hands.

That was the one thing I didn’t consider—the vise-like grip on their bags of candy. 

Oh well, it was fun anyway.  I’ll have to come up with another plan for next year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Crosswalk Smarts

Getting hit by a car is no joke. Crossing the street safely and responsibly is serious. Remember that drivers can’t always see you and/or they may not be paying attention.

Also, cars can’t stop quickly. A car is about 1,000 pounds. At just 30 miles per hour a car needs about 90 feet to stop. Do you know what 90 feet looks like? Go outside and find a safe place to walk 90 short steps in a straight line. That’s about 90 feet.

You are not built to be a speed bump. You need to be extra careful at all times near the road. Obey the pedestrian laws and you’ll be safer as a result. Click HERE for the AAA website that has traffic safety activities for really young kids.  Click HERE for a website with activities for older kids who can read.

Remember your health and safety is your job. Stay safe. The life you save may be your own!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Magic Words

Did you know there are magic words? I’m not talking about abracadabra or hocus-pocus. My favorite words are ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’ People are more likely to do something for you if you ask nicely and say please. It should always be followed up with a polite thank you.

‘Excuse me’ is an important phrase that you need to know. You say this when you burp, you need to get by someone, or if you need to interrupt a grown-up for something really urgent.

According to an article on, “when talking with others, always use a form of thanks and the person's name in the first 12 words you speak ("It's good to see you, Mary," or "Thanks for picking me up from soccer, Dad.") By following this rule of 12, people will want to continue to do nice things for you.”

Remember the “Golden Rule?” (Treat others the way you want to be treated.) Being polite and using manners not only makes you a better person, it makes the world a better place. Go for it!

What do you think? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Grocery Games

Have you ever had to go to the grocery store and you really didn’t want to? Sometimes kids get dragged along because they can’t stay home alone. But there are ways to make an adventure out of everything!

  • If you’re old enough, perhaps your mom or dad could send you on a mission to find an item on the grocery list. 
  • Bring a pad of paper and a pencil and go on a scavenger hunt. You can stay right with your parents while you search the shelves for items beginning with the letters of the alphabet A-Z. 
  • Have you heard of unit pricing? Look at the little tags on the shelves and try to find the most expensive unit priced item and the least expensive. 
  • A lot of food on the shelves is imported from different countries. Make a list of the countries that the food comes from. 
  • You can play “I Spy” with a brother or sister, or you mom/dad as you shop. 
  • It’s fun to guess how much some fruits or vegetables weigh and then use the scale in the produce section to see how close your guess was! 
  • Look for the most interesting and different foods that you find—pretend you’re having a party and make a list of the foods that you would like to serve you guests! 

The most important thing about going somewhere with your parents is to make the best of it. Remember to be respectful of the other shoppers. They really don’t want yelling kids running around. Nobody likes a brat and somebody could get hurt.

What do you think? Do you have any strategies for when you go to a store with your grownup? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Treasure Trove, Packrat Pile, or Clutter Collection?

Are you always searching for things in your room?  Do you barely make the bus in the morning?  Have you ever gotten to school only to find out that you forgot something important that you needed for that day?  If so, you may suffer from unorganization.  But don’t panic!  There’s a cure.  It's called being organized.

Organization is a big word but it takes just some small, simple steps if practiced every day they become good habits for a lifetime.  Where to begin?  Let’s start with your room. 

Who cleans your room?  If someone else cleans your room you might not know where everything is.  If you clean your room then you’ll be able to find things in a jiffy.
Is your room really cluttered?  The first thing to do is to set a timer for fifteen minutes and go through all of your things.  (Go ahead, I’ll wait here.)  Sort them into piles.  

Have three piles to start with:
*Keep—any toys and clothes that you are currently using/fit.
*Donate—any toys and clothes that you are not using and/or no longer fit you.  These can be donated to a younger brother or sister, cousin, neighbor, or taken to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other local charity.
*Throw away—anything that is broken or worn out.

Ding!  Good, you’re back.  How’d you do?  Now set that time for another fifteen minutes and go put all of the Keep items away neatly.  (Go ahead, I’ll wait here.)  Put the Donate/Throw Away items in boxes or large plastic garbage bags and ask a grownup where you should put them.  

Ding!  Wow, that was a fast fifteen minutes.  How’d it go?  How’s your room look?  Now the tricky part is to keep it neat by putting things away immediately after you’re done with them.  That way your room will stay looking nice.  Oh, and another thing, I like to put on some really upbeat music when I’m cleaning/organizing.  It helps me focus and keep working!

How do you stay organized?  Please leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Home Alone

Do you stay home all by yourself?  Do you enjoy it?  Some people like to be home alone, some don’t.  My mom was a stay-at-home mom when I was growing up so Mom was usually home when I got home from school.  If I didn’t see my mom, I would walk through the house yelling, “Mom!  Where are you?”

One day I looked all over the upstairs and even in the yard.  No mom.  Then I heard the washer in the (gulp) cellar.  (I was afraid to go down in the cellar but that’s a story for another day.)

I walked down the rickety steps, ran over to mom, and tapped her on the shoulder.  She practically jumped out of her skin!  See, she couldn’t hear me due to all the noise the washer was making.  She gave me a hug and we had a good laugh!

My younger sister Marcia did not like staying home alone.  She would call the operator and ask what time it was.  That was back in the days when it didn’t cost anything to call directory assistance.  Finally the operator got fed up with Marcia’s frequent time inquiries and said, “Little girl, learn to tell time and stop calling me!”

If you’re going to be home alone, this information should be posted near the phone:
  • when to call 911
  • your address and phone number
  • the name, location, and phone number where your mom or dad works
  • the name, phone number, and address of a trusted neighbor
  • the name, phone number, and address of another emergency contact person, such as a grandparent or family friend

Are you bored or lonely when you’re home alone?  After you’ve done your chores and homework, perhaps you could try some of these:
  • Read a book or magazine.
  • Work on a hobby or try a new one.
  • Listen to music, sing, or play an instrument.
  • Write a letter or phone a friend.
  • Write a story full of made-up adventures of what happened to you when you were home alone — and don't forget to give it a happy ending!

The important thing about staying home alone is to be safe.  Make good decisions and you’ll be fine.

Do you stay home alone?  If not, would you like to?  Do you like to stay home alone?  Why?  Please leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Monday, September 5, 2011


Do you like getting your haircut?  The worst part is all the little hairs that trickle down your neck and make you itch like crazy until you take a bath or shower!  Ugh!

Do you like sitting in those uncomfortable chairs waiting forever for your turn?  Suggest to your mom or dad that they make an appointment, if possible.  Or bring a book to read to help pass the time.

Does your hair always come out the way you expect?   Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the stylist what you want in a hairstyle.  You may want to look through magazines, find a few pictures of some styles you like, and bring them into the salon.

Do you like spending hours fixing your hair?  The stylist is a professional; they will know which style will look best on you.  They will give you good advice as to what is the easiest to maintain.

And most important of all:  don’t cut your own hair!  It could be a total disaster, unless it’s Crazy Hair Day at school, of course.

Have you had a haircut disaster?  Please leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Manners Are a Must!

Politeness pays! Do you say please and thank you? Can you wait for your turn patiently? Are you well-mannered?

People are more apt to want to be nice to you if you are polite. The basics of please, thank you, and excuse me come in so handy every day! As a clown I give the patient, polite child a balloon much faster than the demanding rude child.

This applies to the classroom as well. School gets you ready for the “real world” for when you grow up and go to college or get a job. Being able to wait your turn and use courteous words gets you farther in life. Your teachers and fellow classmates will prefer that you not be rude!

How do you like to be treated? Do you like it when people are polite to you? It’s a two-way street—you need to be polite to others!

Do you use your manners? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Are You Stressed Out?

Do you know when you’re stressed? I can usually tell when my students are overwhelmed—they’re crabby. Sometimes, though they hide it really well from me and I don’t have a clue until I get a phone call, email, or note from their parent. 

I feel sad when my students are stressed and I try to do what I can to not contribute to it. However, when a student is stressed over schoolwork, yet is highly overscheduled in afterschool activities, I’m really not the one to blame, right? It’s a team effort.

Procrastination is a big contributor to stress so my advice to you this next school year is to keep on top of your obligations. I like to say: “It’s easier to keep up than to catch up.”

Breathing helps you stay calm. Sounds simple? It is! Just sit quietly and breathe in and out, paying close attention to your breath. You can even give yourself a pep talk as you do so. I like to breathe in and think to myself, “I’m calm.” As I breathe out I think, “I’m relaxed.” It sounds silly but it works! Try it!

What causes you to be stressed? What do you do to decrease your stress? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Do you love to write? I do! Writing is so much fun. I love to write by typing on my computer. I can “touch type” that’s where I can type without looking at the keys on the keyboard. I learned how to do that in high school on a really old fashioned type writer! 

Kids today are so lucky: you get to learn to touch type in elementary school! I recommend that you practice touch typing at home, too. There are lots of learn to type programs available. They’re free and fun! They’re full of games that help you have a good time as you practice your typing.

Because I do my writing on my computer, not only is it fast, I can edit and correct my work much easier. I DON’T rely on spellcheck, however, and neither should you. I have found that spellcheck is not always correct! 

What? That’s right. A computer program is only as good as the people who wrote it. That, and the fact that spellcheck doesn’t catch grammar errors, can leave you in the lurch.

What is the best strategy to proofread your work? Proofread out loud, pointing to every word. Go slowly and listen to what you are saying. If it sounds weird, it probably needs fixing up. It’s your job to correct your work.

I think it’s safe to say that all writing needs editing. I don’t know of any writer that can just write something and be done with it. Writers love playing with language, selecting just the right word to convey their message is like a game or a challenge for us. 

When people read your work, it is an opportunity for them to create an opinion of you. If your work is full of errors, what will your reader think of you? You owe it to yourself and your readers to make your writing the best it can possibly be.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I Love Music!

Do you love music?  I do!  When I was growing up my mom was our church organist.  We had an old pump organ (aka reed organ or harmonium) in our cellar for her to practice on!  You had to pump the pedals to make it work.  The pedals worked like bellows and pumped air through the reeds to make the sound.  We always argued who was going to pump the pedals!  We sang all the childhood classics to the wheezy sound of that old organ.
My childhood memories frequently involve music.  My mom loved show tunes.  She had a song for every occasion.  When she washed our hair, it was to “I’m Gonna Wash that Man Right Outta My Hair” from the musical “South Pacific.” 
While on road trips we took our shoes off in the car to be more comfy.  As we approached a rest stop, Mom sang, “Put Your Shoes on Lucy,” by Hank Fort.  That was our signal to get our shoes back on.
When we went camping, our fireside sing-alongs were a wonderful way to end each day.  We’d roast marshmallows and sometimes make some-mores.  Click HERE for the recipe.  My favorite campfire song is “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”  Sometimes we played “Name That Tune” and tried to guess a song in three notes or less.  Fireflies, glowing coals, and shooting stars—good times, good memories.
When I was about eight my favorite birthday gift was a book and record set of “Peter and the Wolf.”  It’s amazing how the different instruments can bring the characters to life!  To this day that music brings me right back to my childhood and the hours spent listening to that classic.
I took flute lessons through my school when I was in fourth grade.  This continued through sixth grade.  I was in the school bands:  elementary, junior high, and high school.  The band (or chorus) experience is not to be missed!  Ahh, band trips…a story for another day.  I still play my flute.  It’s in my classroom and I pull it out now and then to play for my students.  They learn the recorder in third grade.  I like to encourage them to continue it. 
My family enjoys “The Nutcracker” during the holiday season.  We like the dancers and costumes but most of all, we love the music!  The holidays don’t seem complete if we don’t get to see “The Nutcracker.”
Do you like music?  If you could take music lessons--voice or an instrument, what would you choose?  Leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Healthy Snacking

Are you a picky eater?  New foods can be scary yet also exciting and summer is a perfect time to try some!  You can pretend you’re a scientist and the kitchen is your laboratory.  What new recipes can you invent?  You can pretend you’re a famous chef and your customers want new taste sensations.  Craft a menu and let your family “order” their snacks and meals.  If you have a brother or sister, get them to help by being a waiter.  You can even be an artist, “drawing” pictures with food and then eating your creations! Don’t forget to wash your hands before cooking and clean up any messes when you’re done!

Eating a variety of healthy foods during your school day is important and packing these foods properly is key.  Freeze a water bottle or 100% juice box to keep foods cold is handy.  At lunchtime the water or juice will be nice and refreshing!  Ever open your lunchbox only to find a flat sandwich?  There are some great reusable sandwich containers available.  As a bonus you’ll be recycling and helping save our planet!
The best time to plan/pack your food for your school day?  The night before.  This helps cut down on the morning frenzy.  I pack my food for the week in individual containers on Sunday night.  Then all I have to grab and go in the mornings during the week.
Fresh out of recipe ideas?  The internet is a wonderful resource.  Have a grownup help you find new recipes to try.  The Family Fun site is one of my favorite websites with lots of ideas for cooking and more! Also check out the Choose My Plate website for a mini poster:  “Kid Friendly Veggies and Fruits.”    Check out some cookbooks to help you get started. I found some great books HERE.
Happy sampling!  Do you have a favorite recipe?  Leave me a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Brian Lies Answers Questions from the Kids of Room 46

Brian Lies (pronounced “lees”) graciously answered the following questions from Emma, Gigi,  Hailey, Jackie and Vincent:

1) HAILEY, VINCENT: What inspired you to write [illustrate] in the first place?

BRIAN LIES: I've always liked making stuff, and making stuff up. Plus my older sister was always going to be a writer, so like a lot of kids, I wanted to do what she did. I also loved reading books, and the idea of maybe being able to make a REAL book which other people could read was magical.

2) GIGI: What did you want to be when you (grew up) were a kid?

BL: I ran through a lot of different things I wanted to be. Here's the list, more or less in order, for my whole life so far: Fireman. Astronaut. Chemist (my father worked in organic chemistry). Herpetologist (snake scientist). Palentologist. Actor. Writer. Clinical psychologist. Political cartoonist. Children's book author and illustrator.

3) GIGI: What do you like to do besides write [illustrate]?

BL: I think that maybe I like doing too many things! I like to garden. I build furniture, and work on my house. I bicycle. I cook. I read. I paint. I like to travel, when I can.

4) GIGI: What is the book you are most proud of?

BL: It's hard to say. But if I were really forced to choose, I'd have to go with BATS AT THE LIBRARY. I had a lot of fun with the book, and I really love libraries.

5) GIGI: What is your real name?

BL: Valbeersten von Weebleborgen. But since I was born, I've gone with Brian Lies (and it's pronounced "lees.") My last name, Lies, comes from a country called Luxembourg, and arrived in the U.S. with my great-great-great grandfather.

6) GIGI: Did you like school when you were younger?

BL: I liked most of school. I liked the challenge of learning. But I didn't like some of the other students, and a couple of my classes.

7) GIGI: What is your favorite color?

BL: Blue.

8) EMMA, GIGI: How many books have you written [illustrated]?

BL: I just finished illustrating my 25th book. Out of those 25, I also wrote 5 of them.

9) EMMA, GIGI: Who are your [favorite] characters?

BL: My favorite character in MY books is the little bat with the yellow floaties who's experiencing new things for the first time. In other people's books, some of my favorites are the main character from Jean Craighead George's "My Side of the Mountain," Hagrid from the Harry Potter books, and Wilbur, from "Charlotte's Web."

10) JACKIE: How many times on average do you rewrite a book before it is approved by an editor?

BL: A lot depends on the book. With my rhyming books, I go through 24-31 rewrites, trying to tweak the words so that they sound like someone talking instead of someone beating you over the head with rhyming words. Once I'm working with my editor, I may only rewrite a story two or three times.

Some great answers to other burning questions can be found on Brian’s website. Make sure you have a grownup with you when you “surf the web.”

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Helmets and Safety

Do you like to ride a bike, scooter, roller blades or anything else with wheels?  How good of a “driver” are you?  Do you know the “rules of the road?”  That’s right, if you’re not obeying the traffic laws, you could get a ticket!

Every year children are injured while riding bikes, etc.  In most states if you’re under age 13 you MUST wear a helmet!  But more importantly, you must ride safely! 

Here are some other tips:

·        Make sure your bike is adjusted to fit you properly—a bike that is too big or too small can be dangerous!

·        Adjust your helmet correctly, too.  A helmet that is too loose can fly off in a crash and not protect you at all.

·        Never wear headphones/ear buds while biking, etc.  You really need to hear the traffic!

·        Don’t ride after dark.  It’s just not safe.

·        Always assume that the driver can’t see you or isn’t paying attention.  Chances are they can’t/aren’t!

·        Ride on bike trails and in bike lanes whenever possible.

Have fun and enjoy your ride but remember to be safe!  Do you have a favorite bike trail?  Leave me a comment—I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Fun At the Shore

Have you ever been to the beach?  When my children were little we would go to the beach at Rocky Neck State Park in Connecticut.   It is a family friendly beach with very little waves.  My son Nick loved to dig holes in the sand.  We were always very careful not to let him dig too deep!  Sand is very unstable and we didn’t want him to get hurt!  Kate loved building sand castles.  She especially loved collecting shells to decorate her creations.

Another fun thing to do at the beach is catch critters such as crabs and small fish, crayfish, butterflies, and the like.  We were always very careful to keep them only a short time before we gently set them free back where we caught them.  There’s nothing worse than seeing a stinky pile of dead creatures left behind by some thoughtless humans.  Please be respectful of our critter friends.

Digging in the sand is always fun as you pretend you’re hunting for treasure!  However, if there’s a lot of trash at the beach, that’s no fun.  Do your part to keep the beach clean—don’t litter!

Running in the sand is fun!  Kicking sand onto other people and/or their blankets is not!  Be considerate of others.  Think of personal space as you walk by their blankets and other belongings.

There’s nothing worse than a sunburn after a long day at the beach—ouch!  Be sure to wear sunscreen and reapply it often!  Ask a grownup to help you.  If the bugs are biting, ask for some insect repellant.  Be sure to watch wear you walk—jelly fish stings hurt!

Enjoy your day at the beach!  Be safe.  Be smart.  Be respectful.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Doors of Fame

Yay!  Summer’s here!  Did you have a great school year?  Did you remember to write your teacher a thank you note?  If not, don’t worry—it’s not too late!  I once wrote a thank you to my second grade teacher—thirty years later!  She loved getting my note and even wrote back.

Teachers love getting letters from their students.  I get several emails a week from former students.  Did you know teachers even save these letters sometimes?  I do—they’re on the inside of my cabinet doors near my desk.  I call this my “Doors of Fame.”  I like to open the doors and reread them and remember wonderful times with wonderful students.

What should you say to your teacher in your note? 

·        You can start off by saying thank you for a wonderful school year. 

·        Then go on to mention a few specific things that your teacher did that made the year so great.  Did he make learning fun?  Were there lots of hands on activities?  Was there a favorite read aloud book that you enjoyed? 

·        The important thing is to let your teacher know exactly what you liked about the school year. 

·        You can include a drawing, if you wish, or a picture of you as a remembrance.

Go for it!  Write in your neatest handwriting and be sure to proofread!  (I recommend writing a draft first.)  Your final copy should be your ultimate best work.  After all, your note may end up on the “Doors of Fame!”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

How to Get Smart(er)

Do you feel smart? Did you know you can train your brain to be smarter? There are some interesting sites on the Internet to get you started (be sure to have your grownup help you if you need it) Here’s one site that has the Stroop test on it! ( It’s a test where you have to say the color that a word is printed in, not the color the word is spelling. It’s not as easy as you might think!

One of my favorite sites to practice math facts is It’s fun to try and beat the clock! The following link has some great math resources: Check them out! It’s so much fun to learn your basic facts using the computer!

There is so much to learn about in this world—people, places, animals, inventions, you name it! The bottom line is that learning takes work/effort. If you want to get smarter, work harder! You’ll be glad you did!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

July is National Ice Cream Month!

Do you scream for ice cream? Do you like to eat ice cream from a cone or a dish?

What’s your favorite flavor? Have you ever had your ice cream plop out of the cone and onto the ground? Has your cone ever sprung a leak and you got covered in sticky ice cream? If you were ice cream, what flavor would you be?

Write a poem or a few paragraphs using any of these questions to get you started (Original compositions only, please!). Send them to me by June 30th  and I’ll publish them on my website in time for National Ice Cream Day (Third Sunday in July).

I can’t wait to hear from you! In the meantime, eat some ice cream for “research purposes!”

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Summer Reading

What’s better than reading a book? Reading a book and earning prizes! Every summer your area library sponsors a summer reading program. It’s free! You can participate in activities such as arts and crafts as well as attend special events with various entertainers (clowns, magicians, storytellers, etc.).

What if you’re at camp all summer and can’t get to the library? has a free summer reading program All you have to do is sign up, read like crazy, and then log your reading minutes.

But that’s not all! According to Scholastic, “The 20 schools with the most minutes logged will receive recognition in the 2012 Scholastic Book of World Records.” How awesome! Can it get any better than that? Yes! All you have to do is participate in weekly reading challenges, earn digital rewards, enter sweepstakes to win fabulous prizes, and more.

Kids who read succeed! What’s your plan for success this summer? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Friendly Letter

Do you ever feel shy talking to grownups? Have you tried writing to them? A few years ago I wrote a letter to my second grade teacher telling her how she inspired me to become a teacher. I mentioned all of the hands-on science experiments that we performed! I’ll never forget looking at onion cells through a microscope! She was so touched by my words that she wrote back to me. She remembered me holding her purse while we walked around chatting during recess!

Now that the school year is coming to an end, many children like to get their teacher a gift. My favorite gifts are letters and cards from my students. I save them and hang them in my classroom on the inside of one of my cabinets. When I’m feeling less than inspiring, I open the cabinet doors and reread the words of love and gratitude. It’s nice to know I’ve had a positive impact on so many lives.

What did you like about this school year? What did your teacher do to make you a better person? Write him a friendly letter thanking him for all of his hard work. You’ll make his day—and more!

Have you written to a grownup? Have they responded? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

You At the Zoo!

Do you love animals? I do! Visiting a zoo is a great way to see animals you don’t get to see every day! Chances are there is a zoo near you!
Do you want to see lots of animals at the zoo? Then your job is to walk and talk slowly and quietly when you are near animals. You don’t want to scare them away!

Do you want to learn about animals? Take the time to read the signs. If you can’t read, have a grownup read them to you.

Do you want to have fun while learning? Many zoos have interactive displays for kids. Have your grownup help you read and follow the directions at these exhibits and you’ll have a fun time while you learn interesting facts about your favorite critters!

Do you want to have an enjoyable day? Use your self-control and you’ll have a fun time!

Do you want to get a sneak peak? There are some great zoo websites that help you plan your day, tell you more about the animals, and even view some live videos via webcams of different animals! Here are a few zoo websites to get you started: New York, NY: Washington D.C.: Cincinnati, OH: San Diego, CA. Zoos close to western Massachusetts include the Zoo at Forest Park, Springfield, MA:, the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island:, and the Boston area,

Go wild and visit a zoo near you!

Have you been to a zoo lately? Leave me a comment I’d love to hear all about it.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Losing a Loved One

Have you ever loved someone or something in your life only to have it die? A sad part of life is death. All living things die. What does this tell us? Life is precious and something that we shouldn’t take for granted.

I remember when my first pet died. He was a black cat named Inky. I found him in my closet curled up as if he were sleeping. My dad checked and told me Inky wasn’t breathing, he had died. What amazes me to this day is the fact that my dad took the time to make a wooden box for Inky. We buried him in the back yard and planted some flowers in that spot. We talked about Inky and all the fun times we had with him. It was sad but it helped me deal with losing my furry friend.

Everybody feels different things at different times when a loved one dies. You might cry, or you might not. You might feel angry or empty. You might feel sad or tired. You may feel nothing. These feelings are all normal. The important thing is to tell a grownup and not keep your feelings stuck inside you.

At school it’s a good idea to let your teacher know so that if you act a little different he’ll understand. If you need to take a walk, get a drink of water, or talk to the school counselor, that might help. Your friends may not know what to do or say. They may say something that makes you sadder or even angry. They may hover over you and annoy you. Remember they care about you and are just trying to help. Ask a grownup to assist you, if you need it.

Writing about your loved one might be helpful. You could write about all the great times you had together. That would be an awesome tribute to them and a great remembrance for you to enjoy in the years to come.

There are a lot of great books out there that might comfort you. When I feel sad about losing my dogs I read “Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant. I like to think that they’re up in heaven playing together. I just ordered Cynthia Rylant’s “Cat Heaven.” I have two old cats and I know I’m going to need some consoling when they die someday because I know all living things die. Sad but true.

Have you ever lost a loved one? Please leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Maple Sugaring

Do you like maple syrup? Do you know how it’s made? If you live in or near New England, you’re in luck! Why? It’s maple season! Freezing nights and warm days makes the sap in maple trees flow. Maple producers are collecting this sap and boiling it down to make thick, sweet maple syrup and other maple treats!

Did you know you can go to a sugarhouse and watch how maple syrup gets made? Let your grownup know that you’d like to go and check it out. Be sure to have an adult help you research maple sugarhouses to find the ones closest to you.

Here are some common questions:
• How and when is maple syrup made?
• Can all maple trees produce syrup?
• What is "sap"?
• Does it really take a lot of sap to make a little syrup?
• How long can maple syrup be stored and used?
• How is sap collected?
• What is the difference in "Grades"?
• How do pure maple and blended candies differ?
• How is maple cream produced?
• What is "sugar-on-snow"?
• How long can maple syrup be stored and used?

After you visit a sugarhouse, how many of these questions can you answer? Did you have fun? Leave me a comment. I’d love to hear about your adventures!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

April Fool's Day

April Fool’s Day can be a lot of fun. The tricky part is to prank people without hurting them or being mean. My favorite prank is to point to the floor as someone is walking by and say to them, “Be careful.” People stop and look down then you say, “April Fool.” This prank is simple yet effective!

Have you ever pranked someone on April Fool’s Day? I’d love to hear about it. Leave me a comment below.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


How’s your imagination? Do you see a movie in your head when you read a good book? Your brain is like a muscle and the more you use it, the stronger it gets. I love imagining things so I get sad when I meet new friends who don’t seem to have enough imagination. Good thing I have enough to share!!!

If you’re bored—try using your imagination. You’ll be amazed at what you can come up with! Here are some ideas to get you started:

• Puppets—grab a paper bag and make some simple puppets to act out a fairy tale or any of your favorite stories. Here’s a great website for puppet making ideas:

• Cloud watching—get comfortable outside on a partly sunny day. You’ll need cumulous clouds for this—the puffy cotton ball types. Do you see animal shapes in the clouds? This may take some practice. Don’t give up.

• Squiggles—draw a squiggle on a piece of paper. Turn it into a drawing of something. (Check this out--Creative “Squiggle” Exercise Stimulates Your Imagination)

• “What Are You Doing?” is a charade-like game with a twist! You mime (act-out) an activity such as washing dishes. Your mom asks, “What are you doing?” You reply something totally different such as, “Walking the dog.” This is not as easy as it sounds!

• “No Way!” is a game where you make up the most outrageous fib you can think of as an excuse for not doing something like homework or cleaning your room. Perhaps you were kidnapped by aliens???

Have you ever used your imagination? Leave me a comment—I’d love to hear from you!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Read Aloud

Have you ever had a time when you were bored but just too tired to read? The best solution is a read aloud! You could ask a grownup or older brother or sister to read to you. But what if they’re too busy? An audio book or book on CD is just the thing.

You can borrow these for free from your library. Find a comfy place to relax and start listening! Be sure to pay attention to the pictures the words create in your brain. One of my favorite places to listen to books is in the car. It really makes a long boring drive go by much faster!

Have you had a good book read to you lately? Leave me a comment below.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Indoor Winter Fun

If the weather isn’t great, there a lot you can do indoors! I don’t own any video/computer games so here are some of my favorites:

Snow experiments—
• The Great Melting Race—make two snowballs, one tightly packed, and the other loosely packed. Put them in waterproof bowls. Predict which one will melt faster. Predict how long it will take each one to melt, and time them!

• The Snow/Rain Ratio—do you know how many inches of rain versus snow fall during the winter?

1. Use yard/meter stick and measure the depth of the snow outside.
2. Scoop some loose snow into a cylindrical see-through container, like a canning or mayonnaise jar.
3. Measure how many inches of snow you scooped.
4. Predict how many inches of water the snow will melt down to.
5. Now figure out how much rain would’ve fallen this winter.

While the snow is melting you can enjoy:
• Jigsaw puzzles
• Board games—have you played chess lately?
• Twister
• Crafts of all kinds—I especially love Origami!

Of course, on a nice stormy day, I always love to read a book! What do you like to do on a snow day? Leave me a comment below!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Outdoor Winter Fun

The key to enjoying outdoor activities in the winter is to dress appropriately. If you don’t wear enough, you’ll be cold. If you wear too much and you get sweaty, you’ll also be cold. Layers are the way to go. That way if you start to overheat, you can peel one off. You also need to think about your activity—how strenuous is it going to be? Snowshoeing, for example, is very active so you don’t want to dress too warmly. Ice fishing is just the opposite—lots of sitting around so you need to layer up!
Winter outdoor fun ideas:

• Snow angels—lay on your back in the snow and move like you’re doing jumping jacks. When get up carefully and turn around; it will look like an angel in the snow!

• Snow people and other sculptures—the sky’s the limit what you can sculpt with snow! There was a green Loch Ness-like monster in a local pond recently!
--It’s also fun to put food coloring and water in a spray bottle to color your creation.
--Don’t forget to dress up your snow person!

• Snow forts—I don’t recommend tunneling in the snow—just build walls. You’ll be surprised how quiet it is in your fort!

• Snowball fights—make sure the teams are even and the snowballs aren’t too tightly packed. You don’t want anyone getting hurt.

• Ice skating—ask your grownup to make sure the ice is thick enough on lakes and ponds.

• Snow shoeing, downhill, or cross-country skiing are all very fun and great exercise!

• Snowmobiling—don’t forget your helmet!

What is your favorite outdoor winter activity? Leave me a comment below.

Saturday, January 22, 2011


Traveling is so much fun! You get to see new places and learn new things! Traveling with a friend makes it even more fun! My favorite traveling friend is Little Red Hen. (She’s a stuffed toy but she doesn’t know it.) We go to lots of interesting places and take loads of pictures. Then we put those pictures into scrapbooks.

The great thing about taking pictures and scrapbooking your adventures is it helps you remember all your great experiences. Every time I share my scrapbooks with friends and family, it makes me so happy to relive those exciting vacations.

Next time you travel, bring a buddy (small stuffed animal) and take pictures of their adventures! Then make a scrapbook.  It’s fun!  Oh, and stay tuned for Little Red's next adventure:  Cruising to Grand Cayman and Cozumel!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Feeding Geese

Have you ever fed the birds at a park? It’s fun! There are several things to keep in mind when you’re feeding wild birds. What do you feed them? How do you get them to eat your food? Can you chase them?

The worst thing to feed the wild birds is moldy bread. It could make them sick! The best thing to do is to get cracked corn, hen scratch (cracked corn, wheat, barley, and oats), and duck pellets from the feed store. Ask your grownup nicely if they’ll take you and help you buy some.

When you get to the park, it’s best to be quiet and move slowly. You don’t want to scare the birds. Watch where you walk because there’s probably poop on the ground. Bring a beach chair and sit, watching the birds. Do you see some swimming? Are they diving? What do you notice? Are they sitting on a nest? Don’t disturb them! That’s not nice. How would you like it if you were a baby bird and your parents were stressed out? Above all, don’t chase them. They won’t trust you or come to you and eat your food if you’re wild and out of control.

Sprinkle the feed on the ground near the edge of the pond. You can even sprinkle it in a “path” that leads closer to your chair. Then sit down, wait patiently, and chances are a brave bird will start nibbling your way. (info, coloring pages, a maze, etc.) (info)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Getting Back Into the School Routine

Now that winter break is almost over, it’s time to get ready to return to your regular daily school schedule. With New Year’s Eve landing on Friday night, chances are you’re staying up late and sleeping in on Saturday.

Here are some ideas to help you ease back into the Monday routine without too much hassle:

On Saturday and Sunday,

1. Eat healthy meals/snacks like what you eat on a school day schedule.

2. Drink lots of water.

3. Get out and play in the afternoon.

4. Make sure your homework is done.

5. Pack everything you need for Monday morning (library books, sneakers, homework, etc.).

6. Get to bed at your regular school night bedtime both Saturday and Sunday.

7. Get up on Sunday as close to your school wakeup time as possible.

Do you have any tips on how to get back into the school routine after a vacation? I’d love to hear them! Please leave a comment below.