Views of the Neighborhood – #LakewayStoryWalk

John Howell introduced me to StoryWalks in his Lakeway neighborhood some time ago. What a great idea! Take a children’s picture book and mount each page along a walkway. It’s fun for everyone to stop and read as they walk.

I brought this idea back to my school, and we did three StoryWalks this fall. I did “Brown Bear, Brown Bear'” and included movements for children to do; lumber on all fours like a bear, gallop in a circle like a horse, and so on.

This new StoryWalk in John’s neighborhood is delightful! The book is outstanding, one every parent should have. Thank you for sharing this StoryWalk with us, John.

Fiction Favorites

This week is a Storybook Walk – Valentines edition. The book on the walk is “I’d Know You Anywhere My Love” by Nancy Tillman. We will be taking the bus to the Lakeway Activities Center and then disembark to have lunch on the walk grounds. We have a tent and electrical – hook-ups, so our meal will be hot where it needs to be hot and cold where it needs to be cold.

For an appetizer, we are serving cold stone crab and parm and tomato crostini. For the main course, you have a choice of Shrimp Étoufée, Dirty Rice, Roasted Brussels Sprouts. or Beef Wellingtondemi-glace, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, and broccolini.  Both are served with spinach Salad cranberries, feta cheese, candied pecans, heirloom tomatoes, and red wine vinaigrette. For dessert, we are offering warm turtle brownies, and tres leches cake. Home churned vanilla bean ice cream is available. In addition to the…

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The Crossing Guard Chronicles: Extra Credit & Life’s Little Rewards

Steve the Crossing Guard has always been my hero, the teacher I want to be, the one who makes a difference with children because he is creative and so ‘in tune’ with making 60 seconds at his Curbside Classroom a learning moment. He has retired, yet he is subbing (thank goodness), and there are always ‘moments’, thus this post. I read it three times. It’s that good.  Who says “get access to their memory banks and make a deposit” and “tossing out bits of life’s good stuff”?  Steve does.

First, I want to share with you the post that drew me to Steve and his Curbside Classroom. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I read this!

The Crossing Guard Chronicles: “How Much Wood Could A Woodchuck Chuck…?”

“Who was Pavarotti?”

I thought I had them stumped. But stumping wasn’t the end game. The objective was twofold: strengthen our daily dialogue, the fun part; and stimulate their thinking skills, the learning part of our relationship. .

As for Pavarotti, the surprise answer came from a confident high schooler on a unicycle who steadied himself, as best one can on a unicycle, and delivered it with certainty. “Not only was Pavarotti a famous Italian opera singer”, he opined, “but he was a tenor”.  I was impressed.

I’m a crossing guard for a suburban school district in western New York State. Every school morning and afternoon, I have a minute or so to interact with groups of kids ages twelve to eighteen years, while waiting for their signal lights to change. I try to make the wait meaningful.

“What is the formula for converting Fahrenheit to Celsius?”

Recent mornings been have been cold, bitter cold, the perfect environment to challenge them with this question. And the answer came fast. “(F-32) /1.8”. These kids are good.

It’s become apparent that they almost expect something each day, a quiz, a fact, a general question. An approaching airplane provokes a simple discussion. An unusual sunrise or an odd cloud formation gets us talking and imagining. It’s all about the dialogue.

“Who was Francis Scott Key and what did he write on this day (Sept 14) in 1815?”

“What direction are we facing while waiting to cross? Forward doesn’t count!”

“January is named after the 2 headed Roman god Janus.”

“Why did Frosty the Snowman tell the kids not to cry?”

“How many centimeters in an inch, millimeters?”

For the most part, kids haven’t changed over the years. The younger boys are still immature, they run, yell and ask nonsensical questions.  And boys and girls still hold hands. But there are some noticeable changes. Pink, purple or blue hair is common with today’s girls, and even with some boys. The huge backpacks have replaced gym bags for carrying books. And, nearly everyone is connected via cell phones.

However, kids are still kids. If I can make them smile or laugh as they start their school day, then ‘mission accomplished’. And it all starts with a greeting…and, maybe a new question…

“Good morning, kids. Have a great day!”

“Oh, By the way, how much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

To my surprise, they had answers. We’re learning from each other.

Jan 2018

Dedicated to a wonderful teacher I’ve been fortunate to know, Jennie, and her cadre of lucky students.


“Extra credit! I got extra credit!”

The red-tail hawk perched on the overhead traffic signal at my school crossing post had my rapt(or) attention, so I didn’t hear the initial shouts. And the glare of a low afternoon sun made it difficult to see her, at first. But when I did, it was plain to hear and see a very happy high schooler, eager to deliver some good news.

During the morning crossing, at the Curbside Classroom, in the minute the kids and I have together, I announced that today was Pearl Harbor Day. Now, for most middle schoolers, that drew blank stares. Some high schoolers had heard about it. So, how much ‘ancient history’ can you discuss in 60 seconds? Honestly, I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be much.

Franklin Roosevelt, infamy, war…a minute, to get access to their memory bank and make a small deposit. Apparently, it…

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Snow Smiles

Children and teachers discovered smiles in the snow overhanging the roof.  No one knows who made it.  We were the first to play on the playground and delight in the deep new snow.  Thank you to the mystery artist and giver of smiles.


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Sue Vincent, “A Child’s Tale”

I am reposting Sue Vincent’s outstanding blog post on children, reading, writing, and the depth of meaning that only Sue can truly understand and express.  Her timeless wisdom compares to C.S. Lewis.  Thank you, Sue.  You have touched me and many others.

This is part of The Carrot Ranch outreach to honor Sue and all she has done for our blogging community.  There are many was to participate, including a flash fiction contest.  Please visit for details.  Let’s help to honor Sue.

C.S. Lewis understood the depth of meaning in children’s books. So did Margery Williams, author of “The Velveteen Rabbit.” And, so does Sue Vincent. She still reads children’s books, and so do I. This post gets to the heart of the story for every adult

A child’s tale

bee 015
Road to Love – S.Vincent

I had one of those ‘moments’ today as I passed between the bookcases in the bedroom. It is odd the things that make it through the veneer of calm acceptance. In this case, it was the characters in books… characters I had first met as I snuggled within the circle of my mother’s arms. Characters like Aslan and Reepicheep, whose stories I had read, decades later, to my own sons while I held them too in my arms… creatures to whom I had hoped to introduce my granddaughters too. But, of course, it isn’t really about the characters… it is all about the memories and the love in which they shared.

There is a lot of wisdom in books, and children’s books in particular have always held a place in my heart for the gentle wisdom they hold. Moments of pure gold are scattered through many of the best children’s stories, often missed for what they are when we encounter them as children, only to unfold for us in later years. Yet the stories that gain a hold on our hearts when we are young teach us a great deal… even if we are not aware of it.

They take us on adventures that run the gamut of emotion; facing dragons and monsters, discovering new and magical worlds full of goblins and fear, dread dangers and daring rescues… but they always seem to lead us to the happy ending bathed in light and laughter.

It was C. S. Lewis, the creator of the Narnia stories, who said that a story that could only be read by children was not a good children’s story. This, I think, is true. Often we only realise the full import of what is before our eyes when we read to our own children the tales that once lit our imagination. I for one still read them, though my children are long grown.


I was reminded recently of a passage from The Velveteen Rabbit. Now granted, when applied to the human condition it might not paint a very attractive picture as a proposition. Bits tend to ‘get very shabby’ as the years pass without any outside help, thank you very much, without the prospect of eyes and limbs simply dropping off. On the other hand, looked at from the perspective of, say, a teddy bear that has been hugged and cuddled, cried on, fed jam sandwiches and dragged around by one ear while listening to the secrets of the heart… from that perspective it sounds like heaven.

In the story, the Rabbit is being taught by an old Horse about the magic of becoming Real because of the love toys have been shown. Imagine what it would feel like to be loved so much that “most of your hair has been loved off”. Yet we shouldn’t have to imagine. We are all capable of being loved like that. Most of us know love from parent, friend, sibling, child or partner. Even our pets. We know how it feels. We know what it is to see eyes light up when we walk into a room… and what it is to be the one whose arms are sought in times of fear and sadness.

We can love ourselves too. The self-help books are full of the ways to do this and, though it is not as simplistic as it might seem, it is thing worth doing. That love depends on our ability to accept ourselves as we are, warts and all, as the saying goes. To recognise what needs to change without judging or recrimination. To accept what is good about ourselves too as well as what is not; something that cannot be done until we first learn to know ourselves, understand ourselves and then “…these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

To learn to know ourselves, shabby bits and all, and still accept is a step towards that unconditional love that cannot judge, though it sees true, that accepts without demand, that asks nothing but to be itself and give itself… to be love. You might call this the love of the soul for the child we are in its eyes. You might see it as the higher self, the conscience … it doesn’t matter what words we use, the idea is the same. There is a part of each of us that knows a finer level of being.

There is another love too. Many, myself included, believe in the divine Love of the creation within which we live. A Love that reaches out to us in measure that we reach up to It in awareness. For me, the life I live stems from this source and is therefore an expression of Love itself.

Like the battered bear, or a velveteen rabbit, that is squashed by the building blocks in the toy box, left out in the rain by mistake, forgotten, apparently, or discarded for a while … yet is searched for at night… we are loved. Life can be hard and painful, joyous and bright… and sometimes all at once. Yet if all stems from the source of Love then that too is part of our story, written to teach both our inner child and our adult mind as we ourselves grow and unfold. Woven with love our stories can yet seem to lead us through darkness. But perhaps, as we walk through them carrying the scars of life, we can learn to see them as ‘loved off’ fur and ‘loose joints’ … and know that the more we love and know Love, the closer we get to becoming Real in our own eyes. And “…once you are Real you can’t become unreal again. It lasts for always.”


Posted in books, children's books, Expressing words and feelings, Giving thanks, Inspiration, reading, wonder | Tagged , , , , | 58 Comments

“Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action”

Look what arrived today!

Amanda in Holland: Missing in Action
by Darlene Foster

Just the book I’ve been wanting to read.

And, what a perfect day to curl up with a new book.
It’s snowing to beat the band outside.

I call that a win-win.


Posted in Book Review, books, chapter reading, children's books, Inspiration, reading | Tagged , , , | 46 Comments

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Music Column – The Breakfast Show – 1960s Hits Part Two – Special Guests John W. Howell and Jennie Fitzkee

I am a featured guest along with John Howell on Sally’s Breakfast Show, music of the 60’s. Thank you, Sally and William. Rock on!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Over the last four weeks we have been featuring the hits in the charts of 1960-1962. We have also included some of the notable events in those years for the up and coming stars who were centre stage at the time. You can find these posts:The Breakfast Show with hosts William Price King and Sally Cronin

We will be sharing the music of the 1960s until the end of May before moving on to the 1970s. Participate in the spin-off shows and share your memories of the music of the 60s. An opportunity to share your work and here are the details:The Breakfast Show 2021

The first guest today is John W. Howellwho shares his wonderful memories of the 1960s and his time as a D.J on radio.

John in the 1960s

Thanks, Sally for allowing me to give my impressions of the decade of 60s music.

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Hope is not cancelled!!

Thank you Winnie the Pooh, and Opher. Hope is not cancelled.

Opher's World

Stewart Harper put this one out! I Like it! We all need hope in these difficult times! Thanks Stewart!

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the genius of each.

Looking at children, I too am reminded that each child is unique and beautiful in their own way.  They have many gifts to share and a marvelous sense of wonder about the world around them.   Thank you, Beth for this post.

I didn't have my glasses on....

as i worked on report cards over the last week

putting together my notes

gathering my thoughts

sharing my stories

telling their stories

i was reminded

that each child


their own gifts

their own challenges

yet each shares

without fail

a curiosity

a sense of wonder about the world

a desire to learn

and does so

in their own way.

“Do not train children to learn by force and harshness,

but direct them to it by what amuses their minds,

so that you may be better able to discover with accuracy

the peculiar bent of the genius of each.”     


image credit: Radhusets Julkalender 2012 – Arte del libro, Arte dell’illusrazione

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Saturday Surprise — Snow Art!

In the dark days of winter, art has a way to brighten our days. Snow art will put a big smile on your face. Thank you for these snow art photos, Jill!

Filosofa's Word

I think it’s been a couple of weeks since I last did a Saturday Surprise post, hasn’t it?  This week seems like a good week to get back to the routine, the schedule, so … Happy Saturday!

Only 55 more days ‘til Spring arrives!!!  I have been freezing since mid-November and I can’t wait for Spring … buds on trees, sunshine, birds singing (not that I can hear them, but still …), and warmth.  But, since it is still winter, today I found some cool (no pun intended … well okay, maybe it was intended) snow sculptures by various ‘snow artisans’ and I thought it would make for a fun way to kick off the weekend.

Frozen Forestbear-in-treebonfireSad-Snowmansnow-bunnySnow-CatSnow-DeerSnow-KidsSnowman-on-BikeSnow-SpongeBobSnow-Whalesnow-peanutssnow-elephantssnow-fishsnow-owlsnow-tortuga

Y’know … these snow sculptures are amazing, and I love seeing them, but … I’ll just see them from the warmth of my office-in-the-kitchen, because building one would require far more talent, time…

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Bloggers as Friends

I spend more time reading my fellow bloggers posts than I do writing posts. That’s because my fellow bloggers are good friends, and what they write is important. They are household names. Hubby will often ask, “How’s Pete?” I talk about you as if you are right here, right now. Because you are. I think that speaks volumes. Pete’s post says it best of all. Read on:

Pete Springer

Photo credit to Armin Rimoldi on Pexels

When I started writing less than two years ago, I had no clue what I was doing in the blogging world. I had written a memoir/advice book about my teaching career, They Call Me Mom, (something I hadn’t planned to do), and the logical follow-up question was now what?

Someone suggested starting a blog—an idea that had never entered my head.  The more I thought about it, the better it sounded.  I didn’t create one to become famous or try and sell a lot of books.  That’s not a priority for me.  I’m someone who enjoys learning.  A blog would provide me with opportunities to practice writing.  I’m not one of those people who has loved to write his entire life.  In reality, I’m much more of an analytical, left-brain type.  I was happier solving a math equation than keeping a…

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