PPBF: Happy Dreamer

Happy St. Patrick's Day. First, I'm thankful for my Grandma Natzke, whose birthday we celebrate today even though she is no longer with us on earth. I miss her so much. She was such a kind, generous, gentle soul, a beautiful role model for me. I loved going to her house and being with her. She was a dreamer, she was always humming, and I wanted to grow up to be just like her.

Next, I'm excited because my Inspiring Integrity guest post is now live at Free Spirit Press blog; clicking on the image below will take you there. I continue to enjoy and be challenged by assignment writing.

Finally, today marks my return to PPBF and I've got the 
picture-perfect book pick for you, my dear reader.

Title: Happy Dreamer
Author & Illustrator: Peter H. Reynolds
Publisher: Orchard Books
Date: March 28, 2017
Suitable for grades: preK - 3rd (and beyond!)
Genre: Realistic Fiction
Themes: Dream big. Be true to yourself. Live happily.
Brief synopsis: This Peter H. Reynolds newcomer bids us dance with this adorable, free-spirited, energetic daydreaming child as he shares his Dream big and be happy mindset, mess and all, with the world.  
Opening thoughts: I am a HAPPY DREAMER. I'm really good at dreaming. Daydreams. BIG DREAMS. Little dreams. Creative Dreams. 

*A Comprehensive Happy Dreamer Teachers Toolkit {here}
*Author's Notes About The Book {here}
*A Kirkus Review {here}
*A podcast with the author about the book {here}
*A Publisher's Weekly Review {here}

Why I like this book: Beside the fact that I'm a huge Peter H. Reynolds fan, the fact that I, like Reynolds himself, might have some undiagnosed ADHD going on, and the fact that I received this beautiful book as a gift from a very special student, I really connect with the passionate dreamer in this child. Our minds often wander off the beaten path, our ideas are ignited by our imaginations, and our dreams make us feel like dancing, even when the world tells us to keep quiet, sit still and pay attention. We hear things differently, sometimes more loudly. We know that being a dreamer is messy (he calls it creative chaos) but we crave doing it anyway. (My favorite line: If you make me, I will put my things away. But then there is less ME to show.) We don't want to just show up, we want to sparkle and create. We embrace who we are because it feeds our emotions and makes us happy. 

This colorful masterpiece left me wanting more, especially after I opened up the double-paged, poster-sized spread in the back which invites its readers to figure out (and name) what kind of dreamers we are, the perfect springboard for a writing or drawing activity. Anyone feel like creating a Vision Board?

Grandma Natzke would have loved Happy Dreamer
Check it out; I think you'll be joyful that you did!

Then visit Susanna Hill's blog for today's other PPBF selections.  


The Essence of Amy

Our world lost author Amy Krouse Rosenthal on Monday, which has left me feeling pensive, reflective and sad for her passing yet grateful for her positivity, inspiration, creativity, vulnerability, passion and joy.

This kindness clip, made years before she became ill, captures 
the essence of Amy.

I never met Amy, though when I read her books, it leaves me with the feeling that I'm pretty sure I know her, like she's a friend. That's because she builds such strong connections through her magical ability to brilliantly wordsmith. 

I did have a small interaction with her this past summer, one that now carries an even deeper meaning for me, when I saw this posted on her Facebook page:

I wasn't sure I even had a chance to win the tote, but, being a HUGE fan of her beautiful treasure I Wish You More, I was baited hook, line, and sinker by Amy's creative challenge. Days later, I found out a number generator chose my comment.

So I sent Amy my address ...

and, as promised, she sent me this tote and a note.

 It reads: hi Barbara! bye Barbara!
and it's signed Amy KR
and sealed with the cutest little self-portrait.
The essence of Amy.
Short, sweet, and sincere.
A sticky note from one of my heroes,
a stranger who felt like a friend,
who lived life huge
because she knew a secret ... 

... one that she shared with anyone who would listen.

Fly, Amy, fly; you will be dearly missed.

Thank you for leaving the world better than you found it, 
and for encouraging us through your many mediums to be kind.
To love big.
To be sweet.
To be OK.
To be ourselves.
To be OK with being ourselves.
To notice, really notice, things.
To create stuff.
To spread joy.
To play fair.
To appreciate music.
To beckon the lovely.
To look for miracles.
To find them in the ordinary.
To be filled with wonder.
To value independence.
To look for humor and be 'punny' whenever possible.
To laugh at ourselves and with others.
To embrace what makes us special.
To celebrate our differences.
To make good character choices.
To accept change as a part of life.
To appreciate that friends come in all shapes & sizes.
To enjoy it when money really does grow on trees.
To pay it forward.
To give back.
To unwrap the gift of life.

And to live a life worthy of being remembered.

Rest in peace knowing you have done all of that, Amy KR ... 
and MORE.

Thank you, thank you.


Loving What Is

Today I am excited and a little edgy because it's Day 2 of our new window installation. Turns out, out with the old, in with the new can come with a price. No, I'm not talking about how expensive it is to purchase storm windows that will withstand hurricane-strength winds coming at us with speeds of up to 110 mph. I'm actually referring to being displaced and moving everything around that's got me slightly off keel. That, and guess what we totally forgot about when we ordered new windows? Yep, blinds. The original Levelors that we've been using since we moved in twenty years ago just aren't going to cut it anymore, so out goes the old.
{Didn't I hear somewhere that old is the new new?}

Today I'm choosing to focus, with intention, on loving what is.
Loving what is working.
Loving what is positive.
Loving what is joyful.

I'll start with this Sweeter Than Sweet exhibit.

Joshua worked on this at the Houston Museum of Natural Science when he interned there two summers ago. He researched how much artificial sweetener it would take to equal 10 four-pound bags of sugar. See the beakers in back? There's your answer! He also put together the chemical compound models and it is now an actual exhibit in our Museum. Super cool, right?

I'm also loving this darling new book,
about love 
and the circle of life
and letting go
and loving what is
and then rediscovering love all over again.

It's one of those books that you might give
to a new mom at a baby shower.
Or maybe to the mother of the bride (or groom?)
on her wedding day.
One of those classic gift books.

Not only is the story super sweet, but I love the way it came to me.
As a gift, from one of my fourth grade leaders.
Who used her own money.
Who put a pick for herself on hold because 
she didn't have enough to buy both.
Love is ...  
I love that she would do that for me.
And I love that Emily Arrow made a song out of the book!

I may have to learn this one on my ukulele.

I love this Kindness Tree ...

and this box of crayons, both on display at Ward Elementary.

And I love the TeRRiFiCC entrance markers that welcome people to
Clear Lake City Elementary. 

Wouldn't you love to be a part of these State Schools of Character families?

I love that I have a friend who would craft six year's worth
of my special one little word choices on these crosses at Camp.

Thank you, Annie, for your thoughtfulness.

And though I'm home and locked in a bedroom with my cat,
trying to escape the noise and the dust
and needing to shop for blinds online,
I'm loving that our youngest is in Hawaii with his band
and sending an occasional picture our way.

They're going to be playing patriotic music in their concert
on the USS Missouri at Pearl Harbor later this week.
I especially love that they'll be uniting with a neighboring band from Dickinson High School to play a few of the songs together.

I'm also loving that Kaitlyn is hiking in Colorado with friends
and Jacob is in the Hill Country camping with friends.
I love that they have good friends
 to travel with,
to hang out with,
to do fun stuff with.

And I love that I get to work with this passionate leadership team.
Here's what we give to our staff on their special celebration day,
along with a birthday pencil and a chocolate bar.

Oh, and I love my husband, 
who just popped his head in the bedroom,
to see if he could bring me a diet Dr. Pepper.

He also offered a pedicure, but he left to get the soda before I could answer yes!

And so, dear reader, the point of today's post is this:
When things feel a little askew,
and it seems like life might go awry, 
{like, say, blindly ordering windows
without even thinking about window dressing},
try loving what is
instead of what isn't.
Make a list.
Say a prayer of thanks.
And move onward.

Here's to loving what is.
 And on that note, I must move on for my dentist appointment;
gotta love that annual spring break check up!


Supercharging Self-Care

Hello spring break 2017.

Today I'm feeling joyful because yesterday I spent the entire day on National School of Character site visits and I am so inspired by how bright our future is with these passionate educators and their superheroes soaring into the future.

Tomorrow morning, I'm hosting #satchatwc at 9:30 am {CST}.
Whether you're a seasoned Tweeter or a newbie, I'd like to invite you to supercharge your self-care strategies with us.

Here are the questions we'll be discussing:

Image source {here}

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And just so we can get started right away, 
we might even finish a few minutes early.

Join us tomorrow morning to weigh in and share your 
best-kept strategy for self-care just in time for spring break.

UPDATE: Here's the transcript in case you missed it.


Reach Higher

Today my heart is happy because our true-colors hallway banners
are now installed, just in time for our Open House tomorrow night.
I feel like a kid in a candy store who has been waiting impatiently
 to savor her favorite treat.

And every counselor! {Click for image source}

Here's what our character cam caught,
something we kind of anticipated happening ... 

Wait, does HE feel like a kid in a candy store, too?
at least until the newness wears off!

{Don't you love that he's reaching higher?}

We ordered two sets, one for each main hallway, of these

super colorful, 


flame-retardant (and fire-marshall friendly),

 vinyl banners from ProSign Design.

They are such an easy company to work with 
and we are so pleased with the product 
and grateful for their courteous customer service.

What's got you reaching higher today?


You Can Sit By Me

Today I have experienced some much-needed restoration.
I read some.
I napped.
I got my hair trimmed.

A good trim is like gold, and this time there was a bonus, because I was in line behind these adorable little brothers. I got to watch their Dad beam with pride as they respectfully sat there smiling sweetly through their precious, spiky haircuts. As they were enjoying their lollipops for being good, I had a chance to interact with them a bit. The younger boy, Fenn, who was probably about four years old, was showing off his blue tongue when I overheard his dad at the cash register say that there was a baby at home, so I asked him if their baby was a brother or a sister. In his heartwarming attempt at motherese that made me melt, he said, "A baby sister ...  and she's so tiny." After he told me with a twinkle in his eye that he got to hold her, he confidently patted the bench where he was standing and said,
"You can sit here." 
Clearly there was a story to be told and he had a lot more to say.

You have no idea how badly I wanted to sit next to him.
I longed to sit there.
Yearned, even.
But it was my turn next, so I had to decline.
With my thanks, of course.
The boys reminded me of days gone by,
of my work at Westwood with younger children,
of my own boys, when they were that age.
And I got nostalgic.
It sent my heart soaring and
I've been in a happy mood ever since.

This book has served to extend that happiness and joy.

Written by longtime friends Dr. Sanda Bernstein and Dr. Wendy Rapaport, this handbook is a treasure trove filled with nuggets of wisdom, connection and love. It hooked me early on with this reflection on the therapeutic benefits of friendship:

Wendy's ukulele story in Chapter One reeled me in.
Like me, Dr. Rapaport has recently started playing the ukulele.
And like me, she's over-the-moon with passion for and excitement about the magical little instrument. So she decided to send one to her friend, co-author Sandy, an idea which wasn't met with equal enthusiasm and joy. At all. 
Not one little bit. 
A disconnect, 
a rejected gift, 
a conflict. 
What's a friend to do?

This refreshing newcomer is written as a dialogue between two seasoned friends who have learned how to navigate the ins and outs of healthy relationships. Each chapter showcases skills that they want the reader to understand, to embrace, and to try. Each ends with a few Take-Away reflections. The chapter devoted to the Good Mother in people took me back to the interaction that I saw at the salon this morning between that father and his two sons and it made me want to be a better Good Mother. There's even a chapter on my favorite virtue, empathy, and how giving and receiving it enriches caring connections.

I found this comprehensive friendship gem 
and authentic.

My take-away? Wishing I were their friend and hoping everyone can find a friend like Fenn, who boldly pats the bench near him and says: You can sit by me.

Check out this book; you'll be thankful that you did.


Celebrating March As Youth Art Month

Happy March!

Did you know that it's Youth Art Month?
Consider this reflection about the benefits of art education:

Art and music balance the mental functioning of the brain, creating neurological pathways which aid in critical and creative thinking,” said assistant provost of course development at ACE, Lee Tincher, Ph.D. “Healthy learning and living is about developing the whole person, which education should encourage.

The American College of Education is promoting the value of art education this month by hosting a contest and asking to see your students' creativity. 

One piece of artwork from all submitted entries will be selected to appear on ACE cover photos on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, and the student's classroom will receive a $500 gift card for the purchase of art supplies for future projects.
Click the graphic above for more information.

Our daughter has always been passionate about art; we knew from early on that she was naturally adept at it. That's why her career in graphic design is such an awesome fit! When she was home during the holidays, Kaitlyn drew this Building Block for an activity we do in my workshops. Love all the symbolism.
I'm always so inspired by her colorful artistic creations.

And since we're talking art, our son's favorite art form is music. Here's a ballad from Jacob's Aggieland jazz band, David Wolpe's Moonlight In Vermont. It's another proud mommy moment, to hear your child rock his trumpet solo.

Theater is also a fun way for students to express themselves artistically. I love watching my students role-play on stage with each other and with our puppets.

Every day is a great day to celebrate art.
What will you do to make Youth Art Month special?

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