Saturday, April 19, 2014

Robin O'Bryant and Ketchup is a Vegetable

Robin O'Bryant is a FUNNY LADY! I met her last week at Foxtale Book Shoppe,  the BEST book store in Atlanta, when she stopped in to share excerpts from her book, Ketchup Is a Vegetable.  She quickly had her rapt audience in stitches as she shared stories about her breast reduction, a visit from the FBI and her children's education on the birds and the bees.  As a mom and writer myself, I could easily identify with the drama of raising daughters, the hysterical things they say and the unexpected events in our ordinary lives. A Southern Belle with a wry sense of humor and colorful language (one whole chapter in her book is on her attempts to quit cursing), Robin establishes instant rapport with young moms and been-there-done-that moms everywhere.  Just posting a picture of the title of her book had friends asking me about it, probably because everyone knows the challenge of feeding young picky eaters a healthy diet.

Like many authors, Robin began her interest in writing as an avid reader.  Even as a youngster, she read like lightning and devoured books.  Although family and friends encouraged her to write, it wasn't until she began sharing the stories of her young family, first through emails and then through her blog that she found her niche.

Ketchup is a Vegetable was initially a self-published book and Robin is familiar with the challenges of self-promotion and even created her own book tour.  Once her book became a best seller and she had established more of a platform, it was re-released in it's present form.  What is she writing next?  She describes this book as chatting with her over a cup of coffee and her next book as talking with her over dinner and a glass of wine.  I loved this book so much, I'm making dinner reservations now...

You can find Robin on her blog:

We are working fast and furious to get the next Wyatt the Wonder Dog book out by early summer!  Check out the details and sign-up for a free audio of Wyatt Learns about Being Organized here.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mr E the Motivator and Testing Survival Tips

Next week is a big week at my school and throughout much of Georgia as well. It is a week of standardized tests which reveal how much students have learned throughout the year. For some grade levels the final test score plays a big factor in whether or not the student passes to the next grade. Students of course stress over tests. I remember one year as I was sorting out the math scratch paper from the test booklets for some second graders, I ran across one piece that had this written on the page; "Dear God, Help me do good on this test".

This year our first graders came up with a way to help the older students prepare for testing while learning about economy at the same time.  First Grade classrooms became factories where they created Testing Survival Kits.  The kits included a piece of candy, a pencil, a sticker and some testing tips.  The kits were then sold for fifty cents and all the money was donated to Relay for Life.  The students earned over two hundred dollars to contribute to a good cause!

There are some great motivational videos available to ease the tension before testing too.  Here is a good one:


More tips for Anxious Students

Here are some things I often suggest:
Learn relaxation breathing.  Teaching a child to slow down their breathing and repeat a calming word such as "relax" can help them regain a feeling of control and focus. 
Practice positive self-talk.  This doesn't just mean unrealistic thinking but rather arguing with those negative thoughts that we often torment ourselves with.  Rather than thinking, "This is too hard.  I can't do it."  Argue back with, "I studied and learned the material.  I'm doing my best."
Write it down.  Negative thoughts often become repetitive.  Writing them down and literally throwing them away, can help a child to break the cycle and begin fresh with a more positive spin.
Create a ritual.  It can be something as simple as a special "power breakfast for testing" or wearing a colorful shirt to remind her to stay focused. 
Finally it helps to keep it all in perspective.  It is after all just a test. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Tsh Oxenreider and Living Life Intentionally

In February I attended a book signing for Tsh Oxenreider at Foxtale Book Shoppe.  Tsh (don't worry, I haven't mispelled her name...) is a blogger, author, world traveler, mom and wife.  She writes about her family, travel (her family's passion), and living a simple life.  You can read her blog here:

Tsh's latest book, Notes from a Blue Bike; The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World addresses a passion of mine, living life intentionally. Her book chronicles her return to life in the States after living in Turkey for three years with her husband and two children. As you might imagine she and her family experienced quite a bit of culture shock at the frenetic pace of American life. They became determined to merge the best of both worlds by intentionally living a simpler life. They have accomplished this in many ways but in particular they developed a family purpose statement which they wrote to help them focus on the things they all valued.  Here is her family statement:

We will:
put each other first
cultivate deep relationships with one another
extend love to those around us
live simply
be true to how God made us
take care of our health
be good stewards of creation
be lifelong learners

Much like the one word that I wrote about in a previous blog, this statement gives her family a solid foundation  and a north star to guide them. Tsh encourages all families to examine their values and then live life intentionally with the end in mind.

Kids grow up so fast. The world changes even faster. What will your family be like in five years? Ten years? Do you have a vision for your family's future? Do you have an idea of the values and the principles that are your family's foundation?

Visit the Wyatt the Wonder Dog website and sign-up for a free audio download of Wyatt the Wonder Dog Learns about Being Organized.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Principal's New Clothes: Provides a Great Lesson on Telling the Truth

Every year in kindergarten our teachers read the book, The Principal's New Clothes by Stephanie Calmerson and then send home an activity for kids to complete for homework.  The homework includes a head shot of either our Principal or our Assistant Principal and instructions to create an outfit for them to wear.  Students cut out the head, glue it on a paper doll figure and then use their imagination to design some of the most unusual outfits you've ever seen.  They use everything from magazine pictures to cloth, construction paper and sequins.  It is one of our favorite hall decorations as we see whether Mrs. Kelly will show up as a character from Where the Wild Things Are or be decked out as a leprechaun for St. Patick's Day. Mrs. Crews is everything from Wonder Woman to a queen. Here are a few of my favorites courtesy of our creative kindergarteners:

Of course the book which is a school version of The Emperor's New Clothes, is a great lesson in itself.  When you see that someone is being terribly deceived, do you warn them and tell them the truth, even though it means taking the risk of losing your job or their friendship?  While it may seem that you are protecting your friend or coworker, are you really looking out for yourself and your own best interest?  What would you do?  These are all good questions to ask within the context of this classic story line as well in our daily lives. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Kid President and Caine's Arcade Encourage Students to be Problem Solvers

One of the recent mandates for Georgia school counselors is to provide and document career lessons for every grade level.  This means that we are all looking for ways to inspire students to begin thinking about the vast variety of careers that are available to them.  Especially in the elementary grades when almost every boy wants to play football for the NFL and every girl wants to be a veterinarian (I know I'm exaggerating a bit here...) I feel it's important to expand their awareness of the possibilities for careers that exist now and in the future.  Thanks to technology and the new global communication, careers are changing at a fast pace.  Who knows what will be the newest and most exciting careers, ten or fifteen years from now?  As a school counselor, I feel my job is get students to think creatively and consider multiple options.  Here are a few ways to do that.

Kid President is a hoot and kids will love this invitation to be an inventor.  His upbeat encouraging attitude is terrific. 

Another inspiring kid is Caine from the YouTube video, Caine's Arcade.  I always emphasize the limitless possibilities of creating a business when I show this one:

I've also discovered a couple of  books that I enjoy reading for career lessons. 
Iggy Peck Architect and Rosie Revere, Engineer, both by Andrea Beaty, are  delightful and humorous.  They help children understand two careers that they are not usually very familiar with. Inspiring students to think about their future and the careers that might be out there is always a fun and creative guidance lesson!

Want to get ideas for ways to encourage and empower children to be terrific problem solvers?  Join my email list and get weekly ideas including books and strategies for a variety of topics including self esteem and sibling rivalry.  Sign Up Here

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Snow Jam 2014 Brings Out the Kindness in the Community

When our fourth grade classes at Sixes Elementary make a wish... let's just say they have a lot of influence somewhere.


Welcome to Snow Jam 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Tuesday morning, January 28th metro Atlanta was greeted by snow soon to be followed by black ice. The next 24+ hours resulted in insane traffic jams, students stranded at school or on school buses and workers stranded at the office for overnight or even longer. 


In the midst of the snow disaster, The Random Acts of Kindness Week which is scheduled for February 10-16 came early.  Good Samaritans appeared everywhere and distributed food and water, helped get cars out of danger and even opened up their homes to stranded motorists. There are lots of stories of kindness, bravery and compassion.  Here are just a few:
  • Michelle Sollicito saw a need and created a Facebook page-SnowedOut Atlanta where stranded motorists and others in need could post.  Over 50,000+ member eventually logged on and over 400 people were helped.
  • Coach Joe Keller of Dugan Elementary school used his truck to transport over 100 studnts and staff to their homes.  He spent six hours making sure everyone was able to get home and it was his birthday!

Baby Grace, delivered on I-285
Photo provided by Grace’s parents

  • It wouldn't be a SnowJam without a baby being born!  Here's Grace who was born in a car stuck in traffic on I-285.  The baby was named Grace and delivery was assisted by Sandy Springs police officer Tim Sheffield.  It was also his birthday so he and Grace will have a special day in common!

SnowedOutAtlanta Hot Chocolate Hunks
Hot Chocolate Hunks, photo via 11Alive

  • Zach Haedt and Sam Tarquina created social media buzz for serving up hot cocoa to motorists stranded on I-75.
Dorothy Marsil, founder of the SnowedOutAtlanta- Thanks & Rescue Stories Facebook page, summed up everyone's feelings on Snowpocalypse 2014 perfectly: “The real news story should be all of the people who are helping people in need. KSU students were out pushing cars and inviting people in. People were walking from their homes to the road and bringing water and snacks to stranded motorists. Businesses were opening up or staying open and housing stranded people. A manager at Kroger was cooking up breakfast for everyone in the deli for free. Mattress Firm in Canton invited in people who were stranded near their store. Several restaurants are serving free food to those who can get there. People on the roads who still had gas were taking others into their cars to allow those who were walking to warm up and charge their phones. That is amazing! This is the real story!”

What an amazing testament to the resilency and the compassion of all.  Despite the chaos created by Mother Nature, people rose to the occasion and helped each other in every way  imaginable.  Makes one proud to be part of such a great community!

    Next year though, Fourth Grade needs to be careful what they wish for...

Friday, January 24, 2014

Sixes Students Go Bananas over the Book, What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo!

Look who came to visit us at Sixes Elementary!

Grace Milsaps and Ryan Murphy, authors of the book, What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo!  arrived early in their green-alligator-mobile, loaded down with books and bananas (yes, bananas) to share with kindergarten, first and second grade students.  Grace has taught preschool on three continents while Ryan is a lawyer, a writer and a former Cherokee County student.  Grace developed a love of children's literature through her teaching and Ryan credits his mother, a teacher in the Cherokee County schools, with introducing him to great books and instilling a love of reading as a child.  Once they decided to write a children's story, they brainstormed with illustrators and friends, John Clark IV and Allyson Kilday to create the enchanting story about the animals at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans, who party all night and sleep all day. 

Kindergarten students were treated to a fun rendition of the story.

 There were opportunities to dance and make animal noises just like in the book.  

Ms. Williamson's class gave the book an enthusiastic ten and thought it was a WOW of a story.


First and second graders played a version of a game show and identified mystery animals, guessed what an elephant weighs or the age of the oldest animal on earth.  When stumped for an answer, contestants could call friends in the audience on the banana phone for expert advice.

Contestants earned bananas instead of points, with the final winner accumulating a record fifteen bananas to share with friends. 

That's a lot of bananas!!!

The book and the authors were a huge hit!!  We hope you come and visit again soon!

Want to purchase a copy of the book?  Here it is:

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