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Happy slide into summertime.

This week we hit the two-month mark since a leak in our attic pipes threw us forward into serious house renovations and upgrades; this is how we {and our cat} are beginning to feel about the contractors and plumbers and painters, oh my.


And then, on a school visit this week, I saw this.


As with life, it would be so so easy to see the weeds
in this remodel. And in doing so,
we risk missing the wishes.
It's a poignant reminder that every day 
we get to decide where we put our energy,
because what we appreciate, appreciates.

Problems or possibilities?

Sometimes it's a problem just waiting for a possibility;
when our school bathrooms were looking trashy, for example,
we implemented The Bathroom Brigade program.


What a thrill it was earlier this week, to see our friends at
Southside Elementary showcased for all the goodness
in their character building, including an idea they 
borrowed from us, The Golden Plunger Award

Some see burdens ... others see blessings.

Today's PPBF is a blessing for our worry warriors.

Title: Winnie & Her Worries
Author: Reena B. Patel
Illustrator: Jared Hogue
Publisher: Kind Eye Publishing
Birth Date: August 9, 2018
Suitable for: 4-8
Themes: worries, anxiety, mindfulness
Opening lines: My name is Winnie and I love waking up on Sunday mornings and making pancakes with my dad. We love to flip them up in the air and try catching them on our plates. 

Resources:
Read about the power of worry stones {here}
Learn how to use a worry box or worry jar {here}
Check out these calming ideas at Coping Skills For Kids.
Visit my Mindfulness collection on Pinterest

Compare and contrast with these titles:

You've Got Dragons by Kathryn Cave
Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes
Is A Worry Worrying You? by Ferida Wolff


Why I like this book: It's likely that I'm connecting more with anxiety this week because the remodel has definitely put me on edge. Truth be told, anxiety isn't exclusive to children although statistic definitely tell us that it's on the rise in our youth. If we're able to proactively model and teach these calming strategies, then when anxiety spikes, we are more likely to be able to access those therapeutic resources for combatting the stress, the panic, the anxiety.

This book explains in kid-friendly language what's going on in the brain as well as how the body might react to worries and stress as it tells the story of one young lady's walk through her daily what ifs? It also offers strategies to help when that happens; I used to use worry rocks with great success when I was working with kids like Winnie. In fact, our son Jacob could what if? a situation with the best of them. We would ask him, "then what?" and "so what?" to get to the root of his worries. Then we'd apply our strategies to help ease his mind or switch those thoughts to something more productive, kind of like the weeds or wishes idea. 

In the back of this book, tools for parents and educators.

Check out this book, then head on off to Susanna Hill's blog
to see what might happen if you had your birthday party
on the moon along with today's other PPBF picks.


Oh, and if you find yourself near Friendswood, TX, with 
no idea where to stay (once our remodel is done), don't stress; 
we'll keep the light on for you at the Empty Nest B&B.





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Do you ever feel like this as you slide into summertime?


What are your go-to strategies
to prevent this from happening?

Carve out an hour and check out the Character Strong webinar
I hosted on Combatting Fatigue for some actionable tips
around well-BEing, self-care and mindfulness.

One of the fairies in today's PPBF could definitely benefit
from our suggestion not to try go it alone.


Title: The Tallest Tree House
Author/Illustrator: Elly MacKay
Publisher: Running Press Kids
Birth Date: April 23, 2019
Suitable for: ages preK-3rd grade
Themes: mindset, grit, teamwork
Brief synopsis: When Mip and Pip decide to compete against one another in building the tallest tree house the fastest, they learn an important lesson about preparation, collaboration and teamwork.
Opening lines: 
Fairies are sometimes easy to miss.
But Mip was not one of them.
La La La.
She could be heard singing above
the sound of the waterfall.

Resources:

Read the Kirkus Review {here}
Here's a read-aloud of the story from You Tube. 

The Tallest Tree House ~ fairytale stories read aloud - YouTube

Why I like this book: Using two adorable fairies, this newcomer pits a thoughtful planner against her impulsive friend in a friendly competition to create The Tallest Tree House. Not only does it beg the question, Can creativity be rushed? but it ultimately tackles the notion that Together we're better. 

A hurried Mip jumps head first into the contest and works frantically to slap together something epic. Based on his architecture research, Pip, on the other hand, uses his time to thoroughly plan his tower by drawing blueprints and mapping out his steps to success. 

Busily unaware that a storm is brewing, Mip quickly finds that her structure isn't strong enough to withstand the ferocious wind that blows through. The competition ends abruptly when the friends survive the storm together; will they give up or will grit help them bridge the gap that will ultimately connect them and their ideas for the greater good.

Ahhhhhh, teamwork, a powerful lesson in the beauty of
moving from me to we.

Compare and contrast with these Aesop's fables
sing alongs of The Ant and The Grasshopper and
The Tortoise and The Hare after posing the question:
Does slow and steady always win the race?

Then invite your students to create a song
for Mip and Pip. How fun would that be?

So many little nuggets of wisdom embedded in 
this {realistically} fictional forest; check it out today.

Then head on over to Susanna Hill's blog for
today's other PPBFs including I'm Happy-Sad Today,
a pick that looks like it's right up my alley.





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Happy Shoesday; who's ready to talk empathy with me?

Yesterday was Exhibition Day for Mrs. Monty's class, 
my fifth-grade friends in Florida; they chose to research
and present on the glorious virtue of empathy,
putting yourself in someone else's shoes.

Click the image for the Kristen Nan idea that sparked this.
Just look at them teaching the Empathy Switch!


For months, they visited with experts in the field
who are doing the work around elevating empathy, 
then they expertly presented this incredible showcase.

MRS. MONTY'S EXHIBITION THEATRE PRESENTATION 2019 - YouTube

Words cannot adequately express how in awe of them I am.
It's about 15 minutes long and I know you're in a hurry,
but it'll be beyond worth your time and attention.

Wait, you've only got three minutes to spare?
Here's the clip you really won't want to miss!

MRS. MONTY'S CLASS - PUT YOURSELF IN THEIR SHOES - YouTube

Our future is so bright with these empathy heroes
thinking with their hearts and leading the way.

Then, just this morning, this powerful TED Talk on empathy 
by elementary school Art teacher Jonathan Juravich found me.

It reminded me of when our daughter was in preK
and would watch Disney movies over and over again.
One of her favorites was The Fox and the Hound.
When it would come to the goodbye scene in which 
Fox has to be taken to the woods and dropped off,
Kaitlyn would run and hide behind the couch.
Empathy in motion.
Not only did she not want to see it,
because she found it heartbreakingly sad,
but she was mirroring that Tod should hide, too.
She was putting herself in his shoes,
evidence to punctuate what Michele Borba tell us:
We are hardwired for empathy.

But I've heard Borba add that dormant empathy does no good.
Because empathy in action doesn't happen by chance.
We must nurture, stretch, and grow it.
In ourselves and in others.
With intention. On purpose.

Simon Sinek says it's not possible to stand in another's shoes,
but that we can certainly give it a righteous try,
so that we don't make assumptions that can lead
to disconnection or misunderstanding.
Tune in to his riveting TED Talk {here}.
I love his idea of each of us having our own
empathy language.

Sinek suggests that we can easily mine empathy by asking,
Is everything okay?

Brene Brown says this about empathy:


Three powerful words: You're not alone.

That's why empathy matters so much.

Here's to going eye to eye, ear to ear,
and, most importantly, heart to heart,
to make every day a {step into in your} Shoesday.


One last note: For those of you who might want to join us this afternoon/evening 
for a free Character Strong webinar on combatting fatigue,
register {here} and tune in at 5 pm CDT. See you there.




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Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.

Words don't seem sufficient to thank our educators
for everything they do every day, in their element,
but here's my attempt at expressing my gratitude.


Thank you, teachers; YOU are cherished and loved.
Since I no longer work at a school to call home, 
I've been making school visits, to engage relationally,
take in the goodness and do a little character coaching.

On Friday, I got to be back in my element.


It felt like pure oxygen, to sit side by side 
on the floor with this kindergarten leader,
listening to what she loves about her school.

I also Skyped with these fifth-grade students who
surprised me by ordering our Kindness t-shirts.
Look at these kindness crusaders, in their element.


I'm so thankful that we can connect so deeply
by using a digital platform to bridge the distance.

I've also been doing a lot of research on mindfulness,
but because when anxiety goes up, empathy goes down.


Is it possible to use our magical breath to turn that around?

Click {here} to see how a six-year-old boy
uses Five Finger Breathing to bring the calm.
Is he in his element or what?

Finally, today is a special day because I was invited
to talk about my very favorite thing, being a mom.
Click the imagine to listen in; special thanks to
Sarah Johnson for sharing my story on Motherhood.


I love being a mom.


It's with them that I'm truly in my element.

When, where, and with whom are you most
in your element?






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Happy PPBF; today's title is an intergalactic treasure.

Title: A Place For Pluto
Author: Stef Wade
Illustrator: Melanie Demmer
Publisher: Capstone Editions
Birth Date: October 4, 2018
Suitable for grades K-3
Genre: Historical fiction
Topics: self-discovery, belonging, feelings
Brief synopsis: When Pluto is told he no longer qualifies as a planet, he sets out on a journey to figure out who he actually is and where he really belongs.
Opening page: For the better part of forever, Pluto was a planet. One of the famous nine.
Resources:
Visit author Stef Wade's website {here}
Read an interview with the author {here}
Watch an interview with the author here:

"A Place for Pluto" - YouTube

Why I like this book: As a character educator, I'm always on the lookout for books which will integrate seamlessly into curricular content and this, my friends, is a perfect fit with your space unit. Ever since Pluto's status as a planet was revoked in 2006, its story has interested and intrigued budding scientists; enter this fictional tale about how it must have felt when Pluto was told he is no longer a planet. Younger kids will relate to being told they're 'too small' and your slightly older learners to the worries that if I don't fit here, where do I belong?

I had a chance to share it just yesterday with a third-grade
space expert and cherished our impromptu connection.


He was quick to point out that Ceres, another dwarf planet, isn't actually a part of the Kuiper belt, like the book implies, but the largest object in the Asteroid belt. Gosh, he knows his stuff!

As you read this story aloud, expect to stop a lot for questions,
comments, reflections, insights, and observations.

Use it as a springboard for self-discovery of the Earthling kind.
Do some genealogy; where did your students come from?
Encourage exploration of their love languages, their personality type, their personal preferences, likes and dislikes.

Invite them to make a Heart Map about
who they are and which groups they belong to.
Are they Scouts?
Pianists?
Athletes?
Bakers?
Writers?
Scientists?
Mathematicians?
Animal lovers?
Brothers or sisters?
Friends?
Helpers?
Kind kids?
Empathy heroes?

Maybe there's a new group they'd like to join;
have them research what it would take to belong there, too.

Share Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and talk about 
why belonging is so important to Pluto and to people. 


Check out this new space gem, then head on over to
Susana Hill's blog for today's other picture-perfect picks.





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Happy May Day. 

Today I'm over-the-moon with gratitude and delight to help launch 
Character Strong's newest Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) and Character resource, their comprehensive K-5 Toolkit, PurposeFULL People.


Last June, just as I was retiring from my school position,
John Norlin and Houston Kraft kindly invited me to join their team
 and help make this Elementary Toolkit dream of theirs a reality.

And what a collaboration it has been.

Ten essential traits, like Courage, Honesty, Kindness,


Perseverance, Empathy, Creativity, Gratitude.

One incredible enrichment resource
to bring these essentials to life in your character building.

Engaging activities and object lessons,
brain breaks with meaningful movement,
quotes with brilliantly-colored printable posters,
mindfulness exercises,
book recommendations,
scenarios, role plays,
songs, dances, reflections, and more.

And what could the P possibly stand for?

Play?
Peace? 
Purpose?


Yep, there's even a Playground piece with strategies
to help our young peeps connect with purpose at recess.

But wait, there's more! Character challenges for staff, 
and a school-to-home component, 
to continue to convo,
build family connections, 
and strengthen family relationships.

Click {here} to dig deeper and to
download a sample of the Courage component.

Then tune in to today's Character Strong podcast to hear


Houston Kraft and me talking through the Toolkit.

Here's a sound bite to pique your curiosity:


It's a big big day for us and for character campuses everywhere;
prepare to be wowed by this epic Toolkit designed to
intentionally celebrate and grow your PurposeFULL People
by weaving this {heart} work into every fiber of your school's fabric, 
not only on debut day, but every moment of every single day.






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The belief that April showers bring May flowers 
has me thinking about this Karen Salmansohn invitation:


What if, when we shower people with kindness,
certain flowers (or other kind acts) would bloom?
Well, that's how the kindness boomerang works.

So today, a dozen suggestions for sharing life's finest fragrance.


1. Go berry picking and bake something delicious. Jacob was able to share our Kolaches with some elderly friends, with roommates, with neighbors, with his supervising professor. He even shared with me to serve at my self-care workshop.


2. Capture a sunset for someone. Just look at the joy seized from under 
Friday Night Lights, as I looked for {awe}, my #oneword2019.


3. Give someone a shout out. Like this guy. Juan.
We are in the middle of house renovations and he is working
tirelessly to remove wall paper and help bring our home
into this century. Thank you, Juan, for your hard work! 


4. Share a memory. During some much-needed spring cleaning,
I came across this badge from a dozen years ago, when we did
a skit to launch our school theme that year: I.C.U.

Intensive Care Unit.
Where I see you
Where you matter. 
Where everyone is loved and cared for.


Texted this memory to our leadership team. 
So we could remember. And smile.

5. Thank someone. More goodness from many years ago,
my first-grade team at Westwood Elementary helping others
in my name, in lieu of a Christmas gift.


Again, a quick text, to thank them for their thoughtfulness.

6. Say yes and share a story. I was invited by a former student to speak to a group of a thousand middle-school students on Friday.


I told the story about how our son put his friend's name on a 
raffle ticket to increase the friend's chances to win this prize.


When one of those tickets was drawn as the winner,
it served as a playful reminder that it only takes one.
One caring connection. One kind act.

7. Shine the light on someone's heart work. Meet Principal Evan Robb
he's a hope dealer, and I'm grateful for his servant leadership.


8. Conserve energy by turning off lights you don't need. Invite your kids to be Watt Watchers and lead the charge to conserve our resources.

9. Support a child's passion project. Yesterday, our four-year-old neighbor came by to invite us to her Art Gallery sale. Like a lemonade stand, only better. Check out my new bracelet; we're tickled pink to support Ruthie's passion for art.


10. Recycle. Love this set-up at the Hampton Inn in WA.


11. Give someone who serves an extra-generous tip. It brought joy to extra-tip the guy making the Kettle Corn at our school's fundraiser on Saturday.

12. Look out for mementoes that connect to someone.  


Melissa brought this winged heart back from Mexico for me. 
Her kind words on this hand-made bookmark
put a spring in my step and a song on my soul. 

I'm grateful for this new friend, who helps renew 
my belief and faith in the goodness of human-kind.

What other blooms might you add to our beautiful bouquet?





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They say that imitation in the greatest compliment
and after seeing this mural on a wall in Canada, 
I'd have to agree.


You might remember that the summer before Hurricane Harvey,
I commissioned this Sketch, then made it into a banner for Bales.


After sharing it on Twitter, a Principal in Nova Scotia
asked if she could borrow it for her school.
I sent her the file for the banner, but she decided
to personalize hers using paint. LOVE.

Speaking of Twitter, last night I was privileged to lead
the #122edchat on Making Kindness Your SUPERPOWER.


Click {here} to read through the archives.

The time just flew by, making it feel like
 the fastest half hour on record.
Nearly 600 tweets in 30 minutes.
So invigorating and refreshing to know that there are
so many Kindness Catalysts out there.


How would you have answered these five questions?





❤️
Those reflections were so much fun to create
and I'm grateful for the chance to have led this convo.

Finally for today, incredible news ... drum roll please ...
our Character Strong Toolkit is about to make its debut.
Presenting ... Purpose-FULL People.


Click the image to sign up for the launch party on May 1st.





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Happy Easter.
Today's worship service left me so incredibly emotional and raw.
 The music, the fanfare, the jubilation, the celebration. 
Words powerful enough to describe that experience escape me.

Instead, let me share about yesterday's mindful morning trek
to the Gruener farm, where wild dewberries made this
the prettiest {and tastiest} fence line around.


The bright sun warmed our skin as we braved the bramble
and came away blessed with lots of these tasty treasures. 

Because of this fruitful outing with Jacob and John, 
we'll be enjoying a fresh dewberry pie for Easter lunch
and I have dough set for a batch of Kolaches which 
I'm planning to serve at tomorrow's mindfulness workshop.

From earlier this week, congratulations Laurel; you have won a copy of Seraphina Does Everything from our friends at NCYI.
Thank you for being a faithful reader at the Corner;
enjoy that rocking-chair time as you teach your grand-daughter
that balance means everything to our mental health and wellbeing.

Moving forward to today's book rec and reflections:
I picked this text up a year ago and, in the chaos of everything
that has happened between now and then, kind of forgot about it.


But the adorable rabbit on this Easter {Bunny} Sunday 
came hopping back into my heart with a tugging stronghold
subtly shouting its message to live life to its fullest.

Rabbit and bird head out on an adventure together
during which they engage and explore,
 pretend and play, investigate and imagine.
And regardless of which path they choose,
they'll find joy in savoring the sensational things
that every journey has to offer. They'll also find wisdom in
looking up, for the sky and the stars are a constant reminder
of "what you will always know."

I'm totally reading it aloud at my training tomorrow;
it'll also make a pretty cool Earth Day pick.

Check out The Knowing Book; I know you'll be 'hoppy' you did.









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Happy Easter weekend. How will you celebrate?
I'm still savoring this kind interaction from earlier this week
after we mowed the lawn for the first time this season.
The mist that dampened the air was gaining momentum; 
as John and I furiously worked to get the sidewalks swept, 
a sweet superhero came by on his scooter 
and waved as he slowly rolled by. 

I recognized him as Hudson, the neighbor down the street whom I'd met a few times before; I knew he was transferring to my former school, so I asked him how his school year was going and how he liked Bales. He asked what I like about being a school counselor and how long I had stayed at that job.


Then, as if out of the blue, I heard three of the kindest words: 
Need some help?
He grabbed this little shovel and helped until the last bit of curb was swept clean of grass clippings, all the while visiting and connecting. How much do I love fourth graders? We even figured out that I was his Dad’s Spanish teacher many, many years ago. Small, small world.

Yesterday I headed to see a Benfer Elementary school across town;
 look at the awesome vision for their district.


Nurturing promise, harvesting purpose.

Check out the brilliant Wordle that was created from what
their students said it means to be a Benfer Bobcat.



I had such a nice visit with their counselor Meghan.
Then I headed to Tomball to hear my friend and author
Linnea McFadden talk about Kindness at Salem Lutheran.


Today, this beautiful T-shirt I helped design came in;
isn't it incredible? My friends at Inked Design are
taking online orders for a week, until April 26th,
if you know someone it'd look AmAzInG on.
It's available in these four colors for $12 each.


Finally, in case you missed it, this week's Character Speaks podcast
features fifth-grade Texas teacher and friend Jessica Chandler; 


listen as this passionate edu-hero shares her actionable strategies 
for calling out greatness in her superhero students.

Tonight, I'm falling asleep with a truly grateful heart.





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