* To prep or not to prep

I just greedily devoured the five Alex Fletcher books by Steven Konkoly. Ooh-rah! I am ready to stockpile food and water and toilet paper. In the first book, The Jakarta Pandemic, Alex struggles through PTSD to save his family from the collapse of American society. His innate paranoia kicks into insane levels, but Konkoly makes the plot eerily realistic. Just how do you survive a contagious virus that triggers mass hysteria and a loss of infrastructure? I’m thinking a chocolate stash…..

Konkoly draws upon his military experience for amazing realism in The Perseid Collapse, an “event” that forms the basis for the final four books of the Alex Fletcher series. This event crumbles the United States, which had barely recovered from the pandemic of a few years before. Alex is better prepared this time but the stakes are higher. The event, which many speculate is an EMP, or asteroid, leads to a collapse of all the major cities, electronics failure, and a flood of refugees. Alex is on a mission to rescue his son from Boston, getting trapped between hastily assembled marines and militias.

The final three books remind me of Tom Clancy’s or Robert Ludlum’s style in their complexity and global focus, with heroic characters giving their all as the world changes mightily after the collapse of the US. And Alex continues his single-minded focus on saving his family and friends. Konkoly creates a well-developed character in Alex Fletcher, along with a wide cast of supporting folks. An interesting theme in these books is the conflict between “government conspiracy” folks and the military. I don’t know how such an apocalypse might fall out (pun intended), but our house is not prepared for any of it. I’m off to buy some chocolate.

* Bilinguilism and the brain

Great news for all of us, regardless of our age! Being bilingual, which historically has not been the norm in America, is great for your brain. For older folks, a second language can lessen the rate of decline in working memory, processing speed, and overall efficiency.

Of course there is a caveat: Not all developing brains will benefit from learning a second language. I personally know of kiddos who required speech and language therapy because their language development stalled when a second language was introduced. (And I have seen far more students quickly pick up a second or third language with ease.)

What about the issue of whether it’s easier to learn a language when you’re young? You know, the brain plasticity phenomena? Well, that argument can be countered by considering the conditions under which many adults try to learn a second language. For myself, trying to squeeze in the time and opportunities to practice a second language have doomed my efforts so far. I reached a point with Spanish where I could follow a sermon with minimal support. Right now? I shudder to think.

The conditions under which children learn a second language at home are typically supportive, allow for errors, and provide lots of practice. Learning a second language at school really requires expertise and educational leadership. Those once-a-week-30-minute “immersion” classes with songs about colors and numbers have not produced a generation of bilingual students. Teaching a second language requires competent leadership and community involvement, with a systematic plan for advancing student skills as they move from elementary to middle school and beyond.

As for special needs students, pulling them out to provide specialized instruction often occurs during “foreign” language classes. For students who are not communicating well in one language, that makes sense. And if those second language classes were truly effective, we wouldn’t want anyone to miss them.

* Once again with music

Argh. We used the wrong paint so I am repainting the family room AGAIN. I was hoping to keep my blogging streak intact, but duty calls. And my dearest teaching widower. I know it’s going to be gorgeous and I get to listen to my worship music unimpeded! Win-win.

* Easy come, easy go

Seeing is believing. When we saw what happened to this heat pump, we knew the installers were right: It needed to be replaced. Goodbye, $8000.

We also needed a different size print from Great Big Canvas and this is the way returns are handled. Slice and dice. I sure felt like a criminal!

* Personal leave days

Using personal leave days (or PTO or whatever you call it) makes me feel guilty. I know I shouldn’t feel that way but there it is. I have two doctor appointments, both scheduled during my work times and that was the best I could do. Why I feel guilty might be another post. Might be.

The upside is that I get a peek into what my dearest teaching widower does when I am not here. Typically, he is responsible for being home when we have maintenance issues. Today, we are having the sunroom heat pump replaced. It broke several years ago and we are finally making the sunroom a warm place!

The other “interesting” news is that the company installing this new heat pump noticed that one of our main heat pumps is broken. Hmm. We just had it inspected two weeks ago and it was supposedly fine, so my widower is dealing with that conundrum. I’m really glad I don’t stay home very often.

* All we want to do….

All we want to do is watch the NFL playoffs. And all we have done is chat with ATT and stare at fatal error messages on the TV screen.

I am sorry to know that, too, Nova. Eventually Zach G. got us a temporary fix yesterday. Today, Alice applied another temporary fix. And not one of the football teams I’ve supported has won. Boohoo.

* Coyote pelt

I am not griping. I am actually grateful. My dearest teaching widower handled a difficult situation (and me) with grace and patience.

Last summer, my widower and I were faced with a series of unfortunate leaks and flooring disasters. Most of our house was refloored and areas were recarpeted. The home improvement store left us with an unimproved carpeting situation in August. They had previously installed new carpet on the stairs, but then we had all the upstairs carpeting removed and replaced with laminate. It was only after the crew left (past midnight) that we saw the coyote pelt at the top.

See that raggedy strip of carpet? That is a piece of 32-year-old carpet that they had ripped out! They replaced the brand new carpet with a strip of our old pelt. Seriously! I could not look at the stairs without seeing that dingy pelt fastened just below the landing. I frothed at the mouth every time I went near the stairs.

My widower read the signs of impending hysterical phone calls and said he would deal with the company. LAST WEEK, they replaced the coyote pelt. I asked him to snap a picture of it before it was repaired.

Am I happy about it? Not completely. It still looks jagged, even though it’s new carpet. But my dearest widower spared me months of saying things I would have regretted, of potential lawsuits, and tons of repentance. A raggedy edge pales in comparison to that! He knows that harsh words would stir up more than a messed up strip of carpet.

* Buster the triop

If you haven’t raised triops, you’re missing out. You’ve all probably heard about “sea monkeys,” which are type of brine shrimp. They’re probably the princes and princesses of instant pets. I consider triops, a similar crustacean with the appearance of a miniature horseshoe crab, a far superior instant pet. The kings and queens. And Buster was a great credit to his species.

I purchased a Discovery Prehistoric Sea Creatures Kit and was surprised that I needed so many extra items, like a lamp for heating the distilled water and a thermometer to make sure the water was 80 degrees. It was a bit of a hassle, and required some transportation, but the critters are adorable and worth the effort. Most online reviews of this kit are very negative; eggs not hatching, extra equipment, and water temperature being the primary issues.

Triops start off as tiny tadpole-like critters and then darken and grow significantly. They have three eyes and breathe through feathery gills on their legs. Like his sibs, Buster is a cannibal and will eat any smaller versions of himself. However, Buster made the ultimate sacrifice as he visited school and then passed away. Our efforts to isolate him for viewing purposes strained his little body. His larger sibs will also make the school journey and we hope to have better outcomes for them. Triops do have a short life span (3 months) but Buster only lived about a week. Sad but true.

A question to consider is how your students can handle the life and death of little critters like these. Older students may enjoy lively discussions on the ethics of raising triops. In our case, Buster has followed on the heels of tardigrades, so we are used to seeing miniature creatures disappear. Naming these guys does add an element of anthropomorphism and possible attachment. I wouldn’t grow them with younger kiddos, maybe because I am so sentimental about critters. Gosh, I even name my trees and have been told that’s not a wise thing.

* Puppets galore!

Check out this awesome nonprofit organization, Puppet Show Inc. Founded by Kathie Guild, long-time guidance counselor and puppeteer extraordinaire, Puppet Show provides a wealth of opportunities for social-emotional learning, creativity, puppet creation, and family interactions. In fact, these are the kinds of activities promoted by Katherine Reynolds Lewis in her book, “The Good News About Bad Behavior.” Spending quality family time is key to improving behavior. Consider this kind of engaging community event instead of screen time. If you live in Orange, Durham, or Chatham counties in North Carolina, you won’t want to miss out on a performance.

Cilick here to watch a short video of kids enjoying shows and creating take-home puppets

Puppet Show is special for many reasons, one being that it provides free, unique opportunities for kids in communities who are typically don’t have access to performances with such strong social learning and literacy.

As a board member of this nonprofit and a long-time teacher of social skills and literacy, I can guarantee that this is a worthwhile endeavor reaching hundreds of children each year!

When you shop at AmazonSmile, Amazon donates .5% to Puppet Show Incorporated!