* Weeds are fine, sweat- meh

As much as I loved spring, with its vibrant flowers and fragrances, the beginning of summer is great for flowering weeds, not so great for long walks. We’re talking about major sweating here- and the temps are still moderate for this time of year. I guess 6-foot distancing is best since I look like I have a dripping fever.

The weed below is a Carolina horse nettle. My dearest teaching widower would be proud that I didn’t touch it!

Magnolia trees are not weeds, but since I DO grab sniff all the lowest blossoms, I must include this gorgeous one. The flowers of this ancient plant do not have true petals. In fact, this early flowering giant has been around for 36+ million years! I guess the above blossom may be a fossil in the making. I do love to see the stamen, lying there like candy matchsticks. Truly delish!

* Oh, deer

You know how incensed I get when the local deer rip out my plants? And how I yell and bark at them to no avail? Well, I take all that back every year around this time, when our hill becomes a fawn parking lot.

Sorry for the photo quality. This was taken through the window. Quietly.

We do have a set of twins up there but it’s the only child, Fawnville, who entertains us daily. Fawnville started off wobbly and uncertain, but he’s now into dizzying sprints. His mom has to trail after him; keeping him out of mischief is a full time job. She already looks weary, kind of like other parents in quarantine. I keep reminding her that this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, I am silent as they rip out the remaining periwinkles.

* ESL Kids Download review

A reader asked me to check out his company’s website, so here is my review of ESL Kids Download. This site is aimed at ESL learners, most likely Asian but applicable to young kids learning English with British spelling, offering four main products: books on phonics and grammar, flashcards, and puzzles.

The ESL Kids Download phonics series is of particular interest to me because phonics opens the door to early reading in an effective manner. These materials, all of which have free samples, are systematically organized to teach phonics effectively. Or at least as effectively as a pdf can do. Obviously, these books should be paired with live instruction of some sort. The illustrations are simple and colorful.

The grammar books are likewise well-sequenced and have content that is kindergarten through early elementary-based. They are heavily reliant upon fine motor skills, which is in fact a related skill being taught through these materials. For youngsters who have the dexterity and can manage to sit through so much writing (which many kids with special needs would find problematic), these would be effective in learning the basics of conversations, pronoun usage, verb tenses, and other skills.

ESL Kids Download offers an excellent set of flashcards paired with clear and colorful images. Their puzzles also support a wide range of skills.

This website includes links to its sister sites, including MANY games which look very appealing to me. (I think the links should open in a new page, but maybe I’m picky.) The bigger problem with the games is that they run on Flash Player, which has been abandoned by Adobe and is more easily hacked than the HTML5 code. Too bad! I mean you could allow Flash Player, but I wouldn’t.

If you are interested in downloadable phonics materials, if you use British spelling, and if you have students who are really into writing and drawing, this would be a good option. I do wish I could play their games!

Foot on the Gas

If you are a writer, you’ll easily identify with Devon as she shares her publishing quandaries, her amazing self-discipline, and her passion for writing. There is something so universal about her love of writing; it reminds me of the love of teaching. I hope you enjoy this post!

the starving artist

Well, I will have my first writing group Zoom on Wednesday. (Perhaps we were all enjoying being cut off from civilization for a while, but now we know we must connect in order to keep the group alive.) I have so much to report, though there are things I wish I could be saying.

Here’s the deal: my life has stayed somewhat the same under the Stay-at-Home Order. I was a home school mom and I still am (without co-op and with an additional, though self-sufficient, kid at home). I was a homemaker and I still am. (I have discovered that I clean for me as much as for any possible guests. I like a clean and tidy and aesthetic space.) I was a home cook and I still am (with the added responsibility of foraging, which is a precarious and enormous project that I center around every-other Friday). I…

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* Fear of blogging?

Sometimes I hate to blog. I know folks have written comments for me to read and I know those comments are sitting idly on a runway to nowhere. I know I have neglected all those blogs taking flight to other worlds, with their photos and stories to enjoy. If only I could take off and fly this thing!

It has occurred to me that I’m paralyzed by fear of blogging- and worse. Here are some symptoms:

  • If I read too many of Pete Springer‘s awesome posts (like, just one), I immediately stop blogging.
  • I once paid a slightly desperate blogger for 5 re-posts of anything, but that was four years ago. I have yet to write a post worth re-blogging. And yes, I still ask a different, not desperate blogger, Suzi Speaks, to help me! She has righted the craft many times.
  • I never ever reread any of my posts unless under duress, such as when I’m quoted and then flabbergasted that I wrote such a nonsensical thought. I accidentally read what I posted today (Sunday) and immediately saw a typo, thereby reinforcing my desire to avoid rereading.

What’s worse than fear of blogging? What’s really at the core of my phobia? Foolish comparison with others. What other charming passenger lurks in the tail of my plane? Fear of what others think. And wait for it- there is yet another creepy item in the cargo hold. Perfectionism (which is a nicer name for pride).

I think it’s time for an oxygen mask to fall out of the ceiling. And I have almost exhausted my airplane analogies. You’re welcome.

As this post plummets out of control (gotcha!), let me tell you what the black box says: She tried writing quickly to keep perfectionism from stalling the craft. Too late. She veered off with a draft, which merely joined trillions of other drafts waiting to be deleted. Then she started chatting about Vesna Vulović, who fell 33,000 feet from an airplane and survived. Major ouch and nothing a sane person would desire! Finally, she thought about her dearest teaching widower, who would have had to listen to all these ramblings if she hadn’t written them down. He cannot tolerate any more phonics talk at the dinner table.

Well then….

Because I love him and I love all things education, especially the kiddos and their fams, I’m in. For at least this week.

* Weekend coffee share for tea drinkers

Hola! Hello! I have not felt like blogging much lately, as you may have noticed. Sometimes I feel so excited about blogging and at other times, I shrug it off like a wet coat. I’m in a tea-drinking-chocolate-eating mode right now, so I’m joining the weekend coffee share hosted by Eclectic Alli. She’s in the field of library science, which looked to be a dinosaur at one point. But it’s reemerging through technology and that kind of degree can now open more than library doors.

The point of this blog is to share what’s been going on in my life, so here’s a glance.

I was looking worse than this in many ways, but fortunately, hair salons opened Friday at 5! I was first in line.

The honeysuckle and privet hedges around here have been blossoming, their fragrances assuring me I don’t have the virus. Sadly, spring has started drowning in early summer heat and humidity. Speaking of drowning, I’d love to go swimming instead of walking, even with a hole in my head ear, but who knows when indoor pools will reopen? I do know that my knees can’t take much more walking.

On the topic of “can’t take much more,” how will students and families and school districts solve the conundrum of back-to-school in the fall? From an equity standpoint, we already poorly navigate educational waters with students of color and families in poverty. How much more have we curtailed their prospects now that learning is remote? What good is a Chromebook if there is no connectivity? That begs the question of how well students work in small quarters with larger families whose parents are unemployed or working long hours out of the home.

In my neighborhood, we had teddy bears in windows so that kids on walks with their parents could wave. Just saying.

My dearest teaching widower has a week of radiation under his belt. He’s still as sweet as ever. My great nephew is continuously looking for ways to help around the house. They watch tear-jerker movies together and I join them to watch action flicks. They drink coffee and I drink Tetley’s English blend. We all eat chocolate.

Thanks for joining me!

* Weekend Chocolate Share

I’m joining Eclectic Alli’s Weekend Coffee Share, despite the cup of tea in my hand and bits of Cadbury milk chocolate on my shirt. SHH! It’s been a week of increased prayer, chocolate, and bible reading.

My dearest teaching widower has recovered quickly from surgery and starts radiation treatment soon. He’s such a sweetheart! [I just remembered that our anniversary is next month! Wow! I will get an extra point for that. We hardly ever celebrate it, but whoever remembers it first gets a point. I’m racking it up this year.]

Speaking of sweet men, our 18-year-old great nephew (GN) has now been living with us for a month. What a challenge for him! He’s already learned that folks in their seventies are hard of hearing and addicted to chocolate. GN’s partial to sour gummy worms but I do share my chocolate stash. I think that’s true love.

I’m so happy! Having GN here has reminded me of the peace in our lives, the joy of sharing movies, and the immense privilege of being saved. Thank you, Jesus!

What about you?

* Picture this!

Cee has posted terrific photos on the hunt for joy challenge: start a garden. Don’t miss her amazing collection of flowers and plants (indoors and out). I recently downloaded the Picture This app for identifying the delightful flowers I’ve enjoyed on my walks through the neighborhood.

I’ve taken scads of photos on my wanderings, secretively discretely snapping photos of folk’s yards and stopping to capture images of gorgeous wild flowers on the trails. So many outdoor gardens, so little time.

If you’re curious about plants, looking for something to do, or have kids who enjoy scavenger hunts/collections, this app is a handy dandy tool!

* Recovery

My dearest teaching widower (DTW) has come out of surgery and is in recovery. This is just the start of our new adventure with cancer. We have many dear ones praying for us!!

This hospital is SO empty! They have us in the ICU area which makes me especially glad we’re not in NYC. The closest tv is all about the virus and I’m sitting with a bunch of other masked women waiting for their DTW’s. Women are hardy stock, right?

I’m grateful that I’ve been asked many times how we’re doing. In fact, that was the first thing I asked my DTW after the diagnosis. He said, “It is what it is. God has always been faithful to us and always will be.”

Our Father never changes. He’s been with us in all our adventures. He hears every cry, sees every tear, and holds us close at every moment. This is no different.

* Gone phishing

With folks under stay-at-home orders, here’s been a huge increase worldwide in online activity and shopping. Parents are trying out online grocery shopping for the first time- and they like it! Kids are trying out remote learning- meh for some!

It’s not a cliche: Many students have long outdistanced their parents and teachers in the Tech Savvy department. Regardless of skills, though, more internet use does mean more opportunities for bad actors. Here are a few potential scenarios. Netflix informs you that your account has been hacked. Instagram contacts your teen to confirm account activity. Your bank alerts you to suspicious withdrawals. Do you know if these are legit? How good are you or your kids at avoiding phishing scams?

If you aren’t confident at identifying malicious activity or if you simply want to challenge your youngster to an online duel, Google has the quiz for you!

Click here to test your skills!