Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Great Stuff to Check Out!!

Hi all ~

In a rush, as usual, these days. But wanted to make mention of a couple of things and head you in the direction for some fun and interesting stuff ~ at least, it was to me ~ ~ ~

Today (9-24-08) is NATIONAL PUNCTUATION DAY ~ Bet you didn't even know ... and here's a great website that explains everything you ever wanted to know about punctuation! When you get to the site, you'll see a menu of various punctuation marks. Click on any one to find out what it is, and how to use it properly: ~ actually, you never know when it might come in handy ~ better bookmark it!! (P.S. added on Thursday ~ So many people went there on Wed. that it overloaded the site's bandwith and temporarially shut it down ~ try back later). Here's another good site:

YOU WILL LOVE THIS!!!!! Well, I did and I think you will ~ today I went to a blog recommended on a friend's blog (something I do for "fun" and "curiosity" every now and then and I find some of the coolest things). So, my next-door neighbor, Leigh, has a lot of cooking blogs and homemaking blogs listed and one caught my eye today ~ "Not Quite June Cleaver" ~ I went there and it was GREAT ~ fun lady with lots of great recipes and homemaking ideas and her entry today featured the video clip of a couple dancing at their wedding ~ you may have seen it, but it was the first I had seen it and it was darling ~ so, if you get there after she has added addtional posts, be sure to scroll down to the one titled: "Wedded Bliss" and watch the short clip. Cute, cute, cute and then browse around because she has a TON of great stuff there.

By the way, I sent out an email this morning, but for those who don't get my emails, I wanted everyone to know how grateful and proud I am of Jordin Sparks for standing up for chastity ~ I have loved Jordin Sparks (sweet Glendale, ARIZONA gal) since she first sang on American Idol and was so happy she won, but she really is high on my list with her stance on wearing a promise ring that she would not have sex before marriage. In order to watch this clip from "Hannity & Colmes" you have to ENDURE the obnoxious British MC making his own political commentary but that part only lasts seconds and then it goes on to the interview with Jordin. Below is the link to a YouTube video of Jordin on FOX News' Hannity and Colmes show. She talks about the comments she made in favor of chastity before marriage at the Video Music Awards on Sunday which have created a massive buzz around her. Check it out!

Meridian (online) Magazine article as well:

Also, this Friday is Johnny Appleseed's birthday ~ we have been studying him all week at school and today we sampled 5 different varieties of apples as part of our lesson (I threw in some simple fraction lessons as well) and it was such fun. The kids LOVED it. Just do a search on "Johnny Appleseed" and you can find a bunch of stuff you can use for your family - your kids will love learning about him and tasting apples - so why not "celebrate" his birthday on Friday. Make an apple pie or something.

OK, I've got stuff to do so that's all for now.

Love and Blessings,

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Brain is Full

You know how sometimes your stomach is just as "full" as it can be? That's how my brain has been feeling lately. It is just plain OVERLOADED ... too much going on, too much reading for preparing for class, too many Internet searches for just the right worksheet for school, too much thinking, if that's even possible and this, from someone who LOVES to think, study, read and learn.

So, a couple of random things (are we surprised I would be random?? ~ nope). This is Constitution Week and I hope you are all aware of it and doing things with your family to remember what a treasure this country is to us and at what a cost to the founders we enjoy it today. If you live locally and read this before Saturday evening, there is a very cool Constitution Fair that starts at 6 PM at Highland High School ~ fun for the whole family:

Anyway, I'm disturbed by all the stress I see my little 7 year old students having over their school work. I want them to love learning and they are just plain stressing over the littlest thing. I gave an unannounced spelling pre-test on a list I passed out on Monday and I had 3 meltdowns... despite the fact that I said it wasn't for a grade, that it wasn't going home and that it was only for ME to see how they were doing so I would know which words we needed to go over. Good grief. I can't say much because that would be inappropriate to mention if any school parent tracks down what I ever have to say on the web, so I'll just say I could not believe how upset a few of them got.

The other thing that has been going on is that Mandy (in Nevada) is about to do battle with some school officials over what they have done to the math program in Clark County because the district was scoring poorly in math. So, "they" wrote a new, very ridiculous, math program with problems that resemble the ones found on the annual test. Well, if the problems she read to me over the phone are indicative of what is found on the test, NO WONDER they are scoring poorly, because they are the most confusing math questions you would ever imagine. When a mom (Mandy) who aced College Algebra is unable to help her son with his 3rd grade math, something is wrong. This "teaching to the test" nonsense is ruining the real education of our future generations. OK, I better not go there or I'll be up all night.

So, where does any of this lead? Probably not to a good night's sleep, which I could really use about now. But perhaps to a delightful new "hero" I found just two days ago when looking for something in reference to my classroom. I happened across his material and read and read it. I picked up his book at the library today (although I haven't had two minutes to even look at it yet) but you will LOVE the title: Discipline without Stress, Punishments or Rewards by Dr. Marvin Marshall. (The subtitle is "How Teachers and Parents Promote Responsibility & Learning"). It teaches how internal motivation is far more powerful and effective in changing behavior than punishments or rewards. I can't wait to read it and implement it. But even more than that, I loved what he had to say about testing and grades. What do you think?

Here's the website about the book: ~ check out the sample chapters, especially Collaboration for Quality Learning ~ WOW, does that ever make sense ~ instead of this we are creating "competetion" and that promotes cheating and kids asking questions like: "Is it going to be on the test?" ~ they no longer want to learn for the sake of learning, but only care about what they are going to be tested on (sounds like some districts we know of, hmmm). It's really fascinating. Also, I think you'd really love going to HIS website and watching a minute and a half video of one of his presentations ~ ~ I can't stop thinking of his perspective and how much sense it makes in nearly all aspects of life.

Well, I need to get to bed. But this is the stuff that has been rattling around in my brain lately. See how it does in yours!! Take care!


Monday, September 8, 2008

BOOK REVIEW: The Santa Letters

The Santa Letters by Stacy Anderson

~ NO, it’s NOT too early to review a Christmas book!!! ~
I’m a sucker for Christmas stories. I collect them, in all their varieties. I have an entire bookcase and DVD case full of Christmas stories and movies. Some are individual stories and others are compilations of Christmas stories, either store-bought or homemade with precious holiday tales that have been copied over and over again. I also collect nativities. I’m kind of a Christmas junkie, so I was pretty pleased to discover a new Christmas book this year. It’s called The Santa Letters by Stacy Gooch Anderson and it’s destined to become a Christmas classic, possibly a best-seller.

Having been raised by a remarkable woman of great service and joy who loved everything about Christmas I don’t think anything could take away the happiness of the season for me. As a child, every inch of our home was decorated, including the bathrooms. Christmas music is played at my house from November 1st until the New Year. Even though my precious mother passed away one week before Christmas ten years ago, I have not lost my love of the season when we celebrate the best gift we could ever receive, the birth of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

Christmas movies are playing most of the time during the holidays at the Abney home and my children love to tease me about my “B” movies because many well-intended Christmas movies are made on a shoestring budget and lack some of the glamour and finesse of Hollywood, but they still find a home in my heart, year after year. I can be very forgiving when it comes to a good Christmas story. And although I found some things that took me away from the story in this first novel of journalist Stacy Anderson, by the time I finished reading it, I could hardly remember what they were… except for the fact that I’m such a goofball note taker that I even take notes when I read. And since I have so many good things to say about this story, let’s just get this part over with: I found it to be frequently melodramatic, particularly the foreshadowing in the first chapter. Some of the dialogue seemed very contrived; as if Stacy was trying too hard. And the image of this line especially took me right out of the story: “… as tears streamed down her face, making zebra stripes out of her mascara.” (Sorry, Stacy, because I think you are charming and wonderful, but that was just plain odd for me). Some other things distracted me, but as I said, by the time I closed the book, they no longer mattered.

This book is not just for the Christian audience ~ it’s for those that believe ~ altruistic people everywhere will enjoy it. It’s a story to help everyone remember how blessed they truly are and the importance of family and being there for each other, especially when sorrow visits your doorstep.

For Emma, tragedy occurs on Christmas Eve when her husband is hit and killed by a drunken driver, leaving Emma to pick up the pieces and raise her four children alone. However, she soon realizes she isn’t really alone as grandparents and neighbors pitch in. Even the loving help of others can’t fill the hole in her heart. It’s nearly Christmas again and Emma has neither the Christmas spirit nor the funds to give her children the holiday they deserve … and then twelve days before Christmas, letters and packages begin to appear on her doorstep. Each letter is lovingly crafted by a sweet long-winded (something I know plenty about) Santa and day by day he leads Emma and her children on a journey of self-discovery that you will not soon forget.

I didn’t interview Stacy for this book tour stop but I have read many emails from her and spoken to her on the phone and she is one of the sweetest people you would ever want to talk to. She is coming to Mesa for book signings in November and we can’t wait and I will have all the details about her schedule when she is in town on this blog so be sure to check back often.

DayStar Media (they do religious programming for cable and network TV) contacted Stacy and invited her to fly to Tennessee for a talk show featuring her new book. And here’s something totally awesome ~ Stacy sent a copy to the First Lady, Laura Bush, and recently received a lovely thank you letter from the White House on official stationary with the Presidential Seal signed personally by Laura Bush thanking Stacy for her sweet words of support and for sending her a signed copy of The Santa Letters which has now become one of Mrs. Bush’s Christmas favorites! How cool is that? You go, girl!!! This is such an amazing ride for a deserving new author. I wish her the best of everything.

You can purchase The Santa Letters here:

Visit Stacy's blog here:
or her website:


Thursday, September 4, 2008

In My Heart Forever

This is a tender time to be blogging ~ tomorrow would have been BJ's 24th birthday and I know he would have grown up to be such a fine man. I miss him all the time. Some times are harder than others... but I had the sweetest experience that I would like to share. If you've read anything anywhere that I've posted lately: on this blog, ANWA's blog or via email, then you know I'm teaching full-time this year (after many years of substitute teaching). I'm 57 years old and a little nuts to boot. But I do love it. The kids are great and they crack me up... not that there haven't been a few "moments" when I wondered why I wanted to do this. But, mostly, it's been truly gratifying... but also, OVERWHELMING as I have such varied abilities in my class of 6, 7, 8 and even a 9 year old. I've tried so many approaches to reach all of them from where they are at so we can build on it and keep on going. Some things have worked out well and others, well... not so much.

Seems no matter how hard I've tried (and no matter how many HOURS I've spent preparing, or how much $$$$ I've spent) I have felt frustrated that I just am not getting there yet... so on Sunday, I asked Jim for a priesthood blessing. He gave me one after church and although he was the only other person in the room and the only one with his hands on my head as he pronounced the blessing, he continually said, "WE bless you... and WE bless you..." (with this and that...). I felt like someone else was there but no one was physically. When he was done (and the blessing was very sweet and helpful - but I'm still trying to figure a lot of stuff out), anyway, I asked him about saying "we" throughout the blessing" and he simply said, "None of it was my own words, Stephanie... I just said what the Lord told me to." And then I realized, that it was BJ who was helping him give me the blessing and I asked him what he thought. Jim agreed; it must have been BJ. I felt even more comforted by the blessing and Monday was quite good... but I'm still figuring things out.

At any rate, we usually have a family party on BJ's birthday and even get a cake that says, "Happy Heavenly Birthday" or something like that... however, tomorrow night is the 50's dance at school and I guess that's where we are headed and Saturday is our ward talent show... maybe Sunday we can do something special for his birthday.

So, tomorrow, I'll think of BJ but I'll be at school most of his birthday. I thought I would share a little cinquain poem I wrote a year before BJ passed away and then I'll head to bed. Take care.

A gift from God
Grace our lives for a time
Remain in our hearts forever
Stephanie Abney ~ © 1999