TREEmendous possibilities…

I must confess up front…I’m sitting in a coffee shop on the campus of USC and it’s actually raining in LA today.  My computer is fired up (like all the other studious patrons on site) and I’m sipping a white chocolate mocha with my sweet husband while we wait for our oldest daughter, Rachel, to complete a rehearsal.  Rachel is an oboe/English horn player completing her graduate degree in performance.  Her big graduate recital and concert are this weekend and we’re here to celebrate with her.  Obviously, I’m not on campus today, but this won’t stop me from challenging CBtreeyou with a question anyway (and yes, it came from a student too)…

Rachel’s Christmas tree greeted us in her little LA bungalow.  It most likely looks familiar to you (I’m particularly fond of the blue washcloth at the base).  While her friends have interesting comments to make, this little tree conveys great potential and stands strongest as a symbol of, in her words, “treemendous possibilities, mom!”  So, as you get ready to usher in December 2012 this weekend, take time to ponder this seasonal question:  What makes a Christmas Tree so special to you and what is your favorite Christmas Tree story?  Here’s hoping you always think in terms of TREEmendous possibilities!

Somebody NOSE we SCENT them cheer!

It was Mark Twain who once commented:  “The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer somebody else up.”  Such is the goal today with a group of thoughtful learners who are making cards, decorating some candy cane reindeer treats, and wrapping up giftcards they are donating to local senior citizens.  You see, in place of purchasing each other gifts this year and sharing during their upcoming party, they are paying it forward to share with others.

While one group was working diligently on a certain task, an intense conversation about favorite holiday smells took place.  Of course, this led to our question today:  Of all the smells of the season, which one is your personal favorite and why is this smell so memorable to you?

As is expected during these chance classroom encounters, I was pressured to share my thoughts with the group.  Peppermint happens to be one scent in particular I cherish–its refreshing and exhilarating smell instantly takes me back to my grandfather’s office and his top right desk drawer where he always kept Bob’s peppermint sticks on hand (the soft, melting sticks).  My sister and I would race into his office (regardless of who might be present at the time), open the drawer, and grab one for each hand (his rule).  🙂

Whether you have a personal favorite seasonal smell or not, these learners and I challenge you today to be SCENTsationally aware of the holiday smells in your world…and don’t forget to share it with others along the way.  After all, as one learner noted:  “Somebody NOSE we SCENT them cheer when these goodies arrive!”  🙂 Yes, keeping Christmas throughout the year is good, but sharing it with others is even better!  🙂

JOYful pearls of wisdom…

A 5th grade conversation went like this today:

  • Student:  Here’s question for you today!
  • Me:  Great!  Let’s hear it!
  • Student:  Do you have a favorite ornament that is dear to you, Mrs. Van?
  • Me:  You bet I do and thanks for asking!
  • Student:  Please write about it and send it to our class so we can grade your paper.
  • Me:  Sure ‘nough; consider it done!

Here’s hoping my writing passes their test . . .  🙂

One of my favorite words in the English language is “JOY.”  While happiness is wonderful, it concentrates more on a circumstance of life, a moment in time, or a specific situation.  Happiness is something we can achieve; JOY is something we are given.  JOY is unpredictable–it cannot be downloaded, legislated, turn on with an electronic device, earned, or even inherited…JOY is simply given to us.  JOY is a deep, soulful reaction bringing extraordinary delight to the receiver.

There is an ornament I keep close at hand all year (it hangs on my tree during the season, but is shown here on a sprig of rosemary–also from Granny’s original plant).  This little ornament proudly displays my favorite word, JOY, lovingly embroidered by Granny’s hand.  We had a conversation one day about the difference between happiness and JOY.  This special ornament was her way of always reminding me of her “JOYful pearl of wisdom” (she had a real knack for sharing lots of pearls of wisdom through the years!).  She told me if I was “ever to receive JOY in life, make a way for it to come to you…happiness is great, but JOY is the best gift ever!”  🙂

So, of course, here’s the question for you today:  Is there a special ornament you or your family treasures most and what’s the story behind it?  Here’s hoping you share a JOYful pearl of wisdom of your own this season!

What’s your story?

I had the privilege today to read with a small group of learners who wanted to talk about the book Christmas Cookies.  Written by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and illustrated by Jane Dyer, this literary treat captures the spirit of the holiday season.  Through the simple analogy of baking and eating cookies (something young learners can relate to well), sometimes difficult concepts and ideas to share like tradition, gratitude, or graciousness are simply explained.  From making the same kind of cookies each year (tradition) to decorating the cookies with lots of sprinkles (celebrate), these young readers gobbled up the big vocabulary words and holiday lessons.  The little morsels of wisdom sprinkled throughout the story with the quaint illustrations are as tasty as cookies right out of the oven actually!

So this brings me to our question today, courtesy of these young readers:  If you were writing a new classic holiday story, what would it be about, where would it take place, who would be in it, and why would we want to read it?  We all have our holiday favorites–those Christmas Classics we read year after year.  We challenge you though to explore new stories and create some on your own too!  What’s your story?  🙂

Family Fun Events this season…

For some free family-fun events this holiday season, please check out these opportunities:

MISD Winter Holiday Free Entertainment
Nov. 30 – MISD Elementary All-City Choir Concerts, 6p.m. & 8p.m., MHS Auditorium (free tickets at elem. schools)
Dec. 3 –  5K Reindeer Dash Run/Race, 6 p.m., MHS parking lot
Dec. 6-7:  MHS Theater ‘Pride & Prejudice’, 7 p.m., MHS Auditorium
Dec. 11:   MHS Christmas Band Concert, 6:30 p.m., MHS Auditorium
Dec. 13:  MHS Holiday Choir Concert, 7 p.m., MHS Auditorium
Dec. 17:  FSMS Christmas Band Concert, 6:30 p.m., MHS Auditorium
Dec. 18:  WGMS Christmas Band Concert, 6:30 p.m., MHS Auditorium
Dec. 20-21:  MISD Early Release
Dec. 24 – Jan. 7, 2013 No School: Christmas Break
Jan. 7 – No School: Staff Development Day

City of Midlothian
Dec. 1-2:  Southern Star Christmas Celebration:
Dec. 9:  Annual Motorcycle Parade Toy Run, Downtown on 8th Street, 11-11:30 a.m.

Sentiments of the Season…

It’s great to be back at school and walking-about our hallways and classrooms today!  It’s great to see smiling faces and the obvious excitement building now that the holidays are upon us.  Is there anything more fun to a child than the anticipation of the holidays?  Capturing all the sights, sounds, scents, and sentiments of the holidays can be a daunting task at times though.  The reason for the season can be so powerful it is challenging to express the story, but my friend, Justin, helped me focus today on the importance of sharing sentimential thoughts.

Notice his card here that he created in his classroom’s writing workstation.  The inside says, “SNOW kidding, I love you Grammy, thiiissss much and so does Santa so you better watch out and be good!”  Cute, huh?!  He put lots of love, artwork, and thought into making his Grammy smile and know she’s special to him (and to Santa).  We talked about why we send cards during the holidays and what it means to others.

As is our LME tradition each year, I begin our morning message each day for the weeks between our two breaks with a Question of the Day.  The first question today is dedicated to Justin:  “What was the greatest holiday sentiment you remember receiving from a friend or family member?”  The real challenge now is to send someone a special greeting or sentiment this season; you never know the impact it may have on the other person’s life!  Here’s to many special sentiments of the season!  🙂

Note:  Speaking of impacts on others, we greatly appreciate all the Angel Tree help you are giving to the annual LME Angel Tree!  Please continue to send those gifts into the office this week.  Please contact Mrs. Stanley, our caring counselor, if you need assistance or have questions.   

Thanksgiving Every Day…

The table is brimming with good things to eat;
We’re surrounded by family and friends; what a treat.
The feelings that fill us today can’t be beat;
It’s Thanksgiving Day, and it all feels complete.

But other days, sometimes, things don’t seem so fine;
Those days are not polished and don’t seem to shine.
It’s then in our minds, we forget all the good,
And think of the things we would get, if we could.

On days when our thinking causes us dread,
If we could remember, it’s all in our head,
And not let our minds take our gratitude away,
Then we’d make every day like Thanksgiving Day.

-By Karl Fuchs

Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours today…and every day!  🙂

The Power of Thanks…

I received the sweetest card in the mail today from a student who wrote me a note (while we’re out of school this week too) thanking me for the opportunity to attend a school like LaRue Miller Elementary.  It’s proudly displayed for my family and friends to note while visiting this week.  Thanks, Lily; you certainly made my week!

The power of the written word, especially one penned in hand by a student, is simply sublime…so in the spirit of Thanksgiving, please allow me a moment to bestow the important benefits of two simple words:  Thank You.

These two words truly have the power to transform our health, happiness, performance, personal excellence, and ultimate success.  Researchers note how grateful people are happier and more likely to maintain good friendships.  An attitude of gratitude in shown to improve the heart’s rhythmic functioning, which helps us to reduce stress, think more clearly under pressure, and heal faster physically.  My own cardiologist tells me it is actually physiologically impossible to be stressed and thankful at the same time!  When you are grateful you flood your body and brain with positive reactions (and those important endorphins) to uplift and energize rather than drain you.

Gratitude and appreciation are also essential for a healthy learning environment.  Teachers know a simple thank you or a show of appreciation can make all the difference to a child.

Gratitude is like muscle in the body though—the more we do with it, the stronger it gets.  In the spirit of the this week, here are 4 ways to practice Thanksgiving every day of the year (as shared by Jon Gordon in his book The Energy Bus):

  1. Take a Daily “Thank You” Walk – Take a simple 5-minute walk each day and say out loud what you are thankful for; it sets you up for a positive day.
  2. Meal Time Thank You’s – On Thanksgiving, or just at dinner with your friends and family, go around the table and have each person say what they are thankful for that day (and everyday).
  3. Gratitude Visit – Write a letter or card expressing your gratitude to someone (just like my friend Lily). Then visit the person and read them the letter or card.
  4. Say “Thank You” to Someone Everyday – When we take time out to sincerely and authentically express our appreciation to someone, we most definitely help ourselves in the process.

Thank you for supporting our work at LME everyday.  Thank you for sharing your most valuable resource with us everyday—your precious learner.  May you have a blessed Thanksgiving filled with food, fun, fellowship, thanks, and giving with those you hold dear.  🙂

Super Outrageous Science ROCKS today!

It’s our annual SOS Day and the hallways and classrooms are filled to the brim with super-cool experiments and challenging scientific discoveries!  Learners and classroom leaders are dressed as scientists to embark on multiple scientific journeys in classroom labs across our campus.  Volunteers and community members assisted in planning and implementing unique, engaging, and meaningful lessons involving inquiry, discovery, and the scientific method.  Everything from creating oobleck to analyzing a crime scene became reality today.

We were also blessed to have our friends from Wildlife On The Move join us for several shows throughout the day.  Learners were treated to the expertise of experienced presenters dedicated to helping everyone become more knowledgeable about various critters in our natural world.  They especially enjoyed helping students develop an appreciation for nature while fostering better understanding of the earth’s wildlife and natural resources.  Each critter’s role in our natural environment is shared while the animals are presented in an entertaining and educational manner.  There were LOTS of comments and exclamatory statements throughout each excellent presentation!
Schoolwide events like SOS are the creation of an extraordinary vision by our LME staff.  Teachers are instrumental in finding needs (like science) and filling them in fun, engaging ways.  Grateful thanks to our classroom teachers, the LME Science Committee, parent volunteers, community helpers, and visitors who embraced this vision.  As a class of learners shared with me, “Science ROCKS!”

Note:  Please enJOY the next week away from school responsibilities, homework, and schedules.  May your week be filled to overflowing and shower you in extraordinary blessings of thanks and giving!  🙂

Feasts and Trade Days and Aprons…oh my!

It’s been a most productive and engaging community learning experience at LME today!

Our second grade learners bartered throughout the day for their annual Trade Days event.  Students used their creative and crafty homemade skills to produce items for bartering with other students.

Our parents and other community friends enJOYed feasting in the Cafe during our annual Thanksgiving Family Event.  Many friends dressed for the occasion (as seen in the pics below).

The Science Fair is in full swing until later this evening and there are still bargains to be made in the store.  Thanks to our volunteers who worked the areas and helped us prepare for SOS tomorrow as well!  We look forward to welcoming Wildlife On The Move as special presenters during the day.  Just a reminder:  SOS runs from 8:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Friday!

Finally, our Miller Staff celebrated National Apron Day early (historically the day before Thanksgiving in America) by modeling their favorite aprons throughout the day.  Prizes were awarded for Voter’s Choice Best Vintage, Best Collection, Craftiest Homemade, and Most Clever with a Name.

Blessings and attitudes of gratitude abound in the hallways and classrooms of LME!  As one Miller friend noted, “Thanks for feasts and trade days and aprons, oh my!”  🙂

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