Category Archives: Daily Log

To Write or Not To Write: letters, that is

I don’t live anywhere near my nieces and nephews. In fact, the closest ones live three hours away. Some are more than six. Since I don’t always see them as often as I would like, I sometimes send them a card or letter in the mail.

 When I was a kid, letters were the only way we could “talk” to family and friends from far away without actually talking to them on the phone. Now, there is texting, email and all sorts of cyber (which means technology and computer based) ways to stay in touch. But, that doesn’t mean we should stop sending letters. There is something exciting and magical about ripping open an envelope and trying to read a letter in someone else’s handwriting.


  1. Ancient letter writers used cloth, animal skin and leaves to wrap up messages for people. Some cultures even enclosed messages in clay pots. These packages were then carried by a messenger from the sender to the recipient. Depending on how far apart the people lived, it could take months or even years for the message to get where it was supposed to go.
  2. In 1837, the first adhesive stamps were created in England by schoolmaster, Rowland Hill. Everyone thought stamps were so awesome, they started sending letters by the gobs. Because he changed the European postal service for the better, Mr. Hill was eventually knighted. So, does that make him Sir Hill?
  3. The Pony Express opened in America in 1860. It was like one giant relay race with the carriers riding as fast as they could on horse from one stop to the next and handing over packages to the next rider. The 2,000 mile journey across the country used many different men and horses to keep the news fresh and fast. It took about ten days to get from one side of the United States to the other and was very dangerous.
  4. The Pony Express, which lasted only 19 months, was never part of the United States Postal Service (USPS). But, that didn’t stop the Albany, New York, Post Office from having an unofficial animal mascot. His name was Owney, a stray mutt who liked to sleep on the mailbags. He sometimes traveled with the mail on rail cars across the state and the country, and even took a trip overseas in 1895.

What kinds of things do you get in the mail? Would you rather get a text message or a letter? Why?

Curious minds want to know.



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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Daily Log


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The Salty Slug and Other Slime Stories

While weeding the garden right around sunset, I noticed a few globs of white in the soil by a decorative log. After a few minutes, they started moving. As they stretched out, they became brown, slimy little feet with two antennae.



As I watched, about two dozen slugs slithered up from the soil and out of the log. No wonder I had so many holes in my rhubarb leaves. Every night, the slugs were leaving their hotel and dining on my plants. Unknowingly, I had created the perfect slug habitat with that moist, half rotted log.

So, what do I know about slugs?

  • They are basically snails without shells, but luckier, because their cousins got brought over from France in the 1850’s so people could eat them. Snails for dinner are called escargot.
  • They dry out when sprinkled with salt (I know, because I was mean enough to do this as a kid in my uncle’s radish patch with my cousins). The process for which they dehydrate, or dry out, is called osmosis.
  • All slugs can lay eggs, which means they are hermaphrodites. In other words, there are no boy slugs or girl slugs. Just different kinds of slugs.
  • Slugs hate the heat. It dries them out almost as fast as salt does. So, if you want to catch a slug, you should do it just as it starts getting dark.
  • When it’s cold, they hide in the topsoil in gardens–or in logs that people think look nice, but really make a great slug hotel!
  • I have eaten a snail once, but I have never eaten any slugs.

So, if snails were brought over from a foreign country because the French people thought they were so yummy, why don’t people eat slugs? I mean, wouldn’t it be easier without the shell and all?

I had to look the answer up. People don’t eat slugs because they are much slimier than snails. Without a shell to protect them from the sun and the salt shaker, slugs have to produce gobs of slime to keep themselves from drying out and dying.

So there you have it. Slugs are more pesky and less tasty than snails.

Have you ever eaten a snail? If you have a garden, how do you take care of the slugs so they don’t ruin your plants?

Curious minds want to know.


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Posted by on September 3, 2014 in Daily Log


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Fantasy Math Class

Ready, Set, Add!

On the radio this morning, an announcer talked about bringing Fantasy Football into math class. The idea is that kids care about sports, so they would actually care about their math problems. Also, Fantasy Football is filled with numbers. Kids would get to draft a team of professional players and then get to earn points based on how well their players did.


Consider this:

  • Quarterbacks earn 3 points for every yard passed.
  • Receivers earn 5 points for every yard ran.
  • A touchdown earns players 6 points.
  • Kickers earn 2 points for every field goal.

My Quarterback threw a 30 yard pass to your Receiver. Your Receiver ran it from the 20 yard line to the one yard line. On the next play, my quarterback dives over the line for a touch down. Your Kicker follows with a fabulous, between-the-posts field goal. Who has more points?

Go ahead, figure it out before you peak at my answer.

  • Let’s see, my QB got me 3 points for each of his 30 yards, so I’ve got 90 points so far.
  • Your Receiver caught 95 points for your team at 5 points times 19 yards.
  • Luckily, my QB earns me 6 more points for his touchdown, and I end up with 96 points.
  • By adding your Kicker’s field goal, you have now earned 97 points.

In regular class, this same problem would look something like this:

Which is bigger, 3 x 30 + 6 or 5 x 19 + 2?

In other words, some educators believe that bringing the field into the classroom will make those boring math problems easier–or at least, more fun–to do. I tend to agree. I tutor math to 3rd graders and we spend most of our time playing games like this. We roll dice, shuffle cards and do everything they never teach you to do in math class. And even though we are having fun, we are practicing math skills by the gobs. By the end of the year, my students are way quicker at math facts than when they started.

I can only imagine how much better they would be if we had a Fantasy Football team to cheer on.

What games do you play that use math? Would you like to add Fantasy Football to your classroom? Why or why not?

Curious minds want to know.

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Posted by on September 2, 2014 in Daily Log


What, exactly, is Labor Day?

Good question, holiday friends.

Labor Day was started back in 1885 to recognize the hard work, otherwise known as labor, that Americans did. It became a national holiday on June 28, 1894. It is always held on the first Monday of September. 

Called the “workingman’s holiday”, Labor Day was traditionally a day off of work for most people. To honor the working class, the first celebrations consisted of street parades. Soon, speeches by famous people were added. Now, it’s common to see all kinds of celebrations, including fairs, carnivals and picnics.

When I was a kid, stores were closed on Labor Day. If we traveled, even the gas stations were closed, so we couldn’t stop to use the restroom or get some fuel. We had to shop the day before and pack all our food for any festivities we did. Usually, we went to the beach or a lake and had a family picnic. I loved that extra-special family time that we didn’t get during the rest of the year when my parents had to work.

Now, many stores have sales on Labor Day. Gas stations and movie theaters and restaurants are open to make the day easier and more fun for vacationers. The working class is once again working.

Do you think it’s fair that people have to work on Labor Day? Why or why not?

Curious minds want to know.


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Posted by on September 1, 2014 in Daily Log


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They Say It’s My Birthday!

Yes! Birthday, birthday, birthday!

For the record, I’ve had nearly a gazillion and  half birthdays by now. Okay, not quite that many, but enough to have collected some pretty awesome birthday memories.

My Favorite Birthday Party: This was actually my big sister’s. She invited her entire class to the park and we made homemade ice cream and played games all afternoon. Being the little sister, I got to be there and help crank the handle on the old fashioned ice cream maker. I have never tasted anything so wonderful in my life.

My Favorite Kind of Cake: Cheesecake. Any kind, but mostly pumpkin or strawberry. Oreo cookie is pretty delicious, too.

My Favorite Present: One year, I got an enormous bird cage and two gorgeous zebra finches. Even though they weren’t with me that long, they were the most amazing birds ever. So tiny and soft, and they chirped so adorably.

My Favorite Ice Cream: Plain old vanilla. Or maybe pumpkin spice frozen yogurt. 

My Favorite Party Game: I always loved pin the tail on the donkey. I have no idea why, but it totally rocked my world.

My Dream Present: Books, books and more books. I love books and everything to do with them. Book bags, pens, paper, journals, fiction, non-fiction. I love it all.

My Dream Birthday Party: Camping in the Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota with my family. We would spend the day canoeing and hiking. Along the way we would find wild blueberries warmed by the sun. We’d pick them for dessert, then set up camp in time to catch our dinner. We’d squeeze lemon over the top of pan fish (cute little fish like sunnies and blue gills) and wrap them up in tinfoil with a slab of butter before cooking them over the campfire. As the sun set, we’d roast smores and tell ghost stories until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. Just before crawling into our tents for a chilly night’s sleep, we’d search the stars for the Big Dipper and Orion. My present would be seeing a bear or a moose.

So, enough about me, what is your dream birthday present?

Curious minds want to know.  


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Posted by on August 29, 2014 in Daily Log


Got Bullied? Get Published!

Bullying stinks.

Luckily, some people want to make the world a better place for kids–me and my publisher!

The same company that will publish Abigail Bindle and the Slam Book Scam is putting together an anthology (which means a collection of short stories) for readers like you.

If you want to be a writer, you can follow the submission guidelines below (with parent/teacher help) to have your short story considered for the anthology. You can also share this information with anyone you know who wants to be a writer (like a parent, a teacher or a coach).

  • Short stories can be from the point of view of the bully, the bullied or the bystander (the person who watches the bullying happen.)
  • Stories should be under 2,500 words and have a complete story arc (which means a beginning, a middle and an end) that shows how the characters deal with bullying in the right way.
  • Stories must be received by February 15th to be considered for the anthology.
  • Stories should be sent to with the words “bully anthology” in the subject line.
  • If your story is picked for publication, your parents will need to fill out a form. No payment will be made for your story, but if it gets published, you will receive a free copy of the anthology.
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Posted by on January 29, 2014 in Daily Log, News


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Ahoy, Mateys!

Welcome to A Captain’s Blog, where I will share interesting facts, fun stories and snippets of my writing with readers of all ages.

Visit often (or subscribe via email) to follow my journey from writer to author and beyond.

Bon Voyage,


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Posted by on May 23, 2013 in Daily Log