Friends in DC this week

Dear Students,

I have a few pictures from Washington, DC that I wanted to share with you following my own quick trip out to the state capital this past week. Governor Jan Brewer also visited Washington, DC this week (not with me, but I like the coincidence). I also have a few pictures I saved of Sgt. O’Brien that he shared recently. This is a perfect week to bundle them together and share with you. Enjoy!

white house

“I’m in Washington D.C. today with other Governors discussing issues facing our states. Earlier I did a little sightseeing before we have dinner tonight at the White House with President Obama.” Governor Jan Brewer (taken from her Facebook page)

You can follow Governor Brewer on Facebook.  I’m glad she had a chance to get out and enjoy walking around DC in between meetings. Let’s enjoy some other DC pictures shared from our friends! Do you remember Sgt. O’Brien?

frank library

This is Sgt Frank O’Brien reading in our library. Sgt O’Brien lives in Washington, DC. He flew out to thank the kids for their letters while he was deployed. I hear from Sgt O’Brien from time to time, I am happy to say he loves his new job at the Pentagon.

This is Sgt. O’Brien participating in the Polar Bear Plunge in freezing Potomac river in January. I bet Sgt. O’Brien was pretty chilly! I have to laugh, he reminds me of some of my students who wear shorts and flip flops despite the cold!

frank obrien

Here I am promoting campaigns for the Pentagon during my Polar Bear Plunge this past Saturday. The water temp was 34 degrees. Between my three plunges, I was in for four minutes.–Sgt O’Brien at Sandy Point State Park, Maryland

White House Photo of the Day, showing President Obama speaking at the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room, Feb. 25, 2013. This is one of Governor Brewer’s meetings.

 President Obama takes questions during a meeting with the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room, Feb. 25, 2013

President Obama takes questions during a meeting with the National Governors Association in the State Dining Room, Feb. 25, 2013

Governor Brewer shared this picture taken on February 25, 2013 at the White House.


Last night I attended dinner at the White House and today met with President Obama. I’m now heading to the Pentagon for a meeting of the Council of Governors to discuss homeland defense and the National Guard. Tomorrow meetings at the Capitol. I’m working hard for the citizens of Arizona!

This is a few weeks old, but still very special. On February 11, 2013, former staff Sgt. Clinton L. Romesha, 31, became the fourth living Medal of Honor recipient at the White House. Sgt O’Brien met him and shared this picture with us.

medal of honor

I took this picture from my seat when our plane passed over the Pentagon. I waved goodbye to Sgt. O’Brien and Washington, DC.


From the capital,

Mrs. Kenney

A Winter Hike at Lost Dutchman State Park

Dear Students,

This is a great time of year to get out and go on a hike.


There are many choices in the Valley of the Sun.


One of the first grade teachers at our school loves the Hieroglyphic trail.

Hieroglyphics Trail

Hieroglyphics Trail

My favorite is the Treasure Loop Trail at the Lost Dutchman State Park. We walk up to the Green Rock and then turn around and walk back the way we came.


It is $7.00 per car, to visit the park for the day. You can park in an upper visitor lot for free for 30 minutes if you only want a quick peak.


But only if you promise to come back later. Where do you like to hike?

Perfect place to roast smore's!

Our favorite is the Treasure Loop Trail.
Easy trail, gradually climb, less than 2 miles, less than an hour, benches if resting is necessary during the hike, great views of Goldmine Ghost Town, Maricopa County, and downtown Phoenix in the distance.
Park in the Cholla Parking lot which has nice bathrooms (running water, flush toilet), drinking fountain, a water spigot to splash off after a sweaty hike, and a couple of ramada for picnicking. (copied from Yelp, but I agree with this statement)

Hike Smart!
Mrs. Kenney

Nick Bruel comes to Changing Hands

Dear Students,

Tonight I visited Changing Hands bookstore with my family to meet Nick Bruel, the author of the Bad Kitty books.


His favorite part was watching Mr. Bruel draw Bad Kitty.

He asked us not to share his picture, it is a surprise for people that come to his readings.

He asked us not to share his picture, it is a surprise for people that come to his readings.

He read a chapter from his new book Bad Kitty School Daze and he answered questions. One question was “What is your next Bad Kitty book?” He said it is finished and will come out in January of 2014, it is called Bad Kitty and the Author.

Nick Bruel, author of Bad Kitty

Nick Bruel, author of Bad Kitty

He was super funny!! After he took questions, he signed books and kids took their picture with him.


One of my students waited patiently to meet Mr. Bruel. She was the last child in line, so he drew a picture for her. Thanks for sharing your picture, Harper!

Wh0 is an author you would like to meet?

Mrs. Kenney

Ideas for getting out and about with your baby or toddler

This is a list I sent to a friend with a 15 month old son, she was looking for things to do near the South East corner of Gilbert, where we live. Perhaps this list might help you?
1. Queen Creek Library is a pretty library. It has beautiful decorations inside–beach themed area, hot air balloons dangling from the ceiling, a fun bathroom with grass tiles and a nifty entrance to the story time room shaped like an igloo. We follow children’s programming. The Friends of the Queen Creek library has inexpensive titles (think 50 cents and a dollar) so I pick up my guilty pleasure beach reads here.
Queen Creek Library

Queen Creek Library

2. Organ Stop Pizza….cash only. We like to sit upstairs or under the bubble machine. If you don’t want to spend on dinner, this is a nice place for ice cream!
3. Hangar Cafe…Not free but second floor balcony is a good viewing area for watching planes take off and land
4. Phoenix Art Musuem free every Wednesday post 3pm to closing and first Friday night
hole in rock_o
5. Take the Hole in the Rock hike at Papago Park, but keep a hold on your little one. It is only 1/8 of a mile hike with spectacular photo op payoff, can combine with duck feeding at Zoo on bridge nearby. Bring bread for the ducks and turtles. Free.
6. Veteran’s Oasis Park at Chandler Heights and Lindsay has it all, creek to wade in, nature center, AC, play areas inside, animals, programming, live music, ramadas, walls to climb, sand to dig in, bird watching, fishing, indoor bathroom. Free. Our favorite is the Solar System Walk, follow the signs.
7. Follow Living Social, Deal Chicken, Groupon for 1/2 price on outings. I notice that before break times their are great family friendly outings.
8. Take Apache Trail to Tortilla Flat, sit on saddle at bar, eat ice cream, tape money on wall. I learned to love the Superstition Mountains from reading Tom Kollenborn’s facebook page.
tortilla flatn
9.  Olive Mill for gelato, picnicking outside, running around Olive Grove, live music sometimes. We take out of town guests here, buy hostess gifts here.
olive mill
10. Pueblo Grande Musuem Kids free on Sunday October through April. Stroller Friendly Grounds. Adults are free on certain days, like International Museum Day on May 18, 2013, mark your calendar. Every March is Arizona Archeology and Heritage Month so there is always a calendar of free archeology related events in March. Deer Valley Rock Art Center is free on March 23.
11. Casa Grande National monument, free about 11 times a year–look for list of National Park free admission days 2013. Stroller friendly nature center and grounds. Free or very inexpensive.
at Casa Grande

at Casa Grande

13. Dinosaur dig covered ramada and stroller paths at Riparian preserve. The observatory has great star gazing programming. They have cool festivals, follow their calendar. The park is next to South East Regional library, another great library.
at Riparian Preserve near South East Regional Library. Bring your digging tools to play in the sand.

at Riparian Preserve near South East Regional Library. Bring your digging tools to play in the sand.

14. McCormick Stillman Railroad park, They have a cool model railroad building. The Cardon Children’s Medical Center has an awesome railroad layout too and free to visit. There are lots of amazing train activities in the area around Christmas, the best one is The Dennis Sirrine Train Garden, a free railroad layout by model railroad enthusiast. You want to set up a google email alert to trigger at Christmas so you remember to go.
15. Vertuccio Farms for toddlers, scale is smaller than Scnepf. Not free, but if you follow them on Facebook they have deals sometimes.
16. Live Music at Mesa Arts center, plus sign up for activities, they have many festivals that are free and have great design/art on grounds. The boys like splashing in the fountains. Sign up for email alerts from them. Mirazozo has come every year for the past few years, they have an amazing art installation.
Max peeking over the wall at Mesa Arts Festival of Creativity..excited to attend

Max peeking over the wall at Mesa Arts Festival of Creativity..excited to attend

17. Vision Gallery, chandler. Always free, exhibitions vary, are always good. Not toddler friendly but it is free and stimulating for you. Fun parking garage with fountain next door we always climbed all over the garage. Free
18. Go to Sky Harbor airport, park in short term parking on roof, bring bubbles, picnic, watch planes take off. Run around. Pay for parking.
19. 3/15- 3/17 Thunderbirds “Lightning” Air show Luke Air Force Base. Free. the come every year to Yuma, Tucson or Phoenix you can google Thunderbirds or Blue Angels 2013 schedule and find them. I also follow them on Facebook and the air bases to stay on top of their happenings.
20 Follow plane activity at Phoenix Mesa Gateway Airport on Power road by liking their Facebook page. Free (this past weekend they had Harriers and C130s)
21 Labyrinth on 400 S Power Road…inside the Mariposa Garden cemetery. Free. Huge. Fun.
22. Arizona Falls, cool and breezy even in Summer, 56th and Indian School Road. A drive to find it but very cool to see, a GR Herberger park is across street to play with play structures.
24. This is directions to a creek in Lost Dutchman area,-we always want a creek to wade in. You can buy a Tonto Pass at gas stations.
  • Go the 202 to Ellsworth, up Ellsworth north to Bush highway….over the Blue Point bridge…to the parking lot..just before you start slight ascent to Saguaro lake. It requires a Tonto forest say pass of $6.00
25. In summer we went to McDonalds on Val Vista and Pecos(?) — very close to 202, it had toddler sized climbing play place, also San Tan Village play area and splash pad.
26. So obvious, but what makes a great outing? A morning at the Cosmo Dog Park (you don’t even need a dog!) and then lunch at Joe’s Farm Grill under the beautiful tree. Another fun restaurant is The Spot on Higley and Ray next to the Fresh and Easy.
I hope this list helps you get out and have fun!! Have I missed anything? I have blog posts about many of these places already on my site, if you use the search you can find more information. Don’t be afraid to get out and go! What is your favorite place to go with a little one?

Living History: The Fisk Jubilee Singers, Ruby Bridges, Jackie Robinson and Kadir Nelson

President Obama meets Civil Rights icon Ruby Bridges

President Obama meets Civil Rights icon Ruby Bridges

Dear Students,

February is Black History Month (or African American History Month), a time we remember the contributions of African Americans in the United States.

Martin Luther King, march on Washington

Martin Luther King, march on Washington

Black History Month began in 1926 as part of an initiative by writer and educator Dr. Carter G. Woodson who launched Negro History Week in 1926.

Woodson proclaimed that Negro History Week should always occur in the second week of February —between the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.

I started early this year, requesting Coretta Scott King award winning books from the public library.

The Fisk Jubilee Singers are a piece of American Living History. The student choir was originally formed in 1871 by former slaves. They perform around the country and around the world.  In 2002 the Library of Congress honored their song “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” by adding it in the United States National Recording Registry.

Green Beans by Kadir Nelson

Green Beans by Kadir Nelson

Kadir Nelson is my favorite illustrator. His book Moses: When Harriet Tubman led her People to Freedom was one of my favorite reads. I would love a shelf full of books by Kadir Nelson.

My favorite month of the year,
Mrs. Kenney

Winter Break: Visiting Mission San Xavier del Bac

Dear Students,

In January my mother flew from Pennsylvania to visit my family.

San Xavier del Bac

They call this Church, the White Dove of the Desert. Isn’t that a beautiful name?

My mom likes to visit new places, so one day we took a day trip to Tucson. We visited the Mission San Xavier del bac, one of the oldest Spanish missions in the country.

San Xavier del Bac Mission - Tucson, AZ - 020

If you like, you can attend services at the mission. It is a Catholic church, you can visit during Mass if you plan ahead.

San Xavier del Bac Mission - Tucson, AZ - 20090226 - 045

Pictures do not do the Mission justice. It is extraordinary.

The Mission is located seven miles south of Tucson. Take I-10 to I-19 South and look for Mission signs to exit. The mission can be seen from the interstate.

Order an Indian fry bread before you leave. Undoubtedly there will be locals selling beverages and snacks in the parking lot. Try a tasty fry bread and enjoy this crisp, flat bread with one of many topping choices (the powdered sugar and honey is a local favorite).

Order an Indian fry bread before you leave. Undoubtedly there will be locals selling beverages and snacks in the parking lot. Try a tasty fry bread and enjoy this crisp, flat bread with one of many topping choices (the powdered sugar and honey is a local favorite).

The address is: 950 W. San Xavier Road, San Xavier District. To contact the church directly, call (520) 294-2624. The Mission is free to visit.

From the Old Pueblo,
Mrs. Kenney

Star Wars comes to Changing Hands

Dear Students,

I remember when you came into the library in the fall and told me that Disney bought Star Wars.


I love it when you follow the news. This means there will be a new Star Wars movie in 2015.


Many people write stories featuring Star Wars characters. In January, my family and I went to Changing Hands bookstore to listen to Timothy Zahn speak about his new book Scoundrels. Maybe someday, I will read a fiction you write featuring Star Wars characters?


We mingled with Stormtroopers and met a familiar friend.

What is your favorite Star Wars movie? Mine is The Empire Strikes Back.

May the force be with you,

Mrs. Kenney


The net is full of Star Wars crafts. This is one we are going to try.