fossils of play

A quick little jot about some exciting happenings in my teaching life (which, let’s face it, is a large chunk of my life most days – haha!):

1.I have officially applied to take my Masters degree in Early Childhood Education (online, through the University of British Columbia). Thank you to all of my wonderful mentors and supporters who were my references! I will ensure to keep you updated as soon as I hear back if I have been accepted. I am so excited to be taking this next step in my educational journey.

2. I have been sharing lots of our amazing adventures in Pre-K on Twitter (@kfidelack) and Instagram (@kfidelack). Please feel free to check out what we are doing in our classroom! Unfortunately, this means my blog has suffered some neglect, but each of these social media and technology outlets serves a different purpose. My blog is for more general educational musings, whereas specific stories and learning with students have been posted on my other spaces.

3. I just updated my blog’s header image for the first time since its inception over 5 years ago! This photograph was a behind-the-scenes learning moment that, while I did not see happening live, I stumbled across after-the-fact.

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I love these “remnants of play,” or the little signs that the tiny hands in my classroom have left behind after play. I feel like an archeologist or anthropologist reflecting on what these snippets of a play experience could mean and what possible directions the play could have been taking.

These numbers were haphazardly thrown into this otherwise empty sensory bin in a jumble. It was a joy for me to realize that one of my little learners had, unbeknownst to me, come along, and thoughtfully organized the numbers for me to find later. It still remains a mystery to me who left this fossil of play (did I just coin a new term?!) for me to find, but I do have some ideas as to who was responsible… I think there is some beauty in the mystery, though, don’t you? Regardless, it made a beautiful cover photo for my blog and encapsulates so much of what my pedagogy as a Pre-K teacher stands for – the capability of a child, independence, the wonder and magic of play and learning… (plus the fact that some of the numbers show common reversals is so stinkin’ cute!)

4. I have officially made it through 1.5 years as a teacher! My mom asked me the other day, “Which year have you enjoyed more so far of teaching, your first or second?” It was an interesting question that really got me thinking… In many ways, I can see how the years can blur together and become mixed up. But at the same time, I feel that each of my years of teaching so far (all 1.5 of them – haha) have been unique and offered their own victories and challenges.

>My first year was a whirlwind of new experiences – everything was fresh and exciting, as I not only settled into my new career, but also a new school, community, and lifestyle. I was coming straight out of university, and many of my ideas about what teaching would be like were either affirmed, or evolved with real-life experience.

>>My second year has seemed much more relaxed in many ways. I have been through much of the curriculum once and have started to settle into my own personal teaching style. I am getting to experience everything for a second time. I have become familiar and at-home in the school and community, which have both welcomed me with open, friendly arms. Needless to say, this year has had its own unique struggles and challenges. And, I truly think that sometimes I feel like I know what I am doing even less than the first time around, but I like to think that that is a result of me constantly wanting to learn and refine my practice. Reflection and growth, baby!

I am interested to see where the rest of this school year takes me. Wouldn’t it be a nice little tradition if I continue having mid-year reflections each school year to compare how the year has gone in comparison to those in the past? (Now to actually try and follow through with it). My own little digital journal and scrapbook. 🙂

 

How has your school year been going so far? What is unique about the successes and struggles? 

How many years do you have under your belt? Are there any that stand out more than others? Why?

 

Thanks for stopping by!

Until next time,

-KKF

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on the bad days

One thing that has surprised me about teaching is what an emotional roller coaster it can be. One day I feel like a superhero teacher who rocked every lesson and was on top of her game; the next day I feel as if I have no idea what I’m doing and nothing went right.

The remarkable thing about teachers, though, is their resilience. Even after a horrible day, they come back the next morning ready to try again. It’s no wonder that teaching is a profession that requires utmost passion; some days that is all we are running on in order to come back and fight another day even after we feel we are down for the count.

An unflinching sense of optimism is also a handy tool to have. Tomorrow is thought of as a chance to do better, be better. It is a new opportunity, a blank slate, a great day just waiting to happen.

Here are my personal tips for when you’ve had a bad day:

-leave early to clear your head

-let what happened go, but reflect on what can be improved next time

-take some time for yourself to do something you enjoy; self care!

-read through any little “gems” you have that remind you why you became a teacher or highlight your successes and impact on previous students

-remember that everyone has bad days

-get a good sleep so you can come back the next day refreshed and ready to rock it!

On that note, time for me to go to bed early and be ready to rock it tomorrow!

What are your tips for when you’ve had a bad day? What keeps your passion fueled to continue to do your job, despite its challenges?

student passion = teacher passion

It is already dangerously near my weeknight bedtime (which I have been trying to faithfully follow this year with much success so far!), so I am going to try and make this one quick, but still jam-packed with the good stuff. 🙂

  1. I’ve been known to beat myself up over not posting more often on my blog. I’ve also been known to state outright (on this very blog) that I would like to post more regularly and often. One day a few weeks ago, when I was feeling guilty over not posting, I realized that this bad habit needs to stop. And by “bad habit,” I mean feeling guilty, not neglecting to post on a regular timeline. I love my blog because it is a place to share my passions, and if that means only posting when the mood strikes and I have something important or interesting to share, that’s great! There is no point churning out irrelevant posts on a set schedule. So, my promise is no longer to post once every two weeks, or once a month, or once every (insert measure of time here), but rather to post once I get an idea that I am excited to share with all of you. 🙂
  2. Upon returning to my blog after a summer of hiatus (I’m trying not to feel guilty.. haha), I realized that my last post in June perfectly connects to my main topic tonight. In summary, I talked about trying to bring passion into my prep subjects I teach in the afternoon by building relationships with students and taking time to get to know them amidst the somewhat controlled chaos that is “teaching out of a cart” (although the cart, in my case, is merely metaphorical, and not literal).
  3. And now on to my main topic (thanks for sticking with me through the preamble)… It must be the gloomy, rainy weather (heads up, I’m going to be honest and vulnerable here), because I came home tonight feeling deflated. After an amazing ECE conference this summer, I am feeling more passionate and willing to try new things in the Pre-K half of my job than ever! However, my prep subjects were getting me down. I became a teacher because it is my passion, my vocation, my calling and I couldn’t shake the feeling that teaching prep subjects, jumping from classroom to classroom, and  attempting to build meaningful relationships (and expectations) with 100+ kids was an overwhelmingly insurmountable task that did not bring me that passion. I couldn’t help jump on the pity train and count off the reasons why my prep subjects were the source of all my problems. After some wallowing, though, I started to ask myself what I could do to help bring my passion into these subjects… and I came up with a plan.
  4. I love Pre-K so much because it is the optimal learning environment: each student is consumed in learning that is MEANINGFUL and FUN for them. There is no teacher at the front of the room, droning on, telling students what to learn or how they will learn it. Students are co-creating knowledge and determining the direction that the learning will take. Now, if only I could bring that kind of learning environment into my upper elementary classes… Oh wait, I can! (and wouldn’t you know it, by some stroke of fate, “developing more student-driven teaching practices” is my Professional Development Goal this year).
  5. So, I think, starting next week, I will be scrapping MY plans and have a serious discussion with students about them taking charge of learning that they are interested in. Think Genius Hour meets emergent curriculum meets inquiry project? Gulp. If it sounds scary to you, it’s even more scary (albeit exciting!) to me – as a meticulous planner and ‘thrives off of organization’ type. But, if it gets the students excited about learning, then it gets me excited about teaching them helping them discover curriculum for themselves.
  6. In closing, I want to acknowledge that my younger sister is currently going into her pre-internship year the U of R (my alma mater <3). Seeing how excited she is, and thinking back to when I was just a pre-intern, is what pushes me to continue growing and finding passion in my practice. I would hate to disappoint pre-intern Kara by griping about my job (which, really does rock).

 

What brings you passion in your teaching?

How do you make learning meaningful for students?

Have you done inquiry/emergent curriculum/Genius Hour with your students? Tell me about it!

 

Well, my teaching tribe, wish me luck!

-KKF

 

 

finding happiness outside of my passion

This blog will (hopefully) just be a quick jot on the topic of the week: Joy, Happiness, and Fun

As a very passionate and proud Pre-K teacher, I do not have any trouble finding happiness, joy, and fun in my job and in the learning journey I share with my “littles.” However, in a small town school, we only have one class of Pre-K (in the morning), which leaves the afternoon part of my job: teaching classes in other elementary grades so that their homeroom teachers can have their prep time.

I take pride in the fact that I am giving other teachers precious prep time, but I have to be honest in saying that I don’t find the same amount of joy and happiness in this aspect of my job (which, as one of those “born-to-be-a-teacher” types, bothers me).

Next year, I have Grades 4, 5, 6, and Kindergarten on my plate, which altogether will be about 130 students who I see for just a small portion of their week. The most difficult part of this, for me, is not having enough time together to form relationships with each student.

As an optimist through-and-through, I don’t want to go into the year feeling flat during my afternoons (who wants to feel drained and without passion?). So I am aiming to think of small ways to develop relationships with my prep students and build in more of those golden teaching moments where you can truly enjoy the students. Darting from classroom to classroom definitely makes this a challenge, and the limited amount of time I have with each class isn’t ideal, either, but I am determined to bring some happiness, joy, and fun into these classes (for both myself any my students).

I hope to save 10 or 15 minutes each week to have sharing time, so that we can discuss important or exciting things going on in our lives as a learning community. I truly believe that investing some of my instruction time into getting to know the students will serve me in the long run! After all, classroom management has to begin with respect and relationships.

Do you have any quick/easy ways of building relationships with students that you could share? I would love to hear your suggestions!

Until next time,

-KKF

graduation vs celebration

Pre-K gradAlong with the end of the school year, June also marks graduation season. I have seen posts and photos of Pre-Kindergarten/preschool and Kindergarten grads all over social media the last week or so, and it prompted me to examine my beliefs and views on graduation ceremonies in ECE.

First, I felt guilty for not having a formal graduation ceremony for my Pre-K class, especially because the two preschool programs in the community had beautiful and elaborate decorations and programs for their students and family members. Many of my friends and colleagues are also involved in early learning and they, too, were busy planning songs to perform, power points to show, and speeches to share. Was I cheating my students and their loved ones out of an important milestone and experience?

My viewpoint then shifted, in order to defend my lack of a Pre-K grad. I was ready with an arsenal of justifications for opting out. I thought things like…

  • my students are already students within the school, only moving one classroom down within the same building (while the preschool programs’ students will be new to the school, so their graduation ceremony is marking the end of their time at their EY establishment)
  • the Pre-K teacher before me didn’t have a grad ceremony, and neither does the K teacher at the school
  • my cooperating teacher in internship (who taught Kindergarten) didn’t have a graduation ceremony
  • I have some students who are moving to Kindergarten next year, and some who will be returning for a 2nd year of Pre-K

From there, I began to question and reflect on what exactly a ‘graduation’ meant to me. After some thought, I came to the conclusion that, to me, a graduation is intended to mark the end of a significant portion of one’s life in education; it is a finale.

Based on that definition, here is where I have some qualms with a Pre-K or Kindergarten graduation:

  • I view Pre-K and K as the pivotal introduction to formal education in a child’s life; it is the beginning of their journey as a learner in our school system. It seems counterintuitive to have a ceremony that marks the end, when it is really only the start of their adventure in education. Donning the cap and gown in Grade 12 or the final year of university signifies the end of a student’s time in that establishment; it simply doesn’t make sense for Pre-K and K students to wear the same outfit when they are not leaving us quite yet.
  • I assume that Pre-K and K graduations originally came about because these two programs are viewed in a different light than the ‘traditional’ school set up, especially because Pre-K and K were not originally part of the school system, an entity all their own. I think it is problematic if finishing Pre-K or K is viewed as entering the ‘real’ years of schooling. Certainly, Pre-K and K are, in and of themselves, set up and run much differently than the numbered grades beyond. However, this mindset minimizes the importance of early learning and the strategically designed environments and learning that takes place there.
  • I can still remember one of my favourite university professors telling an anecdote of visiting a local elementary school in March and seeing bulletin boards covered in (you guessed it!) leprechauns. She went on to explain how disappointed she was in this, because the leprechaun creations had no meaningful tie into learning. They were created as merely a craft to fill time. That story has stuck with me ever since, and I vowed to avoid ‘crafts-for-craft’s-sake’ or ‘time-fillers’ at all costs in my practice. In the same vein, I see Pre-K/K grads to be an event for the sake of having an event to some extent. Similar to how teachers feel obligated have their students create Christmas, Valentine’s, Mother’s and Father’s Day trinkets simply because it is EXPECTED, early years teachers see posts of “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” themed decorations, toddler-sized caps and gowns, and adorable graduation songs and feel pressured to keep up with the Joneses [Exhibit A: the second paragraph in this blog post]. While I wholeheartedly believe that the early years are a time of utmost importance and growth in a child’s life, and they should be documented in order to be remembered later on down the road, I feel that the commercialized, cookie cutter Pre-K/K graduations can be merely a photo opp to put into a picture frame with no authentic connections for the child and their loved ones.

Now, if you are a proponent of early years graduations, I’m surprised you’ve made it this far, because you surely have a few choice words, points of view, or arguments to share after I singlehandedly shredded EY grads to pieces. But stick with me just a little longer, because this is all coming to a culminating point, I promise.

My biggest takeaway from my inner reflection on this topic is that we have to, ultimately, ask ourselves:

Why am I REALLY having this ceremony/event? What is the purpose?

We have to take a critical look at if the ceremony we are planning authentically celebrates students and their learning, or if it is simply an opportunity to tout the cuteness of 3-5 year olds in caps and gowns (which I cannot argue IS, indeed, cute).

And so, here is my suggestion of a substitute to a “graduation” ceremony:

Celebrations of Learning

Hosting a ‘celebration of learning’ event ensures that the most important factor of ECE – the students and their journeys as learners – is sitting centre stage.  This format also allows for so much flexibility and personal tailoring to truly fit the needs of your ‘clientele.’ In its most basic form, a celebration of learning is a time for students and their loved ones to come together to share pride in the learning that has taken place over the course of the year.

While I didn’t host a year-end “Celebration of Learning” this year (because this idea is brand-spankin’-new), we did have a final Family Day, where students and their family members hopped onto the school bus and drove 15 minutes to Ruby Lake, the local regional park. We enjoyed a day of exploring the playground and shoreline, eating fire-roasted hot dogs, and each other’s company.

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I did make an impromptu thank you speech to the families for their support and involvement in their child’s learning in Pre-K and sent home a book of “Learning Stories” I had collected for each student over the course of the year, but I am already crafting plans for what I would like my ‘Celebration of Learning’ to look like next year…

Rather than sugar plum fairies, I have visions of a Memory Walk dancing in my head. While it would certainly require a lot of paper, ink, planning, and work, I would LOVE to print pictures from each month of the school year and then hang them up in chronological order on the walls of the school hallways (along with quotes, observations, student artwork, etc.) for students and their parents to walk through. Think self-guided tour/art installation/giant documentation panel! It’s a literal walk down memory lane!

Check in with me in a year’s time when, hopefully, I will post about what kind of “Celebration of Learning” actually transpires.

  • What are your thoughts on graduation ceremonies for early years students?

Until then,

-KKF

steamroller

Here I sit, underneath the covers of my bed (where I had planned to veg out all evening). However, after a text from a colleague asking for some technological Twitter help, I got sucked into the Twitterverse and my dormant teacher brain quickly booted up again.

This text ended up being the catalyst to a suddenly productive evening. Buckle up for this (time-stamped) retelling…

7:52 p.m. – receive text from colleague

A staff member at my school had a question about using our new school hashtag (which you should check out at #HBCSpride). I quickly checked Twitter to investigate the problem.

7:55 p.m. – reply to text from colleague 

After finding the solution to the problem, I replied to my colleague’s query. However, this was only the beginning of my foray with Twitter for the night.

7:55 p.m. – 8:18 p.m. – scrolling through Twitter 

While I love Twitter as a way to connect with other educators, I am still working on finding time to actually scroll through it. Since I was already on the app, I decided to sift through some of the latest tweets in my main feed, on #HBCSpride and #saskedchat. I had previously been toying with the idea of moderating a summer Twitter chat (thanks to a gentle suggestion from @kwhobbes) and came across the sign up sheet.

8:19 p.m. – take the plunge and sign up to moderate my first Twitter chat 

8:21 p.m. – document this occasion in 21st century fashion by tweeting about it

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Now I was past the point of No Return. I was in full-fledged teacher summer PD planning mode. Somewhere in the next 10 minutes, I ended up thinking, “Hey, if I’m going to host a Twitter chat, I might as well sign up for a summer SPDU event, too, right?”

8:31 p.m. – 8:55 p.m. – look up options for SPDU events offered over the summer, choose one I’m interested in, decide to ‘go for it’ and register

Everything was going lickity split, tickity boo, smooth sailing so far! This was easy! But the next part of my journey almost made me give up…

8:55 p.m. – 9:15 p.m. – battling with MySTF to change my password

Yes, you read that correctly. 20 minutes of attempting to change my password. I would compare these gruelling 20 minutes to the Trials of Hercules:

Labor 1: Find the heinously complicated password STF set up for me in the fall written on a note (You know the ones that are a random mixture of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols that you don’t even know how to find on your keyboard? Yeah. It was one of those).

Labor 2: Correctly type in the heinously complicated password STF set up for me.

Labor 3: Realize that the heinously complicated password STF set up for me is only a temporary password and now I must come up with my own heinously complicated password.

Labor 4: “Error: Password must not be a word from the dictionary.”

Labor 5: “Error: Password must contain one uppercase letter.”

Labor 6: “Error: Password and password confirmation do not match.”

Labor 7: “Error: Password must contain your mother’s maiden name, one hieroglyph, the first concert you attended, one Chinese character, the name of your first pet, and one Wingding.”

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9:19 p.m. – Successfully sign up for “Playful Experiences for Early Literacy and Much More” 

9:20 p.m. – 9:31 p.m. – decide to sign up for the #saskedchat Summer Blogging Exposé

Changing a password isn’t a pre-requisite skill to blog, right?

9:31 p.m. – relay the damage of my teacher brain rampage to my ever-supportive mom

Me (and I quote): “I tell ya, once I’m on a roll, I’m on a steamroll.”

Mom: “When you’re productive, you’re productive :)”

[subtext: “When you’re lazy, you’re REALLY lazy!”]

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9:31 p.m. – 10:31 p.m. – write up my first Blogging Exposé piece/the epic tale of my evening

Now, I apologize to those of you who are following the Blogging Exposé, because you’re probably wondering, “At what point in this post does she actually address this week’s topic?” (which is Summer Reads, by the way). Well, you’ve made it, to this completely underwhelming blip on the radar that is the actual topic of this week’s Blogging Exposé.

What I Plan on Reading This Summer

Long story short, one of our division’s Coordinators of Learning (and also head of the ECE programs in the division – check her out here) very kindly lent me an entire stack of resources focused on early learning, the project approach, inquiry, Reggio Emilia, etc. to peruse for the summer. I apologize, because I have left all of them at my summer home (not my school year home) and can’t name them all for you now. But I will try my very best to give you some updates when I get around to reading them (amidst all of the other teacher-geared activities I have managed to plan for myself in one night – haha! Don’t worry though, I pencilled in plenty of time for relaxing, recharging, and recuperating as well.).

Stay tuned to continue to follow me on my journey as a teacher in the summer months.

Until then, keep steamrollin’!

-KKF

TL;DR – Even when I plan to take a night off, I don’t. I have some exciting PD opportunities coming up this summer.

 

 

goal setting and forward thinking

One thing I have found surprising in this, my first year of teaching, is how early teachers start thinking about the next school year. Once January rolled around, staff at the school were asking me if I planned to stay at HBCS another year. By the time April hit, schedules and time tables were being created — heck, I even heard talk of a teacher photocopying and prepping handouts for the fall!

Now that I think about it more, however, it doesn’t seem as surprising for a couple of reasons:

  1. Teachers are very organized. It really shouldn’t be a surprise that they are looking ahead and planning in advance. We do it all the time; it’s a force of habit.
  2. Doing some planning ahead before the school year is over means less planning to do over summer – and more hours to spend soaking up the sun.
  3. [Without getting too terribly psychobabbly here…] Perhaps this is also the beginning of teachers starting to mentally and emotionally let go of the students that they currently have. After spending an entire year with the same faces, you get attached! To make this bittersweet ‘end of an era’ easier, maybe thinking ahead to the new students you’ll have next year helps to ease the change?

I also think that this concept of ‘forward-thinking’ seems so strange to me is because I am still a first year teacher taking things, in most cases, day-by-day. I am so focused on slogging through each day and caught up in planning what I am doing next week (or, let’s be honest, tomorrow) that my forward gaze cannot possibly be too occupied with something FOUR MONTHS from now! My guess is that after a few years of teaching under my belt, I, too, will become caught up in this phenomenon.

One thing that I have been accumulating for next year is goals! One of the most exciting parts of being a teacher is the opportunity for constant re-invention and self-improvement. While I am certainly proud of what I have accomplished (and survived – haha!) in my first year of teaching, I certainly don’t expect to have this mind-bogglingly complex vocation down to a science yet (although I do have to remind myself of this once in a while!). Heck, I hope that I still feel that this way 30 years in! If I ever have feelings of comfortability and mastery, I think it’s time to switch some things up and try some new strategies.

innovation

So, yes, I already have a list of things that I would like to change/tweak/scrap/try next year!

Last week, the students had a day off of school, but the staff was busy at work during our SIP (School Improvement Planning) Day. I always find these days a confusing mix of frustration over battling seemingly insurmountable obstacles and indescribable inspiration to improve my practice. Luckily, being an optimist, I always try to latch on to the latter feelings. I felt especially inspired after our last SIP Day, where I presented a technology tool to the entire staff that they may be interested in using in their classroom (if you’re interested, it’s called Plickers – click to check it out!). I was flattered when I heard from several teachers in the following days, thanking me for introducing them to the website/app and sharing that they were going to try it with their own classes! As a new teacher, it is easy to feel like you are always the one asking for help and soaking up others’ expertise. It was comforting to know that I have a lot to share with my colleagues, even as a ‘green’ member to the staff.

I left school that day energized and forward-thinking. As a student in elementary, high, and post-secondary school, I always strived for excellence and, due to the way our education system is currently run, it was easy to determine if I had, indeed, achieved said “excellence.”  However, becoming a teacher (while I am still very much a learner and a student of this career and its intricacies) begs the question: “How do I know if I am achieving excellence?” 

Obviously, I don’t receive letter grades, percentages, or marks for my work (and from an assessment-minded perspective, one doesn’t require these trivial things to understand if they are doing well or not, anyways). So I made some goals that I want to achieve in order to attain my personal standard of excellence:

  1. I want to continue to evolve and strengthen my teaching practice (This one is fairly generic and simple, but my recent involvement in #saskedchat has gotten me thinking a lot about parts of my practice that I would like to focus on in the future)
  2. I want to receive an award for being an excellent teacher at some point in my career (This is certainly a much bigger goal, but even if I never actually achieve it, simply working towards it will make me a better teacher, which I am definitely content with as an alternative. But, hey, a girl can dream, right?)
  3. I want to obtain my Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education (This one shocked me, too! Going through university, I always said “I don’t want to go back to school. I want to be a classroom teacher; all I need for that is a Bachelor’s Degree, so once I have that, I am done.” However, getting my position in Pre-K has sparked a new sub-passion that I truly want to explore and extend. In true Kara fashion, I have already extensively looked into this, and my current plan is to start taking an online Master’s of Education in Early Childhood Education through UBC in the fall of 2018 – if all goes according to plan! Yes, folks, you heard it here first! I am truly a student at heart; I am already thrilled at the prospect of returning to the university atmosphere and mindset of learning voraciously, pursuing avenues of passion, and sharing these passions with likeminded people.)

No matter what the future of my career holds, I know that it is going to be an exciting ride! And I hope you look forward to me continuing to share my journey of “Learning to Teach” here, in my little corner of the internet. I truly appreciate anyone and everyone who has ever given this little blog a slice of their time and attention. After all, what good is going on a journey if you don’t have people to share the story with?

journey

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations and thank you! I realize that I was particularly wordy and “fluffy” today – sorry about that [more “sorry, not sorry” actually; this is my only outlet for writing nowadays – gotta flex those vocabulary muscles somewhere!]

Until next time,

-KKF