Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday's Proverb

The just man's lips nourish many, but fools die for want of sense. (Proverbs 10:21)

Tuesday's Proverb

The just man's lips nourish many, but fools die for want of sense. (Proverbs 10:21)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Train Set

I remember when the train set was first built. We were still living in Trenton, so I was younger than nine. My dad spent lots of time getting the trains and the buildings right. It was a Christmas surprise one year, and the train set had pride of place in our large basement. Many of the buildings (like the bakery and butchery shop above) were built by my grandfather.

When we moved the new house had no basement. This posed a dilemma for the train set. But my dad figured a way around that. He set it up in the boys room on a table that could lift into the wall. Part of the year the train set was down and working, other times it would be stored away (it couldn't be stored away daily or anything like that - too much stuff to take off the set).

As Leo grew and the older boys lost interest, the train set moved to Leo's room, where it stayed for awhile, only eventually to be taken down and dismantled. I don't remember if the train set got set up again when the older boys moved out on their own.

But when my parent's moved to a different house about 11 years ago they had a basement that was just right for trains. And they had something else: grandchildren (okay, one at the time - but more were to follow).

Since then the train set has taken on various forms - at one point the set took up most of the basement. It has shrunk down to a more manageable size now and Harry has learned how to operate the trains - which he makes sure he does whenever we visit Ammy and Grampy's house.

All of the grandkids enjoy watching the trains. I'm sure when Baby T is a little older he'll love watching them too!

And since my Dad is about to retire - who knows what he might do with it next!
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Celebrating Birthdays

March brings lots of birthdays in our families. Today was my brother Pete's birthday. Unfortunately, Pete and his family were the only ones unable to make it to March birthday celebration today (but they don't live within driving distance). We celebrated my parents' birthdays and my sister-in-law's birthday. Everyone loved playing with the new baby. Four-year-old Superhero will be very happy when Baby T is big enough to play with, but for now he liked holding him and feeding him. He even washed his own hands in hopes of then being allowed to hold the baby.

The kids got to blow out the candles. Yeah, none of their birthdays are in March, go figure.
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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Tuesday's Proverb

Like choice silver is the just man's tongue; the heart of the wicked is of little worth. (Proverbs 10:20)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Young Writers

Pippi was delighted to find that one of her friends was the seventh grader chosen to represent their middle school at the Young Writer's night. Pippi read the two poems I posted for Poetry Friday last week. Her friend read an essay about a Thanksgiving dinner her family prepared when their kitchen was under construction and they had no stove or oven (it included grilling the turkey in the backyard and unsuccessfully making cornbread in the toaster oven)

All of the poetry and essays shared by the 6th through 12th graders was wonderful. There is a lot of wonderful talent out there. Two of the most moving were a poem written by a tenth grader in honor of her father who passed away last year, and the story the eighth grader read about how when she was four years old her mother came to America - and how the rest of the family followed from Poland four years later.
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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Pop Culture References

I posted over at Simply Put today about putting pop culture references in your writing.

Is it better to be up-to-date and hip? Or timeless?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Poetry Friday

My daughter was chosen to represent her school at "An Evening with Young Writers" at our town's art center.

The two poems that were selected are ones I've posted here before on Poetry Friday, but they bear repeating. I'll put one here and the other over at Simply Put (spread the wealth)

Beauty and the Beast

I was the big
Big man,
Athletic, wonderful.
But she didn’t want me.
She fawned over
A beast locked
In a haunted castle
These years
What did he
Have that I
Naturally, I started
Pressing her buttons.
But that made her
Hate me even more.
So then I set
Last straw.
Kill the beast!
A little lie here
A little blood there,
The benefit was mine.
The girl…mine!
But still,
My plan backfired,
Pushed off a
Tower. Landing
Down below.
And that was
My story.
My intentions
Started out
All I wanted was
Instead got the
Brunt of the

The Poetry Friday Roundup is by Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Can Assigned Reading be Fun?

Harry was complaining the other day that having to read a book for school "sucks all the fun out of it."

I can't really argue with him.

Reading a good book-getting lost in that world to the point that you're surprised to find you haven't actually left your chair-is one of life's pleasures.

Having to discuss theme and character motivations and what have you - are generally not quite so thrilling.

Now - just to be clear - Harry's not in a class that teaches everything in a dry pedantic way. They answer questions based on the story, yes, they discuss the story in a group, sometimes he has to do a writing assignment that takes an aspect of the story one step further and requires a little critical analysis: what qualities do you think make a good hero, who do you consider a hero? But he's nine and he wants to just read the book and be left alone.

But reading a book for school, doesn't it have to be discussed? Don't questions have to be asked to check for a certain level of comprehension? In his reading class they do not have a "reading book" they use novels. I think that's good. But is it better to have a class that focuses on shorter passages in a reading book and leaves the novels for fun time only?

I remember when I was in middle school and we had to do at least 15 minutes of silent reading at home each night as part of our homework. Reading for 15 minutes a night was not a problem for me, then, as now, I loved to read. The part I didn't like about the assignment was that we had to keep a journal and log. We had to mark down our writing time and write a short summary of what we read every day. I hated that part. (I remember doing a week's worth of summaries at a time before handing the journal in on Fridays).

But isn't that a reasonable way to make sure that a child is actually reading something? There are always going to be students that the teacher knows is reading no matter what. But there are others who won't. Is keeping tab on the time you read and writing a short summary (I'm talking a couple of sentences here) really so awful. I thought it was when I had to do it.

So... how do you teach reading and keep reading fun at the same time?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tuesday's Proverb

Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but he who restrains his lips does well. (Proverbs 10:19)

What Would You Say?

The rallying cry "put prayer back in schools" can sometimes be heard across the land. The proponents of such a measure will say that the country has gone to heck in a handbasket since prayer was removed from school.

And perhaps in areas where 99% or even 100% of the children attending the school share a religious background it might make sense.

Our school is not that homogeneous. So the question would naturally become "what prayer?" "whose god?" Because in our school it's not even a matter of different Christian denominations with a few Jewish people thrown in for good measure. No there are Muslims and Hindus as well. And probably other beliefs that I'm not even aware of.

This came to mind today because of an incident when I was helping in the school library. A second grade boy asked his teacher (who I happen to know to be Catholic) if God was just a fairy tale. She raised her hands in dismay and rolled her eyes and said "Heavens no, who told you that?"

"My Dad," responds the boy. "He just believes in science."

The teacher turns to me and says "Can you believe a parent teaching their child that?"

I didn't say anything, but I can see a parent teaching their child that if that is what the parent believes. And perhaps that same parent would be appalled that someone else's child is being taught there is a God.

Another boy piped up. "His Dad believes in the devil though."

"You can't have the devil without God," I answered.

The teacher agreed.

"My Dad is from Africa," the first boy said.

Then someone else came to the desk and I didn't hear the rest of the conversation between the boy and his teacher. I did hear something to the effect of "that's not what your mother believes, you should listen to her."

I don't know this boy's family. I don't know what his father believes. But I can see the conversation that could go on tonight.

"I asked the teacher if God was a fairy tale and she said no. She said I shouldn't listen to you."

Now imagine if the teacher was an atheist and a child asked if there was a God. Then the conversation at home would go like this "I asked the teacher if God was real, but she said he's a fairy tale and that I shouldn't listen to you."

Just something to think about.

Light a Fire Under Him

There is a story in my family history about an uncle of mine. Actually he would have been an uncle of my grandmother's I believe. I don't vouch for the veracity of this story - only that this is how the story was told to me.

My great-great uncle was walking along the canal paths of the Erie canal. He came upon a mule that was refusing to pull it's load. No matter what the driver did to it that mule just stood there. The driver was fed up. My great-great uncle said he would buy the mule for a quarter (maybe the amount was even less, I'm not sure). The driver, facing a worthless animal agreed and turned the stubborn mule over to my uncle but wondered what my uncle would do with an animal that refused to move.

Simple. He lit a fire under him and the mule moved right quick. And my uncle got himself a mule right cheap.

Hopefully no one actually has to light a fire under me to get me writing and blogging again.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Tuesday's Proverb

It is the lips of the liar that conceal hostility; but he who spreads accusations is a fool. (Proverbs 10:18)

Monday, March 02, 2009

Sunday, March 01, 2009


Uncle Leo took Harry out snowboarding this afternoon. And of course, since Harry's only other experiences with snowboarding have been down the slide in the backyard or down the big pile of snow by the driveway when we have a decent snowstorm he absolutely loved it.

He wants to go back and do it again next week. (Sorry Harry, that's not happening)

I'm waiting for my brother to send me the pictures and videos he has - from going down the big slope. My husband took these while they were having the snowboarding lesson.

And what did Pippi and I do while Harry was off snowboarding? We hung out with baby Tyler and Aunt Kristen. That was my kind of afternoon!