December 4, 2013
One of our guests was the one who’d told me the “trick.” I’d been telling him about the 4th grader I’d been working with (around the corner at our local elementary school), and he said he’d been a teacher, too. Since I’d explained that my young charge couldn’t read, our guest patted his own arm 3 times, beginning at the top, then in the middle and at the wrist, one pat at a time, at first slowly, then in quicker succession, then finally sort of sliding down all three spots into one smooth motion – to illustrate the trick of sounding out an unknown word for a beginning reader, then blending the sounds together to form the word. When I’d shown it to Pete (name changed), he’d grasped the concept immediately and had begun using it. He used it today during our 45 minutes together as he was reading me pp. 8 – 17 in The Cat in The Hat, and I was thrilled to see him do it.
A focused fiend in figuring out and finding new words, Pete’s attention and determination are unwavering as he both reads and listens to me explaining things during our sessions together. I sit in awe and delight as I watch the lights in his eyes shine brighter as he reads line after line.
Today, we began with planning a paragraph. (Our assignment by his teacher has been to tackle the theme of topic sentences as we ferret them out in pre-written paragraphs). Because he’d been so excited the other day as he was telling me all about his sister’s upcoming birthday events, I thought he might want to use those experiences to write his own paragraph with his own topic sentence. So today we began with Pete first taking notes about the birthday excursion. When he told me about the laser tag, I said, “OK. Write ‘tag.’” He did. For the bowling, I said, “Write ball,’” so he did that, too. And so he continued punctuating his animated descriptions of the activities with his one-word notes. In trying to steer him towards writing the topic sentence for the paragraph that we would write tomorrow, I asked him what each of those activities had in common, expecting him to say something like, “They were things that we did.” But he said that each one involved speed. Oh. ”Right,” I thought. That certainly was a common theme. My incorrect low expectation was duly noted and corrected mentally. His astute answer will be the perfect jumping off point for his topic sentence when we pick it up again tomorrow. He was excited about finishing it.
When he’d read today’s first page of The Cat in The Hat, I knew he was ready for me to say to him, “Now read it with expression.” He took the bait and he re-read the sentence. I grinned at him and said, “Do it with more,” so he took a deep breath and tackled it again, reading like the champ that he is – like he was onstage. He read the whole page that way. I pumped my fist up in the air and practically shouted. He beamed, and continued reading. Time was growing short but he finished 3 more pages. At the end, and as the rest of his class was gathering their things together for recess, he finished his reading and I shot both of my hands in the air, declaring him the undisputed reading champ of that 4th grade table in the back of that room. I signed his tiger paw sheet (the school’s redeemable reward system) and he got his own things and went into the line by the door. After I’d gathered my things and stopped behind them in the hallway, he looked back at me, grinned and waved. He did that 3 times: three waves and three grins. My heart was full and I left Garnett Elementary School for the day.Tweet
December 4, 2013
No snow here, despite the pictures (wishing for a White Christmas….) BUT this Friday’s line-up of events is rich and full: a play at the theatre downtown, a chorale concert, a toy train exhibit, a Holiday House Tour and more! (Plus I’ve been baking Christmas cookies.)Tweet
November 25, 2013
Standing there among the granite markers with a woman she’d barely known until today, Betty Jewel felt pieces of herself fly off and hover over them like blackbirds. Until today she’d been sure of her own color and of her own place. Now, with her heart opened wide by the kindness and unexpected possibilities of Cassie Malone, she saw herself in a different light, a woman with mercy and grace pouring over her like water, and hope spreading through her as fast as kudzu on a ditch bank. In spite of the fact that her daughter was still missing, Betty Jewel sat down on a pink marble tombstone, her lips moving as she silently gave thanks.
p. 138, The Sweetest Hallelujah, Elaine HusseyTweet
November 23, 2013
I’d never read Catcher in the Rye, so I borrowed it from our daughter’s bookshelf the other day and have been tucked away with it tonight for much of the evening. I am enjoying Holden Caulfield’s commentaries on life but was getting a little weary of reading so many g__d__’s. He has far too much sense to use such limited vocabulary, but one of his anecdotes made me stop reading to copy the passage down.
…she was terrific to hold hands with. Most girls if you hold hands with them, their…hand dies on you, or else they think they have to keep moving their hand all the time, as if they were afraid they’d bore you or something. Jane was different. We’d get into a…movie or something, and right away we’d start holding hands, and we wouldn’t quit till the movie was over. And without changing the position or making a big deal out of it. You never even worried, with Jane, whether your hand was sweaty or not. All you knew was, you were happy. You really were.
One other thing I just thought of. One time, in this movie, Jane did something that just about knocked me out. The newsreel was on or something, and all of a sudden I felt this hand on the back of my neck, and it was Jane’s. It was a funny thing to do. I mean she was quite young and all, and most girls if you see them putting their hand on the back of somebody’s neck, they’re around twenty-five or thirty and usually they’re doing it to their husband or their little kid–I do it to my kid sister Phoebe once in a while, for instance. But if a girl’s quite young and all and she does it, it’s so pretty it just about kills you. (The Catcher in the Rye, J.D. Salinger, pp. 79 – 80).
There you go: some Saturday sweetness for you.
November 12, 2013
Barbara, (my high school friend who also lives locally with her husband), and I just returned from a 2 mile walk - where there was a crisp chill in the air (and even some snowflakes) and thoughts of Thanksgiving in our hearts. She was reminiscing about her grandmother always reaching into the bottom of the Thanksgiving turkey pan to grab the turkey neck to have as her before-dinner snack, a memory she held from the time of her early childhood until that day when Barbara asked if she could try it, too. Her grandmother told her she probably wouldn’t like it. But she did try it and she did like it, and it became Barbara’s from that day forward….until recently when her own daughter asked about the turkey neck, tasted it, and the mantle passed again. But not a problem; today we have everything. So Barbara, before the next turkey time, stopped at the Centreville Food Lion on her way past one day and discovered an entire package of turkey necks! Oh my! The wonder of this modern age and country that we live in! Maybe there’s not a chicken in every pot, (and that’s another story) but there are at least enough turkey necks for those who want them.
My memories are similar to Barbara’s, except that her grandmother prepared the necks differently from my mother. As for our single turkey neck (before the days of multiple ones in the grocery store, and oops, sorry for the possessive spoiler alert, but my poor mother never had a chance with me salivating at her heels at every step), she boiled our’s on top of the stove, along with the giblets. And quite frankly, I really don’t know how I would’ve survived holidays in our house if I couldn’t have eaten both the turkey neck in its entirety along with the gizzard and liver. The heart was my sister’s because I had to share something. or I would’ve eaten that, too.) And this was survival, since Sunday and holiday dinners were always at 2, when everyone else got there, and there was certainly not going to be any lunch offered when there was all of that food glory happening in the kitchen. Good heavens, that would’ve been unthinkable, so you had to grab what you could, when you could. Which was what I did.
Recently our British guests asked us what the traditional Thanksgiving foods were, so I described some of the tables of my childhood – although I forgot the turkey necks – but I doubt those reading this post need that same explanation. Our’s was always wonderful, but it was standard fare.
As our kids have grown up, our traditions, of course, have changed, with the first major one being when my Aunt Sara didn’t host a holiday dinner that first time at Christmas. The food was the same, but that year marked the beginning of the real changes. This year we’ll have a noon time brunch at our daughter’s house in Philadelphia (easy and lovely). The old memories shared and the new memories made will still be just as warm as my mother’s hot-just-out-of-the-oven-homemade-rolls and I can’t wait. But I still need that turkey smell in our house…so hopefully I’ll get a free one at the Acme. Oh, and Barbara’s going to pick me up a pack of turkey necks, too. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your’s.Tweet