Saturday, August 18, 2012

Writing with the Kids

Here is some writing I did in front of my students, with my students, in my classes yesterday a la Kelly Gallagher. We brainstormed about the tastes of our childhood, and then I quickly wrote a paragraph about one of mine from my list. Then it was their turn, and they wrote while I edited and revised my original paragraphs. Here are the edited versions--I wish I'd kept the originals!

Lemons with Salt:
Just looking at this is making my mouth water.
I’ve always been a real hoarder—just of things that are very important. So it comes as no surprise that I’ve kept every book I ever owned. Occasionally I go back through those old books, and when I do, I often find brown stains and a gritty substance between the pages. Rather than reducing the book’s value in my eyes, this residue always make me smile. I know what it means—someone (that would be me) ate a lemon with salt and got a little too excited, spilling some of that salty, sour goodness out onto the page for someone else to find years later. Today I can’t eat lemons with salt—it really wreaks havoc with your tooth enamel, but thanks to the stains, I’ll always have the memories of those lazy days spent reading my precious books and enjoying an escape from the everyday world of my small-town existence.

Cheddar Cheese: (this one didn't really get edited) 
Where are the saltine crackers?
Of all the foods we used to have at my mother’s house, there are probably none with as much emotional baggage as plain old cheddar cheese. My mom used to buy it in great hunks cut directly from the even larger hunk the butcher kept in the front case. She didn’t know that there were any other kinds of cheese. American? Never even knew that existed until I went to college. Parmesan? Mozzarella? Gouda? Nope. Everything from pizza to spaghetti was topped with good old yellow cheddar. We even cut pieces from it to nibble on like hairless rodents as we vegetated in front of the TV. So, to me, cheese will always be cheddar, the more the better, and skip everything else.

Hmmm...I think I'll pass....
Pecan Sandies:
As someone who teaches about memories and writing, I am fully aware that some people say that food memories are some of the strongest. If this really is the case, then I should probably stay far, far, away from pecan sandies. Pecan sandies aren’t as common now as they once were, but for you who are uninitiated, they are strange, hard, tasteless little cookies made by those infamous Keebler elves. At some point in my hazy elementary years, I came down with a severe case of strep throat. My parents didn’t believe in doctors, mainly because we didn’t have medical insurance, so they didn’t take me in to see one until I was nearly done for. By that time, I could barely open my mouth, and I was mildly delirious with a high fever. The doctor stood about ten feet away as he looked at my throat, which by now was as white as cotton. It didn’t take him long to diagnose strep. He sent me home with an antibiotic. My sweet mom thought food made everything better, so on the way home, as she filled the prescription, she purchased a box of pecan sandies. For reasons only known to my seven or eight year old self, I ate several and then promptly threw up. That was the last food I had for several days, as I was relegated to laying in bed and drooling into a cup for the next 48 hours. All I kept thinking about was the terrible taste of those pecan sandies, both going down and coming up. To this day, I shudder when I see that ubiquitous yellow package sitting on a grocery shelf. I’m old enough now to know that food can make you feel better, but not when you are too sick to enjoy it. So, when my own kids are sick, I bring them books and video games instead of food, and we all stay much happier.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Books and Art

Here's a blog post that combines two of my favorite things: books and art. Enjoy!

Monday, August 6, 2012

Persuasive Writing in the Real World

I debated about adding this to my blog, but then I decided it's too fun not to. My son sent this letter to me while the BHW (Best Husband in the World) and I were on our second honeymoon in England this summer. My oldest daughter was in charge, and he didn't want to go on a youth activity he had signed up for. She told him he would have to convince his Dad and me to say he didn't have to go. So...he wrote this letter to us.

I've been through a lot of camping and outdoorsy stuff throughout my life. Sometimes it's really fun and a good experience, other times it only serves to be a stressful and unsatisfying experience devoid of any fun or enjoyment. This year's youth conference would not be one that I would enjoy. 

First of all, I've been having a hard time sleeping this week, and it's hard enough to sleep in a tent already. I would have to spend 2 nights in an uncomfortable position for around 8-10 hours while staring at the ceiling of my tent. I'd be very tired all throughout the day with the sun bearing down on me. 

Second, while I can wear white shirts for about 3-4 hours, after a while it becomes unbearable. White shirts make me sweat. Badly. Short sleeved shirts are bearable but having to walk around with a white sleeve shirt all day without changing clothes would be torture. 

Third and probably most important, there's no real reward behind doing any of this, at least not that I'm interested in. In other campouts you get to hike to the top of a mountain, explore a narrow submerged canyon, or find a waterfall. In this campout you just wander around on a patch of dirt and meet people that don't even matter to you because you'll hardly ever see them again because you go to a different school. If I wanted to have fun with other people on a campout I'd rather have it be spontaneous and unorganized so you can actually hang out instead of doing things like "square dancing." The only thing that this trek promises is that it will "build character," which seems to be tagged on to anything that is either boring, painful, or uncomfortable. If I wanted more character, it seems like I'd get it just as easily by putting my hand on a hot stove, locking myself in a box for 24 hours, or pouring citrus into my eyes. 

I'm doing something that I normally wouldn't do (writing a 5 paragraph essay) in order to illustrate how much I think it would be a bad idea for me to go, so don't shrug this email off. I'll look forward to your response.

Well, after reading (and laughing) the BHW and I came up with this response:

I've been through a lot of experiences in my life, too, and I can tell you that often those that don't seem like they will be a lot of fun are usually the ones that end up teaching me the best lessons. I think a lot of it has to do with attitude. 

You may not know this, but there is a chemical in your body called melatonin that helps tell your body when to go to sleep. Your body releases melatonin when you've been up for about 16 hours, when it gets dark, and especially when you have a set time to go to bed every night. That's why it's so important for you and your health to get a healthy 8-10 hours of sleep from 10-11 PM on every night. If not, you are messing with your body's natural melatonin cycle, and that's not good. Just something to keep in mind. 

Sweat is never fun at the best of times. I used to sweat so much that I started using a special kind of deodorant that keeps me from sweating at all. Period. If you are interested, you may want to ask me about it. 

I think that hiking and trekking and even square dancing can be very fun, but it is always more fun when you are doing it with friends. Are you still planning on doing the Camp Halfblood with Chandler? When is all that happening? 

In short, I am okay with you not going on the trek. I am not okay with you sleeping your summer away and sleeping through church. Do you think you could try to clean up some of those bad habits that you've got yourself into? And, if you are not going on the trek, can you please call your leaders and let them know? Also, you should have your sister Megan write us a five paragraph essay and tell us how her job search is coming. If it is anywhere near as entertaining as yours is, I'm sure it will be the highlight of our day. 

Love, Mom with Dad's approval