Posts Tagged With: reading

I’m going to stop

For a long time, I didn’t watch the news.

For a long time before that, I did. It was the 10 or 11 o’clock precursor to bedtime. It meant the end of the day; time to see what had happened in the world, in the country, in the neighbourhood. Then, a few years ago, I had a baby. I think that’s when I first stopped watching the news — new baby, no sleep, oddly timed feedings/pumpings, etc., etc. Then when I tried to go back to it I could no longer stomach it. It was bad news most of the time and it really stressed me out. So I stopped.

I did alright without watching the news. If there was something big happening I was sure to hear about it anyway, whether it was on the radio in the car, in the schoolyard, or on the tv at McDonald’s. HardWorker still watched the all-day headline broadcast channel before she left for work or before bed, ostensibly to check the weather or the traffic. Whatever I did happen to see annoyed me no end and it wasn’t just the content. Not a single commentator seemed able to read the sheets that were in front of them without stumbling over names, dates, locations, or the basic tenets of the english language. They make me crazy. I try to stay away from it if at all possible.

I found I was able to stay fairly stress free (news-wise) and life was good. Facebook was something I had discovered and joined years ago (after abandoning my mySpace page) and I enjoyed keeping up with family and friends from around the globe. New babies, vacation pictures, familial losses, even making new friends; it was all at my fingertips. I even joked with other school parents at SCC meetings that if the news wasn’t accompanied by kitten videos on Huffington Post it meant nothing to me. Then it all changed. People started regarding the Huffington Post as a real “newspaper”. The major networks all have Facebook pages, as do all of their regional stations. All the Posts and Times and Gazettes are there as are numerous weekly or monthly magazines. People quote Twitter on their FB pages and link to just about everything that gets published anywhere. It’s too much. Too much to read. Too much to follow. Too much to click through.

It’s too much. Sensory overload. And let me tell you, I barely link any of my accounts, I don’t check my mail every hour, and I’m only on Twitter about once a week. I HAVE A FLIP-PHONE. That’s right. I HAVE A FLIP-PHONE. I do not receive badges, banners, or updates; do not get pinged every time a new e-mail comes in; no swish or chirp when someone tweets something. It doesn’t seem to matter. When I do check Facebook there is invariably some new horrible thing that is being shared by everyone I know. When Hardworker comes home and asks, “Did you hear about …?” I have to say that I did. Whether I wanted to know about it or not. Apparently we no longer have the option of not watching the news.

Well, folks, I’m taking it back. I’m going to stop watching. Stop reading. Stop scrolling. Stop clicking through links. I’m going to stop. I know that some people will think this is no way to live in this day and age. They will call me names and tell me I’m part of the problem. I’m telling you this is the only way to live in this day and age. If I don’t stop I won’t survive.

So yeah, I’m going to stop.

 

Categories: family, friendship, media, NaBloPoMo, NaNoPoblano, Uncategorized, words | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Monday’s words – I

The year is drawing to a close much more rapidly than I would like ..  November’s almost over. I find it hard to believe how fast a year goes by. I’m almost getting used to the speed of indiviual weeks but months and years still leave me spun out trying to figure out how they passed with such great velocity. I think “oh I just wrote something the other day” and then realize it was a month ago. I think “I’ll get that typed up today” and then it’s time to head back to school to pick BoyGenius up for lunch or it’s already 3:20 and school’s almost done for the day … then it’s homework and dinner and laundry and bedtime and Coronation Street and all of a sudden it’s the next day already and Monday’s words aren’t getting out until Tuesday … or Wednesday … and my tea is getting cold … and it’s bed time again … and it’s been seven hours and fifteen days, since you took your love away … 🙂

But I digress. I words are funny. Many of them are “im-” or “in-” words and mean they’re NOT something or other. These are often confusing (I think so, anyway) as those suffixes sometimes mean ‘not’ or ‘non-‘ something but not always. And when they do illustrate a negation, the “root” word is not always able to be used as a word with the opposite meaning of the “in-” or “im-” word. Think about it … some more .. try it out on some words … again .. there you go. See?

i

Here are some of my favourite I words: impromptu, infidel, ilk, imbibe, infer, iotaintrepid, idiom and integrity.

impromptu ~ prompted by the occasion rather than being planned in advance. I think we’ve all experienced an impromptu night out with friends or an impromptu dinner party … some of us have been put on the spot and had to give an impromptu speech, maybe.  Sometimes these turn out to be the most fun and memorable occasions of all. And it’s a fun word to say, too.

infidel ~ a person who has no religious beliefs; an unbeliever, with respect to a particular religion, especially Christianity or Islam. It originates from Latin (surprised?) and its meaning in that language was disloyal or NOT (in-) faithful (-fidel). So can you be fidel? Not in English. In Spanish you can, especially in Cuba. 😉 In German to be fidel means to be in the best of moods, merry or jolly. Here you can only be an infidel.

ilk ~ type or kind — you know, people of THAT ilk. The first time I ever came across this word was on All My Children, way back in the 70s. It was uttered by none other than Erica Kane and I loved it from that moment on, endeavouring to use it whenever possible. It’s not a word that is easily voiced in everyday conversation. It’s one of the ‘cattiest’ words I know.

imbibe ~ to drink; to receive and absorb into the mind; to absorb or take in as if by drinking. I always feel better about imbibing a few libations than I do about downing a few drinks. And, if I’m with friends, I can imbibe information and ideas at the same time I’m imbibing red wine or Weissbier! How cool is that!!?!?

infer ~ to deduce or conclude (information) from evidence and reasoning rather than from explicit statements; to surmise; to lead to as a consequence or conclusion. [Infer is often confused with imply. Don’t do it. If you are speaking or writing, you might imply something … if you are listening or watching or reading, you might infer something.] “I inferred that those girls were making fun of me because they kept looking over at me and giggling.” The last little snippet of definition above means that if you see a finished Lego set at my house you infer that there must have been a Lego builder; if you see thick black smoke, you infer there is a fire.

iota ~ it’s the ninth letter of the Greek alphabet and when used as an English word it means a very small amount or a bit. I love it for the way it sounds, the way it looks and the way it’s spelled (which means that when you’re playing Scrabble or Words With Friends and you’ve got 7 effen vowels you might be able to find an open T and make a real live word!).

intrepid ~ resolutely courageous; fearless. I like this word. I like the idea of this word. “He was an intrepid explorer!” could be said about many a 3 or 4 year old checking out all the climbing equipment at the playground. I would like to be thought of as intrepid. I would like to live my life intrepidly. I enjoy the fact that this is an “in-” word whose root word can actually be used and does mean what it should: to be trepid is to be anxious or timid.

idiom/idiomatic ~ a speech form or an expression of a given language that is peculiar to itself grammatically or cannot be understood from the individual meanings of its elements; the specific grammatical, syntactic, and structural character of a given language; regional speech or dialect. If all of that just confused you, think of it this way: slang; common usage; the way a native speaker of a given language speaks; phrases we use that don’t actually mean what the individual words would have you believe (eg.: the lights are on but nobody’s home; to come into your own; as dumb as a sack of hammers). Idioms are fun and if you can speak a language at least somewhat idiomatically you will get much more out of foreign travels than if you are pulling sentences out of a phrase book.

integrity ~ I think when we hear this word we often jump right to the meaning that points at adherance to a strict moral or ethical code. I like “the state of being unimpaired; soundness and the quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness” just as well, if not even better. I like to hear talk about preserving the integrity of an old building, maintaining the integrity of a plan or idea.

So there you have it. I haven’t forgotten you, dear readers. I haven’t given up. I haven’t stopped thinking. I’m still here. Hope you are as well.

Categories: Uncategorized, words | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Monday’s words — H

So although I’ve been working on a number of posts lately I can’t seem to get to the end of any of them. I hate when that happens. Seriously.

Thankfully, it’s another Monday and so I get to talk about some words since I haven’t even done that lately. This week’s winning entry is the letter H. H is pretty good, it stands on its own and it helps other letters do some really neat stuff.

Some of my favourite H words are halcyon, haberdashery, hyperbole, heart, heartwoodharmony and hoyden.

halcyon — a period of time in the past that was idyllically happy and peaceful. I first heard this word on some television show over 30 years ago. Some campy character blithely referring to those “halcyon days.” My halcyon days were my childhood. Really.

haberdashery — kind of an olde tyme five and dime store, a notions shop. In American english it usually refers to a men’s accessories shop (but not many people even know the term) but in the UK a haberdashery sells buttons, threads, ribbons; in ye olde tymes they might even carry swords or musical instruments. (On Are You Being Served? the haberdashery department is on the ground floor — I love this show.)

hyperbole — exaggeration, intentionally used for emphasis or effect; not to be taken literally. “omgosh, this bag weighs a tonne!” “I waited for days for the cable guy to show up!” (oh wait, that’s actually not an exaggeration at all) “I’m so tired I could sleep for days!”

heart — what can I say? I don’t mean heart as in the muscle, I mean heart as in the place where all our emotions and feelings are kept, where they originate; our capacity for love, caring, compassion; love and affection. You gotta have heart. My heart swells with love and pride when I hear BoyGenius explain how he wants to give his friends some of his favourite things because he doesn’t want them to do without.  My heart aches when I hear of friends who have lost a child to cancer or some other horrid disease. And while the feelings might actually affect my heart (as in the muscle that pumps my blood) it is my heart (as in the repository of my feelings and emotions) that expands and contracts in my chest.

heartwood — while the dense, central wood of a tree is dead and no longer serves to transport water or food to the rest of the tree, it also yields the hardest and strongest timber. It is often darker than the rest of the tree, resistant to decay and sometimes more fragrant than the other wood. I really like the idea that the parts of a tree that have been around the longest are the strongest. I think we need to take a look at people and relationships in the same way. 🙂

harmony — I like harmony in music, harmony in nature, harmony in design. A pleasing combination of elements in a whole; congruity; a simultaneous combination of tones. We see and hear harmony all the time, not paying much attention to it. When we pick colours for our furnishings, carpets and walls, we often create harmony without consciously thinking about it in those terms. When we pick team members for a project at work, we certainly hope for harmony.  If you enjoy cooking you probably work with flavour harmony all the time. Vocal harmonies can be an amazing thing to hear; the Indigo Girls and Simon & Garfunkle are some of my favourite harmonizers.

hoyden — a bold, boisterous and carefree girl; a tomboy. This was definitely me when I was a child …. well, at least the tomboy part. I guess I was carefree as well, but I’m not sure I could have been described as either bold or boisterous; I might be boisterous now, as an adult. You’d have to ask my friends. This is a word that I have come across in literature every now and then, but never actually used in real life. I think I will soon. I like the sound of it and I like what it means, when not being used in a derogatory fashion. ‘Cause I don’t think it should be a bad thing for a girl to be seen as bold, boisterous and carefree … or even a tomboy for that matter.

If you have any favourite H words please let me know about them. I have realized that there are always “new” words to learn and I enjoy finding them, whether I stumble across them on the internet, in a book or in a game like WordsWithFriends or Scrabble or a crossword puzzle.

Categories: music, words | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

Monday’s words – G

Gee, it’s great to be here. G is a pretty good letter, it has more than one sound in and of its own, it can be combined with other letters to make even more amazing sounds and it’s a great start to some neat words.

One of the things I like about doing this little “series” of mine is that once I start trying to pinpoint just which words I would like to include as my favourites for the week I come across all sorts of other words (not necessarily of the current letter) that I either didn’t know at all (!) or that I recognized and used under only one definition when there may indeed be others. Kind of like the internet .. you look up one thing, you read about it, you follow a link to another page, you find something else interesting, you open another browser window since your current one already has 12 tabs and before you know it the school is calling wondering why you haven’t picked your child up for lunch. Words are like that for me.

Some of my favourite G words are quite common: gamut, gargantuan, glide, grace, giblets, gratuitous, guru and gazebo. Some are less so: gormless and ginnel. Some are downright uncommon: gamomania, gamophobia, gynarchy and gibus.

gamut — the complete range or scope of something. Often used in relation to emotions or feelings: Today his feelings ran the gamut of human emotions; he awoke after a bad night’s sleep feeling lost and desperate but by lunchtime his spirits had buoyed to a lightly buzzing feeling of well-being; dinner with friends followed by an evening out left him manically happy.

gargantuan — of immense size, volume, or capacity; gigantic!  I mean, gigantic is pretty good in its own right, even sounds great — but gargantuan!! Sounds even better. Seems so much bigger than gigantic. Even bigger than ginormous. Seriously. Big.

glide — I love this word because I like gliding. To move smoothly and continuously as if without effort. Gliding through water. Gliding on ice. Gliding or soaring through the air. When I picture gliding through water, it is always underwater and I’m seeing how far I can get without any kicking or strokes. Gliding on ice is fabulous, whether on skates or just in your boots … you push as fast and as hard as you can and then you just slide, glide as far as you can. Gliding or soaring — my dad was a glider pilot, he started flying when he was a teenager; all three of us kids went with him at various times when we were growing up. It’s an amazing feeling, better than any roller coaster. I really want to take BoyGenius up some day, I think he’ll love it. I love watching gulls and hawks and vultures (other birds, too) as they glide effortlessly from one thermal lift to another, have even been known to pull off the road just to observe, always with a smile on my face.

grace — both a noun and a verb. I enjoy both. There are definitions for grace (noun) that refer only to christian theology, implying that the only true meaning is the one that says grace is a free gift from God, unmerited divine assistance. I prefer elegance or beauty of form, manner, motion, or action; refinement of movement. All of which can be a gift from God, if that’s what you believe. I also enjoy the idea of the  Three Graces of mythology. As a verb, grace is a beautiful word: to honour or favour; to give beauty, elegance or charm to (see the Three Graces of mythology!).

giblets — The liver, heart, gizzard, and neck of a chicken or other fowl, usually removed before the bird is cooked, and often used to make gravy. There isn’t really much to say about this word, I just love the sound of it. And I love me some good chicken or turkey gravy. 🙂

gratuitous — can be something good, can be something bad. I like using it both ways, I have no shame. Given or received without cost or obligation, without return or recompense. This is a good thing. Uncalled for, lacking good reason, unwarranted. This is a bad thing. Gratuitous violence in films comes to mind. Bad thing. Good word.

guru — (in Hinduism and Buddhism) A spiritual teacher, esp. one who imparts initiation; a teacher and guide in spiritual and philosophical matters; a trusted counselor and adviser, a mentor; a recognized leader in a field. Whether you see this is a spiritual sense or not, I think it’s a gift to be able to find a guru. I also love the sound of the word. I think I would love to be seen as a guru. Wouldn’t you? To me it imparts a sense of wisdom, grace, calm; being a stabilizing force in someone’s life while teaching them to fly on their own.

gazebo. I want one.

gazebo — a small open-sided structure, freestanding, with a roof. Provides shade and some shelter. I want one. Someday. I love saying the word gazebo.

gormless — dull or unintelligent. Not used very much in North America. I watch a lot of british television .. gormless gets used a lot.

ginnel —  a narrow passageway between buildings. Also a british term, we’d be more likely to call it an alley, but I really like the way ginnel sounds (hard g).

gamomania and gamophobia — I’ve got to admit I didn’t know these words before yesterday. I like them. gamomania: a passion or obsession for making odd or extravagant (or bizarre) marriage proposals. gamophobia: the fear of getting married or being in a relationship. Nowadays people usually just call it “fear of commitment.” They should use gamophobia or say the person in question is gamphobic. Sounds way better.

gynarchy — government or rule by women. Used most often these days to describe the social structure of some insects (wasps, bees, ants) where the only the female parent takes part in establishing the colony. I think it’s one of those words that should be used quite often but would probably be misused more often than not.

Finally, gibus — I just found this word .. it is apparently a hat worn to the opera. If any “event hat” should have a name of its own, I think an opera hat would be it.

Thanks for reading. Let me know if you have favourite words that start with G. And for a little extra enlightenment on grace, give a listen to this Coldplay song. It’s a favourite of mine as well.

Categories: words | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

thankfulness

Thankfulness. We think about it on Thanksgiving, we might think about it at Christmas and we think about it when a loved one pulls through an illness or gets home safely after a long trip. How many of us give it any thought on a regular basis?

There are many things I am thankful for and there are some that I think of every day. There are some that I don’t think of often enough and there are some thoughts of thankfulness that are triggered daily by songs on the radio or the sound of BoyGenius’ laughter. I am thankful for the opportunities presented by the technology of today. I just had a Skype call with my mom and it was so neat to hear how proud of herself she was and how excited at the thought of seeing all of us on a video call. The internet has given us many good things (sure there’s some bad in there, as well) and one is the sense of community that can be felt and grown just by reading what someone on the other side of the continent has written.

I am thankful that Deborah Bryan over at The Monster in Your Closet has given me the opportunity to deliver a guest post as part of her FTIAT (For This I am Thankful) series. I would be equally thankful if you headed on over there to take a look at my little bit of thankfulness.

Thank you. ♥

Categories: music, words | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

thinking of you

I’ve been mulling something over in my head trying to figure out which could possibly be worse: not missing someone when they’re away or missing them when they’re present. Have you experienced either (or both) of these feelings? Both seem wrong but more importantly both, somehow, also seem right.

There is a poem by E. E. Cummings that states:  carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) I am never without it (anywhere I go you go, my dear; and whatever is done by only me is your doing, my darling) and there is a song that Pete Yorn sings that says: I keep thinking of you, you’re on my mind, for the fifty seven thousandth time this morning. Both of these do well to illustrate why it’s right or okay to not miss someone while they are away. If you are my friend, my lover, my family, you are with me always. I carry your heart with me and I am never without it. You are on my mind and I keep thinking of you. How can I miss you if even when I dream you are right beside me, every step of the way? I talk to you all the time and I can envision just how it will be when I see you again. You may not be here with me in a tangible state but you are always with me. So really, don’t worry if I don’t miss you while you are off somewhere other than here.

whether I miss you or not, I still love you

Now for the other half of the original conundrum; it’s a little bit harder to explain. I don’t have a handy poem or a song that springs to mind to help me illustrate what I mean. But I think you can probably all imagine or remember this feeling. You are with someone, you spend time together but you’re not really connecting. You realize you miss them. You might be sitting in the same room when that overwhelming feeling of, oh I don’t know what to call it, kind of like “homesickness” hits you. This seems like it can only be a bad thing. But I don’t think that’s true. If you are my friend, my lover, my family, you are indeed always with me in my heart, in my mind, in my soul. That doesn’t mean that I always know what you’re thinking or feeling. It doesn’t mean that I get to spend enough time with you. It doesn’t mean that even though you are physically right beside me I couldn’t do with being a little closer to you. I get a “pang” when you and I part ways in the parking lot. I get a little misty sometimes when I look at you over there on the other end of the couch. Sometimes I think it sucks, this idea that I can miss you while you’re right here. But sometimes I let it remind me of just how much I love you, how deeply I care for you. And it makes me smile. It makes me realize that as close as I am to you, I love you so much that I would gladly be closer.

Categories: family, friendship, music | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Monday’s words — D

I’ve got to tell you, while I do have some favourite D words (I’ll get to those in a bit) I find the letter D to be one of the harshest letters of the english alphabet. Not for the sound it makes, that’s harmless enough, but for the many D words that are demeaning, disgusting or just downright depressing.

Instead of embracing diversity and celebrating our differences we delineate, demarcate and differentiate. We would sooner point out someone’s disabilities than discuss their abilities. We discriminate against the destitute and think of them as human detritus, disparaging them by considering them as disparate from ourselves as possible. We destroy much of our environment and disenfranchise our youth, our elderly and our poor, often treating them disingenuously. Our animals suffer from distemper. When we try to understand a literary work we deconstruct it. When we don’t get what we think we want we are said to be disillusioned.

Whew. You may have gotten the idea that there aren’t any D words I like. Well, let me disabuse you of that notion. Disambiguate, as it were. There are indeed D words that I love; their sound, their meaning(s), their inherent hope and sometimes anger. Some of them have already been used in this post. Some others are delicious, delectable, desire and destiny.

Do you think any one letter is better than any others? Do you find, like I do, that D words have a lot to make up for?

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writing

My mother joined a writing group at her local seniors’ centre 2 or 3 years ago. The group is facilitated by a retired high-school English teacher; they meet once a week and present stories or poems they have written on whatever topic was assigned the previous week. My mother writes from her life, she doesn’t do fiction. She says she can’t write about something she hasn’t experienced herself. Her offerings are more often than not the hit of the week. The director of the seniors’ centre publishes my mom’s stuff in the monthly newsletter and on the website. The other night she told me about this week’s assignment (a torrid affair) and said she can’t write about that, she doesn’t even know what “torrid” means. She will write about it, in her own way, and it won’t be some romance fluff piece, it’ll be something that no one has ever associated with “a torrid affair” and it will be good. She probably won’t start it until Monday morning (the group meet Monday afternoons) and it might not seem to be on topic at all, but it will come to her and she will write. She said to me, “I can’t make myself sit down and write. It’s just something that needs to come out. I feel like I have to get it out of my system, and then I sit down and it just flows.” It is amusing to me to hear my mother describe her writing process in exactly the same way that I would describe mine.

Here is a little something I just had to get out. It was a couple of months ago and it was late and I couldn’t sleep. This is why.

 

I stand alone in this crowded room, surrounded.
This is all so new to me; not the aloneness, but the circumstance.
There are thirty to forty people here.
There is maybe one I recognize.
There is mingling, there is milling about.
The obligatory meet and greet.
We say hello, are introduced, chit-chat and retreat; move on.
I stand alone – and wind up with you beside me.

I stand alone.
It’s different now; I know these people.
The cast of characters hasn’t changed but the circumstance sure has.
We’ve been together a number of years now, this motley crew and I.
There are thirty to forty people here.
There are two I don’t recognize.
We still mingle and mill about.
We say “hi!” and laugh, converse, commiserate, hug, move on.
I stand alone; I watch.
I wait for you to show and wind up here beside me.

You enter and suddenly I stand alone;
in the middle of a conversation everyone fades away until there is only you.
I am amazed at how the room can dim and be so brightly lit all at the same time.
We stand alone – you and I together.
Me with you beside me.

I stand alone in this crowded room, surrounded.
Again, it’s all so new.
The old gang’s all here, along with about a hundred more.
Just another meet and greet.
There’s mingling, crying, hugging, “I’m so sorry,” shake hands and move on.
The deafening sound of the hushed whispers is more than I can take.
I step back and realize:
I stand alone – with you nevermore beside me.

 

Do you write? Is it just something that bubbles up out of you, threatening to explode if you don’t get it down on paper?

Categories: family, words | Tags: , , , , , | 10 Comments

I’d like literary genres for a thousand, Alex

So the thing is, I like to read. I have been known to read just about anything, including all the signs (street, business, billboard) on certain streets in certain towns while driving through — and those I read out loud. I think reading is one of the most amazing pastimes a person could take up. I am thrilled that BoyGenius has become interested in reading.

Reading can take you places you will never get to otherwise; places you will have to see because you read about them; places you have been to but forgotten about. And I don’t just mean physical destinations. Reading will take you into someone else’s head, someone else’s shoes, someone else’s life.

I love to read.

I went through a period of minimal reading, I think, or minimal for me, anyway, but now I am back to reading whenever possible: stolen minutes during the day, while waiting at the blood donor clinic or the dentist’s, in the loo (yes, that’s right, I will stay in there until I finish a chapter!), in bed before falling asleep or upon awakening.

I have fond memories of the huge reference library in the city I used to live in and of the libraries at the institutes of higher learning I have attended. It always gave me a little thrill to be able to flash my “membership” card that allowed access to the elevators that would whisk me away into the stacks. I remember where my favourite childhood books were located in my hometown library. I can easily spend hours (probably days if I didn’t have other responsibilities or need to eat) in bookstores. I, like countless others, could spend the better part of a week skipping from blog to blog on the interweb … and still be behind in my reading.

Since hooking up with all sorts of wonderful writers via said interweb I have been introduced to an entirely new (to me) genre in literature. YA (Young Adult) novels. Where did this come from? When did it come into being? Why are these books “hidden” from adults in the library? In our library they are near the dvds, cds and audio books, not where I usually browse(d) for something new to read. Let me tell you, my browsing habits have changed. I have discovered some amazing reads and some amazing authors in the YA genre. I have read some amazing books. I am looking forward to reading many more.

I talk about one of my favourite discoveries, A Monster Callshere on a previous post.

Another is reviewed here (includes a book giveaway contest)! I have not yet had the opportunity to read The Monster’s Daughter by Deborah Bryan but I know it won’t disappoint because I know and follow Deb’s writing at The Monster in Your Closet.

I’m not happy that I missed out on this entire genre for years, but I am happy that Deborah Bryan pointed me in that direction a few months ago. It means, of course, that I’ve got a lot of catch-up reading to do. It also means that I have plenty of great books to choose from. So yes, I’ll take literary genres for a thousand please, Alex!

ps: to see what I’ve been reading lately or am reading now, check out my list.

Categories: books | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment

one bad apple CAN spoil the whole bunch

Grade One. Every parent’s dream. BoyGenius’ only concerns about Grade One were 1) “there’s no Lego in the classroom” and B) “they’re going to make me do math.” He wasn’t completely chuffed about full days of school as opposed to half days but still seemed okay with it. Class lists go up, he’s in a split 1 / 2, with a teacher that I didn’t really know. When I asked those parents who did know of her, I didn’t get a very warm feeling. Still, we thought, he’ll be fine.  What could possibly go wrong in Grade One?

What was I thinking? What could possibly go wrong in Grade One? Let me see. Migraines. Inability to sleep through the night. Separation anxiety. Anxiety! Total loss of interest in school. Full on desire for homeschooling … in his words, “right through to university.” Poor academic performance. Personality change from Mr. Social to Wallflower. All in a matter of weeks. HardWorker and I were at our wits’ end. What the heck was going on? My gorgeous son was a wreck. BoyGenius’ Grade One teacher had been off the year before due to health issues. She started his Grade One year teaching part-time; she was back full-time at the end of October.  By the end of November BG’s life was a disaster zone. We asked him if anyone was bothering him at school. Nope. Did he like his teacher? Yup,  she’s “nice enough but she does yell a lot.” We got notes home saying BG was easily distracted and needed help finishing his work; couldn’t come up with story ideas. Every week, the same notes.

I approached our school’s head of Special Education. I didn’t know what else to do. She advised she would observe the class and “see where the difficulty is being generated.” After one visit she advised that she was no longer observing, she was stepping in. My education angel took BoyGenius out every day for weeks and spent time with him in the sensory and gross-motor rooms, settling him into his work upon returning him to class. It was grand. He was, if not exactly happy again, at least less resistant to the idea of school. Report cards came home in February (well, to be honest, BoyGenius’ report card went missing and didn’t come home when everyone else’s did) . BG was sick with worry (again) and didn’t want to go to school anymore. His report was pretty good, but he told me — through tears — that anything under an A was bad.

His report card said he would be “encouraged to write in complete sentences” and to work on his reading. Now I knew that these reports are just forms with drop-down boxes so I sent a note to his teacher asking just how he was going to be encouraged to do these things. After not getting a reply for almost two weeks I spoke with our SERT (special education resources teacher) again and remarkably got a call from the teacher the very next day, setting a meeting for the next day after that. BG’s teacher wanted to give me materials to allow me to work with him at home. I explained that he could read and write just fine at home and wondered what they would be doing for him in class. His teacher asked me how he liked the homework calendar/notebook that came home. I truthfully said “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Apparently this was something that she had instituted a couple of weeks before our meeting .. but also apparently it didn’t matter that my son had never once brought homework back to school during those two weeks. She gave me a notebook and a calendar to take home. She said she had done a running record with him that afternoon; she reluctantly raised his reading level two steps. She said he struggled with comprehension on the lower level but was okay with it on the higher level story. Our SERT asked what the two stories were about and pointed out that he didn’t care what happened in the first one because it was about getting to school on time and BG didn’t even want to be at school. His teacher said he had problems with his “middle sounds” in words and that might be contributing to his reading issues. Our SERT did a running record with him the day after this meeting and amazingly his reading level jumped 4 steps … she wanted to go further but his teacher disagreed. The SERT put him on a computer program that she usually only started in grade two and found he breezed through about twenty levels and said he had no issues whatsoever with reading, pronunciation or comprehension. So what was the problem?

I started making BoyGenius’ issues general knowledge to any parent who would listen. They didn’t believe what they heard — not BoyGenius, he was “the coolest kid in Kindergarten!” I found that there were indeed a number of other parents who were experiencing challenges with their children in this same class. They all bickered and complained in the yard but only one other mother followed through with the administration. Others said “it’s too late now, it’s already March,” or “I don’t want any backlash from the teacher towards my child” or my personal favourite, “we’re just treating this year as a write-off.” Grade One — a write-off.

I did go to the principal. I did write a letter and have a face to face meeting. I did demand that something be done. I did put in a formal request for BoyGenius’ Grade Two placement. I did point out to the principal that the primary grades are the foundation for students’ educational careers and if they couldn’t be sucked into the culture of learning in those first three years then heaven help their teachers for the next ten. I did put the school on notice for the emotional well-being of my child. I did let them know that while I am definitely my son’s strongest advocate, I was appalled that I had to bring these issues to their attention when they should have been in contact with me since they saw him in this environment every day.

I did bring about a change. While BoyGenius’ Grade One teacher is still there, still teaching a 1 / 2 split, still being unable to exercise much control over what goes on in her classroom, the students she has this year are having a better time of it than those who had her last year. She is being more closely monitored by the administration, has apparently taken some direction. I feel less afraid and more happy for the grade ones she has this year.

What about BoyGenius, you ask? How is Grade Two? Night and day, my friends. He skips or dances to school every morning. He entertains. He is a “joy to have in the classroom” and quite frankly, back to being his brilliant self. He is apparently a natural leader as well as being one of the class clowns. He loves school, brings home one perfect math quiz after another and has the most diverse collection of books in his book box. His February report brought tears to my eyes and warmth to my soul. And he’s still complaining that there’s no Lego in the classroom.

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