Wednesday, August 15, 2012

why? Why? WHY??!!

face with question mark
         “Why do I see rain clouds but it’s not raining?”  Andrew asks.  “Why?”  Who would ever have thought that three little letters could become a painful ringing in my ear?  Wait, that may be too harsh.  I could liken them to nails on a chalkboard, but that never bothered me and we have whiteboards now.  Honestly, it’s the anticipation of that third of fourth “Why?” (after I feel I have done a really good job of explaining), that quickens my heartbeat.  This is when I resort to silence and the occasional topic change or a (slightly) exasperated, “I don’t know.” 
          Two of my favorite go to answers were “Because it was born that way” and “Because it was made that way.” Those worked for quite a long time.  He had no comeback.  Well, he now asks, “Why were the born/made that way?”  I do have to admit, though, he was some very interesting questions.  Most recently he has been focused on the size of animals.  “Why are crocodiles so big?  Why are ducks bigger than chickens?”   
          Then of course, there are the whys that come after a direction has been given.  I tried for a very long to avoid the “because I sad so” response.  I thought I was so savvy with the “because I gave you a direction” response.  It was direct, didn’t sound too rude, or authoritative.  Well, it has now begun to squeak out.  If you’ve been there, you know. 
          During the course of questioning, I put on my patience hat.  This is obviously a sign of his intelligence.  I am so lucky to have an inquisitive child who wants to learn more about the world around him.  This track is on auto rewind in my head. 
          Ask yourself, “Where would we be without the word why?”  What if Sir Isaac Newton had never asked, ‘Why did that apple fall from the tree?’  Or Elizabeth Cady Stanton hadn’t ever asked, ‘Why can’t women vote?’  Or if Steve Jobs had not asked, ‘Why do I need a separate cell phone, video camera, music player and computer?’
          Whys, what ifs, and how comes have shaped our history.  I’m sure not a day goes by without you asking yourself “why” at least once.  It can’t be helped.  It’s part of us.  So, I will continue my duties of expert question-answerer and when all else fails, I think I’m going to add a new response…”Go ask your father!”

Wednesday, August 8, 2012


       August.  I did a little research to find some interesting tidbits.  Here’s what I found:
* It is the seasonal equivalent of February in the Southern Hemisphere
* In a leap year, August ends on the same day of the week as November
* It was originally named Sextilis (Latin) because it was the sixth month under the original Roman 10 month calendar
* In 8 BC it was renamed in honor of Augustus, founder and first Emperor of the Roman Empire
* It is one of the seven months with 31 days
* It’s the start of the school year
        It’s these last two facts that bring me to the computer today. 
        The month of August has taken on three distinct roles as I moved from childhood to adulthood to motherhood.  When I was a child, school began after Labor Day.  August was like the last ripe berries on the bush.  You didn’t want to rush eating them.  You wanted to wait as long as possible because you knew they’d be super sweet in the end.  As the hot and hazy days of August rolled along, we didn’t want them to rush by either.  Gone would be our neighborhood games of hide and seek, group bike rides to the pool and visits from the ice cream truck.  Those moments would be replaced by hours inside a classroom, with structure and without socializing.  No, we didn’t want August to end.
        When I became a teacher, I found my feelings about August conflicted.  My first few summers I worked summer school and took Master’s classes, so August became my only month “off.”  I’d hit the beach, stay up late watching bad TV and spend time with my friends.  However, I did not get to enjoy all 31 days because by the middle of August, I began to prepare for the upcoming year.  I did (and still do) this with great excitement and anticipation.  I love being a teacher.  The trepidation I feel right before the beginning of each school year is awesome.  Teaching is a job where no two days are exactly the same.  Also, I can have the best lessons and activities planned only to encounter one tiny hiccup in the day that requires me to stop and switch gears.  It is not a profession for the inflexible!
        When conversing with parents about upcoming vacations, some would lament about what to do with all that extra time with their children.  Inside, I would be absolutely giddy about my upcoming break from their cherubs! But, I had to suppress these feelings as I saw looks of panic flash across their faces!
        A few years ago, I entered their world.  Vacations for me are breaks from teaching but not from working.  I look forward to spending extra time with the boys (and in my jammies!)  I also get anxious about how we will adjust to our new schedule.  Summer vacation allows us more time to adjust.  Then August comes, and again, I am conflicted.  The teacher in me is calling.  “You have to get into your classroom and see what supplies have been delivered.  It’s time to do some research for new lessons.”  The mother in me gives her a gigantic “SHHHH!”  She says, “These are the last weeks with your boys.  Make play dates.  Have fun!”   Out loud I say, “UGH!  How can I do both?”
        Ah, August.  I will take you one day at a time.  Hope for more sunny days than rain.  And wish you were just a few days longer. J

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

You Are What You Write


                So you want to write, but what should you write about?  According to Harold Underdown’s book, Publishing Children’s Books, ( ) he suggests exploring what genres you like to read.  “Rule one is to write what you want to write, not what you think you should write,” he says.  This is pretty good advice.  But what if you have very eclectic reading tastes?  You’d just as easily read a murder mystery as a whimsical rhyming picture book?  How do you focus your writing energy?
            You could read Regina Brooks guide entitled Writing Great Books for Young Adults ( ) .  She believes the universe gives us stories, and it is our job as writers to accept these gifts to create our own masterpiece.  “Once your ear is attuned, and if you keep an open mind, story ideas will rush to you.”  Doesn’t this sound too good to be true?  However, I have been in group conversations, listening to stories and thinking, ‘that would make a great character’ or ‘what an interesting plot line that could be.’  She also has several lovely writing exercises to keep you writing, (but I didn’t find them useful.)
            I like to revert to the lyrics of a Beck song and, what I think, is the single most important piece of advice I have been giving students for 15 years:  “You can’t write if you can’t relate.”  Bottom line, if it doesn’t mean anything to you, you will have a heck of a time trying to force it into a story or poem or article.  It just doesn’t work.
            So you want to write?  Then do it.  Make a list of things of interest, people of importance to you, places you want to (or have) visited and/or problems you want solved.  You have the ability to write about anything at all as long as it matters to you.  This writing from the heart - this is true writing.