The Boy’s Wisdom

Thad used to talk like this–I put these in a draft on July 18, 2008.

“The downer you are, the more higher you jump.”

“I did it like this, then I wemembuhed, ‘Oh yeah, glue doesn’t move–only squooze (screws).”

“I’m having a bit of a pwedicament.” (In regards to not getting his seatbelt buckled.)

“That puhsun was not vewy bwight.” (In regards to a creator of the Legos Bionicle online game that didn’t work so great.)

He still has plenty of wisdom that comes at odd times and in odd ways. . .for instance, a couple of weeks ago, he was listening to the radio with his Daddy on the way to Scouts and decided that the DJ should try saying something like this, “This song is for all you old people in young cars and all you young people in old cars and all you hippies in Studebakers.” He just thought that hippies in Studebakers sounded like a cool thing to say.

Last week on his way to Scout he was bemoaning the fact that his math teacher had begun teaching negative numbers. He was livid to be quite honest. “That is just wrong. That makes no sense. How can you have LESS than zero. I don’t think I need to learn that in 4th grade.”

The speech is all fixed up now. . .but that makes me marvel at him no less. I just don’t have to make up the spellings of words anymore.

July, 2008

Thad with his Daddy tonight getting his Webelos badge


More about the written word

Today Stephanie posted a little something about this awesome thing that she found. It is there to motivate people to write letters, and I said, “Sign me up.” I am already a letter writer–or a card writer if I’m short on time. When I was in high school, I found this essay by Garrison Keillor in a magazine. Reader’s Digest I think as I recall cutting and pasting it (with scissors and tape) to put it on one letter sized page.? Either way, I immediately claimed it as my own muse and made copies of it to share with people and waved it far and wide. I still love it. It is wonderful. Enjoy.

How to write a letter

by Garrison Keillor (written for Corrine Guntzel)

We shy persons need to write a letter now and then, or else we’ll dry up and blow away. It’s true. And I speak as one who loves to reach for the phone, dial the number, and talk. I say, “Big Bopper here – what’s shakin’, babes?” The telephone is to shyness what Hawaii is to February, it’s a way out of the woods, and yet: a letter is better.

Such a sweet gift – a piece of handmade writing, in an envelope that is not a bill, sitting in our friend’s path when she trudges home from a long day spent among wahoos and savages, a day our words will help repair. They don’t need to be immortal, just sincere. She can read them twice and again tomorrow: You’re someone I care about, Corrine, and think of often and every time I do you make me smile.

We need to write, otherwise nobody will know who we are. They will have only a vague impression of us as A Nice Person, because, frankly, we don’t shine at conversation, we lack the confidence to thrust our faces forward and say, “Hi! I’m Heather Hooten; let me tell you about my week.” Mostly we say “Uh-huh” and “Oh, really.” People smile and look over our shoulder, looking for someone else to meet.

So a shy person sits down and writes a letter. To be known by another person – to meet and talk freely on the page – to be close despite distance. To escape from anonymity and be our own sweet selves and express the music of our souls.

Same thing that moves a giant rock star to sing his heart out in front of 123,000 people moves us to take a ballpoint in hand and write a few lines to our dear Aunt Eleanor. We want to be known. We want her to know that we have fallen in love, that we quit our job, that we’re moving to New York, and we want to say a few things that might not get said in casual conversation: Thank you for what you’ve meant to me, I’m very happy right now.

The first step in writing letters is to get over the guilt of not writing. You don’t “owe” anybody a letter. Letters are a gift. The burning shame you feel when you see unanswered mail makes it harder to pick up a pen and makes for a cheerless letter when you finally do. I feel bad about not writing, but I’ve been so busy, etc. Skip this. Few letters are obligatory, and they are Thanks for the wonderful gift and I am terribly sorry to hear about George’s death and Yes, you’re welcome to stay with us next month, and not many more than that. Write those promptly if you want to keep your friends. Don’t worry about the others, except love letters, of course. When your true love writes, Dear Light of My Life, Joy of My Heart, O Lovely Pulsating Core of My Sensate Life, some response is called for.

Some of the best letters are tossed off in a burst of inspiration, so keep your writing stuff in one place where you can sit down for a few minutes and (Dear Roy, I am in the middle of a book entitled We Are Still Married but thought I’d drop you a line. Hi to your sweetie, too) dash off a note to a pal. Envelopes, stamps, address book, everything in a drawer so you can write fast when the pen is hot.

A blank white eight-by-eleven sheet can look as big as Montana if the pen’s not so hot – try a smaller page and write boldly. Or use a note card with a piece of fine art on the front; if your letter ain’t good, at least they get the Matisse. Get a pen that makes a sensuous line, get a comfortable typewriter, a friendly word processor – whichever feels easy to the hand.

Sit for a few minutes with the blank sheet in front of you, and meditate on the person you will write to, let your friend come to mind until you can almost see her or him in the room with you. Remember the last time you saw each other and how your friend looked and what you said and what perhaps was unsaid between you, and when your friend becomes real to you, start to write.

Write the salutation – Dear You – and take a deep breath and plunge in. A simple declarative sentence will do, followed by another and another and another. Tell us what you’re doing and tell it like you were talking to us. Don’t think about grammar, don’t think about lit’ry style, don’t try to write dramatically, just give us your news. Where did you go, who did you see, what did they say, what do you think?

If you don’t know where to begin, start with the present moment: I’m sitting at the kitchen table on a rainy Saturday morning. Everyone is gone and the house is quiet. Let your simple description of the present moment lead to something else, let the letter drift gently along.

The toughest letter to crank out is one that is meant to impress, as we all know from writing job applications; if it’s hard work to slip off a letter to a friend, maybe you’re trying too hard to be terrific. A letter is only a report to someone who already likes you for reasons other than your brilliance. Take it easy.

Don’t worry about form. It’s not a term paper. When you come to the end of one episode, just start a new paragraph. You can go from a few lines about the sad state of pro football to your fond memories of Mexico to your cat’s urinary tract infection to a few thoughts on personal indebtedness and on to the kitchen sink and what’s in it. The more you write, the easier it gets, and when you have a True True Friend to write to, a compadre, a soul sibling, then it’s like driving a car down a country road, you just get behind the keyboard and press on the gas.

Don’t tear up the page and start over when you write a bad line – try to write your way out of it. Make mistakes and plunge on. Let the letter cook along and let yourself be bold. Outrage, confusion, love – whatever is in your mind, let it find a way on to the page. Writing is a means of discovery, always, and when you come to the end and write Yours ever or Hugs and kisses, you’ll know something you didn’t when you wrote Dear Pal.

Probably your friend will put your letter away, and it’ll be read again a few years from now – and it will improve with age. And forty years from now, your friend’s grandkids will dig it out of the attic and read it, a sweet and precious relic of the ancient eighties that gives them a sudden clear glimpse of you and her and the world we old-timers knew. You will then have created an object of art. Your simple lines about where you went, who you saw, what they said, will speak to those children and they will feel in their hearts the humanity of our times.

You can’t pick up a phone and call the future and tell them about our times. You have to pick up a piece of paper.

Nobody Loves Heather

Heather turned three a couple of weeks ago. She spent the next night with us so her Momma and Daddy could celebrate their anniversary–which is the same day as her birthday. It was her first night away from both parents at the same time, so we lived the wild life, then I snuck her to sleep as she kept emphatically saying, “I will sit UP.” Anyway–photos below from her party with us and the one we had for family this weekend.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As you can tell from these photos. . .nobody loves Heather. My wish for EVERY three year old child is that they are all as unloved as she.

A Sunday in January

Our weekend was a fast and furious one. It involved many activities over a 50 mile area, and very little time at home. This afternoon, however, the kids got it into their heads to occupy the swing. I wish I could have gotten a photo of it. I, however, was taking a four hour nap after church/potluck duty.

From what I’ve gathered, they laid the back down (our swing can turn into a bed. . .it’s cool) and read books and discussed how they need to do that together more often. . .they had fun. Together. And that is good. My kids get along pretty well for siblings–they love each other–they also know how to push each others’ buttons. The older they get, the more that happens.

But today, they laid plans to spend more time together–and that is always a good thing.

A bunch o' Webelos

Thad's new bike in action

Um. . .help, please.

A party. . .

The Scientific Process of Play

I started writing this post nearly two years ago. . .then I got side-tracked and didn’t ever post it. Two years. How did my girl go from being a little girl to being a young woman? How did my boy go from his cute speech impediment to no speech impediment at all (BELIEVE ME–the boy can talk–he just does it slowly).

Original Post written February 13, 2010–all photos taken the same day
Just heard from the living room.

Victoria: “I only need ONE variable. Do YOU want to be the test subject or me?”

Thad: “You.”

V: (Talking slowly while writing). “Question: Does. . .spinning. . .in. . .cir. . .cles. . .by. . .dif. . .fer. . .ent. . .aged. . .peo. . ple. . .make. . .you. . .run. . .slower?”

Thad: “People.”

Victoria: “Right. Okay. We’re each going to go twice. You’ll go, then I’ll go, then you’ll go, then I’ll go. Now. . .I’m going to spin you for 20 seconds, then you will run around the room and land in the chair.”

Thad: “With my eyes closed or open. . .because when I run with them closed, I run into walls.”

V: “Get ready. Be quiet. Shhhh. . .NOW (Thad begins spinning). . .go ahead, a bit more. If you feel like you are going to fall over just keep trying. . .AAAAAAAAND. RUN!!!!”

Thad: (running) Whoa. . .whoa. . .WHOOOOOAAAA.”

V: “Okay–took you seven seconds. Now get in the middle of the room and do it again. NOW!!! Keep going–doing good–keep spinning. . .NOW run.”

T: Thad giggling. . .and puffing. . .and whoa-ing.

V: “SEVEN seconds AGAIN!”

Thad then had a THIRD turn. This time it was 8 seconds.

Thad: (indignant but laughing from dizziness), “ONE MORE SECONDS?????”

Now Thad is timing Victoria. . .she started out with 8 seconds. I sit in the study eaves dropping. . .Thad just asked Victoria if she had timed herself. . .she said, “BUDDY. . .*YOU* ARE SUPPOSED TO BE TIMING ME.”

Thad’s reply? “I CAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHN’T. . .” (with a British accent.)

Victoria just had 11 seconds. She is not happy with these results and is testing her brother’s timing technique. He was COUNTING rather than watching the stop watch.

Methinks there is more than one variable in this experiment.

She is now employing ME to come and time her–seriously–because Thad messed up.


All of this occurred just hours before The Great Concrete Dog Debacle of 2010. . .but that’s another story for another day. And this small slice of preserved conversation is why I should be blogging more. . .so these days are not ground to fine, powdery dust under the merciless marching soles of time. . .

(If you click on the image, you can read the thought processes in Victoria’s burgeoning scientific mind. Of course this IS the child that “performed” her first experiment at the age of 10 months or so while dropping textured rubber rings from different angles, heights, and speeds into a large Tupperware bowl filled with water, and also began sorting “treasures” into groups by color, size, and shape at the age of 18 months. Just sayin’.)


For the past two nights, I have tried to re-invent laziness. Seriously. Both of these nights I have done nothing but eat dinner, read a book, and go to bed. It has been delightful. It is 7:31, and when I am done with this post, I am headed to my bed AGAIN. Why am I so ***yawn*** tired and sleepy? Is it January? Is it age? Is it the fact that I’m up at 5:00 daily, run, run, run all the live-long day, and then come home ready to collapse? Too many carbs?

Maybe it’s the fact that I’ve been in Jr. High for 20 years.



If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a THOUSAND times out of the mouths of my students. . .”I’m boooooooorrrrrrrrred,” they whine as they lie as supine as one can lie in a desk/chair combo–or droop like tulips over the fake wood-grained veneer of their writing surface.

I must be so tired because I am bored. . .that’s it, I’m tellin’ ya. Mystery solved.


What to Remember

We are doing our Holocaust unit right now in 8th grade language arts. Each time I’ve taught this, I struggle with what we tell the kids. . .there are, of course, things I don’t tell them and photos I don’t show them. Besides the fact that some things once seen can’t be unseen, there is, quite frankly, too much to show. The horror and death and loss is too great to comprehend. But it comes back to this quote–

Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

It try to bring it home to the kids by using examples with which they are familiar, “If you have the right shoes, or the right jeans, or the right hair, or live in the right neighborhood, or have the right friends, then you have status in our school. If you are a jock or an emo or a prep or a gangster. . .then you can look down on the ‘wanna-be’s or the nerds or whomever isn’t a part of your exclusive group.” Some of them get it–most of them don’t. But all of them understand that what happened was a bad, bad thing.

This video will be used as a “hook” to introduce the novels from which our students can choose–different stories, but all the same. Intolerance, war, hatred, but ultimately–stories about humanity.
(Click the link below to view the video.)

Holocaust Novel Unit.