Bear with me today, guys. Logan started back to school last week and I started subbing again this week. Getting back into the swing of the school year is something I look forward to, but also dread. I miss the staying up late and waking up after the dawn. I'm currently working on some posts that are very vulnerable and open, and I'm trying to figure out where I want to go with my life and my blog. Today's post is about a few silly words, but to me they are more important than random words. I see so many hurting and broken people around me--just this morning, I found out some terrible news about a co-worker. For me, learning opens a vast amount of non-terrible news that makes me feel both insignificant and part of a bigger picture. There's so much to learn and teach. Knowing that I will never consume the vast pool of knowledge gives me comfort because I know that I will never be bored or run out of learning material. Knowing that God is infinite and that I can never truly wrap my head around Him doesn't' make me give up trying. If anything, it leaves me more thirsty for knowledge about Him and His wondrous deeds.
I hope you enjoy my thoughts on these silly words, but more importantly I hope you enjoy those around you. Surround them in love and appreciate the good and wonderful things in life.
I love English, but I feel terrible for those who are learning it as a second language because it is confusing. English is a mix of Romantic (mostly French) and Germanic languages, but not only in words -- we also share the rules from multiple languages. Before I get in too over my head, linguistically speaking, let me explain what brought on today's outcry for the love of my native language. We have a word for everything. I mean really, almost everything. To a point of sheer fabulous ridiculousness. Today, I have two Wonder Words for you, but I highly doubt you'll use either one.
Today's Words: Spanghew and Defenstration
Spanghew - Two syllables. Pronounced [span-g-huw] Defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as "to throw violently into the air; especially : to throw (a frog) into the air from the end of a stick." Why is there a word that refers to throwing a frog in the air, specifically from end of a stick? How many times has this happened that we needed to create a word for it? Apparently, it is an archaic word because to spanghew frogs and toads once entertained many upper class young people in England. Let's NOT bring this practice back.
Defenestration - Five syllables. Pronounced [dee-fen-uh-strey-shuh n] Defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a throwing of a person or thing out of a window. I've seen the defenestration of plenty of people and things on television shows and movies, but have never witnessed this is real life. Next time someone is driving me crazy maybe I should threaten defenestration.
I foresee myself using these words rarely if not at all, but that doesn't mean learning about them is a waste. Odd bits of information give me something to talk about instead of gossip and negativity. Sure, sharing that there's a word for frog tossing or being thrown out of a window makes me a bit socially awkward, but in light of so much that surrounds us, I'll gladly accept being socially awkward.
Yesterday was my son's twelfth birthday. He is spunky and always ready with a themed outfit. He's been a companion for me and a source of both joy and frustration, but I wouldn't trade the opportunity to be his mom for the world. Sometimes he asks if we are friends and I tell him no. I say that when he is all grown up we can be friends, and no, twelve is not grown up.
Logan LOVES traditions. Adores them would be more appropriate. If something happens more than once it is a tradition. He celebrates ALL holidays and wants to be with people as much as possible.
One of his favorite things is a birthday book I made him when he was a baby. For his first five birthdays I followed him around and took pictures of what he did the whole day. I put those pictures and the pictures and invitations from his birthday parties in this birthday book and now we pull it out every year. I stopped after five years because now he can remember his birthdays and we don't host birthday parties every year. As time goes on I know that this book will remain a favorite each year.
I no longer scrapbook, but at the time scrapbooking was a creative outlet for me. I loved the opportunity to create and tell a story. Posting photos on Facebook and Instagram is great for those adults in our lives, but I would highly recommend making memory books for the little ones you know. My sister-in-law sent Logan a Snapfish photo book with pictures he took while he was visiting them. It was a simple photo book, but it showed all the fun things he did throughout his time them. Although this visit took place five years ago, he still looks at the book often. Because of these photos his memories of things are stronger and more vivid.
Below are some photos of the book and a few of the pages. If you click on the image you can read the captions. The party ideas came from a variety of sources including Family Fun magazine, Parenting, and Pinterest. (I would site specific sources if I still had the articles, but they are long gone. If you find one please let me know and I will tag the originator of the idea.) The Bundt cake pans were from William Sonoma and they are a particular favorites of mine.
I had learned a lot about teaching during my 4 1/2 years of college. My major was secondary education, but for various reasons I ended up working in a preschool/day care as my first post-college position. Initially, the director placed me as an assistant in the four year old room. After three weeks of working with a great teacher in that room, I was offered a position as the lead teacher in the three year old room.
When the director walked me over to show me the classroom and introduce me to the students, I was deeply concerned. The room had lacked a strong, consistent teacher for a long time so the room was undisciplined, unorganized, and unruly. At the time I visited there was some attempt at circle time being made but the circle was more like a vague group of semi-engaged students. One student in particular caught my eye. He was far out of the circle and he was running. Running into a wall. Repeatedly running into a wall. I had immediate concerns about that one.
I began my time as the lead three year old teacher as a mean dictator. I threw away broken toys, enforced strict circle time rules, and raised the expectations for how these little ones should behave. Painstakingly order was carved out of the the previous chaos. Initially my students and I didn't get along because they were losing control and were less than thrilled about it. Soon though, they began to see that with order came more fun. Running around and screaming turned into interactive and exploitative play. Throwing blocks turned into building fantastic structures. Crumpling paper, scribbling, and coloring all over the tables turned into creating beautiful artwork both concrete and abstract. (And yes, we used those words.) I celebrated each accomplishment with photos galore which I would print and hang all over the room. I loved those kiddos and they loved me in return.
The students were flourishing and I was having a blast. As time passed I brought things I enjoyed into the classroom including classical music. One day I told them a story about Beethoven going deaf and learning to feel vibrations of the music. They noticed how the floor felt when someone jumped up and down. We then listened to Moonlight Sonata. This may seem too advanced for mere three year olds, but they soaked up every word and loved it. Well, most of them loved it. Actually, all of them loved it. Except one. Michael. He absolutely refused to come to circle time and participate.
This is the part of the story I most regret. I gave up on him. I thought, "That's it. I'm done with this kid. I have 14 three year olds who are loving this and he's the only one who won't engage. I'm done with him." Then I was. I ensured his physical safety and was kind, but I gave up the hope of ever teaching him anything.
The class continued on and about a month later I began to complete portfolios with the students. I asked them to identify their colors, numbers, letters, and shapes, and collected art work to include in the file. (I highly recommend this to be done every six months starting at three. It is so fun to see how your child grows.) This allowed me individual time with each students which I thoroughly enjoyed. Eventually it was Michael's turn. I hadn't really given him much individual thought since the day I gave up on him. One of the tasks Michael was supposed to complete was to draw a picture. It was supposed to be a self-portrait, but he said it was someone else. As he drew I noticed that the ears were off the head. I asked why he had not attached the ears to the head. He looked at me and said, "Because his ears are broken like the guy in this song." I stopped and listened. I had put my calming CD on to play as background music while the other kids played. The song playing was Sonata No. 14 in C-Sharp Minor better known as Moonlight Sonata.
He had been listening. He had been paying attention. He was just unable to sit and show it like the other students. I gave up on him WAY to easily and had lost so many opportunities to engage this bright young mind. For this 22 year old first year teacher it was a slap in the face and a reminder to NEVER write a student off. They may not show it. They might not show it for years, but a teacher will never know where his or her influence stops.
When Michael left the preschool and headed for kindergarten his mom gave each teacher a fun flamingo frame with a photo of themselves with Michael. When I opened my frame, I discovered a extra gift in the bag. A pinkish plastic dinosaur. He had been chewed on and thoroughly loved. I told Michael I loved the dinosaur, but was worried that he would miss the toy. I offered to return it to him because I could see it was a special toy. Without missing a beat Michael said, "No. I want you to keep it so you will always remember me."
So I did. That dinosaur has sat on the desk in each of my classrooms. Whenever I got frustrated with a particular student or felt like giving up I would look at that dinosaur and remember Michael. Each child is unique and precious. Each child has intrinsic value as a human and should be cared for with dignity. This is SO hard when the administration is asking for stacks of paperwork, meetings run long, and parents are difficult, but NEVER give up on a student. NEVER.
Throughout the years I have received a number of wonderful gifts. I drink out of my mugs, proudly display my Christmas ornaments, and appreciate the kindness and generosity displayed by the parents and students, but no gift has ever changed me like this one little dinosaur. By now Michael is out of high school. Wherever he is now I thank him for his influence in my life and the way he shaped my teaching career.
Back in May, I posted that my mom read great stories to me. One of my favorites was Mr. Gumpy's Outing. I'll do a quick summary just in case you are unfamiliar with the story. Mr. Gumpy was a farmer who just wanted to go for a boat ride. Then some kids. a rabbit, a goat, a cat, a cow, dog, a pig, a chicken, and a sheep all asked to come along. For each passenger Mr. Gumpy agrees they can come along, but only if they behave. He has a new word for each animal and for the children. He tells the pig, "Don't muck about." He tells the goat, "Don't kick." I'm sure you can see what's going to happen especially if you've been on a family road trip. Everyone does what they aren't supposed to and Mr. Gumpy's boat tips.
I always loved the instructions Mr. Gumpy gives to each of his riders, but I particularly loved what he said to the to the kids. His instructions to the children are, "Don't squabble." And this brings us to our word of the day:
Today's Word: Squabble
Two syllables. Pronounced [skwob-uh l]. Defined as a noisy quarrel about something petty or trivial. If this doesn't sound like a kids at the end of a play date I don't know what does. Kids are the first that come to mind when it comes to squabbling, but adults can squabble too. Sometimes our squabbling about petty and trivial things can turn into deep wounds and bitter feelings. Sometimes calling things as they are can help both the kids and the adults. Next time either situation arises just call whoever out and tell them to stop squabbling. Chances are the odd word will throw them enough off kilter that everyone can breathe and maybe crack a smile or two.
Every year during the summer we go to a bunch of places and have a pretty great time together. I post about the things we do with the intention of motivating others to get out and experience life. I never intend to brag or shove our happiness down the throats of others or make others feel like we are winning some weird life competition. A comment that I've seen a few times on my posts reads, "You are such a good mom!" or some other variance of the statement. This. Makes. Me. Cringe. Please forgive my lack of grace in accepting this compliment, I just don't think its fair. No, I don't think I'm a bad mom, but I don't think of my adventures with Logan as making me any better than a mom who is unable to go to these places. I only have one child. I am a teacher which means I am free during the summer. This is not the case for the majority of the people I know. Some moms have full time jobs. Some have more than one child. Some have other things keeping them from travel and/or local adventures. I can participate in these summer adventures because of the circumstances God has placed me in.
So often we look at other people and compare their lives to our own without understanding the trade offs they make. For example, we travel a lot. When we fly, we fly Delta and stay at any variation of Hilton hotels. This is great and I'm happy to be a loyal customer of both, thanks to the loyalty points collected through business travel. As a family we've been to Paris, Disney, and other places and it's fabulous. But the cost of this is my husband's constant business travel. During a few months last year, thankfully non-consecutive, he was home less than seven days. This gets frustrating for many reasons, but we live this way because it works for us. Our travel allows us to reconnect and grow as a family and Jason's hard work pays the bills.
For some families, dealing with a parent traveling wouldn't work. They would be unwilling to deal with the stress or unable due to a variety of unique issues. That doesn't mean either family is better. Jason's failure to be home every night allows us to have the success of being a family that travels. For some people they are happy to fail to travel but enjoy the success of being home together every night. There's a trade off.
This trade off applies to everything. If I run a marathon I miss out on time I wanted to spend with family and friends. If I spend time with family and friends I give up my chance to run a marathon. If I spend a day cleaning and caring for my home, I miss a coffee date out with my friend. If I go for coffee with a friend, I miss out of time necessary to care for and clean my home. In these four examples there isn't anything better than another. I like running. I like spending time with family and friends. I like having a clean home. I like coffee dates with friends. But I can't have it all.
Marketing and our social media feeds makes us think we can have it all. We see the highlights of the lives of others but rarely see their struggles. We. Can. Not. Have. It. All. It's just not possible. Women's magazines or family themed magazines like Parents offer parenting hacks or how to balance work and life, but the cover images show families smiling and happy with clean and organized kids. We're usually pretty cleaned up for my Instagram posts too.
A little behind the scenes view of my social media:
Me: Logan, smile. Logan. LOGAN!
Logan: I am.
Me: No, not like that. You look like you're in pain. Come on. We're doing this cool thing together. Just SMILE!
Logan: (looking like he's holding in a fart).
Me: Aughhhh!!!!! (this makes him laugh).
Me: Caption photo "Just an easy going day at ______. So much fun."
Please tell me I'm not the only one. Please.
One book that has influenced me and given me courage to be bold and pursue my writing is Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes. I do not agree with everything that Shonda says, but her writing style, personality, and personal challenges deeply connect with me. On June 8, 2014, she gave the Dartmouth commencement address in which she addressed the question, "How do you do it all?" This was her answer.
"I don't. Whenever you see me somewhere succeeding in one area of my life, that almost certainly means that I am failing in another area of my life.
Even that seemingly unattainably perfect woman described in Proverbs 31 made trade offs. She was not always there for her family. Look at the passage. She's buying land, she's making and selling garments, she's amazing. Verse 21 says, "She is not afraid for her household when it snows, for all in her household are doubly clothed. " I imagine that just as she's sitting down with her sewing a little one begins demanding her attention. "Not now, little one. Mama is working on warm clothes for us. I said, NOT NOW." Okay, maybe she wouldn't raise her voice, but I imagine she was firm and when the snow came she could say, "See, that's why I worked so hard. Now you are nice and cozy warm." Maybe they would grudgingly acknowledge her work as young children, but as they grew up they understood her incredible work ethic and appreciated her. She works hard and verse 31 says, "Give her the reward of her labor and let her words praise her at the city gates." She made choices and she is praised for her work. Part of her diligent teaching was training her children to figure things out for themselves. Success. Failure.
This is the key to intentional living. Evaluating why we do things. Recognizing the successes and the failures and accepting those choices and their consequences. I'm trying to teach Logan this. Sometimes he wants to two things that are occurring at the same time. Both are good choices, but it is only possible to do one. I think it's important for him to see those success and failures instead of me giving him the impression that either of us can do it all. It's not always easy, but that's life.
I hope I didn't discourage you today. Being a success and a failure is hard, but if you accept the choices it can be very rewarding. Stand strong! Be an example to those within your circle of influence by admitting that you can't do it all. I'll go first. I'm Edy, and I'm a success because I'm a failure.
My last few posts have been a bit heavy. From ultimate school commuting with Mrs. Mendeleev to the discussion of suffering and the beautiful ending to stories, we've covered some weighty stuff, so let's lighten this up and switch gears.
Learning new words can be a chore when the task is formalized by an academic assignment, but when they are discovered in their native territory, written and spoken language, learning words can be fun. My son has a extensive vocabulary for someone going into the sixth grade and people sometimes comment on his knowledge of words. They assume I've been busy teaching him or we learn it from the literature we listen to, but if I'm being candid here, he's learned a ton of words from Phineas and Ferb. He tells people he is an Anglophile (someone who loves all things English) and points out the aglet on people's shoelaces. Both of these words were the centers of P&F episodes. We laugh about these words and talk about them and soon after they enter our everyday language.
One of the things on our summer bucket list was to read Something BIG Has Been Here by Jack Prelutsky with drawings by James Stevenson. If you aren't yet familiar with Jack Prelutsky's poetry you need to familiarize yourself with it immediately. His poetry is published in books about the length of Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends or A Light in the Attic, but Prelutsky's work is more lighthearted. He is silly and writes in nonsense much the way Edward Lear wrote his Nonsense Poetry. The poems are light-hearted, fun, and silly, but they contain some pretty high-level vocabulary.
Nonsense is good. Nonsense is great. Especially when you are tired and just want a laugh. It's a way to intellectually stimulate your brain without being intellectual. For sake of copyright, I cannot write out any of Prelutsky's poetry, but Edward Lear wrote a very long time ago so his work is now public domain. Here's an example of Lear's work.
Isn't that delightfully nonsensical? Yes, yes, I know it is stupid and doesn't make sense, which is why Mr. Lear titled it Nonsense Poetry. If his title was "Romantic Poetry" we could be confused together, but he made his intention clear. But even this silly limerick can be a great teaching tool. First, geography -- Where is Hong Kong? Second, pronouncing the words. Rhyme and repetition can build confidence and increase comprehension. Third, do you see that fabulous word in there? Innocuous -- not harmful or offensive. Bonus -- why is he laying with his head in a bag? (Remember, keep it silly.)
Note: There are some limericks in Lear's collection that could cause offense because of underdeveloped racial acceptance during his time period. I would recommend reading ahead and only reading the ones that are appropriate with your child or class.
Although I love Lear, I chose today's word from our summer book, Something BIG Has Been Here. Possible options of fun words we read in this collection were as follows:
Today's Word: Disputatious
Four syllables. Pronounced dis-pyoo-tey-shuh s. Adjective. Defined in the OAD as fond of having arguments. The poem is titled "The Disputatious Deeble" and is about the Disputatious Deeble who argues about everything. If you say, "It's freezing!" he says, "It's far too hot!" The illustration shows a very disgruntled old man with his arms crossed. After reading the title of the poem and realizing I didn't know what disputatious meant we googled it on my smart phone, heard the pronunciation, read the definition, and went back to read the poem. We cracked up because Logan has a bit of the Disputatious Deeble in him sometimes. Later in the day he was contradicting me and when I started to get upset he pointed out that he just realized that he was being disputatious. The moment calmed and we both laughed. In this case, a vocabulary word has helped a mother and son relate and take a step back in a heated moment.
So that's it for today. Enjoy your Wednesday and look for wonder words everywhere.
I can't not share this poem. It is ludicrous. I love it. Maybe next time I'm disgusted with life I'll try a ballad and a salad too.
What makes someone successful? Isn't that a loaded question!? If we had a set answer to this question we could create a formula that everyone could follow, right? Unfortunately, no. Success is difficult to define, fleeting, and changing with cultural norms.
In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the story of success from a very unpopular perspective. I say unpopular because he debunks the pull-yourself-up-by-your-own-bootstraps American Dream story we love. We want to believe that anyone can achieve anything because it sounds great, but success is way more than an individual outcome. Also, we often learn about historical figures as they relate to their most famous contributions to history. They often enter and exit the stage of history having only done one thing, but in reality they had exciting and fulfilling lives full of mentors and teachers. Case in point: the Wright brothers. In our history books we learn On December 17, 1903, they successfully flew their airplane for the first time. They were two self-taught engineers who became aviation pioneers and changed the world on that December day. It's almost as though they woke up picked up their plane they tinkered with for a while, flew, and that's the end. But there's so much more. That two-sentence summary leaves out the years of struggle and preparation. It leaves out their incredible family and the time they spent studying. The world may have changed on that December day, but their part of the performance was being performed long before the world ever took notice.
Not all of us are called to be major characters in the great story of history. Some of us are cast in supporting roles that make the grand successes possible. In the case of the Wright brothers, they had several amazing people in supporting roles. First, their parents were incredible. Their dad, a minister in the United Brethren Church, taught them to think, debate, and encouraged them to read on a variety of subjects. Their mother, a wagon maker's daughter taught them mechanical skills and building techniques. Their father inspired their imaginations with a toy propeller and the boys' thirst for knowledge was developed by family discussions in the parlor. Hard work and perseverance were a major component of their success as well. They suffered through brutal nights in the Outer Banks and had to puzzle through complicated calculations. After years of struggle they succeeded, but they didn't stop. After December 17, 1903, they continued to study and improve their designs and defend their patents.
Recognizing supporting roles is important because being a secondary character takes humility and a willingness to remain in the shadows. We can't all be great, but we can all help others in their drive to become great. This doesn't mean we get squashed or deserve to be treated with scorn. Mattering to someone or something is a part of a basic human desire that some of us feel so very strongly it hurts. But not all our roles will be recognized. A doctor that saves someone's life may not be known to history at large, but he mattered deeply to that person. Any maybe that person or a decedent of theirs will go on to greatness. Reaching for greatness should never require you pushing others down. Reaching for greatness should always include pulling up those under you and pushing forward those above you.
Recently, I read a book about the periodic table. (#nerdlife) The author describes Dmitri Mendeleev, the father of the periodic table, as a gifted scientist, and explains that without his mother he would be completely unknown. Mendeleev was the youngest of 17 children and at the age of 15, his mother crossed Siberia on horseback to take him to Moscow to get him into the university there. After traveling around 1,200 miles the university said, "No," to accepting young Dmitri. Undeterred., Mrs. Mendeleev told her son, "Get back on the horse!" and they traveled another 400 miles to St. Petersburg where he was finally accepted. She died shortly after he was accepted into the university. Her journey cost her her life, but without her sacrifice, Dmitri Mendeleev would have died in obscurity in eastern Russia. (This makes me feel pathetic when I think about how much I whine about driving Logan around to his activities.)
I want to pull back here and make it clear that I'm not advocating mothers or fathers kill themselves providing wonderful lives for their children. This is far from what we need. Your children need to see you having a fulfilling spiritual, social, and intellectual life. But having a supporting role means that you are willing to push those around you ahead not to leave yourself trampled, but as a way to contribute to the world at large. Teachers get this. This is what they do. They work crazy hard and maybe someday one of the students they influenced will become president, or cure cancer, or become a teacher and continue the circle.
As I close this post, I don't want anyone to feel discouraged about being in the shadows. If you feel God asking you to step toward leadership or do big things, that is wonderful. But true leaders, as exemplified by Jesus Himself, are also willing to serve and remain humble. Do what is right and don't worry about grabbing for glory. Leave that to God.
The Wright brothers are fascinating to study, but their family is equally intriguing. David McCullough's book on them is good, but if you are looking for a wonderful quick read, I would highly recommend The Wright Words by Kirk Haas. Kirk is my favorite presenter at the Henry Ford. (Yes, I am a big enough nerd to have a favorite presenter at a museum.) In his book he tells stories about the Wright family and how the boys became to be the innovators they are remembered as. I may have cried. It is only about 60 pages so it is a quick read. By purchasing and reading you are also supporting a local author. Go Michigan!
I love English. Well, actually I love the way English works. Language is always evolving and changing with culture. As cultures intertwine with our own we incorporate their words into our language. For example if you are making an appointment in French you are setting up a rendez-vous. We like to say chauffeur because it sounds so much classier than driver, but alas, they mean the same thing. Sometimes there are words that we just see as the perfect word or phrase so we take it and appropriate it into English. These words include cliché, déjà vu, and coup d'é·tat. Today's word is one that we use untranslated and say using the French pronunciation.
Today's Word: Denouement
Three syllables. Pronounced [dey-noo-mahn]. Noun. Defined in the OAD as the final part of a play, movie, or story, in which matters are explained or resolved. I love this word! (Sorry, I got a bit overexcited there, but isn't it just beautiful?!) A denouement is the resolution of a story; the part where we get to find out how the story fits together which leads to the end. We love denouements. The satisfying part were everything comes together is beautiful. When writing a story, an author builds characters, creates a plot, and develops the action. They are the creator of the story and the god of their world.
Unfortunately, not all stories in our lives have resolutions that we can see. Sometimes we don't get to see the end of a story or find out the why behind it. Why does God allow suffering in the lives of believers? Why does he allow some to struggle and others to prosper? Why do some die so young? I don't know, but I don't have to because I'm not the Author of the story. My role is that of an engaged reader who wants to learn about the Author so I can better appreciate His crafting and molding of the world around me.
I have been fortunate to see the denouement in some of the stories that make up my life, but others are left unresolved. I hope that someday I will be able to understand, but even if I can't always understand how God works, I know enough about Him to trust that He will bring the story to a beautiful end. I know this because He's already given us the denouement for the story of the world. Spoiler alert: For those who believe and trust in God, our final story is already written. "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: 'Look, God's dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.'" (Revelation 21:1-4)
I've read some pretty amazing denouements in my lifetime, but never will I read anything with a better resolution than that. If you are struggling and searching for whys, I get it, I really do, but please look for resolution in the Author of the story who started a good work in you and will carry it on to completion.
"A jack of all trades is a master of none, but oftentimes better than a master of one."