Jun 29, 2006


I was awakened at 3:30 this morning by a distant clap of thunder. Every couple of minutes another clap or rumble, louder each time. I lay there thinking of how every night, while we sleep in our beds, the clouds move over us, traversing the fields, crossing rivers, looming over houses and malls and parks. I was reminded of Genesis 1:2, before there was light or dry land, when"The Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters." An unmarked, unpeopled world without reference points and yet full of promise.

Finally, the thunder crashed around us and lightning flashed every couple of seconds, while the rains descended in sheets. We crept about the house closing windows, to keep a few drops out of a well-waterproofed house. I thought about a woman I had read about, a 40-year-old widow in Namibia whose late husband's family had taken her few posessions, some pots and pans and a cow and chickens. She is left with no rights, sixteen children and a patch of worn-out land. I send out a prayer for her into the darkness. Will my prayer be pulled upward against the rain, or will it splatter downward, disregarded? I curl up in bed with my husband, dry and comfortable and cosy while the rain falls, and drift into an uneasy sleep.

Jun 19, 2006

Indiana Inlaws Invade

They're here. My salt-of-the-earth inlaws arrived around 7 PM yesterday. Mervin and Marilyn disembarked from the car in their Sunday finest, Mervin in his white tailored shirt and tie, Marilyn in a crisp beige short-sleeved summer suit. Will and Jack greeted them fresh-bathed, in their Buzz Lightyear jammies, new almost-buzz haircuts, fresh-scrubbed faces. I was still cleaning the guest bathroom, so was not such a state of freshness. Oh well. John made popcorn, the Sunday night supper of choice in their family (and ours) and we sipped homemade iced tea. The boys proudly showed Grammy their latest Captain Underpants books. I was quick to say that their daughter Aunt Julie (a school librarian) got them started on that. So don't pin that one on us! Jack can write some passages down from memory, so revered has Captain Underpants become in our household.

We'll give Mervin some work to do, because he is one of those people who is most happy with a practical task to accomplish. So we'll have him put in a storm door and figure out what to do about the mailbox, which will need to be moved. And there are always some more plant hooks to hang up, should he run out of projects.

Jack starts a week of UK Elite morning soccer camp today, so Grammy will enjoy some Will time. This afternoon, if it's not too sweltering, Jack and Will plan to sell fresh-squeezed lemonade at a local playground, and give the money to the Delaware County Literacy Council. I'm mostly making the lemonade, but the will and determination belong to the boys.

Jun 13, 2006

Attack of the Alpha Robin, And an Unwanted Question at the Bowling Alley

He was at it again yesterday morning, that red-breasted robin, pecking away at the sunroom window. Because the house is L-shaped, I could get a good view from a kitchen window. He flies from a nearby fencepost about five feet away, gets a good peck in, and returns to the fencepost and does it again without resting. He'll do this a good dozen times. Whenever I see him, I go into the sunroom and he flies away. Now about four panes of the bay window in the sunroom are scored with gray marks from his beak.

What does he want? I've heard that birds sometimes attack their own reflections, so perhaps he's threatened by himself. He only does this in the morning before about eight, so maybe that's when the reflection is strongest. He is persistent, and never seems to hurt himself or the window.

All right, enough about the robin. Here's what happened to me last week. The high-school-age attendant at the local bowling alley, upon my ordering another game with Jack, asked me if I wanted a senior discount. It took them a while to peel me off the ceiling. But since then I have:

-jumped on a trampoline with the boys, giggling the whole time

-discovered Weyerbacher Simcoe Double IPA

-bicycled for miles around the local state park, pulling Will behind me (on that bike extension thing that seems to have no name)

-tasted honeysuckle gelato

So despite a young man at Sproul Lanes hurling cruel barbs at my unsuspecting, silver-haired, matronly, OLD OLD OLD self, things are definitely looking up.

Jun 6, 2006

Readin' and 'Ritin' (But Not So Much 'Rithmatic)

Last night was my first night of tutor training with the Delaware County Literacy Council. After the training I'll be assigned an adult to tutor once a week for about an hour and a half. I've actually done this before, more than 20 years ago. In Philadelphia I tutored Mildred, a 45-year-old lady who worked at the Sears distribution center in the Northeast (it's since been demolished, I believe). She wanted to be promoted to supervisor, but couldn't because of her third grade reading level. So we read the newspaper together, looked at forms from her job, and went through some of the program's upper level workbooks. And she progressed two grade levels. She worked hard, arriving in Center City after a long bus ride from work, and before her next subway ride home to North Philadelphia.

Best of all, we became friends. I was not brimming with cultural sensitivity at the time, asking her dumb-ass questions like who was the father of her children, but Mildred was very patient with me. When I read about Proliteracy Worldwide a couple of months ago in a magazine, I remembered Mildred and knew I had to take up tutoring again.

On another front, plans for me to teach a 7th and 8th grade writing elective next spring at my sons' Montessori are firming up. I taught this year's class a mini-unit on autobiographical writing. First I had them read out loud a couple of pages from Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. In this passage he relates a schoolyard incident from his childhood, and deftly reveals the racial politics of the playground, and his own choice for survival at the expense of the only other black child in his class. The kids seemed to appreciate the story. Then their assignment was to write a short essay on a time when they learned something important about themselves. They wrote about the following subjects:

  • A girl finally got the courage to dive from the diving board.
  • A boy used a bow and arrow on vacation with some friends and learned that he is a good marksman.
  • A girl got her hair cut short in second grade and enjoyed being different from the other girls.
  • On a dare, a boy threw water balloons at people driving by. He claims he learned not to do it again.
  • A girl recalled her first day at preschool, at which she cried, even though she had really been looking forward to it.

Okay, so not much has happened to them yet. But at least I got some writing samples and got to see what 7th and 8th graders are like. It's a very small school, and this class had only 12 students. I'll only teach about 4 at a time, and only once a week, so classroom management will not be a huge issue. And neither will the tax implications arising from my huge paycheck. But it should be fun.