Friday, November 28, 2008

Tips From My Mom #8

I am a night person. My true inner clock prefers that I stay up until the wee hours of the morning and spend a large chunk of the next day comfortably asleep in bed. I was able to indulge this preference when I was in my teens (not so much anymore) because my mom allowed it. Once she let me sleep until 4:00 in the afternoon just to see how long I would go before waking up.

Upon waking I would often find little handwritten notes on my nightstand telling me where everyone was so I wouldn't stumble around in a foggy haze thinking "I wonder where everybody is".
There would sometimes be torn corners from a notepad that read "went to the store" or on the back on an envelope I'd see "went to feed the horses".

I'd wake up, read these notes, and be somehow comforted by knowing what was going on in my little world.

If I had to get up early for some reason I typically found time in the afternoon for a glorious nap (on top of the covers with the window open and the curtain fluttering beside me). As a theater major I would often nap before opening night and once again Ma would leave me a small note (see above for one such note), a yellow rose (my favorite) and a small bottle of champagne.

Ma was and is a great communicator.

Not only with her notes but with the big stuff as well; love, security, trust, humanity, compassion, honesty, respect, struggles. There were certainly ups and downs, as with any family, but I never doubted for a second that I was loved and I firmly believe that this was because of communication.

Communication does not always mean that you have the answers. It can mean you have no idea what the hell is going on or how to respond. It allows for vulnerability and humanness. It means that you share part of yourself with those you love, warts and all. Ma taught me this by example and I have always cherished her for that.

I'm not sure I have mastered this exactly but I do believe that the folks I love are well aware of it. Communication and love - thanks Ma!
Hey, I think I am starting to see a theme with those smiley faces (see header).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Visit From Maureen Sullivan & Alison Josephs

My class was invited to a delightful reading and book signing this morning of Ankle Soup. The timing could not have been better as the story involves a "French Bulldog finding his way through New York City's Grand Central Terminal on Thanksgiving Day".

I was immediately enamored of the vivacious, outgoing, energetic, charismatic and commanding author, Maureen Sullivan. She was in her element before a group of kindergarten and first grade students as she set the stage for the reading. She explained that the story takes place in our wonderful city and highlighted the places the children may have visited.

Maureen encouraged the children to meet the challenge of big words in texts. Those delicious and descriptive words like immortal, dodging, terminal and careened (all in the book) but none as big as that gi-normous one from Mary Poppins - you know the one, it starts with an 'S'.

During the reading Alison, the illustrator, displayed the exquisite artwork that accompanied Maureen's words. Hers are luscious, colorful images chock full of details for young readers to explore. The sushi in the display case, Clifford the Big Red Dog balloon in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, the taxi cab driver, the title of the book a young girl is holding. They draw you in (so to speak).

A question and answer period followed in which Maureen and Alison explained that this was their first children's book collaboration. A second book Custard and Mustard is expected in Spring 2009. It is a "love letter to Coney Island the reader is sure to relish".

It was a pleasure to see these enterprising women share their talents with us today. I'll end as they end Ankle Soup, with a short poem:

Rich and poor, short and tall
We're in it together on this great big ball
Let's all be grateful on this Thanksgiving Day
For the soup we're all in and life's buffet

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Going Once, Going Twice, SOLD!

Everyone is feeling the pinch in these difficult economic times so it often takes an enterprising and imaginative spirit to keep from slipping into the financial red. My little 200 year old church on the hill, with its dwindling congregation, is no exception.

We are constantly struggling to raise enough money to meet our operating costs and fund outreach programs like supporting the Trenton Area Soup Kitchen, missionary work and disaster relief. But as the expression states, when times get tough, the tough get going. And the 'tough' in this instance were the ladies of our Serendipity Circle.

Spurred on by high hopes and good will these ladies organized our first ever (annual?) pasta dinner and live auction. Every church member was encouraged to donate a service or item for bidding. The idea behind the service is that each of us has unique talents and skills that we can share with others. For some this was 15 hours of yard or house work while for others it was 8 hours of handyman work (plumbing, electrical work, painting, etc). A lawyer offered to prepare two wills, someone donated a cord or half cord of fire wood and a family donated their time share property.

I was 'voluntold' to offer to teach a class in American Sign Language. I figured I could teach four one to one tutoring sessions in my home and possibly raise as much as $200 for the church. As the event neared I was approached by several people expressing interest in the lessons. My 'item' was going to be part of the live auction (there were 76 items in the silent auction, 14 in the live) and I was beginning to wonder how the bidding would go.

The pasta dinner/auction took place this past Saturday and the ASL lessons were the hot ticket. It turns out that six people were interested. So, instead of asking them all to continue to place individual bids I was asked if I would consider teaching a class so everyone could participate. I said 'okay' and the bidding closed. Each person agreed to pay $110 each which brought in $660! Pretty cool.

In total, the pasta dinner/auction brought in about $8,500. It exceeded our expectations and was a wonderful evening of fellowship. Now if I could just figure out a way to make some extra money for myself. Anyone interested in learning sign language?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


The super duper artist in residence at our school this year, Agee, has been working closely with Lauren and I to ensure that the art projects she does with our students reflect and support the work we are doing in the classroom.

When we told her we were starting an investigation into the Greek Myths, to correspond with our recent visit to The Metropolitan Museum of Art tour of the Monsters, Gods and Heroes of Greek Mythology, she was chock full o' ideas.

Since we introduce these stories with the mythical bang and horror of Medusa and Cyclops she suggested we make masks to represent these creatures.

They are constructed on sturdy cardboard backing with a simple cut out for the nose and eyes (for Medusa) or nose (for Cyclops). This is then covered with colored tissue paper with a diluted glue substance. Students were encouraged to use the images they 'saw' when they visualized these creatures during our initial read alouds.

The texture of Medusa's skin was bandied about as was the requisite amount of glitter for Cyclops' eye (evidently a lot!).

The final product(s) will be displayed in the lobby of our school for all to see. I think they are amazing!

Next up...The Trojan Horse!

Monday, November 17, 2008


History in the making?

The recognition of the importance of the outcome?

Acknowledging and demanding that our collective voice be heard?

What was it that made this election the family affair that it was?

I do not recall, in recent memory, the level of interest in an election that I witnessed during the McCain/Obama run for the presidency of the United States.

Mothers and fathers brought their children into the voting booths with them. They explained the process in broad terms (the role of the president and what is at stake this election) and in more immediate terms (this lever shuts the curtain, this button casts the vote). Including their children in the voting process seemed to be an important undertaking for many parents on November 4th.

I was witness to it as I patiently stood on line to vote in Trenton, N.J.

It was brought to my attention the day after the election as my New York City students spontaneously engaged in a conversation to share their experiences at the voting booth with their moms and/or dads.

It was evident in their writing...

I went with my daddy to vote. Obama or McCain? And my daddy voted Obama and I have fun with daddy.

in their involvement...
I see Obama on the stage.

in their reasoning...

Obama is best because he is nice and he supports Deaf people.

and in their visions...

This one sums it up:

Saturday, November 1, 2008


The low key vibe that ushered in this school year has continued to permeate all of our classroom functions. This was quite apparent on Friday as Halloween came and went without the overstimulation that usually accompanies it.

Children did, of course, change into their costumes (superheroes, princesses), we shared both scary and funny Halloween stories and I am sure I saw a candy bar or two but it was all done in a vedy, vedy, civilized manner.

As is the tradition in our school, children do not change into costume until after lunch.  At that time we can have celebrations (or not) until the school wide Spirit Day! assembly.  Everyone gathers together to parade their finery, class by class, while others cheer and 'ooh' and 'ahh'.

This year I decided to be an old tyme baseball player (Go Phillies!) and Lauren was a court jester.

I must say that wearing a baseball uniform and swinging a bat is much more comfortable than wearing a big, yellow hat and cradling a monkey like I did last year when I was The Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George.

In the midst of all this I began to do some research for my current doctoral class - Reading and writing as Psycholinguistic Processes.  I am going to compare the reading processes of an emergent reader with a skilled reader in terms of verbal protocol, miscue analysis, comprehension, conceptual signs, phonological awareness and retelling.  Lauren has agreed (Thank you!) to be my skilled reader so I recorded us reading a story together so I can analyze her 'online' reading.

I am including it here for several reasons:

1) It is a Halloween story.

2) There is an ongoing question about how we promote and support bilingualism in English and American Sign Language when one language (ASL) has no written form.  This fact makes our school program different from other bilingual programs where both languages are written and spoken.  The solutions are not always easy or mutually agreed upon.  However, one thing we do is to provide read alouds utilizing both languages as you will see in the video below.  At other times the read aloud is done strictly in American Sign Language without voicing.

3) My mom likes the book The Hallo-Wiener.  It makes her chuckle. And since my last post did not make her chuckle, I thought it was time to redeem myself. So, this is for you mom.


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