Except for the Exceptions

Midnight. Same as eleven. Same as ten. Same as nine eight seven six…
Except she yawned. She blinked a few more times than earlier.

Water the plants. Water the children. Water the trees vegetables flowers weeds…
Except for every other day. Except for the vegetables; they were every day.

Socks, folded. Same as shirts. Same as pants socks pajamas undies…
Except there were no exceptions.

“You should try a vacation,” they said. “I want you to be happy,” he said.
Except for when it affects me, he thought.

Except for when her happiness interferes with everyone else’s.

Surviving Teaching and Finding Joy

Not surprising, the amazing schoolteacher, Jennie, writes of her attitude shift in teaching and her subsequent ascension to perfect preschool teacher. 🙂

A Teacher's Reflections

Times have changed.  Teaching has far more demands than it used to.  Required paperwork, overcrowded classes, and lack of support begins to take its toll.  At first it all seems manageable.  That fire of wanting to teach keeps the motor running.  Then bit by bit, as demands and expectations increase, it becomes more difficult to keep the fire burning.  The love becomes lost.

Teachers are quitting.

Children have changed, too.  Their lives have less (or little) room for play. Most of their waking hours are structured – from school to sports to after school activities.  Oh, and then the homework.  Frankly, homework in the early grades should be reading.  Period.

Children are often coming to school feeling everything from anger to being overwhelmed. They may not know why, they just know they aren’t feeling happy.

Is it any wonder that America’s children are ranked 26th in reading  among the world?

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Picture Books Are Always in Season

“So …have you read King Bidgood’s in the Bathtub?”

“No.”

“Hmm. What about The Stinky Cheese Man?”

A sound of polite, incredulous aversion comes from the backseat. “No….”

I’m driving my male horde home from elementary school, plus the three children of a family friend. Their children and mine share a few interests, the main one being a love of reading.

The older girl pipes up, “We don’t read picture books.”

Her sister: “Yeah; I’m reading chapter books now.”

Which is fine, of course, seeing as how she is in second grade. She is the baby of their four children and they are all precocious. The only boy has already moved up a grade and is 2-3 grades ahead in mathematics.

Still….

Our Books

“I love picture books,” I say. “There are a lot of really good ones out there, so I like to go back and read them again.”

“Yes, that’s true,” the older girl acquiesces. I often feel I’m sitting at a British tea party with her, although she’s midway through fourth grade.

My boys, meanwhile, are each immersed in reading something educational like Captain Underpants or Magic Pickle. I’m not a fan of the graphic novels, but am fine with their perusal if mixed with a range of literature. That, and graphic novels include everything from less-than-desirable illustrations and potty humor to really well-done works like The Cardboard Kingdom.

I drop the friends off. Their mother comes out for a quick chat. “Your girls say you don’t have any picture books around anymore,” I say, in a friendly way.

“Oh. Yeah.” She laughs. She’s extremely intelligent, an excellent quilter, and one who does not seem to mind being a stay-at-home mother. I’m always in awe of her. “I unintentionally donated ours to the classroom and haven’t replaced them.” She sighs a bit, which is usually her way of segue. “They don’t really seem interested, so I probably won’t.”

To each her own, of course, but a little bit of me cries inside to hear it. Like my music preferences, my reading tastes cover many genres. -Except romance. Ugh.

Besides that, my collection of books is …sizeable. When I read Fahrenheit 451 in school, I wanted to be the old lady with the enormous library. I would feel torn between saving myself or my books. I …have a bit of a problem with control whenever I shop the book department in thrift stores.

D.I. Books

After a recent thrift store trip.

Which leads me back to picture books. I love picture books. I cannot imagine not having any in my house. I read to my children from them, and then from novels as they age (time permitting).

I also enjoy reading to other children. Last year I offered to read to my son’s fourth grade class once a week, to give the teacher a few minutes of preparation time at the end of the day. What did I read? The Jolly PostmanThe Sweetest FigBark, George; and Oh, Were They Ever Happy!

I remember visiting with the teacher once after we finished up. “Thank you for coming in every week,” she said. “It gives me time to get ready and I really appreciate it.”

I smiled. “Oh, you’re welcome.” Then, I hesitated, knowing most of these kids were beyond the target age for the books I shared. “Are you okay with me reading picture books? I know they might be a little young for them.”

“Of course!” she said. “They love them! I don’t think they’re too young for them at all.”

Our Picture Books

Most of our picture book library.

You may think I will ask whether you agree or disagree, but I know you are all smarter than that. Instead, what are a few of your favorite children’s stories? They can be picture books, graphic novels, beginning chapter books, or Harry Potter-sized novels. Which do you love, and why?

—————-

After fondly reminiscing, read what I posted this past week:
Wednesday, April 3: Encouraged cathartic ranting over bad bosses in “Just Another Perk of Working.

Thursday, April 4: “The Cure for Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 5: Winner of the Weekly Terribly Poetry Contest. Congratulations to Molly Stevens!

Saturday, April 6: Announced the 21st Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest. The theme is parodies of famous poems. PLEASE ENTER!

And, answered Peregrine Arc’s writing prompt with “Smells Like Reanimated Spirits.

Sunday, April 7: “Olympic Achievement,” a poem response to Carrot Ranch‘s prompt.

Monday, April 8: “Wilhelmina Winters, Eighty-Nine.”

Tuesday, April 9:  An inspirational quote by Jodi Foster.

Wednesday, April 10: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. Highlights were “Just Don’t Buy It?,” “Moderate Momming,” and “Bedtime, a poem.”

 

Photo Credit:
Me

WINNER of the Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

I say it every week. I know I do. But this week, I was closer than a toothpick’s distance to saying everyone was a winner. I was!

I’m fairly certain one of you wants the crown, however, so that victor is Michael B. Fishman.

The King

by Michael B. Fishman

There once was a King,
I’m not sure if he could sing.
(But that doesn’t really matter for our story.)

Maybe it does,
the bees do buzz.
(But I can’t understand what they say so forget I mentioned it.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, there once was a King
who wanted everything.
(But then I guess that’s a trait that maybe all King’s have?)

((Again, that doesn’t really matter for our story.))

So this king, he was needy,
and very, very greedy,
(But no one dared tell him that even though if they had
they’d have done him a great, great favor and saved him
a lot of angst, but I’m foreshadowing so go back and re-read
this line and stop after the word “favor”.)

And one day some guy into town rolled,
and said, “Who wants to turn everything he touches into gold?”
(But receiving no immediate takers the guy stood back and waited.)

And he waited.
Waited he did.
Ho boy did he wait.
But he didn’t wait long.

Because –

Roses are red,
violets are blue,
what the King said next,
may surprise you.

The King said, “Hey, dude, I want to be able to turn everything I touch into gold.
And for that service I’ll pay you five . . . no TENfold.”
(But the guy was hungry.)

The guy ate and then he gave the King the gold-making skill,
and the King was turning things to gold at will.
(But then he made a mistake.)

“I’m the King but I’m not the Kaiser although I sure do know how to roll.”
And the King realized that making puns should not – in life – be his goal.
(But the guy just shook his head because he knew that was not the King’s mistake.)

So the King’s mistake, I almost forgot . . . The King with the Touch ‘o Gold,
he gave his daughter a hug while her hand he did hold, and . . .
and…
and…
and…
and…
(end poetic pause here) (OK one more)
and . . .
The King turned his poor daughter into gold.

Poor girl.

So, long story short: the King panicked and he called
the guy who gave him the POWER OF GOLD and asked
him to reverse the spell,
and the King’s daughter turned back into a flesh and
blood daughter and was healthy and well.

But with this happy ending there’s one thing to remember:
Don’t be greedy because
what you have is enough
so look around you and
realize that and be happy.

OK?
And maybe go make something beautiful for the world out of papier-mâché.

Michael, Michael, Michael. You’re going to make me bring back the word limit too, you know.

I mean: congratulations, Michael! You are the most terrible poet of the week!

And you had tough competition. Everyone made me laugh, cringe, applaud creativity and cleverness, and wish that the moral lesson would come to an end much sooner than it did (even with the short ones). The teensy tiny boost that earned Michael this dubious title was that he had a surprisingly complete story; one that incorporated a few others, perhaps, but it’s there. Mostly I appreciated his story construction.

The rest of you, go buy yourself a treat. You earned it.

Seriously; read below and tell me whether I’m wrong:

A salient lesson

by Bruce Goodman

I have told you multitudinous times
not to make fun
of a baboon’s bum.
To illustrate why, here’s a story that rhymes.

When four-year-old Constantia visited the zoo
she had nothing better to do
than to laugh at the baboon’s bright pink bottom.
Her mother said, don’t do that, your manners are rotten.

Constantia fed the baboon a nut.
This, she said, is because you have a ridiculous butt.
At that moment the wind changed
and Constantia herself discovered that her own bottom had been rearranged.

Now Constantia is all grown up
and has an astronomical-sized butt.
It has made her social life inferior
because of her utterly massive bright pink posterior.

The moral of this story is questionable and digestible:
always eat your vegetables.

—–

Never, ever.

by Peregrine Arc

Never end your sentences with an ox
For he’ll trample, dample all your periods into fox.
That will scurry, hurry, lurry into vegetable lo mein
My dear, where was the thesaurus again?

The moral of this story is: Don’t use Google Translate.

—–

Be Swanky

by Ruth Scribbles

Have you ever? -Fill in the blank
Come on now, let’s be frank
You know to never rob a bank
Especially with a guy named Hank
Hank is bad, a very bad crank
He really likes to play pranks
He steals, he lies, he drank
Himself to death
Don’t ever play with a guy named
Hank
Or you may walk the plank
And die and really stank
If you never listen to anything I’ve said,
Remember be Frank
Be swanky

~I’m Frank~

—–

Food Fight

by Violet Lentz

i overheard them
con-ver-sating,
a note of superiority
had been struck..
dropping catch words
like sustainable,
free range, organic,
locally grown, and such..
and i could tell
from the tone of
their voices,
they had thought
about it, a lot..
about how elevated
above the masses
their pallets had become
and how their
cutting edge
elitist eating
set them
oh, so high above-
the impoverished single mother
struggling to feed her kids
in whose apparent
ignorance
still chose? to fill
their hungry bellies
with mac and cheese
and pork-n-beans
and (gasp) a couple of
cool ranch doritos….

—–

The Failure Of A Moral Compass

by Geoff

You self selecting knowalls who like to set the standards
Are also always least inclined to put in all the hard yards.
You moralise and come to judge and put us on the spot
And tell us when to do a thing and when it’s best to not.
You never have a shadowy doubt or moment’s indecision
Because you clearly understand the black from white distinction.
Your word is law and handed down with absolute finality
As you set us right like simpletons with patronising clarity.
It takes a certain chutzpah to share this clear eyed confidence
And hold the line, despite attacks, with constant insouciance.
But the point you miss when your only focus is on your moral compass
Is that the world at large hates no one more than a moralising smart-arse.

—–

Good, terrible work, everybody! Now, go tell your friends and tune in tomorrow for next week’s prompt.

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Michael: D. Wallace Peach created this graphic that you can use (if you want) for a badge of honor as the winner:

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Welcome to The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest, 16th installment. I may have miscounted, but we’re going with that number for now.

If you’re new, confused, and/or need directions; read my how-to about terrible poetry. I look more on the face of the cringe-worthy construction than the content of a poem’s subject.

Here are the specifics for this week:

  1. Topic: Stories with a Moral to be Learned. Unlike last week, I am not looking for a parody of a story. I seek, instead, a reference to one we know or a lamentation of how annoying such tales are -stuff like that.
  2. Write for as long as you would like, but please don’t exceed most readers’ attention spans.
    »»Likewise, I’m capping the submissions at three entries.
  3. Rhyming is optional.
  4. The number 4 rule is to make it terrible. Aesop, Rudyard Kipling, and Jean de la Fontaine need to roll over in their graves, read what you wrote, and come to life just long enough to write a fable admonishing writers to never do what you have done.
  5. Considering the general audience of most moral lessons, let’s stick with a G-rating.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (March 8, 2019) to submit a poem.

I’ve had more than one complaint about the submission form, and can only apologize on behalf of an internet imp who seems bent on swallowing what people put in there. He’s lost at least two poets’ attempts permanently, delayed another, and sent me scurrying around trying to piece together nonexistent crumbs from both these actions.

As such: if you are shy, use the form. Leave me a comment saying that you did as well, just to be certain. Then I will be able to tell you whether I received it.

If not, and for a more social experience, include your poem or a link to it in the comments.

Have fun!

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Photo credit:
Chen Hu

The Weekly Terrible Poetry Contest

Welcome to The Terrible Poetry Contest, a family tradition since about thirteen weeks ago.

Writing poetry is a daunting idea. We get in the mood, think of a lyrical phrase, and then run up against a metaphorical wall mid-stanza. While I have written a how-to on composing poetry legitimately, that’s not what this contest is about.

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The Terrible Poetry Contest is a chance for writers of all shapes, sizes, and ability levels to make a rude literary gesture to all that is good and decent about proper writing and contests. It’s a chance to do everything your poetry teacher told you not to. It’s a chance to shine when other contest-hosters left you alone in the dark.

If this is your first time, review my how-to on terribleness so you know what to expect. Then, read the following rules and please, please, please share something truly terrible:

  1. Topic: Motivating Lazy People
  2. Keep the length between 5 and 150 words.
  3. Rhyme if you want to; don’t if you don’t feel like it.
  4. Just keep things terrible. Make your listeners finally get off their lazy backsides just to do anything besides sit through another stanza.
  5. Keep your poem PG at most.

You have till 8:00 a.m. MST next Friday (February 22, 2019) to submit a poem.

Post your poem in the submission form below, or include or link to it in the comments much farther below.

 

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Photo credit:
Ken Treloar
Tom Morel

Freddy and Teddy’s Valentines

Freddy and Teddy were best friends. They lived on the same street, liked the same candy, and loved the same robots movie. They even went to the same school, and sat behind each other in the same second grade class.

Valentine’s Day was the very next day and both boys were excited.

After school, their moms gave them 32 robot cards. Each spent a while tearing cards apart and writing “Freddy” or “Teddy” too many times.

The next morning, each got ready then walked to school together.

“I hope I didn’t skip anyone,” Freddy joked.

“Me, too,” Teddy laughed.

But later that afternoon, Teddy wasn’t laughing. He had dumped out all his Valentines only to find one missing.

There was no card from Freddy.

Teddy felt bad. “Freddy,” he said, “Why did you forget me?”

“What?” Freddy asked. Turning around, he saw Teddy’s frown. He felt bad. “I’m sorry, Teddy. I didn’t mean to.” Then, his eyes lit up. Freddy turned back to his desk, pulled a red paper from inside, cut carefully, and scribbled quickly.

Facing his best friend, he gave him a giant red heart. It read Best Friends. There was even a picture of a robot.

“Thanks, Freddy,” Teddy said, feeling better.

“You’re welcome,” Freddy said, happy to see Teddy smiling again.

 

Submitted for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny Contest.

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Oh, Guilty Heart! – The 4th Annual Valentiny Writing Contest!

I told you it was coming, and here it is: Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny Contest!

You have just a short time to enter, so check it out!

Susanna Leonard Hill

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Valentinies rock

And so do YOU!

Hang onto your chocolate everyone!  It’s time for . . .

The 4th Annual PrettyMuchWorldFamous ValentinyWritingContest!!!

valentiny writing contest 2019!

~ for children’s writers~

The Contest:  since writing for children is all about “big emotion for little people” (I forget who said that, but someone did so I put it in quotes!) and Valentines Day is all about emotion, write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels guilty!  Your…

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What’s Short And Sweet And Read All Over?

It’s almost time for Susanna Leonard Hill’s Valentiny Contest!

In her words, “write a Valentines story appropriate for children (children here defined as ages 12 and under) maximum 214 words in which someone feels guilty!”

She always awards prizes. Keep your ears open for when it begins!

Susanna Leonard Hill

I know!

It’s Sunday evening!

You’ve spent the afternoon baking princess cookies and building the world’s most awesome train track around the entire living room with the littles and now it’s time for pajamas and bed!

What on earth am I doing bugging you at this hour?!

Well, I’ll tell you 🙂

I’m trying to give you enough time to cogitate and write! 🙂

Three years ago, a bunch of folks asked for a contest to cheer them out of the winter doldrums!

The result?

The First Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contest!

(Valentiny because, like the Halloweensie Contest, it’s not very long and it’s for little people 🙂 )

We had so much fun that we went ahead with the 2nd and 3rd Annual Pretty Much World Famous Valentiny Writing Contests and now it’s kind of a tradition!  I mean, no one wants to get bested by a…

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