Wednesday, September 23, 2009

My Opinion on Snail Mail

I'm not sure about you, but I always like to receive personal letters. There's something intriguing about a letter--maybe it's the idea that it came from so far away (as most of my letters originate from), or that it takes more time to write and respond to a letter. When I check the mail I'm always happy about three things:

1.) Letters
2.) Netflix (we just received our new movie!) 
3.) Coupons (I think that using scissors to cut them out holds a certain appeal here, besides saving money)

I get a certain excitement from writing, and receiving, a letter that I don't get with email. It could be the stationery--I do have, after all, a lovely pinkish flowered print paper, and another one that's designed to look like a scroll. (My mom gave them both to me for my birthday, or maybe Christmas.) It's very fun to write longhand when you have interesting paper to write on. [Author's Note: I also have a fairly wide collection of pens that range from your typical ballpoint, to ones I've stolen from hotels, and a cherished few I received as gifts. The latter are the most fancy and the least-used, for the purpose of saving ink.] 

Another thing is that there's more anticipation with letters--you have to actually wait for about a week, sometimes more, sometimes less, for the person to receive the letter, read it and comprehend it, and then send a reply. With emails, you send it one minute, get a reply the next. It's instant gratification, and I don't know if that's always good. If anything, snail mail teaches us a set of very important virtues which are sometimes lost in this 21st Century world of typing emails on cell phones and getting instant responses. Writing and receiving snail mail teaches us patience, composition skills, and the very important skill of how to lick an envelope.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Confessions of a Couch Potato Part 1

I feel very guilty about my habits. This afternoon, I watched thirty minutes of ABC World News with Charles Gibson while lounging on the couch and doing apathetic leg movements in a penitent effort to exercise. The fact that I'm watching news programming doesn't excuse the fact that I am not exercising as much as I should.

Here are the facts:
  • I do not usually walk around the neighborhood more than twice a week.
  • I dread the idea of walking up the steep hill on which I live, which leads to the above fact.
  • I like eating foods that are probably fatty, like cheese and yogurt.

I am making some half-hearted attempts at exercise. For instance, I tried to do splits. Because this is an impossible feat which even my older sister (who is, compared to the rest of our family, a workout guru) has not accomplished.

But I must now depart to go on a walk around the neighborhood. It's my first this week.

Response to Comment

I recently received this comment (on a different website):

There is very little evidence in her [my] writing that she understands how
the world works. In other words, her writing lacks verisimilitude, a quality of
entertaining, engaging writing (even in fantasy novels).My conclusion is hard to
prove because it requires negative evidence. But every good story reflects
something about our shared reality--our existence, the choices we must make, the
difficulties of being human (even in stories about non-humans), the moral
ambiguity, etc. There is little of this in her writing.

I can understand why the commenter may have felt this way. Many of the stories I post on this blog are fantastical in nature, often with seemingly little connection to real-life situations. I wanted to note that I write many of these stories with third-grade audiences. As a result, I talk about things that are interesting and fun to a third grade audience--which will probably not be the same thing that feels realistic to the (presumably adult) commenter who wrote this.

So, just as a disclaimer, any stories I post here where I say "written with" an audience, or with elementary schoolchildren, will bear a reflection of that fact. Which is not to say, of course, that I don't enjoy writing them. :)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Story Written with Lincoln Elementary Third Graders

It was a cool but sunny September day in Indianapolis when Dan Kuso decided to take his daughter, Abigail, and their pet, Superdog, for a walk.
Superdog was no average dog. For one thing, he was a lot smaller than an average dog. Many people thought that Dan Kuso was walking a cat on a leash. He had to explain that Superdog was a special breed of dog.
Superdog also had the incredible ability to talk. However, he didn’t do it much in public, in case he scared people.
Abigail also had some special powers. She was able to turn invisible, but only for five minutes at most. You see, Abigail really liked to wear bright colors, and it’s harder to stay invisible that way.
Dan Kuso knew that he had an incredible daughter and an incredible dog, but he never imagined that one would be kidnapped.
Which is exactly what happened.
Eight minutes into the walk, Dan let Superdog off his leash to run around the park. It had been fifteen minutes when he started getting worried.
“I wonder where he got off to,” he said anxiously to Abigail. “He usually comes back within ten minutes at most.”
“Hmmm, this sounds fishy,” Abigail said. “Maybe he’s investigating something. Superdog! Superdog!” she shouted, ignoring the funny looks some people gave her. There was no response.
They walked all around until they came to Superdog’s favorite resting rock, a huge boulder which the locals called “The Dog,” because it looked kind of like a dog. He was nowhere to be seen. But there was a note on the rock, stuck with gum, that read,


“500 dollars!” Abigail exclaimed. “This is crazy. Are you sure that this…Mr. Evil Weevil person has Superdog?”
“Why else the note?” Dan Kuso asked grimly.
“We’ve got to find out where Superdog and this evil Mr. Evil are hiding,” Abigail said determinedly, clenching her fist. “Or else.”

First Dan and Abigail went to the post office, where they asked about PO Box 1234. They confirmed that the owner’s name was Mr. Weevil Evil, and they were able to get a phone number. It was 123-456-7890. Dan immediately called it on his cell phone.
“Hello,” someone hissed in a very unfriendly tone at the other line. “Whaddya want?”
“I want Superdog back,” Dan said firmly.
“Sure thing,” Mr. Weevil Evil said. “With five hundred bucks in the PO Box.”
“Not happening,” Dan said.
“Mwahahahahahaha!” Mr. Weevil Evil cackled, and then the phone line went dead.

After searching Mr. Weevil Evil’s phone number and name in People Finder on his computer, Dan Kuso was able to find that he had dropped out of Lincoln Elementary in second grade and had inherited a fortune from his great-great-grandparents.
“Why he’d need ransom money I don’t know,” Dan said to his daughter. “If he has this great fortune…?”
“Maybe he wasted it all,” Abigail shrugged. “Anyway, does it give us an address?”
“No, but if we go to this Lincoln Elementary, we may be able to ask the principal.”

So they hopped into the car and headed to Lincoln Elementary to see the principal. Mrs. Wilkowski saw them in her office, looking a bit puzzled.
“You said that you wanted to find a lost dog?” she said quizzically. “I don’t think you should start here; the pound might be a better option.”
“Um--er, this is a special dog,” Dan said, having no other better way to explain it. “We know where he is, but it’s an issue of accessibility.” This was the nicest way he could put “one of your former students stole our dog.” As soon as he brought up Mr. Weevil Evil’s name, Mrs. Wilkowski nodded sadly.
“He was always making trouble, tripping people on the playground, screaming so loudly during class that nobody could hear a thing, and, when he was sick, he tried to sneeze all over the other children.”
“Wow,” Abigail said. “That’s pretty intense.”
“Yes, and we tried our best to keep him here; we sent him to counseling, we tried to hold conferences with his parents, but no luck. He insisted on dropping out--which sounds ridiculous, in second grade.”
“Yes. And now he has our dog,” Dan Kuso said. “Is there any chance that you might have an address where we could reach him in your paperwork?”
“It’s possible…I would have to ask the secretary.”

Dan and Abigail left Lincoln with an address--1234 Numbers Street. When they drove here, they saw what looked like an abandoned, decrepit shack. The wood was rotting, and they could see mice scattering around inside.
“It looks like this is where he used to live,” Abigail said. “We might as well do some investigating, though.”
They peeked inside, holding their noses, because it smelled like petrified bat poop, and, luckily for them, saw a little note.
“Forwarding Address/New Address--4321 Alphabet Street.”
They immediately jumped in the car and arrived at a humongous mansion.
“We can’t just get up and go to the front door! What if he’s armed and dangerous?” Abigail asked. “I’ll go invisible, sneak around the back, and find Superdog!”
Which is exactly what she did.
Little did Mr. Weevil Evil know that Dan Kuso had a daughter who could go invisible. He only knew about the dog. So he was utterly unprepared--he was shaving, in fact--when Abigail Kuso burst in, invisible, grabbed Superdog, and, just for fun, threw a vase across the room, which made Mr. Weevil Evil jump eighteen feet into the air (he had superpowers too) and fall with a sickening crunch onto the floor, shouting, “My dog!”

And happily ever after.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Story Written with Video Conferencing Third Graders

It was a sunny September morning, and Jasmine, Diannela, and Dante were heading to the pool with all kinds of flotation devices.
Diannela was the first to jump in the water.
“It’s nice and cool!” she said happily.
Dante was more cautious, and tiptoed into the water anxiously.
“I’m not sure how well I can swim right now,” he said nervously.
“Oh, come on. You’re the best swimmer,” Jasmine said, smiling.
They were having fun swimming, doing underwater cartwheels, and back-floating when Angel came in. Although he was able to fool most people with the name, he was actually very bad-tempered.
When he saw Jasmine back-floating peacefully, he jumped right into the water next to her, sending water splashing everywhere--and up Jasmine’s nose. Coughing, she had to get out of the water.
“Hahahaha,” Angel snorted. “Can’t even back-float! I did that when I was two.” Diannela edged away from Angel, but he started splashing water all over, making it impossible to swim without holding your nose.
“Can you please stop that, Angel?” Dante asked politely.
“Oh, come on! You’re just being a scaredy-cat like usual,” Angel scoffed. “Can’t you take a little water?” he said, and with that, he sent a great wave right into Dante’s face.
Fed up with Angel’s annoying habits, they got out of the pool and went to speak with the Pool Manager. He listened and nodded.
“That Angel kid has been a problem around here, always splashing around and annoying other people,” he said. “Go back to the pool, I’ll solve your problem.”
Wondering what the solution was, Dante, Diannela, and Jasmine headed back to the pool to start swimming. Angel laughed and just sent more waves toward them. But, to their great astonishment, they saw the water quickly draining, until they were standing up with water up to their ankles.
“What’s happening?” Angel demanded, stomping his feet.
“Until you start playing nice, the pool is staying dry,” the manager said. Angel frowned, but said,
“Okay, I’m sorry.”
The water slowly began to rise, and the four swam without any further incident.


Thursday, September 03, 2009

Education Articles

Dear Readers,

If you would like to read my blog posts about education and my kid's eye view of the classroom, go to . The Educator's Royal Treatment is a blog I write for. You can go to the Adora Svitak page to find all my articles. This blog is a wonderful resource for educators. Have fun reading!