Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post-Christmas Musings

The lights still shine on our Christmas tree, boughs of pine and cedar are scattered around the house and the fragrance of Christmas lingers. The carols on our stereo remind me – on Christmas Eve, my husband and I sat in front of our fireplace listening to music, sipping a cup of freshly brewed coffee. Away in the Manger began to play on the radio and for some reason I was startled by the words, “ . . . the baby awakes, but little Lord Jesus no crying he makes.”

I put down my fresh-brewed cup of coffee and turned to my husband, “I think he did.” My husband looked a bit confused and said, “who did what?”

“I think Jesus cried when he was a baby – how else was he going to communicate?” I went on to say, “crying is an infant’s first form of communication. They cry to let people know they are hungry, they need to be changed, or they just need to be held! Crying is not a bad thing. Besides, it’s right in the Bible. One of the shortest verses says, “Jesus wept.” Of course he was all grown up then, but he did cry. He probably still weeps over the suffering of others - those without jobs, those who have lost loved ones & those who are hurting just because they need to be held.

My husband picked up his not-so-freshly brewed cup of coffee & said, “I think I hear a blog-post coming on.”

He was right. He often is but he doesn’t always hear those words from me.

As December draws to a close and the New Year approaches I hope your life is filled with love, joy, peace, hugs and excellent communication.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Happy Holidays

Winter vacation! I love it – and so do my students, I’m certain.

Yesterday was my first official vacation day. You can’t really count weekends when school isn’t in session anyway. Well, to start the vacation off right, I strapped on a backpack chair and hiked out to the bluffs, overlooking the Pacific Ocean. This chair is not the kind you’d carry on backpacking trips – it is much too big and bulky for that. It is the kind with shoulder straps and a huge pocket you can fill with an army of books, blankets, and a thermos of hot tea, which is what I did.

Here, take a look:

Hanging on the back of the chair is one of those fabulously soft, fuzzy blankets and in the thermos is a spicy-sweet cinnamon tea. What you don’t see is my journal, a book of poetry, a devotional, a grown-up novel and a children’s book. And which one did I read – the children’s book, of course. You see, as I made my way down the trail to the bluffs, I happened upon a small brush rabbit. He led me through a tunnel of vegetation before he hopped off the trail into a rounded hole in the brush. It made me think of Alice in Wonderland and my thoughts turned toward children’s literature.

As I went further down the trail, the vegetation opened up and I heard a whole community of birds chattering in the blackberry brambles and pyracantha shrubs, gathering their breakfast and sharing a bit of morning gossip – at least it sounded that way to me. I guess working with children rubs off on my imagination - I am grateful to them.

Here are a few of their smiling faces.

I have parent permission to post this picture of course and in future weeks I hope to add more pictures and videos of my “speech stars” hard at work. But for now, this will do – we’re on vacation after-all!

I hope you enjoy the holidays.

Monday, December 12, 2011


Traditions! I love them. Yesterday we made our annual pilgrimage to a Christmas tree farm and looked at every tree on the acreage, at least twice. When we narrowed it down to a tall and dramatic (but prickly) spruce and a smaller, soft-needled fir we trampled back and forth between the two several more times before settling on one. In the end, we thought it would be easier to decorate the smaller, gentler tree and so now it stands in our living room bedecked with homemade ornaments.

Unwrapping those ornaments is one of my favorite traditions. It brings a flood of memories and stories as we recount momentous occasions from our past. For many years, our family made salt dough ornaments – one each – to commemorate some important event, hobby or person in our lives from the year. Those hand-made decorations now adorn our tree. They might not create a magazine-cover-elegance, but the result is memorable. 

We’d taken our boys to see the Nutcracker Suite the year I made this ornament.

One of our boys was captivated by Duplos the year he made this one. I love remembering his chubby toddler hands at work!

Here’s one my husband named, “Little-Stickel-Number-One”. He made it when I was expecting our first child. That was thirty-one years ago! As you can see, it needs a little touch-up paint and another dipping in shellac.

None of us will ever forget the year we drove our little Toyota up a snow-covered mountain to find our Christmas tree. We came close to losing our way as we trudged along that snowy hillside, searching for the one and perfect tree.   Ultimately, we managed to find our tree and strapped it to the roof of the car. It extended over the hood and trailed past the back bumper!

You may well ask what this post has to do with speech and language development. Good question. Of course you’ll have plenty of opportunity to enhance your child’s vocabulary as you talk about the activities you do during the holidays. But I also believe our traditions (whether we celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or our own family customs) communicate the stories of our lives. And communication is what speech and language development is all about.

I’d love to hear of your traditions – and your stories.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Figuratively Speaking

This evening my husband and I went out for dinner with friends. When I ordered a fajita salad the waiter said, “It’s a little spicy.” I like a “little” spice but his use of the word sounded like a warning. I started to ask for clarification but in the end decided to be adventurous and placed my order. The dish was delicious but from my point of view, it was very spicy.

I was able to pick up on the subtleties of language and was forewarned but many of my students would have had a difficult time weeding through the words to understand the waiter’s intent. That first bite of fajita salad would have been surprising to them!

Many words and phrases have a variety of meanings and children sometimes struggle to interpret what is actually being said. Imagine the picture that might pop into a child’s mind when he hears a parent talking about a decision to be made and then says, “I’m on the fence.” In school it is all the more important that children comprehend the words they read and hear if they are to succeed academically.

A wonderful way to teach the meaning of figurative language is by reading books with your child, books such as the Amelia Bedelia stories. They are plentiful and I’m certain you can find a few at your local library. You and your child will laugh at the misadventures of this very literal-minded housekeeper who, when asked to, “dust the house”, sprinkles dust all around the living-room and when baking a sponge cake – well, I bet you can imagine the first ingredient.

Speaking of ingredients, I could use a little ice water to cool my mouth after the little spice from my fajita!