Poetry Friday: March Madness Edition

When I faced down ‘androgynous’ in the first round of Poetry March Madness last year, I was sure that any word Ed threw at me this year would be easier. But I was wrong. This year I drew ‘bereft’. It’s a fine word, but I live in Connecticut. And ‘bereft’ is a raw word for me. A sharp, painful word. It brings to mind tiny coffins and sobbing parents. Not an easy word to write a children’s poem about. So I really, really, really struggled this year. Hours before my entry was due I was still fussing with several unsatisfactory entries.

My first finalist was a poem about the yearly mastery tests:

The school’s bereft of noise,
of running feet,
of shouting voices,
of raised hands,
and laughter.

Must be testing week.

The second was a sappy poem for my husband:

bereft of song
of yellow daffodils
of pink petals, falling
is more like spring
than I am me
without you

But the poem I was really trying to avoid writing was the following poem (still in a very rough stage). Originally it had bereft in the 2nd to last line…


Patiently the 6th graders fold the
paper squares six times and, laughing,
cut angles to match the
poorly printed diagrams. Holding
back tears I guide a hand
making a center star, thinking,
how can we make stars
when the night has lost so many.

To vote in the first round, go to Think, Kid, Think.
For more Poetry Friday, visit Check It Out.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 8 Comments


RunawayKingShhh… Don’t tell anyone!

Jennifer Nielsen’s The Runaway King (ebook) is on sale at Amazon for $5!
These sales don’t last long, so get it while it’s on sale.

Posted in reading | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Reading slump

I’m in a reading slump. We’ve been dealing with a series of medical issues that have not been horrible but that have left me with no time or energy to read, write, or review. For months. Oy.

What I Read:

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (YA, graphic novel, tween , teen, middle school, friendships) ★★★★★
Just as Smile became Gearbox’s touchstone for dealing with his accident, Drama has become his touchstone for the rocky transition to Middle School that he’s facing this year. Drama deals with first loves, friendships, and the awkwardness of those first years of adolescence with refreshing honesty and warmth. Gearbox has re-read it dozens of times since I bought it for him. And so have I.

What I’m Currently Reading:

Nada. Zip. Zilch.

What I’ve Listened To:

Around the World In Eighty Days by Jules Verne (adventure, classic, travel, twists-and-turns, PG) narrated by Patrick Tull ★★★★☆
I wasn’t sure the boys would get into this one so I played it in the kitchen while cooking. Despite long passages that read like a geography textbook, the boys really got into the story. Patrick Tull is an amazing narrator — he really brings the adventures to life. The boys loved the book so much that we learned to play whist.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy, adventure, classic, PG) narrated by Rob Inglis ★★★★☆
It’s a classic. The boys loved it. What more is there to say?

The Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud (MG, YA, fantasy, sardonic djinn, PG) narrated by Simon Jones (in progress – 15%)
The Golem’s Eye is a little harder to get into than The Amulet of Samarkand so this is the second time we are trying to listen to this book. I’m not finding Kitty’s story as compelling as Nathaniel’s; if I was reading, I’d skim those chapters. According to Gearbox (who has listened to the whole book), the story picks up in the second half so we’re pushing through.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon (YA, autism, Sherlock Holmes, mystery, pet rat) narrated by Jeff Woodman (in progress – 20%)
So far I’m really enjoying this.

What’s on my TBR Pile:

Nothing. I’m in a reading slump. The Runaway King just came out (it’s the sequel to one of my favorite books from last year — The False Prince) but I can’t get past the first page on any book.

For more It’s Monday, What Are You Reading, visit Kellee and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts and Sheila at Book Journey.

Posted in reading | Tagged , , , , | 6 Comments


February was a *very* long month here. Gearbox got bitten by a spider on a camping trip. The spider bite developed a serious staph infection – his knee swelled to the size of an orange. Visiting the doc for the infection, Gearbox picked up the flu. Just as he was recovering from the flu, he got hives from either the spider bite, the staph, the flu, or the antibiotics. AAAAH! He was so covered in hives and his face was so swollen they put him on strong meds that knocked him out for 4 days. In all, he was so sick that he missed several weeks of school. Oy.

Spiders. They’re evil.

While spiders give me the heebie-jeebies, I am in awe of their webs. As long as they keep them outside where they belong. Otherwise, like the housewife in Emily Dickinson’s poem, I go after them with a broom.kc-cobweb-1

The Spider holds a Silver Ball by Emily Dickinson

The spider holds a Silver Ball
In unperceived Hands–
And dancing softly to Himself
His Yarn of Pearl–unwinds–

He plies from Nought to Nought–
In unsubstantial Trade–
Supplants our Tapestries with His–
In half the period–

An Hour to rear supreme
His Continents of Light–
Then dangle from the Housewife’s Broom–
His Boundaries–forgot–


For more Poetry Friday, visit Julie Larios at The Drift Record.

Posted in poetry | 11 Comments

March Madness Poetry, 2013

I GOT IN!!!!!

I’m sure I’ll have more to say once I’ve stopped dancing around the house, celebrating.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 3 Comments

Rachel Ray, say it ain’t so! GF Fail

Pickle, my youngest, is really into cooking. Last Wednesday he made a 3 course Thai dinner from scratch. As a treat, I wanted to get him another magazine so I picked up the March issue of EveryDay with Rachel Ray. It has an appealing layout and beautiful photography.

I was pretty excited when I saw that this issue had a gluten-free menu. Imagine my dismay when I read this:
“When did we all get so picky? If carb cutters, gluten abstainers and other special dieters share your table […]” pg 100
I was a little put off by “picky” but having a major magazine present GF recipes was exciting so I jumped to the recipes.
The main entree is cornflake coated chicken.
Apparently Rachel Ray Mag has no fact checkers. Or doesn’t know the difference between wheat-free and gluten-free. Most commercially available brands of corn flakes have malt flavoring. Which is made from barley and definitely NOT gluten-free.

It’s this kind of mis-guided information that makes my life hell. Well intentioned friends want to be really nice and make me something. And I’m left either being annoying and quizzing them on every ingredient they used or playing Russian roulette with my health.

Rachel, your chicken would have made me very sick if a friend had served it to me. I will not be subscribing to your magazine.

Posted in Miscellaneous | Tagged , , | 4 Comments


The weathermen are predicting 2+’ of snow here. The schools are closed. The roads are closed. The town is closed. This afternoon we’ll have white-out conditions, warm fires, and hot-cocoa drinking.
The kids are sitting by the window and waiting for the snow… they want to go outside and sled and make snowmen and forts.

Me, I’m dreading the shoveling.

In his poem, Shoveling Snow With Buddha, Billy Collins has a wonderfully zen take on my least favorite winter chore.

excerpt from Shoveling Snow With Buddha by Billy Collins

But here we are, working our way down the driveway,
one shovelful at a time.
We toss the light powder into the clear air.
We feel the cold mist on our faces.
And with every heave we disappear
and become lost to each other
in these sudden clouds of our own making,
these fountain-bursts of snow.

This is so much better than a sermon in church,
I say out loud, but Buddha keeps on shoveling.
This is the true religion, the religion of snow,
and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky,
I say, but he is too busy to hear me.

To see the rest of the poem, go to Poem Hunter.

I love the lines, “[t]his is the true religion, the religion of snow,/ and sunlight and winter geese barking in the sky”. Somehow, in those two lines, he perfectly captures the reverence I feel when I’m standing outside on a winter day.

For more Poetry Friday, visit the lovely Tara at A Teaching Life.

Posted in poetry | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Camping, the Klondike, and cold

This weekend my son is going on a klondike-themed scout trip. The troop will be trying their hands at goldrush-themed activities, camping in the cold, and earning their blue nose badges. Camping in the cold reminds me of college and reciting The Shooting of Dan McGrew around the campfire. The first time I heard this poem was around a campfire my freshman year in college. It was recited so beautifully it gave me chills and I immediate memorized it so I could recite it when I led trips. I’ve brought it out on summer camping trips with my own kids but it works better under cold, winter skies.

The Shooting of Dan McGrew by Robert Service

A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Malamute saloon;
The kid that handles the music-box was hitting a jag-time tune;
Back of the bar, in a solo game, sat Dangerous Dan McGrew,
And watching his luck was his light-o’-love, the lady that’s known as Lou.

When out of the night, which was fifty below, and into the din and the glare,
There stumbled a miner fresh from the creeks, dog-dirty, and loaded for bear.
He looked like a man with a foot in the grave and scarcely the strength of a louse,
Yet he tilted a poke of dust on the bar, and he called for drinks for the house.
There was none could place the stranger’s face, though we searched ourselves for a clue;
But we drank his health, and the last to drink was Dangerous Dan McGrew.

There’s men that somehow just grip your eyes, and hold them hard like a spell;
And such was he, and he looked to me like a man who had lived in hell;
With a face most hair, and the dreary stare of a dog whose day is done,
As he watered the green stuff in his glass, and the drops fell one by one.
Then I got to figgering who he was, and wondering what he’d do,
And I turned my head — and there watching him was the lady that’s known as Lou.

His eyes went rubbering round the room, and he seemed in a kind of daze,
Till at last that old piano fell in the way of his wandering gaze.
The rag-time kid was having a drink; there was no one else on the stool,
So the stranger stumbles across the room, and flops down there like a fool.
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then he clutched the keys with his talon hands — my God! but that man could play.

Were you ever out in the Great Alone, when the moon was awful clear,
And the icy mountains hemmed you in with a silence you most could hear;
With only the howl of a timber wolf, and you camped there in the cold,
A half-dead thing in a stark, dead world, clean mad for the muck called gold;
While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars? —
Then you’ve a haunch what the music meant. . . hunger and night and the stars.

And hunger not of the belly kind, that’s banished with bacon and beans,
But the gnawing hunger of lonely men for a home and all that it means;
For a fireside far from the cares that are, four walls and a roof above;
But oh! so cramful of cosy joy, and crowned with a woman’s love —
A woman dearer than all the world, and true as Heaven is true —
(God! how ghastly she looks through her rouge, — the lady that’s known as Lou.)

Then on a sudden the music changed, so soft that you scarce could hear;
But you felt that your life had been looted clean of all that it once held dear;
That someone had stolen the woman you loved; that her love was a devil’s lie;
That your guts were gone, and the best for you was to crawl away and die.
‘Twas the crowning cry of a heart’s despair, and it thrilled you through and through —
“I guess I’ll make it a spread misere”, said Dangerous Dan McGrew.

The music almost died away … then it burst like a pent-up flood;
And it seemed to say, “Repay, repay,” and my eyes were blind with blood.
The thought came back of an ancient wrong, and it stung like a frozen lash,
And the lust awoke to kill, to kill … then the music stopped with a crash,
And the stranger turned, and his eyes they burned in a most peculiar way;
In a buckskin shirt that was glazed with dirt he sat, and I saw him sway;
Then his lips went in in a kind of grin, and he spoke, and his voice was calm,
And “Boys,” says he, “you don’t know me, and none of you care a damn;
But I want to state, and my words are straight, and I’ll bet my poke they’re true,
That one of you is a hound of hell. . .and that one is Dan McGrew.”

Then I ducked my head, and the lights went out, and two guns blazed in the dark,
And a woman screamed, and the lights went up, and two men lay stiff and stark.
Pitched on his head, and pumped full of lead, was Dangerous Dan McGrew,
While the man from the creeks lay clutched to the breast of the lady that’s known as Lou.

These are the simple facts of the case, and I guess I ought to know.
They say that the stranger was crazed with “hooch,” and I’m not denying it’s so.
I’m not so wise as the lawyer guys, but strictly between us two —
The woman that kissed him and — pinched his poke — was the lady that’s known as Lou.


“While high overhead, green, yellow and red, the North Lights swept in bars”
Photo by Joery Truyen/Dzjow

This photo of the northern lights was taken in Sweden by an amazing photographer and adventurer — Joery Truyen. His blog chronicles his backpacking trips in northern Europe and is full of gorgeous photographs. All of his featured pictures are so beautifully shot and composed.

For more Poetry Friday, head over to Teaching Authors and see what our wonderful host April Wayland has put together for us.

Posted in poetry | 8 Comments


Dragon's Blood Sedum

Dragon’s Blood Sedum
NEX 5R — MC Rokkor-X 50mm f1.7 (1/80s, ISO 800)

Posted in photography | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ghostly Galleon

It’s bitterly cold here this week. The bitter cold makes the moon and stars seem brighter and more inviting — I want to step out onto my back porch and look at the stars but **brrr** it’s too cold. So I stood taking pictures of the moon through the patio door.
Whenever I look at the moon, two lines of poetry come to mind – either Cumming’s “there’s the moon, there is something faithful and mad” or Noyes’ “[t]he moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas”. This week it was a Noyes kind of moon.

The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

CrescentMoonYou can read the rest of this wonderful poem at The Poem Hunter.

The “ghostly galleon” line reminds of Montague Dawson‘s, Crescent Moon (a copy of which is hanging in my son’s bedroom).

For more poetry, visit the wonderful and talented Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.

Did you read The Highwayman in High School? My wonderful English teacher worked it into a unit on Romeo and Juliet. I still love the sound of this poem — reading it aloud is a pleasure.

Posted in Miscellaneous | 10 Comments