Saturday, March 15, 2014

Celebration Saturday and Slice of Life Challenge - Day 15 - Cool Cousins

     I'm crossing-posting today since it is Celebration Saturday AND Day 15 of the Slice of Life Challenge.  I have had such a wonderful time participating in both!
First, the celebrations:
1.  In a previous Slice of Life, I lamented that I wasn't doing enough creative writing with my students.  Today I can celebrate the fact that writing is alive and well in my fifth grade classes right now, and I'm loving it (and so are they, and so are their parents)!  Thanks to the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge, the kids are writing slices every day this month, and also writing memoirs.  While they're drafting, we're counting what they write as a slice each day. In between drafting, they can write about whatever they want to in their slices.  I love what they're creating, and they love the process.  I was telling my husband yesterday (poor Ed - he has to hear A LOT about teaching), that finding a passion for writing in the classroom is the same for reading - YOU, the teacher, have to be a writer, too, and talk to kids about your own pitfalls and successes - your own processes.  I've been doing that successfully with reading for a while now, but not with writing.  When they both come together, it's magic!  Ed responded that he thought writing skills were one of the most important things that could come out of school - he's a technology consultant.  Interesting!
2.   On Tuesday, my Mock Newbery Club and I Skyped with Natalie Lloyd about her debut middle grade novel A Snicker of Magic.  Well, what a JOY that was!!!  It was so fun to have one of Libby's friends, Kelsey, there to experience it, too.  She was visiting from Bowling Green University where she is studying to be a secondary English teacher.  She needed to interview a teacher, so she came and observed one fifth grade and one sixth grade class and then stuck around for the Skype session and a conversation about education.  We LOVED Natalie.  She has an incredibly charming southern accent, which fits right in with the town and characters she's created in this amazing book.  The kids were so excited to meet her and talk about her book, which they loved.  One boy said he stayed up until 1 a.m. reading it and cried over certain parts (I found it so refreshing and wonderful that a fifth grade boy would share that), and one sixth grader said it was her favorite book of all time.  She's a voracious reader (she's read 150 books so far this school year), so that's a pretty extraordinary pronouncement!  Because of the role magical ice cream plays in the story, I bought some Jeni's ice cream to eat while we talked to her, and then shipped a couple flavors (Buckeye to celebrate Ohio and Brambleberry Crisp to celebrate Blackberry Sunrise)  to Natalie as a thank you to Tennessee.
3.  Whenever I get to go out with my best friends, it's something to celebrate.  We went to Remezo Greek Cuisine restaurant to hang out and had a great time.  I'd be happy to eat Mediterranean food every day! ;-)  I love that we had a photo-bomber in the background. ;-)
4.  My oldest daughter, Libby, turns 21 on St. Patrick's Day.  Ed and I drove to Miami University last night to celebrate with her and her friends in Libby's apartment. We picked up a bunch of pizzas and brought her favorite cake, Red Velvet.  These kids are such an amazing group.  They're fun, kind, and smart.  They met their freshman year in college, and we've gotten to know them well.  The world is a better place because that group of young people are in it!  They all have a strong faith and live it - I can't wait to see what they will all end up doing after they graduate (but I'm NOT rushing it - I love seeing them all together throughout the year).  I'm so happy for her that she has a group of friends who I know will last forever. 
                                 Libby and her boyfriend
5.  I continue to celebrate all the Slice of Life Challenge writers out there!  I've learned a lot by reading all the writing they've done.  I love the variety of slices - the wise, the funny, the sad.  All of it.  Keep on slicing!  That's the segue into the second part of my post today...
I've been writing Slices of Life around photographs and memorabilia because of the memoir writing in my classroom. 
     I scanned a page from my own childhood photo album of our trip to Nagshead in 1979.  The reason I loved this trip so much is not so much for the place; although it was awesome!  It's because I want to write about my cousins and Aunt Jan and Uncle Rich. 
     I'm an only child, and we lived far away from extended family.  One set of grandparents lived in Arkansas, one set in New Jersey, one set of cousins in Virginia, and the other in New Hampshire.  Whenever we could see extended family, it was special.  I was 12 on this trip, and I was extremely uncool, as you can see.  My curly, unruly hair was untamed by product or style, I was tall and ungainly, and I think I'm wearing a terry cloth shorts onesie in the bottom right picture.  Need I say more?  My Brandt cousins, however, were the coolest people on the planet, I thought.  Two of them were with us on this trip.  Chad is three years older than I, and Dorothea five.  That made them 15 and 17 at the time - the epitome of coolness.  I wanted to be like my cousin, Dorothea (we called her Dodi at the time), so badly.  I wanted to stand like her, talk like her, and look like her.  She's funny and tells great stories, had bunches of friends who she would hang out with at Virginia Beach, and I thought she was awesome.  Chad was a ton of fun.  Whenever we visited, we hung out like old friends, and I wished I could've lived next to them so I could've done that on a daily basis.  I'm sure I was just the annoying little cousin.  Ha.  But they were rock stars to me.
     I remember Chad and I riding those rafts (top right) out on the waves, but one day Chad's got away from him, and floated out beyond the waves.  He was determined to get it so he swam out.  It became quite a feat!  I think he almost drowned!  He got it back safely, though, and exhausted, he returned to shore, a worried me following right behind.  We played a lot of games on that trip - I'm not sure what we're playing in the picture, but I remember Stratego the most. 
     My aunt and uncle were awesome, too.  My uncle was so funny and a great story and joke teller.  We still tell some of his jokes today.  I can remember him yawning on the beach while Chad and I were out in the ocean and us running back, thinking he was yelling at us.  It was just his super-loud and dramatic yawn.  I remember walking along the beach with my mom and aunt, Aunt Jan telling the story of the book she was reading: Follow the River.  It's amazing I can remember that story, but I was so riveted by the way she told it.  I thought she was beautiful, stylish, and so smart and I loved being with her (she still is and I still do; sadly my uncle passed away many years ago, but we recently celebrated my aunt's 80th birthday). 
      My two oldest cousins on this side are Chris and Kurt - they were grown and gone by the time we took this trip, so they weren't with us, but I love that Kurt's family and my family have done a lot together.  When I was young, I thought they were they were so fun to be around.  I would just listen to them and watch them tell stories, and I wished they were my brothers.  They all came to my wedding, which means way more to me than I'm sure they realize, and I treasure that they are part of my family. Oh, and Happy Birthday, Dorothea - beware the Ides of March! :-)
Holly, Chad, Kurt, Chris, Mom, Dorothea, and Aunt Jan in the front,
celebrating Aunt Jan's 80th birthday in September.  I still think they're the coolest family on the planet! ;-)
My wedding with all my family

                            Dorothea and my other amazing cousin, Erika (more on her and Russell later)

      The Brandt Family - not sure what year




  1. Somehow I feel that with joy words flow like spring river water. Your writing is filled with joy. Happy Birthday to Libby!

  2. Wow - thank you for sharing so many memories and stories here - I enjoyed reading it all and loved the photographs!

  3. Happy Birthday, Libby! Another rich post, Holly, filled with the joys of family and friends. I love all the photos you share, one can time travel looking at them!

  4. Holly - I always enjoy reading your posts! You have such a way of sharing such joyful events in your life - both past and present. Your Skype session about Snicker of Magic sounded amazing - your students will certainly never forget that! Dinner with your "besties" - can't beat that! Mine all came over to my house last Friday and we shared wine and a lot of laughs! Your memoir writing always makes me smile - I love the old photos and stories. A great week with many things to celebrate - thanks for sharing!

  5. Ha! That photo bomber is so funny! It is so great that your students are excited about writing. I am about halfway though Snicker with my lunchtime book club. I am hoping to Skype with her after. That book is just wonderful. Thank you for lending your support for my article. I am excited to participate. When Brenda came to my class I was soooo nervous I thought I might pass out. She is a wonderful lady. Keep up the slicing!

  6. What a wonderful post! I loved it all...but the fact that your 5th grade boy shared that he cried on certain parts of the book, well that's just amazing! What a terrific soul you have there! I got to put that book in my TBR pile. Sounds so amazing.

  7. This was such a joyful celebration! Each and every part you described was better and better. Life is good!

  8. I love these end of the week/celebration posts. They make me look at the week differently. And wow, you have some wonderful photos of your family. Thank you for sharing.

  9. I think it's time for me to pick up a copy of Snicker of Magic. I've love reading your memoir writing, and loved the pic of the cousins yesterday. I'm not sure if I commented, but I could definitely pick you out. Your memoir writing makes me think of so many people who have influenced my life.

  10. Holly,
    I loved reading about your celebrations-all very joyous! Also, reading about the family stories and admiration and affection for older cousins reminded me of my cousins. I chuckled to myself thinking about how goofy they probably thought I was as they were all 6 years or more older than! Fun beach times!