Lesson plan

I am feeling rather pleased with myself at the moment, as I have built an entire writing unit around the film A Christmas Story. The kids are going to listen to the author recount the flagpole story (thank you, 20th anniversary edition bonus material!) and identify as many literary devices as they can find in it. We will watch the film Thursday and Friday and talk about memoir, setting, characterization, point of view, figurative language, etc.

After we finish watching the movie, the kids will have to write their own brief memoirs about a specific incident from their own childhood.

Should be a cute lesson, and lots of fun to grade.

In requesting permission to show the film in class, I promised Swayze we’d try not to shoot our eyes out….



OMG ponies!!!!1!!!1!!

We went out to Route 66 Riding Stables on East 11th Street today. For $15 an hour, you can rent a horse to ride. As far as I’m concerned, horseback riding is pretty much the most awesome thing there is, and I haven’t had a chance to do it in the past seven or eight years, so I was delighted to find out about this new business on 66.

My muscles have gotten a bit barn sour in the past few years, but I had a good time meandering around the grounds on a pretty black horse named Max.

Ron took a picture of us, which he posted on his blog.

I spent part of this evening experimenting with sugar-free candymaking. I can’t say I’m greatly pleased with the results (Splenda is weird stuff to work with, and when you mix it with baking chocolate, it has a distinct iced-tea-that’s-been-sweetened-after-it-cooled vibe), but I made a decent peanut butter fudge out of fructose, so I’ll have something to share with Swayze — who is diabetic — when I take homemade candy to school next week.

I’m making real candy and writing lesson plans tomorrow. Go, me!


Wrap session

Walter has been helping me wrap Christmas presents this morning. If these gifts stay wrapped long enough to be delivered to their respective recipients, I will be flat-out shocked, because Walter is utterly fascinated by curling ribbon and Scotch tape.

I’m going indie on as many gifts as possible this year. Thus far, we’ve bought stuff at Kiddlestix, the Lincoln Museum gift shop (not exactly mom-and-pop, but a good cause), Lee’s Feed, Steve’s Sundries, and Paper Chase. After a 4:30 a.m. Best Buy run that ended in futility, Ron has learned his lesson about corporate America and its Black Friday bait-and-switch game, so I am heading to an indie computer dealer for one more item this afternoon.

I feel a creative outburst coming on, but I’m not sure exactly how it will manifest itself. There’s some fiction trying to claw its way out of my head this morning, but I’m not really in the mood to deal with it. Last night, for no apparent reason, a couple of my as-yet-unwritten characters decided that “Here, There and Everywhere” is their song, and they are bugging hell out of me to figure out why.

Fiction is a strange thing. You want your characters to be realistic and well-rendered, but develop them too far, and they start thinking for themselves, which makes them impossible to control.

My female characters are all rather like Athena, springing from my head more or less fully formed, but the guys always go through this elaborate — and extremely time-consuming — building process. Just when I think I’ve got them nailed down, I meet another interesting person, and all of a sudden I’ve got a character whispering, “Wouldn’t I be more realistic if I had X’s annoying habit of brushing imaginary dust specks off his desk when he’s thinking?” or “You see how Y holds his mouth to hide that gap in his teeth around people he doesn’t know well? I do that, too.” Flighty brats. We’ll see if I’m in the mood to deal with them after lunch….


Santa’s Magical Mushrooms

Ron and I made a quick trip to Illinois this weekend to attend a special event organized by an old friend.

On our way back through Missouri last night, we noticed a spiderweb of Christmas lights twined through the branches of hundreds of trees along a road winding up the side of a mountain.

The lights were part of the elaborate “Santa’s Magical Kingdom” Christmas display at the Yogi Bear-themed Jellystone Park campground just west of Six Flags.

We’d passed the display in years past, but we never seemed to get there in time to drive through it. Although we were on a rather tight schedule last night, we couldn’t resist a stop.

I suspect some of Santa’s Magical Mushrooms may have been involved in planning this exhibit:

The exhibit even includes a faux fireworks display over a replica of the St. Louis Arch.

Dolphins leap in a pool of twinkling lights.


Is the giant water faucet a nod to the famous animated neon faucet that drips all night next to I-44 near St. James? You decide. (After you click the link, scroll down to the bottom of the page to see what I’m talking about.)

I personally think the whole thing looks like what you’d get if Clark Griswold were in charge of decorating Rock City’s Fairyland Caverns for the holidays. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.



So apparently the ol’ “OMG-teh-ACLU-stole-Christmas!!!!!!!1!!!!ONE!!!!!!1!!!” hoax is making the rounds again.

If you’re not familiar with it, the upshot is this: In 2005, someone sent out an e-mail message saying that because the American Civil Liberties Union was “working so very hard to get rid of the CHRISTMAS part of this holiday,” good Christians should flood the organization’s headquarters with Christmas cards in an effort to “freeze their (sic) operations” by clogging up its mail system. The e-mail urges people to trick ACLU employees into opening these cards by writing “contribution enclosed” on the outside of the envelopes — then “inside(,) contribute a bible (sic) verse!!”

Every time this lands in my inbox, I have to wonder: Why would any self-professed Christian endorse such Machiavellian behavior?

A quick Snopes.com search reveals that this e-mail contains claims about the ACLU that are demonstrably false — so if we forward it, we are bearing false witness against our neighbor, in direct violation of the Ninth Commandment.

The sixth chapter of Leviticus states, in part: “If a soul sin, and commit a trespass against the Lord, and lie unto his neighbour … or hath deceived his neighbour … he hath sinned, and is guilty….” If deception is a “trespass against the Lord,” can we safely assume that Jesus would not advocate writing “contribution enclosed” on an envelope that contains no money?

Finally, Exodus 20:7 instructs: “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.” While this may not be exactly the same thing as shouting, “JESUS H. CHRIST!” in a moment of frustration, it seems to me that if I send someone a Bible verse out of animosity rather than love, I am certainly violating the spirit — if not the letter — of the Third Commandment.

As Christians, we are called to be honest, love our enemies, and treat others as we wish to be treated.

If we are sincere in our faith, we will follow the leadings of the Christ, and not the malicious urgings of an anonymous author whose words have about as much credibility as the Neiman-Marcus Cookie hoax.