Saturday, April 29, 2006

National Anthem - in Spanish?

Those of you in the US have doubtless already heard about this, but I just read it for the first time on the BBC's site. Here's the CBC's version.

History is full of attempts to suppress languages, and they're nearly always doomed to failure. English itself as we speak it today is the result of a sort of immigration - well, OK, a conquest - mixing speakers of two separate languages. President Bush says everyone who comes to America should learn English, and no doubt that's a great idea, but that doesn't mean leaving behind their own language and culture. Why shouldn't Spanish-speaking people sing a song in Spanish? It's interesting that Francis Scott Key's great-great-grandson doesn't approve, because usually authors are happy to have their work translated into other languages to reach other audiences.

This article says that Key's reference to "bombs bursting in air" has been replaced by "we are brothers, we are equals." Sorry, but I like the new version better.

What's this? Optimism about Africa?

Well, kind of. I was thrilled to find an article about Africa that had the word "hope" in the title without "no" in front of it. You have to read through a lot of horrible stuff, as usual, but the guy is a little bit optimistic! Honest!

OK, if you still want to read it, here it is.

It reminded me of the poem I shared with my students yesterday:


Sometimes things don't go, after all,
from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel
faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail.
Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.

A people sometimes will step back from war,
elect an honest man, decide they care
enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor.
Some men become what they were born for.

Sometimes our best intentions do not go
amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to.
The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow
that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.

-- Sheenagh Pugh

Friday, April 28, 2006

Oh, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Vast, unmeasured, boundless, free!
Rolling as a mighty ocean
In its fullness over me,
Underneath me, all around me,
Is the current of Thy love;
Leading onward, leading homeward
To my glorious rest above.

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Spread His praise from shore to shore!
How He loveth, ever loveth,
Changeth never, nevermore;
How He watches o'er His loved ones,
Died to call them all His own;
How for them He intercedeth,
Watcheth o'er them from the throne.

Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,
Love of every love the best;
'Tis an ocean vast of blessing,
'Tis a haven sweet of rest,
Oh, the deep, deep love of Jesus,
'Tis a Heav'n of Heav'ns to me;
And it lifts me up to glory,
For it lifts me up to Thee.

S. Trevor Francis, 1834-1925

New growth charts

Did you know that the WHO (that's the international health organization, not the rock band) has come out with new growth charts? It seems the old charts were based mostly on formula-fed babies, while these used breastfed babies as the norm.

Here's La Leche League International's press release on the topic:

La Leche League International Commends the World
Health Organization on Publication of New Child Growth Standards

(Schaumburg, IL) April 27, 2006­La Leche League
International (LLLI) welcomes the establishment
of new Child Growth Standards based on the
breastfed infant as the normative model of how
children should grow and develop.

The new World Health Organization (WHO) Child
Growth Standards, using a world-wide sample of
over 8,000 children, demonstrate that
environmental differences, rather than genetics,
are the main determinant of disparities in
physical growth and development. The new charts
will be an invaluable tool for parents and
healthcare providers as a way of detecting
under-nutrition, overweight and obesity, and
other growth and nutrition-related conditions at
an early stage in a child’s life.

The premise of the study is that the gold
standard in infant nutrition is exclusive
breastfeeding for the first six months and
continued breastfeeding after the introduction of
appropriate complementary foods. In research for
the new WHO Child Growth Standards, mothers from
Brazil, Ghana, India, Norway, Oman and the United
States were given the encouragement and education they needed to breastfeed.

While breastfeeding is natural, it is a learned
art and mothers need information and support.
LLLI meets these needs through a network of
mother-to-mother support group meetings,
telephone counseling, web site and email support, and publications.

Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and their
babies are encouraged to attend LLLI meetings.
Topics discussed include childbirth, beginning
and continuing breastfeeding, nutrition and the
introduction of appropriate foods after six
months. For nearly 50 years, and now in over 60
countries around the globe, mothers gather at
monthly meetings with accredited LLLI Leaders for information and support.

For additional information about the
ground-breaking WHO Child Growth Standards,
breastfeeding, or a group in your area call
1-800-LA LECHE or visit the LLLI web site at

You can look at the new charts at the WHO's website.

Cautionary Tale about Plagiarism

She says it was unintentional, but Kaavya Viswanathan admits that her work was very similar to someone else's, namely the novels of Megan McCafferty. How similar? Well, take a look at some passages.

Editors at Harvard's student newspaper comment. And here's another article about the whole incident.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Real Nappy Week

I hope everyone is celebrating Real Nappy Week.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Nancie Atwell

Nancie Atwell is an education guru. She wrote the wonderful, wonderful book In the Middle. Now she is coming out with more books, and my husband just bought me Naming the World. It comes with a DVD showing Nancie teaching several lessons to her students focusing on the "Daily Poem."

The whole time I was watching the DVD, I kept saying what my students would say at each point. "I don't get it." "Huh?" "You want us to underline what?"

She makes a big point of the fact that her kids are ordinary kids. Yes, but she has taught them to do amazing things. These kids are noticing things about poems that just blow my mind. And I think my kids could probably do it too, if I taught them the way she does. My kids are smart and curious, too.

However, I do understand the article that was in the English Journal earlier this year - I found it online, but you can only read it if you have an NCTE password - here. It's called "Why I Detest Nancie Atwell." Of course, in the end it turns out that the writer just looks up to her a lot, and wishes to be like her. She "detests" her because she made the job so much harder. You can't just be satisfied any more with doing it the same old way. You feel as though you have to measure up to her now. Grrrr.

I want to be just like Nancie Atwell when I grow up.

Inflation rate in Zimbabwe

I got an email from someone I know who used to live in Zimbabwe. Apparently the article I posted yesterday had the wrong inflation rate - almost 800%.

The inflation rate has now gone up to 913%.

Surrounded by Kidear

My son, in the most disgusted voice imaginable: "I'm surrounded by kidear!"

It took us a while, but we finally figured out that this came from The Lion King. Scar says, in the same voice, "I'm surrounded by idiots." Somehow, to my son this sounded like "kidear."

Really, doesn't everybody feel surrounded by kidear at times?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006


ZIMBABWE: Adult population to die before age 40, says UN report
Most Zimbabwean adults will die before they turn 40, says a WHO report
JOHANNESBURG, 7 April (PLUSNEWS) - Zimbabwean women have the shortest lifespan in the world, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday.

Neither men nor women in one of the world's fastest shrinking economies are expected to reach the age of 40, according to the 'World Health Report 2006', based on the statistics for 2004.

Since the 2005 report, based on the figures for 2003, life expectancy for both sexes has plunged by two years: Zimbabwe's women now have an average lifespan of 34 years, the lowest in the world; that of men is 37 years.

Among the 192 countries included in the WHO indicators, Swaziland recorded the lowest life expectancy for men - 36 years - with 39 years for women.

Carla Abou-Zahr, of WHO's Health Metrics Network, said the decrease was related to the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, but NGOs have linked it to the unfolding economic crisis.

Ironically, Zimbabwe, which formerly had one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS prevalence, recently became the first Southern African nation to report a significant decline in HIV infection, from 24.6 percent in 2003 to 20.1 percent in 2005.

"I am not surprised at the low life expectancy," said rights activist Everjoice Win. "The statistics expose the impact of unaccountable governance on Zimbabweans: we have the world's highest rate of inflation; it is a completely dysfunctional state with a collapsed economy, which has driven healthcare professionals - doctors and nurses - out of the country; and then you have the scourge of HIV/AIDS."

With inflation at almost 800 percent, people are battling to cope with rising prices and drug shortages. According to the local media, lack of foreign currency to purchase medicines was among the reasons why Zimbabwe failed to meet the WHO target of providing anti-AIDS drugs to at least 120,000 HIV-positive people by the end of 2005.

Local newspapers have also reported that many provinces had run out of tuberculosis drugs, while deepening poverty and the HIV/AIDS pandemic were contributing to the resurgence of TB, to which those with weak immune systems are more prone.

Faced with desperate drug shortages, an ailing medical infrastructure and low salaries, many medical personnel have quit their jobs for better paying ones in neighbouring countries like South Africa and Botswana, while others have emigrated to European countries.

According to the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), three babies in Zimbabwe become infected with HIV every hour. "We are familiar with the decline in the life expectancy - Zimbabwean adults and children are among the most vulnerable in the world," said UNICEF spokesman James Elder. "Not nearly enough people are receiving ARVs."

The official Herald newspaper reported this week that a shortage of doctors and nurses had made it difficult for people to access anti-AIDS treatment soon enough, and some died because of the long time it took for them to see experts, especially at public health institutions.

Zimbabwe "needs support more than outrage", commented Elder. "While you are constantly inspired by the way Zimbabweans continue to support each other amid desperate economic times, 90 percent of the country's 1.46 million orphans are still cared for by extended family. The stress that a Zimbabwean family is under is becoming unbearable."

Lots and lots of toast

In Sunday School my kids sing a song that says,"Come and go with me to my Father's house." It describes Heaven as a very kid-friendly place. There are lots and lots of rooms, a table with lots of food, and of course plenty of room to play football.

Somehow my 3-year-old got the idea that on that "big big table" there was "lots and lots of toast." When I asked him what toast was, he didn't even know. We don't eat toast at our house, because making toast requires electricity, which we rarely have at breakfast time. Our alternative power source can't handle a toaster. Maybe he thinks of it as some kind of ineffable treat, like manna or Turkish delight.

Well, whatever it is, he's expecting it in Heaven.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Fighting hunger in Haiti

You can see some pictures here. Hard to believe this is only 700 miles from Florida, isn't it?


The title of my blog comes from the lyrics of this song by Carolyn Arends. (I used to have that CD - wonder what happened to it? Did I loan it to anybody reading this?)

I live in a town - a city, really - that many would call God-forsaken. It's really not much different from hundreds of other cities in the third world - overcrowded, without enough resources to manage all the people who have flocked to it, thinking its streets are paved with gold. They aren't. Lots of them aren't paved at all, and even the ones that are paved are full of garbage.

But God is here; He didn't forsake this city. Bono said it well recently: "God is in the slums, in the cardboard boxes where the poor play house . . . God is in the silence of a mother who has infected her child with a virus that will end both their lives . . . God is in the cries heard under the rubble of war . . . God is in the debris of wasted opportunity and lives, and God is with us if we are with them." (You can read the whole transcript of Bono's speech here.)

We look forward to a city, and we know it will be much better than this one. Dennis Kinlaw wrote: "The master Artist designed our world to begin in a garden, and a garden is a place of order and beauty - a place of aesthetic and physical nurture. He designed the world to find its fulfillment in a city, not one like our cities, but the Holy City in which there will be no suffering, no pain, no sorrow, and no heartache. It will be clean, beautiful, and full of life."

Meanwhile, let's pray for our cities. From The Book of Common Prayer:

"Heavenly Father, in your Word you have given us a vision of the holy City to which the nations of the world bring their glory: Behold and visit, we pray, the cities of the earth. Renew the ties of mutual regard which form our civic life. Send us honest and able leaders. Enable us to eliminate poverty, prejudice, and oppression, that peace may prevail with righteousness, and justice with order, and that men and women from different cultures and with differing talents may find with one another the fulfillment of their humanity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Sure, it's asking a lot. But "there are no hopeless circumstances."

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Teachers who blog

Interesting article here.

Shakespeare's birthday

Happy birthday, William Shakespeare! Shame you've been dead for almost four hundred years. That's not stopping the celebration, though!

The RSC is celebrating by starting a year-long festival.

We aren't having a festival at our house, but this morning in Sunday School when the monthly birthday cake was brought out and the teacher asked who had a birthday in April, my daughter (8) mentioned Shakespeare.

Running the Road to ABC

This is an assignment I did for a class I'm taking - I thought somebody out there might be interested in some of the resources I found.

Lauture, Denizé, Running the Road to ABC. Illustrated by Reynold Ruffins. Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing, 1996. ISBN 0-689-80507-1.

In the Haitian countryside, six children get up early, eat their breakfast, and run to school. This beautiful book tells, in words and pictures, what their journey is like – both the literal journey to school and the metaphorical "road to ABC" which they take "up and down steep hills six days each week, forty weeks each year, for seven years of their short lives." Rich, poetic language details the supplies they carry, the plants and animals they pass, the people and vehicles they see. There are many nuggets about Haitian culture buried in the text as well. In a country where 60% of the population cannot read, these six children value the precious opportunity they have to go to school.

This book would make an excellent read-aloud for children in the middle grades. It is not only an example of lovely prose, but it also raises many interesting topics to be discussed. Some possible uses are:

  • Social Studies – a unit on Haiti or any other third world country where literacy rates are low. The pictures, especially those of the school, are somewhat idealized, so it would be good to find pictures of actual schools in Haiti to see how crowded and basic they are.
  • International Literacy Day (September 8th), National Family Literacy Month (November), or at any other time for a discussion of literacy around the world and the great privilege of knowing how to read. A useful discussion could focus on how literacy can improve life for a poor person living in a third world country. Additional resources that include statistics and teaching helps are and Students could even organize a Read-a-thon for Literacy through the organization Beyond Borders (; there is a bibliography provided of Haitian-themed books at
  • Reading and Writing – students could be encouraged to reflect on their own "road to ABC" and write about how both they get to school each day and how they learned to read – the literal and metaphorical "roads to ABC" found in the text.
  • Science – the book could be included in a discussion of tropical flora and fauna because of the vivid descriptions of what the children see on their run to school.
  • This book received the Coretta Scott King award; it could be used in a discussion about book awards in general or this one in particular.
  • Art – the pictures in this book are in a naive, folk-art style, and could be used to talk about this kind of art. Information about the artist, Reynold Ruffins, can be found at
  • Students could read more by Denizé Lauture, who has also published The Black Warrior and Other Poems and Father and Son.
  • Additional uses found online: a study of Haitian-American culture (, depictions of school in children's literature (, books encouraging physical fitness (, and "Growing Up Around the World: Books as Passports to Global Understanding for Children in the United States" (

Quotes I've written down recently

"I really do like listening to stuff that's happened to other people. I guess that's why I like to read." Bryon in That was Then, This is Now, by S. E. Hinton.

"The skill of the divine potter is an infinite patience of improvisation. No sooner has one work gone awry than his fingers are pressing it into the form of another. There is never a moment for the clay, when the potter is not doing something with it. God is never standing back and watching us; his fingers are on us all the time." Farrer, in Said or Sung. Quoted by Susan Howatch.

"But Jesus says: if you will let the real God come into your life, then you will experience a huge freedom from the anxiety over survival; none of the usual concerns over livelihood will furrow your brow or weigh you down....Open yourself to my God whose passionate love is unreasonable and trust Him wholeheartedly....If we let the Lion of Judah run loose as Lord of our lives, He will not want us to be poor, broken, or sad. Yet He may allow it, knowing that in these conditions we are more likely to let Him make us rich, whole, and happy." Brennan Manning.


"Decay might be the best growth industry left....The damaged past, artfully reused, is all most of us ever have to work with anyway." Paul Collins, in Sixpence House.

The past - what we've seen, experienced, and read - is, indeed, what we have to work with. Here I hope to share some of my past and present with anyone who is reading.

I've been enjoying blogging for a while on a private family site but have been holding off on anything more public because it's so, well, public. But I decided today to take the plunge. So here goes.