Creative holiday spelling

Ten-year-old Grace has an excellent vocabulary, as do Eli and Lydia, and she uses it in her writing and speaking. (Yesterday, for example, she implored me, “Please don’t scowl.” How much more precise it was than “don’t be unhappy,” which I was not.) The meaning of a word, though, may be more important to Grace than its precise spelling. Here’s a note she wrote and stuck to the refrigerator.

Misspellings prompt my imagination more than correctness does. And this misspelling makes me recall, too, other memorable and wonderful writing mistakes. A few years ago an ESL student of mine wrote a personal essay about her faith in Jesus Crisis.

A stalking Santa and a savior at his wit’s end — maybe there’s an idea in there for a story appropriate to this pressured and frantic time of year.

Accidental vegetables

After I harvested the potatoes, we tilled up the patch and mixed in some lime for sweetness. While we were at it, we tilled up another troubled patch of grass and mixed in our first batch of compost. Would lime and compost yield the same results?

Grass is similarly sprouting in both the lime- and compost-treated areas. There is also, surprisingly, some additional species growth in the area with compost. Ah, vegetable seedlings to be exact.

Tomato jungle towers above grass understory.

Leaves of a big-fruiting plant -- melon? squash?

Ironicially, beets, which I wasn't able to grow successfully from seed this summer.

Plants do what plants do. We have decided to simply let this go — no mowing — until the first frost.

– States of mind

Every time I hear on the radio the new Alicia Keyes/Jay-Z song, “Empire State of Mind,” I (mis)hear Keyes’s lines as her voice enters the song. To me, it sounds like:

In New York…
I’ve become a wintry tomato
There’s nothing you can’t do…

Play the video, and listen for the line starting at 0:56. Do you hear what I hear?

In the car today I asked Lydia, “What is she actually singing there?”

Lydia replied, “Something about dreams.”

“Dreams?” I queried. “Dreams?! Where do you hear that?” I sang to Lydia my tomato line.

Lydia smiled. “I think I prefer yours, Mom.”

For the record, this is what Keyes sings. Lydia is right.

In New York…
Concrete jungle where dreams are made of
There’s nothing you can’t do…

You pick what you like: wintry tomatoes, or concrete jungle dreams. I’ll stick with what grows on the vine.

– Incomprehensible

EconomistJune13CoverThe June 13th issue of The Economist is on the kitchen table, and Grace, who loves magazine covers, is examining it. I’m puttering around the kitchen. She asks, finally, “What does it mean?” So I lean over her shoulder and take a stab at explaining the visual metaphor: “Right now, the world is experiencing huge financial problems, created by people who are adults now. However, the problems are so huge that it may take 30 or so years to solve them, and the people who will be most burdened by these money problems are babies now.”

Grace responds, “I still don’t get it.”

Jimmy has entered the kitchen and offers a more concise explanation than mine: “The world is in debt right now, and the people who caused the debt are Mom and my generation and the Baby Boomers’ generation. However, the people who are going to pay for this debt are babies and children right now, like you.”

Grace looks again at the cover. “I still don’t understand.”

Honey, you shouldn’t have to, I want to say, but there is nothing more to say, because she is only nine years old.

– That’s not a crow! That’s my grackle.

So much for it being crow season.  The birds in the yard right now are grackles.  They swarm and sound like they do in this YouTuber’s yard:

Eerie, huh?  More eerie than the cawing of crows, which is how I figured out I was wrong about that.  Jimmy came home this evening while I was sitting in the kitchen with the window open, listening to the chatter and screech of hundreds of birds in the trees around the house and on the street.  He said, “Hear the crows?  Amazing.”  He added, “Your blog post didn’t capture the sound they make.”  The instant he said the words “crows” aloud, I realized I had gotten it wrong.  Crows caw.  So, I looked online and in the Sibley Guide to Birds until I figured out that what we’re annually witnessing is the migration of the common grackle.

Still, grackles or crows, the sound they make is like a shrieking call to pay attention, pay attention, pay attention, pay attention!