Tuesday, May 6, 2014

On This Date in 1999 (May 6)

I’m taking a late morning break at work, chicken noodle Cup-a-Soup steeping within my reach. Who knows, I may be eating my lunch without knowing it.

When I got out of bed this morning, the sky looked harmlessly overcast. I was surprised to hear water still running when I turned off the shower an hour later. Rain started to fall shortly after 7:00 and hasn’t stopped since. I had hoped to work in the yard this evening, but that activity doesn’t seem too likely right now. I imagine that Andy’s baseball practice will be canceled, even if the rain stops within the next couple hours. I don’t see any improvement in the weather forecast for the weekend. At this rate, I’m not going to complete all the planting and transplanting I want to get dome before the Memorial Day weekend.

Yesterday Eddie and I had a difference of opinion over how to proceed with his book report, which was due today. The assignment was to read a book on animals and then to answer the questions on a sheet of paper the teacher handed out. Earlier in the week, when Eddie showed me what he intended to report on, I realized he didn’t understand what his teacher had in mind. He planned to read the information on a single page of one of his dinosaur books and use that as the basis for his report.

I planned my approach to this problem carefully, since I knew Eddie would put up an immediate fuss once I offered an alternative, one that he wouldn’t be able refuse since Dad was not going to take “no” for an answer. I checked out three books from the library – one each on the bald eagle, wolf, and stegosaurus. When I returned home from work yesterday, I laid all three on the kitchen table and told him to choose which one he wanted to read.

“Eddie, your teacher wants you to do a book report. That means you have to read the book first, not just a page out of a book,” I explained to him, watching his face harden and his eyes go squinty as the full meaning of my words registered.

Initially, he resisted my suggestion, making a reference I didn’t understand to a certain type of dinosaur in the book he was planning to use.

“Here’s what you need to do, Eddie,” I said, putting up my hand as if to stop the words coming out of his mouth. “Pick one of the books on the table here. You can either read the book to me or try to read it on your own. You can’t use that book,” I said, pointing to the one on the table in front of him, “ for your report. That’s not how your teacher would want you to do this assignment.”

My tone of voice became insistent, which Eddie interpreted as something else. “Why are you always so mean to me?” he wailed, his eyes filling up with tears. He got up from his chair and started to leave the room.

“Eddie, you want mean. I’ll show you mean,” I said in exasperation. My threat was meaningless, though. I had no intention of screaming or striking him into submission. I just needed to vent some hot air, release some of the pressure that this stand-off was causing.

“Eddie, please, sit back down here,” I said in a calm and measured voice. “We need to get this assignment done tonight. Now pick out a book and let’s get going.”

He stopped at the threshold of the living room, and then returned to the table.

He selected the book on wolves and opted to read it on his own. I told him he should remain at the table, but five minutes later I found him lying on his bed – still reading, fortunately. Then he changed his mind and switched to the stegosaurus title. Soon I heard a complaint about “too many hard words”. Reading alone wasn’t going to work, so we sat together on the living room couch and Eddie read all 32 pages (an average of 60 words per page) without a break.

Once he finished the book, we returned to the kitchen and he wrote out the answers to the questions on the report sheet. All told, this was an assignment that took nearly 90 minutes, and I had to be there throughout providing encouragement and assistance. I made a mental note to myself: “JoAnna and I really need to work with Eddie on this reading this summer.” Otherwise, he is going to be at a great disadvantage when 3rd grade starts. For a second-grader, Eddie has below-average reading skills. He doesn’t seem to have developed a sight vocabulary. Even two and three-letter words have to be worked out phonetically, which is why I question the effectiveness of exclusively using phonics in the teaching of reading.

Later in the evening, Eddie told me in his sweetest tone of voice, “Thanks, Dad, for making me do my work. I’m sorry I got angry.” It was an exhausting process for him. At the completion of his assignment, when I told him that I was going to go outside to weed the dandelions in the back yard, he said, “I think I’m going to rest in the hammock for awhile.” Even though he had earned the privilege of watching TV, he didn’t even have the energy for that activity. He did rouse himself before too long, though. The boys and I played catch for awhile, after which the two of them went across the street to play with Matthew. 

JoAnna missed the homework confrontation as she was at an Airport Commission meeting, a Dane County board on which she serves. She did hear Eddie statement of gratitude, though, so I gave her a rundown of what had transpired.

Boxer continues his skittish ways this week. I really think he considers Rusty an intruder; the two don’t seem to get along. During the day, Rusty is nowhere to be found. When I come home for lunch, only Boxer greets me, filling the house with his pitiful whining. During the evening, though, Rusty wants to be part of the family – or maybe the family cat. Both litter boxes and food dishes are in the utility room and sometimes Rusty will post himself right in the doorway, which intimidates Boxer to the point where he won’t even make an attempt to go into this room. We learned of the consequences of this standoff last night. At bedtime, Eddie informed us that Andy had discovered a pooper in his room. Why Andy had to sent his brother as messenger, I don’t know.

 “That’s your job!” I said to JoAnna.

She waited until a commercial break during Law & Order so she wouldn’t miss any of our favorite program.

Naturally, we assumed that Boxer was the culprit, as he occasionally used Andy’s room as a litter box when he was a kitten.

Rusty is old enough to be Boxer’s great-grandfather. He’s 14 and has a weird, almost laughable shape: a fat body on skinny legs. His coat is a very pretty reddish-brown coloring – hence, his name. Even when we are in Two Rivers, he tends to keep himself scarce. I’m sure there have been some weekend visits where we haven’t seen him at all. Rusty’s not a people cat. 

Anyway, our catsitting service ends this weekend, as Alice and Larry will be picking up the rotund one on their return trip from Kansas.

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