Isidro and I met at Viva Mexico to discuss illustrations for our next book. He now has three of my children’s books stacked up to illustrate. This one is entitled “I Really Want A Puppy.” It’s quite a job as he needs to come up with at least 7 different puppy characters as well as a family of six: two children, Mom, Pop and grandparents as well as friends. (Click on the first photo to enlarge photos and see captions.)
My newest children’s book is now available on Amazon. Go HERE to order.
“Wake up, wake up, my buttercup, my flutterdown and flutterup, my painter and my cutterup, your sleepy time is done.” So begins this silly rhymed storybook by Judy Dykstra-Brown that takes a child from waking up to a go-to-sleep-lullaby, chronicling in between a day full of activities and then the bedding down of the child along with a recap of all the creatures they have encountered during the day at their grandparents’ farm, the zoo and in storybooks. “Humpa, humpa, haravan, the camels in their caravan and puppies on the spare divan are falling fast asleep . . . like the foxes in their lairs, with the fleas down in their hairs. . . . Like your playmates, your teacher, and every living creature.” Sunup Sundown Song takes a child through the entire busy day and lulls them to sleep. Charmingly illustrated with fine details by artist Isidro Xilonzochitl. Meant to be read to children of all ages.
— Ilsa, damp and determined.
This little girl is Ilsa, the daughter of Ellie, the young lady who comes to clean my rental house once a week. Last year Ilsa was very shy and either hid behind her mother or sat in a corner playing with her phone whenever I tried to talk to her. This year, however, at the mature age of 4, she is an affectionate chatterbox, following me around, chatting me up, smiling a lot, even before I gave her the red licorice that she seemed not to realize she could chew and swallow. An hour after I gave it to her, she was still sucking on the end,, her lips stained with what looked like a very unskillful application of red lip gloss Staying near. When I heard her humming, I asked if she knew any songs. She proceeded to sing a very involved song that lasted at least five minutes. Either she was making it up or has an excellent memory. It was in Spanish, so I didn’t follow it as my mind tunes out and I forget to listen closely enough to try to make out the lyrics.
Afterwards, we talked about cars and dogs and cats and crocodiles and I showed her photos of Morrie on my computer. Her mother called her in twice, telling her to let me work (on blogging) but each time she eventually came back out to stand near and smile and talk and smile and play cocoon with the hanging towels and sheets that hung all around me on lines strung across the porch. Finally, she wrapped herself in a damp-sheet hanging on the line near me and started singing the same three-word line over and over again. I strained to hear it. It sounded like “Hunta para siete,” so I Google translated, but got no answer. She came close, touched my arm and continued to sing it, over and over. When I asked her mom what it could mean, she had no idea. Then, suddenly, I heard it correctly and with the correct spelling. She was singing “Junta para siempre”—“Together forever.” How sweet is that?
When she and her mom left, almost immediately, another little girl walked up to the steps leading up from the sand and climbed up to my porch. Fresh from the ocean, still in her suit, she dripped water from suit, hair and body. In one hand she held a strand of long black hair, sucking on the tip.
She is the little girl who last year had entered the house, poured four cups of dogfood into Morrie’s dish and locked him inside his cage with it. She was also the little girl who would let him off his long lead every time she walked by the porch, freeing him to come play with her on the beach. When their play ceased, she left him to run free, with several potentially dangerous situations arising. So, it became necessary for me to never put Morrie out on his own. It was a very limiting plan–for me. I ended up not going on any of the day excursions Tess and Rita and John planned because… I had to stay home with Morrie
I gave Elsie the sad news that Morrie wasn’t here this year and neglected, on purpose, to tell her I had a cat with me and she eventually climbed down the stairs and slipped away like the accomplished little cat burglar she is. No, I didn’t tell her I had a cat along with me this year.
Elsie, wet and wily.
This post made years ago at the very beginning of my blog answers today’s prompt of “conjure” perfectly, so here it is again after a small edit:
My dialogue takes place between my 7 year old self and my 70 year old self who, ironically, is writing this in Mexico.
of Grandma’s barn
whole lost worlds there.
Our own attic—a door held down
by a gravity never challenged.
I wanted to see
the hanging gardens of Babylon,
Mexico and Africa—
all these places from books,
their pieces jumbled together
like puzzle pieces
in the deep recesses of my closet,
but ready for assembly
when I would
make my future memories
I crouch with myself at seven—
sharing imagined dangers
in deep closets,
trying to conjure the world.
So many small town stories
while I dreamed of living
in those fairy tale places
of Bible stories
that stood on a shelf
the Bobbsey Twins
Some of us spend our lives
trying to be like books,
then spend our old age
trying to remember childhood,
The prompt word today is conjure.
When I Grow Up
It stretches forever in front of me.
There, no future happens until I create it.
And that is the power of words
that rub like pieces of gravel in my shoe.
I become less of a child in bearing them,
grow to adolescence as I pry them from my shoe.
In storing them on the page, I become my own creator—
writing a new world with each decision of word.
On the page, I can, if I so choose,
grow up again and again.
Each page filled or every edit of the last
becomes another part of me
that tells the same story:
that growing enough to fill the space inside of me
Yes, one or two of you have seen it before, but since I had totally forgotten this poem, it’s clear that one advantage of growing up is that you get to enjoy the same things over again with very little memory of them! This applies to books, movies and even first spouses remarried!
CAMP ESTRELLA FINAL SHOW!!!!!
(Please click on pictures for a larger view.)
The final show included the kids from Camp Estrella as well as part of the 153 member kid’s orchestra and chorus from San Juan. They are the spirited children in white blouses and dark pants. They presented music from Grease, La Bamba and a wonderful spoof where they drew participants from the audience and wound them around the stage area in a long line. It turns out it was a song about the whole village lining up to buy tortillas in the morning–to buy enough tortillas for 7,000 people from one shop with 7 tortilla machines…The joke is that the people drawn from the audience who took a place were forced to go to the end of the of the line–like newcomers trying to break into the tortilla line. Much funnier when listening to the lyrics!
The woman doing the scarf dance was Cynthy, one of the counselors. The woman doing the flamenco was Cindy, the organizer of the camp and the man on the drum and guitar is her husband, David. Other counselors left to right are Audrey to the far left, Juan behind Cynthy, Gloria in polka dots and me! Alicia regrettably left before someone requested we pose for a picture. She is the exotic Mexican lady standing to the left side of the stage in the picture to the right of the audience shot.
After the show, where all those little girls in bright yellow Camp Estrella T-shirts turned into sophisticated flamenco dancers in exotic dresses and tightly-chignoned hair and all the jostling young boys turned into swelled-breasted young men, every one of them hugged every one of us. Audrey and I vied with each other over who could do the best job of hiding wet eyes and lumps in our throat, and we decided the 5,000 pesos that the audience gave us to support the camp (the show was free) should be split between the performers. So, we gave each child 100 pesos and gave the rest to the orchestra/chorus.
Counselors were even more richly rewarded by the memories of working with and getting to know these warm and lovely kids…not to mention the remarkable counselors. We now count among our friends two new generations of young Mexicans–and feel younger for it and more determined to stay in the flow of life. Tomorrow we start all over again with another camp in Ajijc, the neighboring town.
Thanks for giving me a platform to share this wonderful Experience.
Now do you know why, if I had a billion dollars, I would spend it to make this sort of experience happen every day for the children of San Juan Cosala?
Schooled for Peace, Creativity, Humanity and Prosperity
If I were designing a new school, I would make it as experiential as possible. Maths would include hands-on experiences. Children would learn to add and subtract by making change and algebra and geometry would be taught by application to real situations–building or designing jewelry or figuring out how high a wall must be built to block a neighbor’s view. My own education was good, but I never really knew the real purpose of algebra and geometry, even though I won the school math prize!
Chemistry, also, would be taught by showing its application to everyday life–the chemistry of cooking and cleaning, the effect of different fertilizers and pesticides in the garden as well as chemicals in the house. The interrelation of chemicals and pollution to health and safety would be made common knowledge among students and field trips would be taken to demonstrate the dangers of pollution.
Every student would be taught music and music theory, because I know it has a huge effect on math skills and those skills translate to other subjects as well. All students would be encouraged to try different forms of art–sculpture, clay and graphic design as well as drawing and painting. It is my belief that everyone has some artistic skill if they can just find their own particular medium.
Children would be taught a foreign language beginning in nursery school and both boys and girls would take shop and learn basic elements of electricity, plumbing and building. And, dance.
But the main thing that I would insist be taught is communication skills. In every class, group communication would be stressed, and students would be given grades not only according to their own discussion skills, but also in listening and it being responsible in encouraging others to speak. In small group discussions, students would take turns recording the flow of conversation, recording how many times each person spoke, how many times they asked questions of other students to draw them into the conversation and in listening skills. I actually used this system when I was a teacher and it worked remarkably well. Students developed more respect for each other and there was less bullying when students knew their own grade depended upon including everyone in the conversation and respecting the comments of others.
I believe in incorporating activities that encourage ethics, kindness and a consideration of the needs and values of other people. Schools are currently so tied up in standardized testing and performing to a norm that teachers are somewhat hindered in their creativity and the teaching of subjects not directed toward rote learning and performing to purely academic ends, and I think students suffer by this.
Extracurricular subjects often center around competitive sports, many of which are violent in nature and which teach kids to win at all any cost. Better that they be taught to win at being human beings and to learn to accept the differentness of others. Perhaps this might help to make a more peaceable world or at the least, a peaceable society.
Yes, call me a dreamer, but better dreams than nightmares!
In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The New School.” You get to redesign school as we know it from the ground up. Will you do away with reading, writing, and arithmetic? What skills and knowledge will your school focus on imparting to young minds?
I chose this prompt offered as an alternative to today’s prompt.