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Road Trippin’ Part 2: More from the Road

Note, all three signs in this picture are for the same place.
We considered eating here, but we weren’t particularly hungry just yet.
I know we’re not in Arkansas anymore, I told Fiance. It’s too flat!
Do we need to rename this town Freedom Lick?
Yes, I know these are different town names, but English Sulphur and French Lick just seem to go together. Also, check out those clouds!
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Road Trippin’ Part 1: Journey to Maryland

┬áRoad Trippin’
Across the USA
On our way to Maryland
for Sam’s wedding day!

School is out, and summer vacation has begun. This year, I started vacation off right by taking a road trip with Fiance to St. Michael’s, Maryland for my cousin’s wedding. Being the amazing man he is, he drove the whole way. 

Our first trek of the journey took us through Missouri, where the road signs brought as great joy. Among them were a billboard with nothing but the phone number 777-7777, a billboard for a candy factory, literally every mile, and signs for Uranus. We did stop in Uranus, and yes, it turns out to be a tourist strip mall that exists to make butt jokes. A little disappointing, but we picked up the sexy men from Uranus charity calendar, so probably worth it. We also had banana ice cream, one of many ice cream stops on our journey.

Christmas with Daniel O’Donnell? Christmas? Really?
Do they know this is upside down?
We finally did figure out what the number was for…

My favorite signs, I unfortunately do not have pictures of. One was in the middle of nowhere and simply read, “Say no to drugs.” The other was for the “Nauti Inn,” which Fiance and I both took in very different directions.

Getting on the interstate, we thought for a second that we were about to hit a bus. But it turned out it was an RV. Someone is definitely on vacation.

We stopped for the first night in Lousiville, Kentucky, about nine hours away, and ate at the Sicilian because we made a vow to not eat at chain restuarants on this trip. The Sicilian was recommended by two different people, and it turned out to have gyro pizza. Have you ever had lamb on pizza? It’s delicious (unless, of course, you’re vegetarian, in which case… not so much.) Another thing I liked about Louisville? There are lots of messages written into the sidewalk. Like quotes and things, done very purposefully (sorry, no pictures.) Also, they have a Muhammed Ali Blvd.

With Fiance driving, it left me with lots of time to take pictures out of the window. Despite being a long drive, it was a beautiful one.

As we headed out of Missouri, the billboards got fewer and farther between, but I nevertheless saw signs for several interesting towns, including French Lick, Kentucky (Kentucky also has a town called Salt Lick. Go figure), Hurricane, West Virginia, and Midlorian, Maryland (No pictures of the last one, but we’re pretty sure the elves live there.)

Like any road trip, the closer we got to our destination, the further away it seemed. We finally made it over the bridge and across the Chesapeake Bay. But at 7:30pm on our second day, with another 45 minutes of driving left, we decided to find a place to eat. Some friendly locals recommended The Jetty, and we had our first fresh seafood meal of the journey! It was official. We were in Maryland at last.

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Why Teenagers Struggle with Metaphors

So, I saw this poster on similes and metaphors:

It has four sections: definition, purpose, quick memory tip, and examples. But here are the three examples for metaphor:

According to the poster’s own definition, a metaphor is “a comparison between two things that are nor alike and replaces the word with another word.”

Some examples I used when teaching my students are Shakespeare’s “Juliet is the sun.” Looking for something more familiar? Try Katy Perry’s “baby, you’re a firework.” And sure, while “the toast jumped out of the toaster” is an implied metaphor comparing toast to something that jumps–a frog, or a person, it’s not a good example for learning metaphor. And as for the others, what two different things are possibly being compared in “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse” or “I told you a million times to clean your room”? Nothing. Because they’re not metaphors. They’re hyperbole, which is totally different.

Today’s lesson? Students struggle with metaphor because people who are supposed to be teaching it don’t even know what it is. Oh, and Your Dictionary is a terrible resource. Don’t use it.

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Strong Female Protagonist: Lyra Belaqua

Aside from my students, I currently have no children of my own. But I do have a friend with two middle schoolers, for whom I occasionally get to play the role of the cool aunt. So I get to introduce them to things like tabletop games and books. And because they are both readers, and one of them loves, loves, loves fantasy the way I do, I felt a need to search for books she would like that featured the “strong female protagonist.” Because representation is important. And you know what I discovered? The list is surprisingly long. So today I’m going to talk about one of my favorite book series and the fabulous female at its center: Lyra Belaqua from Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy.

If you’re thinking that you’ve never heard of this trilogy, chances are you’ve at least heard of one of the books. The three books in the series are The Golden Compass, The Subtle Knife, and the Amber Spyglass, and Compass got its own movie adaptation in 2007. It also got a lot of hype for being controversial. The controversy is fairly legitimate, so I’m going to talk about that first.

Compass, and the whole series, is controversial due to its portrayal of religion, specifically the Catholic church–which is shown as controlling and evil (and, on that note, so is God). In that sense, you could say that the book is not for the faint of heart. Pullman does not pull his punches when showing his dislike for religious institutions, and if you are religious, this element of the story may put a bad taste in your mouth. I have several friends who have read it, and in regards to those who are religious, some were bothered more than others. But those who were definitely had reason to be.

So why, if it’s so controversial, would it be my first recommendation. Let me paraphrase from an article I read when the film was first released: the main character is a young girl who is, to put it simply, awesome. And young girls should read about her. Because she’s a hero.

And an unconventional hero at that, and not in the least because she is a girl. The thing that Lyra is most notable for (and most talented at) is lying. Ironically, she is a natural at using the golden compass–an item that reveals the truth. Despite being a liar, she has child-like honor–viewing good and evil as black and white and embarking on a quest to save her friend who has disappeared. Along the way, she finds an adventure bigger than she could have imagined and learns about the many shades of gray that paint the morality of our world.

Though Pullman picks on religion, he also uses it to make his point–that good and evil are not black and white. The knowledge of this destroys innocence, but what is lost is a fair trade for free will. And the only way to properly build Heaven (whether you’re talking the literal afterlife or just making our world a better place) is through co-operation. If it is done through coercion and control, it is not true. While this may be harder to achieve, it is the better outcome.

If you’re not into the philosophical discussion, read the book the worldbuilding. In Lyra’s world, everyone has a deamon–an animal companion who embodies their soul. There are armored bears with a unique culture of their own, and if you get deep enough into the series, elephant-like creatures that use large nuts as wheels. Or read it because Pullman’s writing is simply beautiful. For example, while reading a scene in which Lyra must separate herself from her daemon, I truly felt like my soul was being ripped out. I had such a reaction that I felt a literal pain in my chest, which did not go away until I finished the scene (which, due to having to go to class, was several hours later.) Through Lyra, Pullman creates a story that is both epic fantasy and coming-of-age adventure. It is masterfully written, and girls who read it will relate to Lyra’s hopes and fears, as well as be inspired by her bravery. Because nothing should stop you from sailing around the world and befriending an armored bear (least of all your gender).

A note on the film adaptation: It has been some time since I compared the book and film versions of The Golden Compass. As I recall, the film, for the most part, tends to follow all the major parts of the book correctly, though it treads lightly over the religious aspects and it ends a few chapters too early. But seeing as neither The Subtle Knife nor the Amber Spyglass were ever adapted, perhaps that is for the best.

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Teacher Poems

MAking Mondays manageable

We’re gearing up for a poetry unit in our class, and with National Poetry Month around the corner, I thought I would share some of my favorite teacher poems. The most famous teacher poem out there is probably Taylor Mali’s What Teachers Make, so I thought I would share two other, lesser known favorites:

This one’s a bit of a downer…
…but this one will bring you back up

Happy Monday y’all!

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Penta the One-Handed: Part II

A week or two ago, I wrote about my D&D character, Penta. But the truth is, Penta went on several adventures, though several different fairytales before she ran into those she is traveling with now. So I’ve decided to continue her story here:

Before her brother could react, Penta fled through the halls of the castle to her private ship and set sail immediately. Many in the castle who saw the trail of blood behind her avoided her, for they thought she had contracted the same disease which had killed her brother’s wife. 

Once aboard the ship, she found some bandages, with which she staunched the blood flow and set sail to Amaunand, a smaller, nearby island kingdom which had long been an ally and trade-partner of Ilaennel. Penta was recognized at the dock as the princess of Ilaennel, and she demanded to see the king and queen of Amaunand, but was refused an audience. As she was setting sail again, a knight with a fox sigil approached her and offered to take her to a doctor on account of her hand. Then Penta told him her tale, and the knight gave her the true reason the king and queen would not see her.

“The princes and princess were on a diplomatic mission to Scoterar, but they left weeks ago and have not been heard from since. The king and queen suspect foul play, and though they do not blame Ilaennel specifically, they do not trust anyone who comes to see them.”

“Then I will find the princes and the princess and I shall bring them back to Amaunand.”

The knight eyed her. “By yourself?” he asked, “Do you believe you can?”

“I believe I must,” Penta said, “our countries have been allies for centuries. And I will not have it on my head that that partnership is lost.”

“Very well,” the knight said, “you will need a weapon.”

Penta told the knight about the scimitar she had taken from the guard, but the knight gave her a crossbow and quiver. “They are suited for a lady,” he told her, “for they belonged to my wife, who herself died in battle many years ago. For here, both men and women are known to fight.”

Penta accepted the crossbow. “Thank you for your kindness. I will not forget it.”

Penta did not know where the princes and the princess may have gone, but she sailed for the kingdom of Scoterar, on the mainland. Upon arriving, she asked around about the princes and princess of Amaunand, but no one has seen them. Even the king of Scoterar said they had never arrived. Finally, Penta came upon a farmer named Hans that told her her had seen the Prince Ignac.

“Where is her?” Penta asked.

“I will only tell you if you help me first.”

Penta lowered her crossbow at him. “How about you tell me or I shoot you dead.”

Hans only shrugged. “Either way you do not know where your prince is, so it is better if you just help me.”

Penta, unfortunately, saw the sense in this, and put away her crossbow and asked what Hans wanted. 

“There is a woman in the town,” Hans said, “who I would like to marry. But her father is covetous and refuses to consent to the marriage, as I am poor.”

So Penta asked where the young woman lived, and went to her home. When her father answered the door, Penta said, “I would like to speak with your daughter.” The father squinted at Penta for a moment, but seeing her fine gown and the golden circlet on her head, decided that his daughter must have taken favor with someone of noble blood, and thus called for her.

When the daughter arrived, Penta said, “I have met a young farmer nearby by the name of Hans who says he would like to marry you. Would you also like to marry him?”

The girl flushed. “Yes, but my father will never consent to the match.”

So Penta handed the girl a gold coin. “Go to Hans now. Tell him to put this in his purse, and then to take a ladder and climb up to his roof. I will take care of your father.”

The girl did not understand, but agreed, taking the coin, and going in the direction of Hans’ farm.

Penta waited until the girl’s father came looking for her, and then told him she had gone to see Hans.

“Foolish girl!” the father said, “You should have stopped her. I told her not to see that Hans. He has no fortune and cannot care for her.”

“On the contrary,” Penta said, “I have recently patronized him. Now he has gold in his purse and he’s moving up in the world. I will take you to him, so that you may see for yourself.”

The girl’s father stroked his chin. Then he said, “if it is as you say, then I will consent to their marriage.”

So Penta returned to Hans’ farm and told the couple the good news.

“Now,” she said to Hans, “I have helped you. You must help me. Where is Prince Ignac?”

“He washed ashore clinging to a piece of driftwood,” Hans told her. “He was kidnapped by bandits. I know where their hideout is, but she would wait until night to go.”

When night fell, Hans led Penta to cottage in the woods, which the bandits had taken over.

“They should all be asleep now,” he told Penta, “except for one, who will be keeping guard at the door.”

As he had told her, there was one bandit who was standing watch at the door. Penta shot him with her crossbow. Then she and Hans went into the house. The other bandits were all asleep in different parts of the house. In the corner, bound and gagged, but wide awake, was Prince Ignac. Penta put a finger to her lips and then tiptoed over to him, Hans following.

“Wow!” Hans marveled, “I didn’t realize just how much treasure they had stolen.” It was true. There were a number of trinkets scattered across the room, including a golden pot on a shelf above their heads.

Hans cut Prince Ignac free. “Thank you,” Ignac said, rubbing his wrists. “I thought I would never get away from them.” And he moved toward the door.

But Hans was still focused on the treasure. “Wait,” he hissed, “surely we shouldn’t leave all of this here.” And he reached his hand out for the golden pot.

“Hucka-pucka.” It seemed to be coming from the iron pot that sat next to the golden one.

“Hucka-pucka what?” Penta asked the pot.

“Do not take the golden pot,” said the iron pot, “it will wake the bandits.”

“You heard it,” Penta said, and waved Hans toward the door. Then she leveled her crossbow at one of the sleeping bandits.

Again, the iron pot said, “hucka-pucka.”

Penta turned toward it.

“Don’t kill them,” the pot said, “tie them up and take the reward.” And the pot turned around on its three iron legs, nearly wobbling off the shelf. Penta grabbed it, and lowered it to the ground, to ensure it wouldn’t fall. As she did so, she saw that inside the pot there was a length of silken rope. She and Hans used the rope to tie up the bandits, leaving what they didn’t need in the pot.

As they left the house, the pot following behind them on its three iron legs, Penta said to Prince Ignac, “I’ve come from Amanaund. Your parents are looking for you.”

“Our ship was attacked by pirates and destroyed,” Prince Ignac told her, “my sister escaped in the row boat. She was going toward Hibopium. My brother and I both clung to pieces of the ship. He drifted towards Ormietya, and I washed ashore here. I found an inn that looked warm and inviting, but that was when the bandits captured me.”

“Go to the king,” Penta told him, “and tell him all that has happened to you, but do not mention me. Tell him it was clever Hans who rescued you. Hans, you go with him. Pot and I will stand guard to make sure that none of them escapes.”

Hans and Ignac did as Penta told them, and when the king suggested that Penta had been involved with the rescue of Prince Ignac, she insisted that she did nothing more than stand guard. And so the king gave Hans the reward for catching the robbers–including the golden singing pot–and Hans was a wealthy man on the day of his wedding.

The king of Scoterar also invited Prince Ignac to stay at his castle as his guest and sent an envoy to Amaurand in the meantime to tell the king and queen that the prince had safely arrived. The king also invited Penta to stay with him, but she refused.

“I must go on,” she said, “I am determined to find the prince’s brother and sister.”

“Very well,” said the king. Is there anything I can give you by way of thanks?”

“Merely that if I should return here, I should be welcome in your kingdom.”

“The one-handed princess of Ilannael shall be welcome in my kingdom and in my castle any time she comes.”

“Thank you your majesty.” Penta bowed to him and returned to her ship.

When Penta arrived, she found the pot was waiting for her on the dock.

“Hucka-pucka,” said the pot.

“And where will you hucka-pucka to?” Asked Penta.

“I shall join you on your ship to rescue the prince!”

And with that, Penta took the pot in one hand, and jumped upon her ship. “Welcome aboard, pot.”

Note: For the small number of people who will recognize it, the pot is from Patricia Combs absolutely wonderful (and sadly out of print) picture book The Magic Pot.