Archive | November, 2014

Me & Marley

16 Nov

I spent yesterday with this lovely fellow. His name is Marley and he is seven years old.


Marley and I met up at the PetSmart in Tigard for an Adoption Event where we were the Oregon Basset Hound rescue reps for the day. There were two other rescue groups there, too: Homeward Bound Pets Adoption Shelter from McMinnville and  a terrier rescue. The terriers went wild whenever anyone walked past. Marley just whined a little and looked at them with sad eyes, and lured them over to get some loving. He got a lot of ear rubs and a few bellyrubs because the terriers made him look so calm and gentle.

Marley reminded me a lot of my old boy Louie, who left me several years ago.

Louie-Just_being Louie

Maybe all boy bassets are just babies, but these two boys were pretty much the same in that they love people.

Marley got a few serious inquiries yesterday.  He will be at the Petsmart in Tigard (7501 Southwest Dartmouth St. Tigard, Oregon 97223) again today, Nov. 16, 2014, where I am hoping the couple I spoke to for a long time yesterday will be back with their dog to see how the two of them get along. OBHR doesn’t adopt directly from an event like this. These folks know we will insist on a home visit and that we give them a two-week trial period to see if things go well. They also know that Marley has a health issue right now. Perhaps you noticed in his picture, that his ears and legs look rather red.

In fact, he had a vet appointment at the end of the event with our regular vet, Dr. R., at the Banfield vetspital right next door to the PetSmart. Marley has some skin issues, allergies and a yeasty fungal skin issue. He got his ears cleaned and his nails trimmed. And he went home with a big bag of meds and a giant bag of hypoallergenic dog food. A lot of the dogs that come to us have some health issues we have to deal with. My Fiona came with an ear infection. Like Marley, she was given up because the cost of taking care of her was more than her family was willing or able to bear.

I think Marley probably had a good sleep on his way home. And I hope to hear some good news about his new family before too long.

“Do they Know It’s Christmas” redux

15 Nov

In my first year at the University of Toronto on 1984, this song was so popular, it became part of almost every aerobics class I went to.

It was, in my opinion, they best of the lot that came out. Here’s “Tears Are Not Enough” made by Canadian musicians shortly after “Do They Know It’s Christmas” came out.

I mention this because I heard yesterday, that a new Band Aid recording of “Do They Know It’s Christmas” is being recorded to raise awareness/money for the Ebola crisis.

Just thought I’d share as the holiday season approaches.


Supporting Boy Writers: An Interview with Ralph Fletcher

14 Nov

After a day off for ice, I’m going back to school today and will look at my data on my boy writers. 13 of my 22 students are boys!

The fruit (& vegetables) of her labors

12 Nov

On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, the students at my school get a fresh fruit and vegetable snack. We eat ours during read aloud and the kids are encouraged to try new things and use their manners. They usually give a “Yes, please”, but I occasionally hear “No, thank you”. There were lots of no thank yous on baby bok choi day.

Alice Waters would love this program. Here is how Jacqueline Briggs Martin and Hayelin Choi pictured her in the opening pages of their new book.


Alice Waters and the Trip to Delicious is a picture book biography of the chef who created Chez Panisse and the Edible Schoolyard. The book follows Waters on her quest to find fresh, locally-grown foods and produce. It finishes with her focus on children learning to grow their own foods in schoolyards across the country. The poetic narrative is supported by the bright and dynamic art. Backmatter includes an afterword by Waters, an author’s note, a bibliography, and resources for further reading, gardening and cooking.


Maybe your class can figure out a way to have their own trip to delicious after reading this book.

Serendipity on a Street Corner

11 Nov


Yesterday, almost home from walking the dogs, I picked up a Christmas CD. I mean this literally, not figuratively. There was a box on the corner full of CD’s available for the taking. The CD was still wrapped in its original cellophane.

This is a custom in my neighborhood. When people move or reorganize, they put “good stuff” on the curb or at the corner. Corners are clearly better because they get more foot and vehicular traffic. I’ve put my share of things out and you might be surprised at how excited I get when I discover it has gone to a new home, to be loved by a person who needed it more than I did.

Over the years, I’ve picked up some really “good stuff”.  Every year, I knit an ornament for the holiday gift exchange that has become a not-to-be-missed tradition at my school . The first year I did this an unopened bag of stuffing appeared on the street corner. I am still using the bag to stuff the ornaments. There just might be enough to last until I retire.

Once, walking the dogs, I picked up a complete set of the audiobook of Julie Andrews’ Home: A Memoir of my Early Years. Not a scratch on any of the discs! I have also picked up a pewter bowl and an end table with a drawer. One of its legs was off  for want of a screw, but I had a bag of screws. It is now featured in my living room, leg repaired.

Sometimes, serendipitously, you find the thing you are looking for on a street corner.






Finding strength in a cruel world

10 Nov


Breaking Free: True Stories of Girls Who Escaped Modern Slavery by Abby Sher, is just what the title tells us. It is difficult to read yet hard to put down. It tells the story of three survivors of sexual slavery. Three very brave survivors, because they decided to help those who are still caught up in the system. It is heart-breaking, horrifying and inspiring all at the same time.


Girls Like Us, a novel by Gail Giles, is a novel about Biddy and Quincy who graduate  from special ed and have to face the world. They have to struggle against prejudice and injustice but find out that they can come to rely on their own strengths as well as on each other.

Work Smarter: Picture Books That Pack a Punch + Giveaways!

7 Nov

An excellent list of books and some good ways to use them in your classroom.

Author Visit: Ken Jennings

6 Nov

Ken Jennings came to my school yesterday. You might remember him as the guy who was on Jeopardy for six months. He also played Jeopardy against Watson the computer.



He has a series of kids books out now,  Junior Genius Guides, and he is on a book tour promoting his latest one about space facts.


I was a little worried ahead of time because I didn’t know how well he would relate to kids, but they really seemed to enjoy his presentation. He told them cool facts about space, talked about his experience on Jeopardy, and talked about the kind of kid he was ( a nerdy reader, what a surprise!). He even brought along his own 11-year-old son.

At the end he called up three students to answer questions in a Jeopardy-like way.

When we got back to class, my kids were buzzing with excitement and we talked about his presentation for  a while, before starting Science. During Science, the books the kids ordered arrived, so we finished what we were doing and I let the kids who got books share some things they found interesting in the book they chose. I had a few library copies, too, so kids who didn’t order could also share, and I passed out the books I ordered too. The more the merrier.

All in all, it was a good presentation. I want to thank Powell’s Books at Cedar Hills Crossing for thinking of us. They reached out to us ( we are only a few blocks away) and offered us a free presentation.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water

5 Nov

My dad took my sister and I t see  JAWS  at the drive-in in the summer of 1975, while my mom was away at her brother’s funeral. My title is from  JAWS 2, which I think I saw on TV.


Author and illustrator, Katherine Roy, explores the fascinating world of great white sharks in Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting With the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands.

From the Publisher:

Every September the great white sharks return to San Francisco. While their 800,000 human neighbors dine on steak, salad, and sandwiches, the white sharks hunt for their favorite meal…

We both fear and admire great white sharks’ fierce hunting skills. But how exactly do they track down their prey? Author-illustrator Katherine Roy’s Neighborhood Sharks dives into their hunting grounds in the Farallon Islands, just 30 miles from the Golden Gate Bridge. Roy’s gorgeous, lush paintings and detailed diagrams vividly recreate a day in the life of a shark and reveal why sharks are essential to our ecosystem and deserve our protection. Based on the latest information and abounding with fascinating glimpses into a great white’s life and habits, Neighborhood Sharks will astound young shark fans and their parents alike.

Roy’s illustrations are fantastic and don’t shy away from the brutality of a shark hunt. But the text and illustrations also point out the important role sharks play in the ecosystems in which they live. She  also details what makes them such incredible hunters, and what scientists are doing to try to understand and protect them better. There is some pretty cool stuff on shark anatomy, too.

Shark lovers will be especially fascinated by this book,  but it is a solid piece of non-fiction for anyone interested in nature.

Parent-teacher Conference Conversations

4 Nov


For the last two years, we’ve had conferences  on Hallowe’en, meaning that we avoid all the hullabaloo around that holiday. Some of the lids who came in with their parent(s) looked like they were about to see a ghost. It is often awkward for kids when worlds collide. This was my first set of conferences in 6 years. During the last 2 years, as the ESL teacher, I dropped in on some conferences, but I wasn’t responsible for organizing and running the whole show.

I always tell parents that, by 4th grade, I’m probably not telling them anything they haven’t heard already, and they should;t hear any surprises because if there have been problems, they would have heard from me by now. I got a few surprises, though.

First, there was the boy who came to our school part way through last year, a bit of a wreck.His mom has tattoos  and lots of piercings on her face. I’d seen a picture ahead of time, so I was prepared and we had a good conversation. You should have seen the  priceless look  on the faces of the boy and his family waiting in the hallway for the conference time that followed.

The most bizarre conference was with the mom who came in without her daughter, but with a plastic container. She said she really needed to trade this one for the one her daughter used for her volcano project.

“What volcano project?” I asked. We aren’t studying volcanoes and her daughter certainly hadn’t brought a plastic container with volcano into class. Apparently, though, she had told her mom it was urgent and due last Friday, so Mom emptied the cat food container and let her use it. mom wanted her cat food container back. The girl and I had a little chat yesterday. I hope she and her mother had one when Mom got home.

Although exhausting, it is always interesting, and sometimes exciting, to see families at conferences. Now I have to gear up for my first set of report cards in six years.

Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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