Archive for November, 2009

The Top Ten Things Kids Should Know About Thanksgiving

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

The Top Ten Things Kids Should Know About Thanksgiving

Each November schoolchildren across America come home with a variety of traditional crafts to decorate the kitchen refrigerator: the construction paper headband with colorful feathers, the paper bag vest with fringe, the black paper hat with the white buckle, and the keepsake handprint turkey. Often classrooms host a feast in which children contribute a variety of foods from fruits and vegetables to popcorn, or invite proud parents to take pictures during the “Pilgrims and Indians” school play. All of these activities provide warm, happy memories, but may leave children without a basic knowledge of the facts of the season. Here are the top ten things kids should know about Thanksgiving:
1. The Background: A group of English citizens wanted to practice their religion separately from the official church of the king of England. They sought asylum originally in Holland, then in the New World. On September 6, 1620, the Mayflower set sail from England’s southern coast across the North Atlantic Ocean. It would be 66 days until land was sighted. During the stormy trip one man died and a baby was born.
2. The Mayflower: The famous wooden sailing ship was approximately 90 feet long and 26 feet wide. It was actually a cargo ship, more accustomed to carrying wine than people. The ship was quite crowded because a second ship planned for the journey, the Speedwell, was leaky and had to return to shore. Captain Christopher Jones oversaw approximately 30 crewmen. Only about 35 of the 102 passengers were seeking religious freedom; many of the others were seeking employment in a new world that they could not find at home in England.
3. The Location: The Mayflower first landed in Cape Cod, the modern day city of Provincetown, Massachusetts. The passengers remained on the ship and penned the Mayflower Compact, a forerunner of the Constitution, which outlined fair laws and citizen chosen leadership. It was not until some time later that the Mayflower set sail in search of a more suitable location and arrived in Plymouth, Massachusetts, probably at Plymouth Rock because it was the only good landing place along two and a half miles of sandy beach. Plymouth was an excellent location to settle because it was actually the site of the Native American village of Pawtuxet. The Wampanoag tribe that had once inhabited the area of running brooks and cleared farmlands had been almost entirely wiped out by disease a few years before the arrival of the English settlers.
4. The Date: The Mayflower anchored at Plymouth on December 16, 1620. More than half of the settlers died over the winter. With the help of the Native Americans, they planted crops and enjoyed a fairly bountiful harvest. The corn harvest was especially impressive because of a surviving member of the Wampanoag named Squanto had taught the Pilgrims the best way to plant and fertilize corn. The actual feast was held somewhere between September 21 and November 11, 1621, most likely mid October. The celebration lasted for three whole days!
5. The Preparation: The Pilgrims were very traditional in their family roles. The women and girls prepared all of the meal themselves, cooking primarily outdoors.
6. The Menu: The first Thanksgiving meal may have contained some wild turkey, but no cranberry sauce or pumpkin pie. More likely dishes were vegetables from the Pilgrim’s gardens such as carrots, cucumbers, turnips, onions, radishes, beets, and cabbage. Also likely to have appeared at this feast were wild geese and duck. The settlers had no sugar, so dessert probably consisted of berries as well as fresh and dried fruit such as strawberries, plums, and cherries. Lobsters, eels, clams, oysters, and fresh fish were also probably at the celebration being that the settlement was near the coast. Venison was the main course; the Native Americans contributed five deer. Rather than a formal sit down dinner, the feast of 1621 was more like a continuous buffet eaten primarily using one’s fingers.
7. The Guests: Attending the harvest celebration were approximately 50 English settlers under the leadership of the colony’s governor William Bradford. About ninety Native American men of the Wampanoag tribe under leadership of Chief Massasoit later arrived.
8. The Attire: The weather was chilly in October in New England, so the Wampanoag were probably fully dressed rather than dining in just their loincloths. The Native American guests did not wear feathered headdresses. Those were worn by the Plains Indians. The Pilgrim men wore long sleeved shirts and pants of varying colors with jackets, woolen stockings and stocking caps. Buckles had not yet come into use. Pilgrim women and girls wore colorful long dresses. Black and white was reserved for Sundays.
9. The Festivities: The first Thanksgiving was a harvest festival celebrating the abundance of food. It involved not only feasting, but also singing, dancing, and playing games. The boys and men practiced target shooting with English muskets, while the Wampanoag males shot bows and arrows. There were athletic competitions such as hand wresting and racing. Although there was no Thanksgiving football game to watch back then, the first Thanksgiving attendees did play a croquet like game called “stool ball” using a leather ball filled with feathers.
10. The National Holiday: Thanksgiving was not made an official national holiday until 1863 when a popular ladies magazine editor named Sarah Josepha Hale successfully convinced Abraham Lincoln to do so. Our sixteenth president thought such a holiday of giving thanks would be a good way to unite our nation.

Lori Jordan-Rice
Author of the “Miss Trimble’s Trapdoor” children’s book series

Thank you Bethesda Christian School

Sunday, November 22nd, 2009

I would like to thank the students and staff of Bethesda Christian School for their kindess and graciousness during my recent presentation at their campus. I am not easily impressed, but this school really knocked my socks off. From the time I walked in the building and was offered a bottled water until I was packing my materials away in my trunk with the help of two courteous fifth grade boys, I felt more like royalty than a lowly local children’s author. I have a sneaking suspicion that all visitors at BCS receive the royal treatment.

It seemed second nature for the children to show such respect with not just their words, but with their actions. During my HOUR LONG presentation with kids as young as third grade, I kept an eye out for the inevitable redirections necessary to regain wandering young minds. I had my toolbox of teacher methods ready. Not once did I need to use a single one! The closest I came was getting to compliment my audience on their attentiveness and manners. Even when I sprinkled my speech with a bit of silly audience participation, they hung on my every word.

At the conclusion of the presentation, I had the pleasure of talking one on one to a line of amazing kids while I signed their books. No pushing, no typical off task chit chat with their neighbors, no impatience in line at all. I lost track of time a bit talking with these little people. Each one thanked me. Did I mention no teachers or other adults of any kind were supervising?

As if this were all not heartwarming enough, a high school student witnessed the little girl in front of her dig helplessly for the last dollar she needed to buy a book. The older girl paused from asking me questions (I later learned she worked for the school newspaper) to retrieve a dollar of her own for the younger girl and thank me for my time.

Whatever BCS parents and teachers are doing, they are doing it right. Kudos!

High Country Elementary Does Author Visits Right

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

I cannot say enough positive things about High Country Elementary and their staff and students. I had the pleasure of speaking with the third, fourth, and fifth graders on November 10. High Country’s librarian, Bev Wiley, went over and beyond the call of duty in setting up handy equipment that apparently has come into use since I left the classroom. Ah, the joys of technology! She even brought me in lunch and invited me to the sacred teacher’s lounge! How special did I feel!

The teachers were wonderful. (My apologies to the specials teachers who had to sit through the “Thanksgiving Thumb Quiz” all three times.) The students had such amazing audience manners. I enjoyed so much their attentiveness and enthusiasm. It was a special treat to be able to visit with the students who were kind enough to purchase a book as I signed it for them.   I get my energy from kids like these!

For all these reasons, High Country Elementary is high on my list. I must admit to being a little prejudiced, however. I am especially fond of the little blond fourth grade boy with big green eyes and long eyelashes. He was the one blushing when the other students pointed to him, noting our relationship. He is the one who always has one of my bookmarks or business cards in his grubby little pocket. I hope I made you proud, Rylan.

It Takes a Village to Get Me on TV

Tuesday, November 17th, 2009

Some things could never be done alone. Getting me on TV is one of them. If I imagine myself giving an acceptance speech, it would go something like this:

I would like to thank my publicist, Lori Bittenbender, for securing me a spot on Good Morning Texas on November 2. I would like to also thank my mother in law Carol for watching my youngest son Sterling overnight so that I could spend the night at a hotel right across the street from the TV studio in Victory Park. (Everyone who knows me well knows that I am terrible with directions, which doesn’t mix well with having to be over an hour’s drive from home early in the morning.)

A million thanks to my wonderful husband Eric for setting me up in the swanky W Hotel so I could relax the night before the interview. Thanks to the W Hotel staff , who bent over backwards to accommodate our every need, right down to a personalized letter showing their knowledge about the plot of my books along with a spa basket!  Thanks to my girlfriend Liz for coming with me to the hotel, calming my nerves over dinner and chit chat, and helping me look presentable in the morning. Thanks to my sweet friend Shantell who couldn’t be there, but was there in her heart and mine.

 Thanks to Hobby Lobby and Albertson’s for the display and food items. (Yes I am writing those purchases off on my taxes.) Thanks to Paige McCoy Smith for her graciousness and patience with me as I probably looked like a deer in the headlights right before my segment, but she gave me hugs and encouragement anyway. (I hope I didn’t let her down on camera.) Thanks to the warm and personable staff at WFAA.

Thanks to my web designer Minh Phan who took my desperate emails to heart and quickly purchased the site mistakenly mentioned on live TV and redirected traffic to my correct site within the hour. (The upside is that anyone with less than pure intentions may inadvertently be enlightened with US history lessons!)

A big thanks to all my friends and family who watched and cheered me on and believed in me and my dream of becoming an author. (Yes, Mom, I think I heard you and Dad clapping right through the screen.)