Epiphany

How about an uplifting, encouraging, jump-start-to-gumption word-of-the-day for a Monday? Straight from the Vocabulary of Otis: EPIPHANY.

EPIPHANY: a sudden understanding of something

Chapter 11 of Otis Goes to School is entitled, “Kindergarten.”  On his mission to find out what happens at school all day, Otis peers through a window pane and observes a classroom of these baby students:

“He saw his smiling girl in the bunch of fledgling readers, all focused together, waiting for the teacher’s approval in their discoveries of letter sounds that were turning into words before their very eyes. He was witnessing an epiphany, at the spellbinding hands and wise ways of this gentle lady who cared for his girl everyday at School.”

Of course, as one might expect, these young ones are learning to read.  Some of them will pick it up quickly, as a second-nature sort of hobby (I have one child who loves to lose himself in words unfolding like a magical red carpet across the page, and has since he began to string letter sounds together.).  Some of them might have known how to read before Kindergarten even began.  Some will take their sweet time, a gift enjoyed only by children, and pined after by those of us who have braved the phenomenon of adulthood.  There will also be those who find no interest at all in the reading skill just yet, who would rather build with blocks, win imaginary Matchbox car races, paint or daydream… at least, for a while (Another of my children fit this bill at this tender age.).

Imagine those precious Kindergarten teachers, evaluating and discerning each child’s reading level, taking those darling little hands at the door as Mom or Dad say goodbye for the day, and leading them into a brand new phase of life.  These are days that they will grow exponentially–not always necessarily in body, but in mind.  Given the chance to bloom at their own pace, they all will blossom into gardens unimagined, save by the superior and unmatched, imaginative design of the Creator who knit each of them carefully, with more precision than our human minds could possibly comprehend. (Psalm 139:13)

The way the mind of a child works is magnificent, and to witness the lighting of a flame, the flipping of the switch, the lightbulb going on–to see sheer delight spread from ear to ear when those funny-shaped, quirky letters finally jump in line to make a word–is to observe an epiphany.

My child who has the gift of being in this moment and taking her sweet time, reading to her little brother on the first day of summer.  This was an epiphany on many levels! Brother realizes sister can read; Sister realizes how happy Little Brother is when she reads to him; Mommy enjoys a flash in time she won't forget!

My child (who has the gift of being in this moment and taking her sweet time), reading to her little brother on the first day of summer. This was an epiphany on many levels! Brother realizes sister can read; Sister realizes how happy Little Brother is when she reads to him; Mommy enjoys a flash in time she won’t forget!

That said, let us not neglect the many other epiphanies in our little folks’ lives, and mistakenly deny the joy deserved therefor.  I have seen such happiness on the face of one proud little fellow at figuring out how the lunch line actually works, and getting it right for the first time.  High five, whippersnapper!

I have seen a little girl stand with a bit more confidence, and maybe even a bit taller, when she received an unexpected compliment for her politeness and ability to follow directions and set a fine example.  Keep smiling, my dear!

I have watched some pretty fast legs push the limit of “walking” in the hall, out of the pride that comes with the authority to venture all the way to the library alone, choose a book, check it out, and return to class on time.  Knew you could, bud!

I’ve hugged one little darling whose tears showed her uncertainty about when Mom would arrive for afternoon pick-up, and then her elated heart and wide spread arms when Mom’s familiar car just so happened to be first in line.  So thankful your school day ended with joy, beautiful child!

And how about the dreamy little artist-the one who paints watercolors with a little bit of fairy dust, who can fashion a flower uncannily like Monet?  Or, the speedy-footed athlete who can somehow recall more stats than an ESPN commentator on Monday morning?  Or, the shy little elfkin who figured out how to string clovers together without breaking a stem?  No doubt I could share endless examples worthy of such a word-of-the-day.  But you get the picture.  Have you experienced the epiphany…?

Could you figure out the lunch line, the library and the pick-up line, all while being polite, following directions, setting an example, painting, playing, keeping your energetic legs from running in the halls, AND learning to read?  Could you do it all at age 5 or 6?  The fact is, we all had to try, didn’t we?  We’ve all been through what our children are learning at this age, though we might not remember it all.

If we were afforded the chance to BE these children, way back when it was our turn, then we were the lucky ones.  If you are encouraging and celebrating these childish epiphanies with your children, be they of your own household or your classroom, then your children are the lucky ones.  It’s a big deal when they can brush their own teeth.  It’s amazing when they spread butter on their own toast.  It speaks volumes of their character when they summon the confidence to read in front of the class.  And when they learn the joy of showering others with kindness, even before they are asked–well–that epiphany drops seeds that spread like wildfire in the way the Good Lord intended.

It’s a sudden understanding of something.  It’s the “sudden” ingredient that makes it stick.  Let us celebrate in what seems to be “little things” to us wise-ol’ adults, but what are, to our children, brilliant discoveries of the ways their world works.  Let us allow them their epiphanies, and be so very proud of their abilities, personalities and talents.  It is ground that must be broken again and again, to each his own path, in his own time.

Sweet, sweet time… would that we all take it like children… and Otis.

Here’s hoping for beautiful epiphanies in your world today, and may you find joy therein. We hope you’ll stay with us as we see just how far @OtisGoes!

 

Catching the breeze on the way to drop the children off on their first day at school.

Catching the breeze on the way to drop the children off on their first day at school.

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Never Give Up.

EVER.  

Do.Not.Ever.Give.Up.

Sir Winston Churchill, picture from Wikipedia

Sir Winston Churchill, (picture borrowed from Wikipedia)

The courageous concept might have been best addressed by British statesman and historical pillar, Sir Winston Churchill, in his commencement address to the graduating class of Harrow School on October 29, 1941:

 

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

Those might be the greatest exceptions, indeed.

And for all the glorious phrases, the delightfully lyrical strings of bolstering, commanding words and the theoretical questions with the stronghold answers of this political powerhouse, the crux of the speech’s message can be summed up in one quality, one adjective, one “way-to-be” in the face of whatever hand life deals.  It is less dramatic and carries less flair, but it’s a fantastic word, nonetheless:

TENACIOUS.

There’s your word for today, straight from the instructions of Sir Winston Churchill, himself… and one soft and furry black dog. (Click here for more vocabulary from Otis Goes to School.)

Of course not.  No, I am not comparing the rollicking adventures and narrow escapes of the loving and lovable Otis to the tumultuous encounters of Churchill and his contemporaries.  But truly, no one explains the meaning of the word, TENACIOUS, better than Churchill.  (For the record, I think Churchill would really like the gumption and moxie of our Otis.)

With respect to Otis Goes to School, the word “tenacious” is found in Chapter 10, “The Playground,” when Otis investigates the goings-on of kindergarten kings and queens, merry maids and pirates.

“Children hid behind Oak tree trunks and appeared again as a burst of energy in a race to make it to the day’s designated home base, safe from tenacious taggers.”

These are taggers who don’t give up!  Reading further, you’ll find these “boisterous boys… chasing imaginary bad guys with convincing hoots and hollers and curved stick-pistols…”

When kids play tag, they absolutely do seem tenacious.  They put their heart into the game, full force, top speed, no-holds-barred.  They do not give up.  They do not give in, but for conviction (when it might not be fair–such as, when playing tag with a younger sibling), good sense (when mom says stop, or the teacher confiscates the stick-pistol, as in Chapter 10)… or if they tag their target!

I think this word is an absolutely perfect word.  It even makes the speaker growl a bit when the word is spoken, perhaps gritting one’s teeth when sounding out those lush syllables of the word.

Let us be tenacious in things worth doing.  

My precious grandaddy always said, “If you are going to do a thing, do it right, do it well, do your best.”  That’s being tenacious.

Otis did not give up in finding a forever family when his former owners had the pound in their plans.  He might not know it, but he was tenacious.

Yours Truly has knocked on many a proverbial door (and some literal ones, too!) to get this book in the hands of someone who could take it to children around the world.  I’ve heard “no,” or “not at this time.”  I’ve heard silence as a gaping response, my least favorite, actually.  But by the grace of God and a boatload of tenacity–those grand moments of being tenacious–Otis Goes to School is really going places!  Good places, like the Alabama Book Festival last spring and bookstores like Landmark Booksellers and Parnassus Books.

And upcoming in October, 2014, Otis Goes to School is appearing at our most exciting break yet.  We will share details as they become available… but you can head on over to our Facebook page for a less-than-subtle hint! (And “like” us while you’re there!)

One thing worth doing, doing well and with all our might: introducing children to their own imaginations, and to the power of beautiful, sensational words to describe their explorations therein.  What would Churchill think of that?  Why, he would most certainly agree, for in the same speech of 1941, he declared, “…without imagination not much can be done.”  Of course, he was specifically referring to the imaginations of the people of his day who would lift the world from its own peril in the battle-ridden years which then lay before him and this class of graduates on the brink of their lives.  (You can read this famous speech in its entirety, and learn all about Sir Churchill by visiting the website, www.winstonchurchill.org.)

But the sentiment remains, and is worth pursuing, today and always.  BE TENACIOUS.

Tenacious

 

 

 

Noisy Vocabulary

For those of you who enjoy words of the day… here’s a fun one!

CACOPHONY

School age kids love Chapter 14 of Otis Goes to School.  Midway through the chapter, Otis follows his expert olfactory tracker along the trail of the alluring scent of chicken nuggets and fresh baked cornbread.  Throwing all concerns of remaining undiscovered on his Schooldays investigations, he gobbles up tasty morsels of carelessly dropped lunch crumbs and blows his own cover, much to the glorious shock of a lunchroom full of chatty children:

“The news of a dog in School had spread to the other tables, and the cafeteria cacophony had become an uproarious frenzy.”

Much of the fun of Otis Goes to School is inseparably and entertainingly mingled with the introduction of new words to young readers… exciting words, silly words, fun-to-say words, imagination-stretching words.  To tell a story is one thing, but to tell it with words that catch the reader by surprise and invite them to know more–that is literature.

It is my hope that Otis Goes to School will become a part of the beautiful scores of children’s literature that seamlessly blend reading into the fabric of their personalities, and make them reach for more.

Be sure you are ready for reading with your favorite Otis bookmark, free with any book purchase!

Be sure you are ready for reading with your favorite Otis bookmark, free with any book purchase!