Mae's Real Stories
Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa
and anyone else who would like to be here
Thursday, February 22, 2007
Purim is a Jewish holiday, celebrating Queen Esther, who lived about 2500 years ago in a country named Persia. The ruins of the palace where Esther might have lived are shown in the picture.
Purim comes on a different date each year, and like all Jewish holidays, it begins in the evening. This year it is on Saturday evening, March 3 and Sunday March 4. On that date, Jewish families and groups will gather and read the story of Esther. Sometimes people read from very beautiful scrolls with hand-made writing and drawings, like the one in the picture at the top of this page.
Last year Miriam and Alice went to a Purim celebration while they were visiting Ann Arbor. They saw lots of children dressed up in costumes, and they played games at a carnival. They also heard the story of Queen Esther and her husband, King Ahasuarus, read by my friend Carol. At the beginning of the story, Esther and Ahasuarus are married and she moves from her uncle Mordechai's house into the palace. After she had been living in the palace for a while, Mordechai told Esther how a bad man named Haman was trying to harm all the Jews in Persia. These were Esther's former friends and relatives, and she wanted to help them. Esther asked King Ahasuarus to make Haman stop his bad deeds. The king agreed, and so she was able to save all her people.
At the Purim party last hear, every time we heard the name "Haman" in the story the children made a lot of noise with noisemakers. This is what everybody does while they are reading the story of Queen Esther every year.
Although Esther lived a long time ago, the tomb where she and her uncle might have been buried still exists. It is in the country of Iran, which is where ancient Persia was once located. It is in a city named Hamadan.
On Purim, people like to have costume parties and carnivals for children like the one Miriam and Alice went to last year. Some people bake cookies and share them with friends and neighbors. Hamantaschen are three-sided cookies filled with prunes, poppyseeds, or other filling. They are the favorite Purim cookie, and we had some at the party last year. In the picture are some that I baked a few years ago.
Added picture: Elaine S. and Mario baked these apricot and poppy-seed hamantaschen for Purim this year:
February 22 is George Washington's birthday. He was born in 1732; that is, 275 years ago. He died in 1799.
American schoolchildren have always learned about George Washington. We studied about him every February when I was in elementary school. As General Washington, he was the leader of the American War of Independence. He organized the troops that fought for freedom. He arranged for the design of the American flag. And he did other important things.
After the war was over, representatives from the thirteen states made a constitution, which is an agreement for a government. These men decided that the new country would have an elected president instead of a king. This was an important new idea. In the country's first election, George Washington became the first president of the United States of America. Later, the capital city was given his name: Washington, D.C. Other cities, a state, and several universities are also named in honor of Washington.
George Washington lived in Virginia not far from where Miriam and Alice live. His home was next to the Potomac River. He had a big farm and a nice house. This farm was named Mount Vernon. You can visit the house and the farm and see how he and his wife, Martha Washington, lived more than 200 years ago.
After Washington died, people wanted to show what a wonderful man he had been. One thing they did to show this, was make up stories for children. The most famous story is about how Washington was always a truthful person, even when he was a little boy. Although people know that this story didn't really happen, they like to tell it anyway. Here is the story:
When George was about six years old someone gave him a little hatchet, which is a tool for chopping down trees. "One day," the story goes, "as he wandered about the garden amusing himself by hacking his mother's pea sticks, he found a beautiful, young English cherry tree, of which his father was most proud. He tried the edge of his hatchet on the trunk of the tree and barked it so that it died."
George's father was very unhappy when he discovered the dead cherry tree. He asked George who had cut the bark of the tree and made it die. "I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet," said George. His father was very proud of him because he told the truth, so he forgave him for destroying the cherry tree.
This story and others were made up by a man named M.L.Weems. He thought this made-up story could show children that it is important to tell the truth and not hide it if you have done something wrong. He wanted people to think of George Washington as a good example of how to behave.
Here is the funny thing: people were so impressed by the story of George Washington and the cherry tree that they associated cherries with George Washington. So some people used to eat cherry pie to celebrate George Washington's birthday.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Dr.Seuss: Everyone's Favorite First Reading
Dick, Jane, and Baby Sally
Learning to Read
Miriam is now in a reading group in kindergarten. I hope Miriam will tell me which books they are reading. Alice is also learning in school. She can write all the letters of the alphabet.
After I had been in kindergarten for half a year, I also began to learn to read. It was a little bit different, though because the school started a first-grade class half way through the year, and we went to school all day. We walked home at lunch time, ate lunch with our family, and then walked back to school in the afternoon.
The first books we learned to read when I was Miriam's age were the Dick and Jane books. I remember the names of some of the books: "Fun with Dick and Jane," "We look and see," "We come and go." Dick and Jane were two children who lived with their mother, their father, their sister Sally, and their dog Spot. I think the books that Miriam reads are more interesting.
I remember one book the teacher read to us. It was called "Horton Hatches the Egg," and it was by Dr. Seuss. Children in school and at home still read this book about Horton the elephant and many others that Dr.Seuss wrote afterwards. I still remember what Horton said: "I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100 per cent." He kept sitting on the egg.
Sunday, February 18, 2007
Israeli School Children
I wrote about our Israeli visitors. I thought you would also like to see a picture of a school in Israel for children about four and five years old. We took these pictures last spring when we visited this school.
Saturday, February 17, 2007
Two visitors stayed with us this week. They come from the country called Israel, where we visited last summer. Their names are Shlomi and Micha. They told us and also a lot of other people about their lives, which are very interesting.
Micha has spent his life trying to help people who have problems. A long time ago (in 1991) Micha was in Ethiopia, trying to help a group of Jewish people escape from a very troubled situation. These people had left the villages where they had once been farmers, and they needed a place to live. Many children had already left for Israel. Micha wanted to help families get back together. Israel always tries to help rescue Jewish people who are in danger in faraway places like Ethiopia, which is in Africa.
Micha helped to organize 34 airplanes to take 14,324 people to Israel in less than two days. Now all these people can have a better life and live in freedom. Since then, Micha has worked with the Ethiopians who came to Israel. A lot of other people volunteer to help too, and he works with them. When people move to a new country that is very different from their birthplace, sometimes it's hard for them, and other people can help them and their children. They need help understanding school lessons like counting, writing the alphabet, reading, learning science and math, using computers, and other things. They need help going to doctors' appointments and getting jobs. They need help learning a new language. Micha's volunteers especially help when new Israelis have a problem in their family.
Shlomi came to Israel from Ethiopia when he was six years old (in 1984). He went to school in Israel, and he learned Hebrew and English. His first language was Amharic, the language of Ethiopia. He did well in his classes, and he kept on going to school until he graduated. Later he became an officer in the Israeli army. Now he is also studying at a university in Haifa, Israel.
Last year there was a very bad war in Israel. Shlomi was hurt fighting in the war. He is much better now. Micha helped Shlomi when he was hurt, and made sure his wife and children were ok. Shlomi showed us some videos of his wife and their little girls. He showed a big group of people in Ann Arbor a video about his war experience, and talked to all of us about it.
Now that he is better, Shlomi is still a soldier, a father, and a student, but he has also become a volunteer to help other people. He is especially helping a little girl whose parents are from Ethiopia. He is helping her learn English and math so that she will stay in school, do well, and graduate.(For grownups who want more information about the airlift in 1991 and history of Ethiopian Jews: Operation Solomon - The Fulfillment of a Dream. For information on Micha's organization: Selah ICMC - Israel Crisis Management Center)
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Food for Cold Weather
It's very very cold outside. Indiana is having a blizzard. Elaine wrote about how she walked in the snow with all her warm clothes on (Snowy Weather
). The picture is from a news story about Indiana's weather.
In Virginia they are having an ice storm. Pennsylvania and Michigan have a lot of snow. Lots of other places are also cold and snowy. And in New Orleans, far to the south, it's not so cold but there was a tornado.
When it's cold, people like nice warm comfort food for dinner. It's very nice if you can smell a pot of nice thick soup, chilli, or stew with meat and vegetables cooking and filling the house with steam. When it's cold, the air is dry, so steam is good. Other food also makes the house smell good. Tonight Elaine made meatloaf and mashed potatoes and fruit salad for dinner, with brownies for dessert. I made a noodle kugel, which is very warm, sweet and custardy, and made the house smell like cinnamon. We had salad and some asparagus to go with it -- the vegetables come from much warmer places or grow in greenhouses. (For the kugel recipe see Merilyn's Sweet Noodle Kugel
Whether you walk home in the snow like Elaine or drive home through an ice storm like Evelyn, Alice, and Miriam, it's really good to get inside. I hope you have all the food you need in the house, and that you don't have to go anywhere before it all melts away. Tomorrow I'll be shoveling the snow off the walks, but I hope it won't be too deep. If you have to go out early in the morning some hot oatmeal or cocoa might make a good breakfast, too. Good luck everyone!
After I wrote this, I saw this picture in the Washington Post
:Snow, Ice, Wind Hit Many Parts of United States -- Alli Osborn, Tasha Stevens and Sarah Moran (front, left to right) take a ride on the snow in West Lafayette, Ind. (AP)
Saturday, February 10, 2007
Valentine's Day Things To Do
Valentine's day now seems to be just like always has been. More than 150 years ago, people already sent Valentine cards to each other. Here are some pictures of very old Valentines.
Here are some things that school classes and other people do:
- Get some Valenties or make them, sign your name on them, and write the names of the other children in your class on the envelopes. I heard that Miriam made a wonderful Valentine on the computer.
- Make a big Valentine Box where every child in class can put Valentines on the morning of Valentine Day. Some classes might put another box in the hall, in case there are Valentines from one class to another.
- Have a party for the class with heart-shaped food like cookies.
- At home, have a cake or other dessert in the shape of a heart.
- Do something very nice for your Mom or Dad! Maybe they will get a heart-shaped box of chocolate candy for the whole family. Maybe there will be pink flowers.
Valentine candies are very special. Everyone likes candy hearts with messages, and special chocolates in a heart-shaped box. Remember, Raggedy Ann had a candy heart that said "I love you."
Like the telephone, TV has changed a great deal since I was a little girl. In fact, in my really early life, no one had a TV at all. Only a few TV sets existed, and only for demonstration. I was at least 8 years old when a neighbor family first had a television. It had such a small screen that there was a sort of magnifying lens in front so that you could see the picture. For a long time, TV pictures were always in black and white and grey, no color.
In the afternoon, children could watch a show called "Howdy Doody," about a puppet by that name and his friends. Two characters on the show -- Buffalo Bob and Claribel the Clown -- were real people, dressed up as a cowboy and a clown. (The picture shows Buffalo Bob holding Howdy Doody.)
Princess SummerFallWinterSpring was another puppet on "Howdy Doody." During the show, a lot of kids were also involved. They sat in two rows of chairs called the Peanut Gallery near the place where the puppets walked and moved around. At the beginning they sang a song It's Howdy Doody time,
and at end of the show, the kids could wave and say hi to their friends and family.
Later we watched some comedy shows like "I Love Lucy" and a kids' show called "Mickey Mouse Club." Our parents sometimes watched the evening news programs. Of course, lots of parents still watch TV news shows, but now the news is on all day and all night instead of just a half an hour now and then. And now you can also get news from the internet on a computer.
When Evelyn was very little, she watched a few shows like "Sesame Street" and "Mr.Rogers' Neighborhood." The picture shows Mr. Rogers next to Big Bird, the Sesame Street chracter. This is funny since the two shows were quite separate. When Evelyn was a little older, she and her friends Robin and Lissa liked a show called "The Brady Bunch." All the kids her age liked to watch it.
Until Evelyn was in high school, people could only watch the shows that were on TV at the time they turned it on. Finally, someone invented a tape recorder and player to work with a TV set. Now DVDs and TiVO let you watch whatever shows and movies you want to see. You can watch on a TV, an iPod, a computer, or other device. These are all new technologies, and more inventions are being created all the time.
Thursday, February 08, 2007
When my mother was a small girl, telephones were new. Not everyone had a telephone, and people did not use them very much. At first, when you wanted to call you said "Hello, Operator," and then told the operator -- usually a woman -- what number you wanted to call. The operator put your call through to the phone you wanted to call. The girl in the picture (which came from my mother's school album) is talking on a telephone from when my mother was young. Soon every home and office had a telephone.
The next big new invention was the dial telephone. A rotory dial allowed you make a direct connection to the phone number you wanted. You would dial two letters and four numbers; for example: DE-4333. After you dialed, you would hear a ringing tone or a busy signal. If someone was at home he or she would pick up the receiver and say "hello."
When phones were first invented, a caller could only talk to people in the same town. Later a caller could ask the operator to connect to numbers in other cities and to people in other countries. Eventually, it was possible to dial all these numbers without talking to the operator. Phone numbers have become much longer because so many people need them.
A long time ago, the lines were shared: you had a "Party Line." When you picked up the phone, instead of a tone that said you could make a call, you might hear someone else talking on the phone. It might be a neighbor. This was the other "party" on your phone line. You had to be polite, hang up the phone, and wait until the other party finished talking. It was very very rude to "listen in" on the other party's phone conversation.
At about the time Evelyn was in high school, push-button phones began to replace dial phones. The next innovation was cordless phones. Now you could talk all over the house and in your yard. The base station for your phone still had to be wired into the phone company lines, but the part you talked to was cordless. About this time, answering machines and recorded messages became available. Then the telephone inventors developed cell phones to use in cars, and then to use anywhere. Cell phone towers like the one in the picture carry the signals for the phone conversations.
Now phones can be with you when you are indoors or outside. It's very easy to make calls to far-away places. Miriam and Alice often talk to Oma and Opa in Germany, which is on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and to other people all over the United States.
Phones can take pictures and send them to other phones. Phones can find things on the worldwide web, which is another new communication invention. Phones keep lists of phone numbers, so you don't have to remember them. Phones can connect conference calls with several people in different places all talking to each other at the same time. They can play music, recorded stories, and movies. Some of these things used to be very expensive, and now they don't cost very much money. Also, you can have video chats over the internet that are like television pictures of the person you are talking with.
The phone in the picture is the iPhone, which will soon do many more things. Phones are really amazing technology!
Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The Day Alice Was Born: February 7, 2003
Monday, February 05, 2007
Alice decided to have a Strawberry Shortcake birthday. So Alice and Evelyn went to the store and bought a lot of Strawberry Shortcake things. The centerpiece for the table was a big strawberry. Alice had a Strawberry Shortcake hat. She picked a Strawberry Shortcake candle for her cake. The only thing that wasn't strawberry was the pizza!
Before the party, Tracy made a game: pin the strawberry on Strawberry Shortcake. Here is Gabi, taking her turn to pin on a strawberry. She is wearing a blindfold so she won't cheat.
Everyone had fun downstairs playing on the trampoline and in the playhouse. There was a scavenger hunt to find some treasure: feathers and paper airplanes hidden all over the basement.
At the end of the party, everyone played out on the swings for a while.
Alice received many presents. In the picture she's unwrapping her presents from Uncle Arny and Aunt Tracy. They gave her some sparkly PlayDoh and a PlayDoh gadget. Her friends gave her a doctor-bag, several card games, some drawing desks with crayons and markers, a big floor puzzle, and other gifts. Oma and Opa gave her several Playmobil toys. Grandma and Grandpa gave her a Bath Baby that can take a bath with her and has her own shower. Miriam gave her the DVD of Brother Bear 2.
Thursday, February 01, 2007
February is sometimes called the “month of birthdays” because we celebrate the birthdays of two famous presidents. They are George Washington, born February 22, 1731, and Abraham Lincoln, born February 12, 1809. There is a holiday called “Presidents' Day” every February to celebrate their birthdays. George Washington was the first president of the United States: "the father of our country."
We honor Lincoln because as president, he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which said that all men and women in the United States would be free, and no one would be a slave. I wrote more about Lincoln here: Abraham Lincoln
and here: Going on a Trip.
In our family two people have birthdays in February. Alice’s birthday is February 7, and Uncle Larry’s birthday is February 6.
Every birthday of the year is shared by many people, some famous, some not so famous. Why is this? Well millions and millions of people have been born througout history, and each year has only 365 days in ordinary years or 366 days in Leap Years. So every birthday must be used over and over.
I tried to find which famous people share Alice’s birthday. A famous mathematician named G.H. Hardy was born on February 7, 1877. This is interesting, since Alice has many many relatives who are mathematicians.
A jazz musician named Eubie Blake was born in Baltimore, Maryland on February 7, 1883, and he lived to be 100 years old.
Eubie Blake started to play music for other people when he was only 15 years old, and wrote a lot of music called ragtime. He wrote songs named "I'm just wild about Harry" and "Memories of You." He was so famous that his face once appeared on a postage stamp.
Last year on Alice's birthday, a new baby was born next door. So Gracie's little brother also shares Alice's birthday! His first birthday is the same day as Alice's fourth birthday this year.
On February 7, 1867, Laura Ingalls Wilder, who wrote the “Little House” books was born. Evelyn read all of the Little House books when she was a little girl, and she really enjoyed them.
Another famous author, Charles Dickens, was born in England on February 7, 1812. His most famous story is called “A Christmas Carol.”
Larry told me that he shared a birthday with another February president, Ronald Reagan, who was born February 6, 1911. On February 6, 1940, a news announcer named Tom Brokaw was born in South Dakota, and on February 6, 1932, Francois Truffaut, a French film director, was born.
Here is a photo of Uncle Larry and Aunt Elaine:
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