Dearest Shosh and Jaialai:
I hope you are well. I have been nursing a cough for more than two weeks, and it hadn’t been fun.
My father (your paternal grandfather) died of emphysema when I was 7 years old. I cannot imagine how difficult that must have been … not being able to breathe. http://www.webmd.com/lung/copd/emphysema-symptoms. He was a smoker. Thus, don’t smoke. Not being able to fill your lungs and get enough air for the last few months of your life must have been a terrible way to die.
Jaialai, you experienced a bit of this when you were a baby: you often had the croup. It was horrible! Your windpipe constricted and you’d wheeze and cough like a seal. To help loosen the airway, at the doctor’s directions, I would bundle you up and open the windows to let cold air into the room. Since this usually occurred during the night, I spent many cold hours in my pajama, holding and rocking you. I can still remember those cold nights, counting the vapor plumes that formed from my breath and willing my cocooned seal pup to transform back into my baby once more.
I hope you no longer get croup, Jaialai. If you do, who would take care of you? When you were a baby, your mom preferred giving you corticosteriods, so as to not interfere with her sleep. I took a different tact. Corticosteriods can have significant adverse effects; thus, I only used them as a last resort. A little cold air and a bit of discomfort is nothing compared to the potential negative consequences corticosteriods may pose to my baby Jaialai.
The prolonged use of corticosteroids can cause obesity, growth retardation in children, and even lead to convulsions and psychiatric disturbances. Reported psychiatric disturbances include depression, euphoria, insomnia, mood swings, and personality changes. Psychotic behaviors also have been reported.
Corticosteroids, since they suppress the immune system, can lead to an increase in the rate of infections and reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and antibiotics.
Thus, it is with life, my sons: a moment’s sacrifice today may lead to significant advantages in the years to come. So, work hard and study well, boys. Your efforts will pay off handsomely in the years ahead.
Shosh, your count down to college begins today. Start making preparations.
First, study for the SAT this summer. Buy a Kaplan 2016 or 2017 Premiere SAT study guide. If you are not aware, as of this year, the SAT has a new format. Thus, you must buy the new, updated study guides instead of using old ones. https://www.amazon.com/SAT-Premier-2017-Practice-Tests/dp/1506202284/ref=dp_ob_title_bk. Practice makes perfect. Do as many practice exercises and practice tests as you can. You will thank me when you get top scores and gain admission to top colleges in the U.S.
Second, improve your vocabulary and your reading and critical analysis skills. Having a strong vocabulary and good reading and critical analysis skills will not only help you in school today, but also with the SAT next year, and with college and work in the years ahead.
The best way to improve your vocabulary is to learn Greek and Latin prefixes, roots, and suffixes.
One study has shown that a set of 20 prefixes and 14 roots, and knowing how to use them, will unlock the meaning of over 100,000 words. A similar study showed that a set of 29 prefixes and 25 roots will give the meaning to over 125,000 words.Imagine adding suffixes!
Why? Because a sizeable proportion of the English language has roots in Latin or Greek. Some studies have estimated as much as 75 percent of English words come from Latin or Greek. Drs. Rasinski, Padak, Newton, and Newton posits that as much as 90 percent of English words with more than one syllable are Latin-based. https://www.teachercreatedmaterials.com/media/uploads/tcm/documents/webinars/building_vocabulary_handout.pdf. Thus, knowing Latin and Greek roots can help you decipher a significant proportion of multisyllabic words you will come across in your SAT and other readings.
For example, consider the word unforeseeable. You can deconstruct the word into its three component parts:
- prefixes: un-, which means “not”; and, fore-, which means “before”
- root: see-, which means “to see”
- suffix: –able, which means “able to”
Combined, the word describes something that cannot be predicted or seen beforehand. Thus, by separating and analyzing the meaning of a prefix, root, and suffix, you can decipher unfamiliar words such neonatology (neo- means “new”; nat- means “to be born, to spring forth, to be from”; and, –ology means “study of”– combined, the word neonatology means “the study of newborns, or the branch of medicine concerned with the development and abnormalities of newborns”); and, holocaust (holo- means “whole or complete”; and, caust- means “to burn” — combined, the word holocaust means to burn something completely, and is often used the refer to the process used by the Nazi to try completely burn the bodies million of Jewish children, women, and men during WWII).
This method is but one tool in your box of English tools. It helps you decipher the majority of new vocabulary words you will encounter. However, it is not 100 percent foolproof.
First, not all the words you will encounter while living, studying, and working in America will come from Latin or Greek. For example, you boys love sushi. That word comes from Japan. Pho, a Vietnamese word, has now made its appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary. The words pretzel and knapsack come from German. The words pajama and jungle come from India. The list goes on. As America is a melting pot, most immigrants to America have made their contributions to the language.
Second, the Latin or Greek roots may not give you the entire meaning of the word. For example, consider the word exportable. Breaking it down into its component parts, you get the following: ex- means “out”; port- means “to carry”; and, –able means “able to”. Combined, you would guess the word describes something that you can carry out. But, out of what? Here, you would have to rely on the context of the sentence in which you found the word export to help you get a better understanding of the word. Let’s say the sentence reads, “Certain technologies are exportable to China, but others are not.” This, then, suggests exportable means something that can be carried out of one country into another. (This would be correct: exports are goods sent from our country to another country; and imports are goods sent from another into a country into our country.) On the other hand, let’s say the sentence reads, “The data is exportable in txt format.” As used here, exportable means the data can be transferred or carried out into another computer program in txt format. Thus, use context clues to help you decipher new words.
There are many good web sites to help you learn Latin and Greek roots. In addition to the short list found via the above link, consider using the following site as well:
There are many other web sites that offer Greek or Latin roots. Use them with caution. As you should know by now, the Internet has a lot of useful information, but also a lot of junk. Anyone can post anything, regardless of its truthfulness, validity, usefulness, etc. I have seen a number of list that contain incorrect entries.
Learn a few words every day. Review what you’ve previously learned every night. This will help with retention.
I love you always,