Monday, January 31, 2011

Relationships - Black & White, Color, or High Definition?

"Some friends don't help, but a true friend is closer than your own family." Proverbs 18:24

In church yesterday, our pastor gave a sermon on relationships - and got me thinking about those in my life. Pastor Nick has a way with words, and you have to give someone credit who can stand in front of a church full of people and laugh at himself. I believe that if everyone involved themselves with a good pastor therapists would be a thing of the past.

Yesterday's sermon was on relationships, which can be categorized into three levels: black and white, color, and high definition. The challenge was to think about all the relationships in our own lives, and evaluate what types they are.

Black & White: receive without the expectation of giving

Color: receive with the expectation of giving

High Definition: receive wihout the expectation of receiving

Of course we all want to believe all of our relationships are high definition, but really, who are we kidding? Let's face it, a HUGE part of our existence and day-to-day revolves around relationships - at work, home, the store, whereever we find ourselves. Isn't it time we started being a little more choosy about which of the three types we want? Isn't it time we start thinking about which of those three categories we ourselves fall into?

"We are all travelers in the wilderness of this world, and the best we can hope to find is a genuine friend." -Robert Louis Stevenson

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Our Sacred Saturdays

Who doesn't look forward to Saturdays? Finally, the week work is finished and we can do something for pleasure - this is what Saturdays are all about for our family. Of course, that can quickly become thrown off course at anytime just because we have two young kids!

Today, Boy #1 and I set out to do some usual Saturday errands. I want him to experience simple fun, things like going to the farmer's market and picking out a bunch of carrots...or heading to the public library to experience checking out his own library books. We were lucky enough to fit both of them into our schedule today.

We started out at the Lakeside Farmer's Market. They have an awesome spring/summer/fall market, but this year is even better because we have a winter market. I believe that farmer's markets are where food education should begin, because it allows one to see food at its simplest and not processed, compacted, and shoved into a colorful box. Pictured throughout this post are what I was able to snag today!

We have a number of friends who farm and am thankful for each one of them because I am able to get most of what we need...some of my favorites are Deer Run Farm, Pleasant Fields Farm, Greenway Beef, and Kruize Farms. One simple trip and we can get all the fruit, veggies, eggs, and beef I need for the week.

Today we went specifically to get goods from Kruize Farms...Michelle is awesome, and she is great to deal with. I simply message her my order sometime in the week and pick it up on Saturday (pending availability of course).

What is great about the market is that you always know you will come home with some little surprise - today it was crocheted dark green finger puppets and a crocheted Nemo keychain for Boy #1's bookbag.

We then headed on to part two of our trip - the library. I remember fondly my own mother making the trek with us three girls so that we could pick out library books and it was a huge deal when I was able to get my own library card. It is amazing how many things from your childhood you emulate when you become a parent yourself. Rylan and I had a great time browsing the kids section, which is awesome in our local library. After picking up a few books, Boy #1 discovered the Clifford the Big Red Dog books and had to have them all. As I headed up to the counter, I realized that I might be over the limit...can you believe that the library lets you check out up to 50 books?

At the counter, there was a display for David Baldacci's novels...he is the featured author of "Henrico Reads" a program designed to get more people in the area to read a selected author. He also happens to be from Henrico, which is pretty neat. He will be speaking at our local library in April so you know I had to check out his book! I have already marked my calendar to attend :)

Breathe: A Ghost Story Review

Breate: A Ghost Story by Cliff McNish, is another of the Virginia Readers' Choice books for 2011. After finishing it, I have been left speechless in a lot of ways!

Jack and his mother move to an old farmhouse for a fresh start after Jack's father dies. Sarah, Jack's mother is desperate to get her son to start moving past trying to bring his father back. Unbeknown to her, the farmhouse is full of ghosts, caught between the living world and the Other Side.

Ghost Mother, the main ghost character has made it her mission to stay away from the Nightmare Passage, where ghosts who are stuck between the two worlds eventually go. In order to remain out of it, she must steal the souls of other ghosts so she has collected four ghost children, Ann, Oliver, Charlie, and Gwenyth, from whom she taunts and scares.

She doesn't bargain on Jack being able to see and communicate with her and the ghost children. This presents a problem for her because Jack figures out what she is doing to the ghost children and because of his gift, he is able to stop her. However, the middle of the story is action packed with the Ghost Mother inhabiting Jack's mother's body, the Ghost Mother's long dead daughter, Isabelle, coming back to tell the story of her death, and the ghost childrens' many attempts to evade the Ghost Mother.

While parts of this book were downright strange, it was good overall. I stayed late yesterday to finish it because I just had to find out what happened and how Jack saved the day. Being that I am not big on mysteries, this book was surprisingly good and it has been VERY popular with my middle school students, although many of them report that they find the ending confusing. Because everything happens so fast at the end, I can understand this opinion.

If nothing else, it does make you think about what is on the other side of this life...

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Taking a Leap...Into a Book

This morning in the car, my son, Boy #1, and the ever classic two-year old, said something absolultely brilliant and it immediately set my mind racing about what I would say in a blog post about it.

Let me give you a little background...we have recently instituted a "no TV during the week" rule at our house, and this mainly applies to the evenings. My husband and I were feeling guilty about getting home, rushing through dinner and baths, only to spend the last 30 minutes of the night watching Dora. We have always been big advocates of books, and reading (obviously) - it would be highly suspicious if we weren't being that I just recently finished my master's as a reading specialist. But why were we letting Dora get this precious time (Dora, this is nothing personal!) We were VERY impressed when he counted to five in Spanish the other day ;)

Since the "rule change," each night he picks 5 picture books off his shelf of hundreds, and we read. We read, re-read, and read again - and it is wonderful :) And then he trots off carrying his blanket and an armful of books where he continues to flip pages for another 20 minutes. I couldn't be prouder...

So, in the car this morning, he is reading his First Dinosaur Encyclopedia and he says to me, "Mommy, I want to jump inside this book." FINALLY! The moment I have been waiting TWO LONG YEARS FOR! So of course, I start obsessing and sharing how much I also want to jump into books, and that when you read you should always feel like you are right there with the characters, and - wait a minute...I am talking to a two-year old and I am WAY OVER HIS HEAD! I just can't help myself though...

I just know that this is the start of something great - and if there is one thing that we pass on to our kids (besides the most important - manners, character, and how to treat others and be kind), it will have to be a love of reading. I am saddened daily when I hear my middle school students saying that they hate to read, or have never finished a book - I can't help but think about all they are missing out there!

Reading offers a whole world, and I could not be happier that my son is already getting that - I hope that traveling back to hang out with Prehistoric dinosaurs is just the beginning for him!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Books I Think I Should Have Read By Now!

Hosted by The Broke and The Bookish blog, is Top Ten Tuesday - a top ten list that bloggers everywhere post on their own blogs. Any conversation about books is time well spent in my opinion, so I figured I would opine:

Top Ten Books I Feel Guilty About Not Already Having Read

1) All of the Harry Potter books What can I say, I have tried to read the first one, and seen the first movie, and I am JUST NOT THAT INTO THEM!

2) The Lightning Thief series
Despite being VERY popular with my middle school students, I just don't jive with the sci-fi/fantasy...and they always tell me, "they're not that much sci-fi Mrs. Horne!"

3) The Phantom Tollbooth
Yes I know, this is a classic, but for some reason I don't think I have read it - and if I have, it must not have left much of an impression on me!

4) Old Yeller
I have seen the movie, and it took an entire box of tissues to get through it - I am not interested in going through that again!

5) Chronicles of Narnia series
See #2 explanation above.

6) Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
Just not that interested in mysteries, reading one now and it is taking me forever!

7) Raisin in the Sun
I haven't thought a lot about this book, but people say it is good and the title is intriguing.

8) To Kill a Mockingbird
This technically shouldn't be on the list since I have read it, but it deserves a re-read since it was so long ago and the details are fuzzy.

9) Gone With the Wind
LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the movie (what Southern Belle doesn't?), haven't read the book though?

10) The Little Prince
I have this book at home because it is on all of the top recommended children's books lists, but I have never cracked the's about time!

All of the Above Book Review

This weekend I finished another novel from our SpineCrackers bookclub list, All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall, which is based on a true story. What a great book!

Set in an urban public school, the novel grabs your attention from the beginning largely in part because of its characters - James Harris III, Marcel, Rhondell, and Sharice. Mr. Collins, a high-school algebra teacher knows he is boring his students and that they are uninterested and unmotivated and so he has a meltdown of sorts. During this meltdown he realizes that he must do something to regain their attention, hence, a math club is born.

James Harris III is one of the most dynamic characters because he is the stereotypical black male who initially has an attitude and couldn't care less about school. His character undergoes some amazing transformations in the book. Willy Q, Marcel's dad is another endearing character - tough-acting owner of Willy Q's Barbeque, he has some soft spots that are very touching throughout the novel.

Another great quality of this novel is the math that is interwoven throughout. Tetrahedrons, being another of the star characters, really do connect with readers - math lovers or not. The students fold thousands of them to reach their goal. I know numerous math teachers who struggle finding literature to integrate into their classrooms - this is a fantastic choice!

The students overcome some obstacles individually and as a whole, deal with forming peer relationships, and are also tested in a various ways outside of school. This book is "real" and doesn't try to be something it is not. I think we have all had enough "Dangerous Minds" type movies and books, but this one does the subject justice without being too cliche and reiterates that not every story has a happy ending. (Don't be fooled, the ending is fantastic!)

If you are interested in math, have a young adult reader, or are just looking for a quick entertaining read, this would be a great choice!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Eating Revolutions...and Resolutions

I am a believer in resolutions, as I think it is mentally good to know a new year is starting, a new chapter in life, and a perfect time to change things for the better. Like many other people out there, I have set a goal to start eating better in the new year - I have already been going to the gym for about 6 months, so I felt like I was already fighting the battle somewhat.

Of course, this healthy eating thing is much easier said than done. I was convinced that it is beyond impossible to kick the Hershey, Twinkie, any other candy habit! Come on, there is nothing like a piece of chocolate after lunch...

Being on the schedule our family is on made it hard - waking up super early (4:45 a.m.), out the house by 6 and then a full day not ending up at home until 5:30 p.m. Creatively packing enough snacks for that long of a time is difficult. What is telling is that I have always packed healthy snacks for my kids, but not myself. Boy #1 loves anything fruit or vegetable, so he is easy. Boy #2 is still a baby so he is eating very healthy and hasn't yet been corrupted with all of the McDonald's goodness out there ;) Snacking has always been my worst enemy food-wise.

Alas, I am on the track and here are a few of my new favorites:

  • Almonds
  • Kashi Bars
  • Trail Mix
  • Zucchini Snack Pizza
  • Banana Sushi (thanks Nicole!)
Yes, you read right - zucchini snack pizza and banana sushi - DELICIOUS! So delicious, here are the recipes:

Zucchini Snack Pizzas

Banana Sushi

I have had it where the banana is sliced into long strips so that it looks more like sushi, but either way will work.

Another awesome, albeit pricey snack is Kind Bars. There are only sold in select stores, and a little harder to find - but worth the hunt!

I once read in Prevention magazine that you should put only good foods into your body (with the occasional treat) and that is the best health insurance you can buy...just food for thought :)

Happy eating!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lee-Jackson Day in Virginia

Lee-Jackson Day

Here in Virginia, we celebrate Lee-Jackson Day as a tribute to two military leaders who greatly influenced the history of our state. As a United States history teacher, history nut, and avid reader of anything related to the Civil War, I am particularly interested in the lives and contributions of these and other important figures throughout our state's history. Here is the proclamation from our governor, Bob McDonnell, regarding this day:

WHEREAS, Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson are native Virginians, having served our great nation and Commonwealth as educators, leaders, and military strategists; and

WHEREAS, Lee served in the United States Army for more than three decades until he left his position to serve as Commander in Chief of Virginia’s military forces and as Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Jackson taught philosophy and military tactics as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington for nearly a decade before serving briefly in the United States Army and later joining the Confederate Army to fight for his native Virginia; and

WHEREAS, Lee dedicated his life after the Civil War to reforming higher education in the South by serving as President of Washington College, now Washington & Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, where he helped to greatly increase the school’s funding and expand the curriculum to create an atmosphere most conducive to learning for young men of both Southern and Northern heritage; and

WHEREAS, Jackson’s leadership and bravery enabled him to rally his troops to several improbable victories against numerically superior forces, and Jackson’s inspired “Stonewall Brigade” fought alongside General Lee’s troops in another victory, even after their leader was fatally wounded on the second day of the Battle of Chancellorsville; and

WHEREAS, it is fitting to recognize Generals Lee and Jackson as two of our nation’s most notable military strategists, as beloved leaders among their troops, as pioneers in the field of higher education, and as faithful and dedicated Virginians;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Robert F. McDonnell, do hereby recognize January 14, 2011 as LEE-JACKSON DAY in our COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA, and I call this observance to the attention of our citizens.

Currently "Not" (Or So I Thought) Enjoying & Readers' Choice Titles - AND UPDATE!

Well, I am going to make an effort to keep updating what I am currently reading and what I think of it along the way.

I run a 6th grade book club, The SpineCrackers, for my students (which is optional) and we commit to reading the 10 Virginia Reader's Choice books for middle school - you can find more information about them and other level's choices here. The ten books we are reading this year are:

1. After Tupac and D Foster. Jacqueline Woodson,
Putnam Young Adult, 2008.

2. All of the Above. Shelly Pearsall, Little Brown, 2008.

3. The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had. Kristin Levine, Putnam, 2009.

4. Breathe: A Ghost Story. Cliff McNish, First Avenue Editions, 2009.

5. The Girl Who Could Fly. Victoria Forester, Feiwel & Friends, 2008.

6. Little Audrey. Ruth White, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2008.

7. The London Eye Mystery. Siobhan Dowd, Random House, 2008.

8. Shooting the Moon. Frances O’Roark Dowell, Atheneum, 2008.

9. T4 a novel. Ann Clare Lezotte, Houghton Mifflin, 2008.

10. The Underneath. Kathi Appelt, Simon & Schuster Children’s, 2008.

I am currently reading The Underneath, which is a tale about a young kitten, Puck, who finds himself in a unique situation where he has to rely on the skills his mother was able to teach him to get back to his sister Sabine and adopted father, Ranger (a hounddog). There are many obstacles in his way, nature, predators, and the mean Gar Face, who lives above the Underneath in the tilted house who has no tolerance for animals and spends his days hunting the mammouth alligator, who also has his own storyline in this novel.

Interwoven is another storyline about Grandmother Moccasin, and I must admit that this story is a bit strange and hard to follow - and to be even more honest, it isn't even that interesting. The Grandmother is in a jar far below the earth where her daughter's husband (Night Hawk) put her (why he did this is a story all in itself.)

There is too much going on in the book at once, the story of Ranger and Sabine, the story of Puck, the story of Gar Face, Grandmother Moccasin, her daughter and Night Hawk, and the story of the Alligator.'s amazing that the author could even keep up with all those storylines herself.

What keeps me reading this book? My committment to the students, and the story of Puck, the kitten. I was always a sucker for a good story about an animal!


Okay, so I finished the book last night and I have to give kudos to the author - she really turned this story around for me! I LOVED the ending, and everything came full circle for the main characters. There were some touch-and-go moments where I literally sighed out loud, or gasped (my husband thinking something was wrong, rushed in to see what was up..."no, I am just really into this book!")

Ranger, Puck, and happy family, the way it should have been all along. And Grandmother Moccasin redeemed herself, YES! Now if only "momma" cat had been there to see it...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Asleep at the Wheel of Life

I am very tired.  I know you wouldn't think that could be the entire basis for a blog post, but I feel the need to pour it out (and at least this way, my friends won't have to listen to me complain!)  I am not sure how many more nights I can go on like this, waking up with a one-year-old WHO SHOULD BE SLEEPING THROUGH THE NIGHT!  Or a two-year-old, who fights and fights at nap time WHO SHOULD BE USED TO THIS BY NOW! 
When I first found out we were going to be parents, I was so sure that MY KIDS would be different, and they would listen to everything I told them, always go to bed early and sleep later, eat all their supper, you get the drift.  I now find myself begging, pleading, bribing, coaxing, and yes, sometimes spanking to get my point across.  Who would have thought that one would need the skills of superwoman for this job?

I even looked at my husband the other day and declared that I was taking a nap, I didn't care what he had to do...when did I start acting a little bit like my two-year-old? 

I know all the moms out there can relate to this, and it makes me think of a quote I read recently:

"The quickest way for a parent to get a child's attention is to sit down and look comfortable."  ~Lane Olinghouse

Isn't that the truth!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Return to the Classics

I am making a real effort to reread some of the classic young adult books from my childhood. I go into this knowing that things are very different when they are interpreted as an adult (see my post on the IMAX theater experience!)

I picked up Scott O'Dell's Black Pearl because I had remembered how much I liked him as an author - who can forget Island of the Blue Dolphins? Of course this was a very quick read, and one that really does keep you guessing - the underlying message of not being greedy rings through as it did when I read it as a child.

Ramon, the main character is young, naive, and impressionable. He is dying to become a man, and find the giant pearl that will impress everyone. He does this, but not honorably and he will pay the ultimate price, or at least he is told he will.

One of the major players is the Manta Diablo, the sea monster that will get his revenge for the pearl. I know this sounds crazy, but I was left wondering what a "manta" is and I know if I am wondering this as an adult, I must not have known as a child! My best guess was a killer whale (just from the descriptions in the book), but I did eventually find out that this refers to a manta ray (which should have seem obvious from the beginning.)

What a great novel, a classic. The young boy makes the right choice and so the manta decides to punish his greedy counter-part Sevillano. The other main character, the BLACK PEARL, is interesting as well - readers are left wondering what a pearl like that looks like.

Classic read, definitely worth the do-over!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 Debut Author Challenge

I found a GREAT site today, The Story Siren, that is offering a read at least 12 debuting young adult authors in 2011.  I have decided to take the challenge since I am reading all the time anyway!  Check out their website to sign up yourself, or get more information!

New Year's Poem

I confess, I borrowed this from another blog I follow, 
thought it was so interesting and appropriate for the new year!
In Memoriam 
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
   Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
   Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
   The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
   Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.
Written by Lord Alfred Tennyson 
(who you should read up on, he is fascinating!)
Happy New Year!