Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Celtic Woman Experience

Mom and I went to the Landmark Theater last night to see Celtic Woman who are currently on their Songs From the Heart Tour - WOW! I am still in awe of the experience, and so thankful for the oppotunity to see them. If you haven't had the chance it is such an experience.

I think the absolute best part of the concert is that it is such a wholesome, enjoyable, and pure form of entertainment. In a world where obscenities fly, negativity gets the most attention, and being provocative and unpure is popular, it was refreshing to see actual singing talent on the stage without the usual junk that goes along with music these days. I don't know about you, but I have had enough of Taylor Swift, Miley Cyrus, and all of the other popular artists who are only able to produce hits when their voices are enhanced with technology. I find myself craving music and entertainment that most people in mainstream culture would find unpopular.

It became clear as soon as the show started that the favorite was the violinist, Mairead. She was a small blonde who jumped ALL OVER the stage as she played her heart out. It has been a while since I have witnessed talent like hers.

The singing was beautiful and the instruments were so exotic and truly came alive when they were playing. Drums of every variety, bagpipes, and a whole host of other instruments that I won't even pretend to know.

True musical talent is hard to come by these days, but this group is absolutely one of the best.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reasons Why Reading Is Essential

1. Reading is rewarding.

2. Reading builds a mature vocabulary.

3. Reading makes you a better writer.

4. Reading is hard, and "hard" is necessary.

5. Reading makes you smarter.

6. Reading prepares you for the world of work.

7. Reading well is financially rewarding.

8. Reading opens the door to college and beyond.

9. Reading arms you against oppression.

10. Reading allows you to travel all over the world, into different eras of time, into various places and allows you to meet people of every substance.

What else allows you to do all of those things?

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Spring Is In The Air

Thank goodness, right? But then again, we have snow coming down exactly ONE week after I took these pictures! Here are some of the signs of spring right here in our yard (pre-snow)...

These signs of spring also give me the chance to practice another passion, taking pictures - I am an amateur, but with scenery like this it's hard to mess it up!

This tree is in our front yard - it is so beautiful this time of year.

Happy spring :)

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Last But Not Least...Mockingjay

Finally finished the third book in The Hunger Games trilogy last night. I am glad to have read all three books, they were definitely worth the read. Most fans of young adult literature agree.

Katniss and Peeta came back for one more round in The Hunger Games when it is decided that for the Quarter Quell old victors would battle it out. Now, she is "safe" in District 13 where she begins to realize that they must fight an ever angry Capital that wants revenge. Katniss makes deals with Coin, the president of District 13 for a chance to kill her arch-nemesis, president of the Capital, Snow.

Throughout Mockingjay, we follow District 13 as they wage war with the Capital and it turns out to be a bloody, violent, and sometimes hard to stomach war. Despite many deaths of some of the main supporting characters, Katniss and Peeta come out of the war alive, but badly damaged mentally, emotionally, and physically.

I have mixed feelings about this book. I definitely think it was good to finalize the story and find out what happens in the war, and in Katniss's love life, but this book was downright confusing sometimes! I found myself wondering, "what the heck, how did that happen" many times while reading. There were so many characters with such similar sounding names, that added to the confusion as well.

For lack of a better way to describe it, I felt as though Suzanne Collins knew she had to write a third book to finish the story, but didn't really want to so she just threw something together. That may be harsh, but it definitely felt that way reading it. The plot was disjointed and simply hard to follow at times.

I did appreciate her in-depth descriptions of Peeta - his character in this novel was the most interesting because he was so damaged by the Capital and it was interesting to watch his transformation.

The ending is what gave this novel its best quality. In the last five pages and the epilogue, her writing was beautiful and it absolutely brought tears to my eyes to learn the fate of these characters that I have followed for three novels. I was touched to see that she didn't sugarcoat a happy ever after, and ended it with the realization that despite everlasting effect that The Hunger Games will have on Katniss and Peeta, they make the best of their situation and try to move on. And they do, in a big way.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday...Awaiting an Upcoming Release

Waiting on Wednesday...a time to put out there an upcoming release that I am really looking forward to. I have already preordered this one for my Nook, and I can't wait!

For all you historical fiction fans, this one will be a winner!

With their farm in Mica Creek, Washington facing foreclosure, seventeen-year-old Clara Estby and her mother, Helga, need to find a way to raise a lot of money in a short time--no easy feat for two women in 1896. Helga wants to tackle the problem with her usual loud and flashy style, while Clara, the oldest of the eight Estby children, favors a less showy approach. Though very different in personality, mother and daughter share a determination to save their family's home, so they come up with a plan to walk the 4,600 miles from Mica Creek to New York City--and if they can do it in only eight months, a New York City publisher has agreed to give them $10,000.

They set out with little more than ten dollars, two ponchos, and a gun. Along the way they go through sixteen pairs of shoes each, fend off snakes and highwaymen, and narrowly escape a flash flood. But they also meet the governor of every state they pass through and the wife of presidential-candidate, William Jennings Bryan, as well as shake hands with the new president himself, William McKinley. And with each new challenge they face, Clara and Helga come to rely on and respect one another for the very traits that make them so different.

Based on the true story of the author's great aunt and great-great grandmother, this is a fast-paced historical fiction adventure for 10-14 year-olds that sets the drama of Around the World In 80 Days against an American backdrop during the time of the suffragist movement, the 1896 presidential campaign, and the changing perception of "a woman's place" in society.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Genres of Literature

Top Ten Tuesday is a time to share any top ten list that comes to mind...honestly, mine mainly have to do with reading or literature. Enjoy...

Top Ten Genres of Literature (in my opinion of course)...

1. Historical Fiction (any time period, but especially Colonial America/Civil War)

2. Nonfiction (specifically relating to historical events is most interesting in my opinion)

3. Biographies (I love them on anyone, I read a biography about Charles Darwin this past summer that was fascinating and I didn't even think I was interested in him)

4. Realistic Fiction (this is the most popular genre of YA lit, so naturally I would love it)

5. Folklore - Myths/Legends/Fables (I teach these in my Native American unit each year, the kids love them)

6. Drama (I do like some drama, but not all - can't really stomach the Shakespeare stuff)

7. Short Story (I love short stories...and we read them so much in the classroom due to time constraints)

8. Narrative Nonfiction (informational but still tells a story)

9. Humor (It's good to laugh, right?)

10. Poetry (As I have gotten older poetry has grown on me, and now that I'm a mom, I find myself picking up poems for my kids that I think they'll love and pondering the deeper level ones for the meaning of life - haha!)

And then there are those that didn't even make the fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery. Y-U-C-K.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Happy Baby = Happy Family

Like just about every other kids over the past month, our youngest has been S-I-C-K. We had JUST gotten him sleeping through the night, walking and starting to talk when - WHAM, sickness was at our door.

After a week of it, we are finally on the upswing but it has been a rough week to say the least. I was playing with the kids last night and captured some cute pics of our youngest, Boy #2.

This one is a cute one, if you can ignore all of the food on his face...

I guess after all of the exhaustion this week, a nap on the carpet was in order...

We die laughing each night because when he sits in his seat to eat, he pushes his toes up against his looks almost painful, but he doesn't seem to mind! Little feet are so cute...

Book Loves Nook, Nook Loves Boy

If you follow this blog at all you know that I recently received a Nook. I am obsessed with it, and it absolutely has revolutionized how reading fits into my schedule. However, I am not the only one who loves this captivating electronic device.

Needless to say, I probably have just as many children's books on here as I do adult books, and Boy #1 is quite adept at navigating his way right to what he wants.

Recently, we downloaded Jack and the Beanstalk, and the new game is to search for giants in the woods on the way to school in the mornings. Since our drive is before the sun comes up, and along a two lane back road, it makes it extra fun to see if we spot these elusive beings on the roadside.

We have downloaded so many other great reads, but Boy #1's favorites are the "Read to Me." These books will actually read out loud to him as he swipes the pages - too neat!

Momma ends up checking everyday just to catch deals, because they are updated daily and if you don't keep up with it, you miss them.

As awesome as the Nook is, it does not deter us from the library, where we still make weekly visits. There is nothing like a real library book to hold in your hands.

This device is such a great alternative to video games (which I loathe, and have sworn that my boys will NOT have). It has been a lifesaver in doctor's offices, in the car, and while I am trying to get dinner cooked.

My boy loves this Nook :-)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day - Remember the History?

While many of us are wearing green, pinching those who are not, and having a great time with the holiday, I was surprised at just how much I didn't know about why this day is even acknowledged. Boy #1 and I picked up some picture books on St. Patricks Day from the library and they really did provide some insight (in kiddie language). Here is a more "adult" explanation:

St. Patrick's Day is named for St. Patrick. Little is known of Patrick's early life, though it is known that he was born in Roman Britain in the 4th century, into a wealthy Romano British family. His father and grandfather were deacons in the Church. At the age of sixteen, he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave. It is believed he was held somewhere on the west coast of Ireland, possibly Mayo, but the exact location is unknown. According to his Confession, he was told by God in a dream to flee from captivity to the coast, where he would board a ship and return to Britain. Upon returning, he quickly joined the Church in Auxerre in Gaul and studied to be a priest.

In 432, he again said that he was called back to Ireland, though as a bishop, to Christianise the Irish from their native polytheism. Irish folklore tells that one of his teaching methods included using the shamrock to explain the Christian doctrine of the Trinity to the Irish people. After nearly thirty years of evangelism, he died on 17 March 461, and according to tradition, was buried at Downpatrick. Although there were other more successful missions to Ireland from Rome, Patrick endured as the principal champion of Irish Christianity and is held in esteem in the Irish Church.

Why do we wear green? Originally, the colour associated with Saint Patrick was blue. Over the years the colour green and its association with Saint Patrick's day grew. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick's Day as early as the 17th century. He is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pagan Irish, and the wearing and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs have become a ubiquitous feature of the day. In the 1798 rebellion, in hopes of making a political statement, Irish soldiers wore full green uniforms on 17 March in hopes of catching public attention. The phrase "the wearing of the green", meaning to wear a shamrock on one's clothing, derives from a song of the same name.

I think many of us celebrate the holiday without appreciating and knowing the history behind them. Let's not lose that, and remember to pass that knowledge on to our kids!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Full and Fabulous February

When writing poems on the California Gold Rush, I challenged my students to use alliteration, hence the catchy title to today's blog!

February was such a full month, and we did so much as a family. As my boys are getting older I am finding it more and more challenging to keep up with the picture taking but I WILL NOT surrender! I love my camera, and their adorable faces too much. Every parent reading this totally gets what I am talking about...

Here are some of the highlights of the fun we had last month (and a few other random pictures that I found too cute not to include):
Look at my new shoes, which I am so excited about that I am flapping my arms too fast for the camera to catch (and my brother in the background yelling at me)...

Can't believe I caught them both being still enough for this picture, but I can't explain the crouching quarterback position...

A day at the swingset...and yes, the leaves that litter the background of each picture are gone as of this last weekend :)

And a trip to the doughnut store...where Rylan picked out five doughnuts he wanted (only one of which he actually ate) and a bag of doughnut holes (which I devoured in the car)...I love that we do this so seldom that it is a huge treat for them!

The Thunder Nationals at the Coliseum...what little boy doesn't love monster trucks?

A trip to Theater IV to see a live production of The Big Friendly Giant, my favorite children's book ever...

And a whole lot of hanging out at the house...which explains why it is in a constant state of chaos, and is resembling tornado-alley.

Here's to an even better March...

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games #2) Book Review

I finally finished the second book in this trilogy, and like the first, it was well worth the read. Although I must admit that I liked the first one better.

In Catching Fire, we follow Katniss and Peeta as they are celebrated victors of The Hunger Games, an annual competition where tributes are chosen from each of the twelve districts to compete in a game of ultimate survival. Killing is the object of the game. That being said, the details of the games are cloudy enough that it is not a consuming part of the novel.

As they are making their Victory Tour across all of the districts, President Snow announces that for the 75th Hunger Games, the victors from the districts will come back for a second round. Back in the arena, Katniss and Peeta form alliances with other players, but they are still soundly concerned with each other. Their relationship is a real point of interest in the novel, because while she loves Peeta, she is in love with another but knows that keeping Peeta alive (and everyone believing in their relationship), means peace and happiness for everyone.

Meanwhile, life back in their home district, 12, is harder than ever. With the removal of their more understanding PeaceKeeper and a new more rigid, hard-lined man in his place, whippings and public punishment become commonplace. Will Katniss and Peeta along with others in the different districts be able to rebel against the Capital that is keeping them on lockdown?

This book is a great sequel to the first book, but I felt like it was more confusing. The characters were a little harder to get to know, and the events in the arena were a little forced and rushed which sometimes leaves the reader wondering, "what just happened?" Re-reading comes in handy.

Overall it was definitely worth the read, you will still be vested in Katniss and Peeta's survival and they become more endearing because of their dedication to winning the games, but in a fair and appropriate way. I am hoping for a little more clarity in Mockingjay, the third book in the series.

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Characters from Young Adult Fiction Novels

Below is my list of the top ten characters I love from young adult fiction novels...they are in no particular order, I love them all equally!

1) Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. Katniss is such a strong-willed character and she is always in survival mode.

2) The BFG from The BFG. I really have always loved this character, and the whole book for that matter - he is such a lovable guy, and he really makes the book.

3) Isabel from Chains and Forge. I fell in love with her because she endured so much throughout the two historical novels. I look forward to reading more about her in the third book of the trilogy Ashes.

4. Scarlett O'Hara from Gone With the Wind. What self-respecting southern lady doesn't love her? "Great balls of fire. Don't bother me anymore, and don't call me sugar." (I know, technically this isn't young adult literature, but I just had to add her to the list!)

5. Piper from The Girl Who Could Fly. Piper is another strong-willed character but what charmed me so much was her adorable "Southern" sayings. "Well, butter my biscuits."

6. Cassie from Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry. Cassie reminds me a lot of Isabel from Chains because she is being brought up in a very loving home, but in a time of turmoil she must endure and persevere.

7. Matty from The Messenger. This is the third book in Lois Lowry's The Loose Trilogy. I loved it, and really found Matty captivating. It helps that this is an adventurous story as well so you really root for him.

8. Nissa from The Year of the Sawdust Man and Nissa's Place. Nissa is a lost and naive young girl who is left wondering where her mother disappeared to, and she sets out to uncover the mystery.

9. Audrey from Little Audrey. Audrey the author's older sister, and the novel is through her viewpoint of their childhood, or what the author would deduce her version of the story to be. Hardship would not even begin to describe what Audrey and the family endure while living in a coal mining camp in Virginia, but how she tells the story makes you feel as if you are right there in their little clapboard house with them.

10. Brian from Hatchet (and the entire series). I love this character, this series, and the premise of having to survive when thrown into the wild. I think Brian's character is so well-developed and he goes into even more uncharted territory in the books following Hatchet.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Raj The Bookstore Tiger Picture Book Review

This is a wonderful book! I think this is one of the most impressive picture books I have seen yet.

Raj, is a cat who lives in a bookstore - Felicity, his owner, has dubbed him “Raj the Bookstore Tiger” and he daily lives up to his name by strutting around at storytime and giving “growls” to the other readers. When another cat, Snowball, comes to live there too, he challenges Raj and makes him believe with his mean words that he is nothing more than a simple cat, and Raj loses his spirit.

The book follows him as he once again remembers who he is at heart, and with the help of a William Blake poem (which I promptly downloaded and taped into the back of my copy), he finds the real tiger within. He even helps Snowball, the other cat, believe himself to be a tiger - adorable premise for a children's book!

This book could be the basis for many lessons in the classroom – character study, a study on setting, and even an extension study of William Blake’s poems. The illustrations are beautiful and the pictures go right along with the text, and even enhance it. My three-year old could almost tell the story from looking at the pictures. This is a winner for any home or school library!