Thursday, May 29, 2008

My Summer Reading List

I know you have all been holding your breath to hear about this, but this is my summer reading list. I've been pretty good at maintaining a book a week for the last month, and I plan on trying to maintain that pace throughout the summer. Granted some are a little longer and more difficutl reads than others, but I figure I have 12 weeks of summer vacation so 12 books should be feasible.

1. The Amber Spyglass - Philip Pullman (book three of his trilogy - the review of The Subtle Knife is coming)
2. Water For Elephants
3. New Moon
4. The Historian
5. The Memory Keeper's Daughter
6. The Uglies Books - I have the first three, but I don't think they are going to be a hard read
7. Chronicles of Narnia - I just started the Magician's Nephew - not a hard read
8. In the Time of Butterflies
9. The Road
10. Things Fall Apart
11. The Invisible Man - Ellison's not Wells'
12. The Atonement

I realize this is a very ambitious goal, but considering all the time I spend outside watching the kids play, driving too and from Reno in July and the fact that the kids play with each other really well now and would prefer half the time not to have me intervene, I think I can get it. This doesn't include all the new books I got for my classroom for next year or the books that I need to revisit in preparation for next year, but just what I want to read. Don't worry. Each will be accompanied by a completely opinionate review for your reading pleasure.

Happy Reading!!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Will's First Machine Pitch Game

Will had his first machine pitch game last weekend.  He has been getting better at hitting and we are still working on some catching, but he is having a blast and that is the most important.  His first at bat he didn't get a hit, which had me more bummed than I think he was, but then after taking his turn to sit out while his team was in the outfield, he got the chance to hit again and managed a single.  As did the next three kids after him.  Yup, he scored a run during his first game.  Again, I think the emotion of the score was more joyfully experienced by his parents than him, but as he learns what exactly is going to happen, I think he will feel more emotion both ways.  I'll keep you posted.  

After this game we decided that he probably needed the baseball pants instead of shorts, so he is really moving up in the baseball world.  Next series of photos he will look like a "real" baseball player, cleats, pants, glove and all.

Will's First Grade Experience

Will participated in his first grade program this year with much improvement over Kindergarten Graduation last year.  This year he actually moved his mouth during his groups speaking parts and sang along with the songs.  Not only was his improvement over his fear of speaking seen during the first grade program, but the week before when the primary kids got up to sing the Mother's day songs, he got up and sang then too.  What amazing progress he has made this year, and I can only attribute 90% of his progress to his wonderful 1st grade teacher, Mrs. Hart.  

She took him under her wing, helping him learn ways to try just a little, keeping the kids from teasing him in class when he didn't want to talk in front of the class, and encouraging us to take him to school 30 minutes earlier once a week so they could have some one on one talking time.  I'm amazed at how well he is doing, how much he has learned this year and actually at a loss of words to explain how much a great teacher can mean in the life of a very young child.  
Thank You Mrs. Hart!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Ellie's Preschool Graduation

Ellie had her graduation last week. She had the best time in Miss Brenda's class, sang all the ABC songs that she learned, usually within a day or two of learning them, and had a great time.

Her love for singing, or performing in general, was seen by all during the program. Some of her classmates were yawning through the whole thing, some singing the songs like they should, but Ellie was dancing and bouncing up and down in her seat during nearly every song. She definetly provided the entertainment for the group, as I had several mom's come up to me after and tell me they thoroughly enjoyed watching her. What a nut.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Music Review - Inside Out Primary Colors

I just bought this CD for my kids a couple of weeks ago and we LOVE it.  It is a group of men singing a cappella (a little background) but the arrangements of the songs are FABULOUS- I find myself singing along with the kids. 

They mix Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring with I'm Trying to be Like Jesus, jazz up Give Said the Little Spring, did an arrangement of If You Tell One Lie from the Standin' Tall series and my favorite is the last dozen or so tracks with a very short intermingling of the words to Once There Was a Snowman with the likes of So I Married an Axe Murderer, Who Let the Dogs Out, Ghost Riders in the Sky, Sound of Silence (Simon and Garfunkel), etc.  And then there is their arrangement of Popcorn Poppin'  mixed with the music of Sing, Sing, Sing With a Swing.  It is hands down the most entertaining kids (or parents who aren't convinced they aren't kids) CD that I have heard in a LONG time and I just saw they released another.  If you are at all interested, you can listen to samples of the songs here.  

Monday, May 12, 2008

Global What?

Unless you have been living in your 1960's era nuclear bomb shelter for the last five years or so, you know that we, mankind, are currently killing off our earth and suffering it's effects in the prevalence of global warming.  This is what is melting the icebergs, killing off the little innocent and completely harmless polar bears and is eventually going to wipe out the California and Florida coast lines (you know, the ones where all the celebrities who are constantly yacking about global warming are building their new homes).  By the way, the new hip way to refer to this destruction of the earth (not the cycle like has happened for the last 2,000+ years, just our attempts to destroy the one thing that the person who made us all gave - not God though because saying that might alienate a earth loving person and make them run out and buy a SUV) is global poverty.  Global Poverty.  Whatever.

I am bringing this up today because it is now 11:30 am in Cedar City UT and the current temperature is 51 degrees.  By the way, it is May 12.  The states that are closest to where I live now are Nevada and Arizona - I'm not even talking the temperature in Canada where you kind of expect it to stay colder longer.  This is Southern Utah in the middle of May and it is cold.  I'm just wondering if spring will arrive before school gets out.  Oh, summer would be nice too. 

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Long Hard Week

I have had a long hard week this week, as a culmination of several things. First, I needed shoes and so I went to hit the last day of BOGO at Payless, bought these and these and these and because it was BOGO I also threw in this watch. Two of the pairs that I bought I needed for work, didn't have any non-winter shoes that were flip flops (and let's face it, trying to keep a mature presence in a classroom in flip flops isn't really the best classroom management technique). I was very happy with my purchases (Ladies and gentlemen, got all these things listed above for $50 - I think I'm a decent bargain shopper) but when I showed Enoch in my excitement when he got home, he just looked at me and said Happy Mother's Day.

Now let's look at this situation logically. Enoch, being a great (and hot) construction worker that he is, needs tools for his work. He needs to update the tools that he uses, spends the money on maintenance, has a snazzy trailer to haul them around in, buys hats and gloves and socks and boots and T-shirts and sweatshirts because of all the various weather elements that he works in. I don't think anyone in their right mind would deny a guy who work in weather fluctuating from 20 - 100 degrees throughout the year needs to have these different tools. So what is the big deal about some shoes.

But what really bothered me was that he responded with that snide comment. ARGH. Boys. Just when I think I am going to figure them out, I don't.

Then, it is the 2nd to last full week of school, and I have kids who are bombarding me because their summer "is going to be totally ruined" if they don't make up their F or asking me why they didn't get full points on an assignment when they only did 50%, etc. (I know Erin is singing this same song right now) I always thought the "a lack of preparation on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part" signs were stupid, but if I could get one for my classroom right now in flashing neon lights, I would be ecstatic.

A couple of bonuses - Enoch and Jake spent all day Saturday putting in my sprinkling system (I say mine because Enoch couldn't have cared less if we didn't ever get one, but I would have lost my freakin' mind trying to water the whole thing by hoses).

The Jazz won both their games this weekend, and if Boozer can get his act together, the game in LA should be good, and force the Laker's to come back to Utah for Game 6, which as this weekend demonstrated is a good location for them to play.

I got to help my brother answer a girl for the graduation dance - we bought fake tulips, roses, a cantaloupe, honey, strawberries, a bottle of Nyquil and pears and the card said,
"These tulips rose to say since we cantaloupe, honey, let's make a berry sick pear at the dance." His date loved it.

Well, I'm off, hope that reading this post wasn't nearly as long as my week - will through in Ellie's preschool graduation post soon.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Last Bit of Snow

Last weekend Enoch and I both caught the spring bug, so we grabbed our kids and took them up in the mountains to see if they could catch it (they looked and looked, but sometimes that spring bug is hard to find). We took a turn up Right Hand Canyon, just a ways up Cedar Mtn and after a drive and effort to find a spot that didn't have a dead cow in the field, we found snow. You would think our kids hadn't ever seen it before the way they acted. So we decided that it was time for one last play in the snow before it all melts away.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Book Review - The Golden Compass

I just finished reading The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. I started it for two reasons - one, I have been teaching Science Fiction/Fantasy writing in my creative writing class, and figured if I was really going to teach the genre well, I needed to be better read. Second, I got absolutely bombarded with emails being forwarded, etc. from various people and groups about the fact that this series of books was going to corrupt our youth, turn them away from Christianity, and made a very persuasive argument for Atheism.* Here are my thoughts.

First - very interesting and well written story. I loved the way the author depicted different events from different characters, but without having to retell a whole chapter to show it from the different point of view.

Second - I loved that all the new things that were created were just put in the story as though they were normal and standard to everyday life, rather than feeling the necessity to explain the functionality of each. At this point in my life I definitely want a daemon.

Third - I just finished a 300+ paged book and I still don't know who is truly good or bad, either in character or intention, except that the main love relationship is heart wrenching and Lyra has an amazing amount of courage for a young girl.

Fourth - I think the whole thing with the Church sounds more like the Catholic church in general than Christianity or pretty much any other faith. All the references to power and control made me think of Catholicism with a side thought that it could, I guess, be Christianity.

I guess the whole review can be summed up in the following - I still believe in Christ, don't really have plans to leave the church anytime soon because of a fantasy novel, think this book shouldn't be read by anyone younger than 13 minimum because there is some decent violence (polar bears fight without weapons - use your imagination or read the book) and if those scenes are depicted that clearly in the book, I can only imagine that the PG-13 rating of the film wasn't just for intensity. If I get around to watching it, I'm expecting to see some violence and traumatizing scenes. Finally, I've ordered the next two books in the series and plan on having a fun time reading them over the summer. So I guess that equals a review of approval and recommendation for teens and up.

*By the way, and just as a side note - I found it interesting that all the emails were talking about how this movie was going to corrupt our youth, but the movie is rated PG-13 - so if all the fundamental Christians are taking their children younger than 13 to a movie, don't we have to question the logic if they are overriding a rating by someone who is less conservative than they are, and further, if a child 13+ is going to have the plot of a movie stray them from their fundamental beliefs, wouldn't you wonder about the conversations that have taken place to teach them the chosen beliefs in the first place?

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Book Review - Speak

I have recently rediscovered for the 1000th time how much I just really love to read a good book.  We had a book fair here a couple of weeks ago, during which I spent the $20 Enoch thought was a good amount for books, and added the $20 that I thought was good too. :)  It was buy one get one free, really, how many of you could resist that?!?

The first book from that little shopping expedition that I chose to read is called Speak.  I had heard about this book from several different sources and about 2.5 hrs later realized what all the hype was about.  I think this is a book that every young teen girl should read, to assist in sticking up for herself in any situation and not being afraid to tell what is going on even when it seems highly unlikely or involves situations questioning intent or fault.  I was amazed at the writing, loved the way the speaker's voice penetrated the whole novel and thought that while it deals with some more mature topics, it was very well done and with great taste, as the author was writing for a young audience.  Two thumbs way up.