Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Inside the Minds of Teens

I do bellworks with my students each day as an acitivity to have them come right in to class and get working. It keeps the order and lets me take care of the stupid housekeeping things. I like to get them thinking, get an idea of what they are thinking about, etc. This was a bellwork called Answers where I gave them a category and they had to fill out three answers. I just compiled some of them - some are hilarious, some are poignant, but they all are a decent peek into the mind of a modern teen.

What is quiet?

A corpse, libraries, serenity


What is sneaky?

A child sneaking a cookie, me using my mom’s credit card, ninjas, snipers, assassins, organized religion, Santa, the hobgoblin that lives under my bed, Mrs. Seegmiller


What is rough?

Discount toilet paper, sex, calloused hands, football, wrestling, puberty, talking to my father


What is impossible?

Figuring out why chickens don’t pee, flying without wings, cute newborns, guys, licking my own elbow, going a day without tripping, not getting a blood rush from hanging upside down


What is bright?

God’s love, girls, my soul


What is unhealthy?

Cancer, McDonald’s, not brushing teeth, raw eggs, brushing your teeth with Jack Daniel’s, jumping off cliffs, walking into walls


What is soft?

My friend’s biceps, my hair, pillows, my blankie, grass


What is proud?

A kiss, my parents, professional athletes, my mom (hopefully),


What is funny?

Short people, me, little kids spinning around until they are dizzy, listening to my generation speak, Ellen Degeneres, Brian Regan, Larry the Cable Guy, Dane Cook, Mrs. Seegmiller, my class


What is outrageous?

Birds flying into my window, fake nails, blinding white teeth


What is beautiful?

Mrs. Seegmiller, my truck, dirt, 1967 Mustang, girls, my friend’s mom, charity, books, my non-existent boyfriend, dancing, culture


What is depressing?

My bra size, dropped pizza, Edward isn’t real, running out of ice cream, divorce, that I will never be with Jacob, people who kill books with movies, my math grade, losing an entire PowerPoint, spilling juice on your shoes, people starving,


What is dull?

Me, Isaiah


What is empty?

My skull, my brother’s head, my bank account, my gas tank, my dad’s wallet will be soon, my love life, my dog’s brain


What is unbelievable?

Seegy’s wit, evolution, the big bang theory, bowling with a cast, September 11, Pearl Harbor, fairy tales, walking on water


What is striped?

The flag, student’s shirts, a bad tan


What is complicated?

Girls, government, soufflé, math, relationships, love, chemistry, lemon meringue pie,


What is frightening?

My mom when she is mad, old men


What is inevitable?

Farts, puberty, sagging, getting old, thinning hair, sorrow, taxes, death, adulthood, grades


What is green?

My dog’s poop, grass, shirts

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Visions of Sugar Plums?


I woke up early this morning. I really don't know why. It is one of those days when I can sleep until eight and still make it to choir by ten easily. Nevertheless, at 6:30 I was wide awake, thoughts racing through my head with complete abstraction and memories so powerful they were accompanied by the feelings from the experiences, but vague enough I can't remember them.

I had the chance to reconnect with a dear friend last night thanks to facebook. She moved to the school at the time when I really needed a friend. I remember finding out she was coming, that she could play volleyball and hoping with all my might that we would hit it off. We did. I consider her one of my very dearest friends from high school and am thrilled that we have found a way to keep in touch.

She is an amazingly gifted artist. As I was looking through her art and being completely blown away, I also started to have a guilty feeling creep in, that I have something of a gift or two that I really "have been too busy" to develop for the last several years. Enter the parable of the talents, the thought of trying to explain to my maker why I didn't do more, etc. That's probably contributing to the lack of sleep as well.

I have had this feeling for quite some time now that I'm not doing enough with my life. It's a gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach, encouraging me to do more, which is strange because in the past when I have had these feelings they were usually associated with guilt. This one isn't. It's like a motivational Jimminy Crickett, telling me I can do more, pleading with me to do more. Then I have been listening and reading different people of success as they talk about their days, the prophet's days, and how they were able to get everything in because of the amount of day they got out of their day and their drive to do so.

I pride myself on my ability to be disciplined. For the last six years of my public education, I was up at six and practicing the piano. I miss playing the piano for anything besides church. There are works that come on all the time that I want to learn.

I now have two novel ideas that need to be developed. I think there are some characters in there that are responsible for keeping me awake.

I keep saying I will do yoga every morning, and I always feel better when I do, but then I don't for days at a time.

It's time I did better.
The image is from my very favorite tshirt, available here

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Chosen One

I first heard about this book when I was at the UVU conference earlier this year. I had the opportunity to have my manuscript read and proofed by this woman named Carol Lynch Williams. I really didn't know much about her, but adored what she did with my manuscript, the manner in which she spoke during our session and her understanding of language. Then, a teacher I work with offered praise and Shannon Hale reviewed it on her blog with great enthusiasm so I picked it up, read the first sentence and was hooked.

This is the story about a girl who lives in a polygamist community but who starts the book talking about how she would kill the prophet. She refers to her mothers with normalcy, cares for the other children without complaint and lives her life as she should. Her problem? She checks out a book from a book mobile, develops a crush on a boy in town and even starts to flirt with him. Then comes news that brings her idea of the future crashing down around her and makes her think thoughts that are will condemn her.

This is a very powerful book. Williams has an impressive utilization of description and created a character who is so real and authentic in her community that I really did wonder if Williams herself had lived in this society (she didn't). Sometimes when people write about communities outside of their own, the opinions of the community as an outsider are subtlety incorporated into the text. This was not the case with this book. I was completely floored and did not want to put it down at all. Delightful, powerful, emotional book. It is completely appropriate for anyone who can understand this society - probably middle school and up. I highly recommend.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Last Olympian

I keep losing track of time to write these - sorry. I picked this book up immediately after I finished The Battle of the Labyrinth. I didn't even want to wait until the next day, and I finished this in about four hours.

This is the final book in the Percy Jackson series. There are times when the final book rushes through, trying to tie up all the loose ends and just bring it to an end. There are many times when I feel a little disappointed at the end of the series because they are so rushed and even sloppy. Fortunately, Riordan paced this book well and it does not disappoint. I liked how the different characters from previous books were incorporated seamlessly, how the climax that had been hinted at throughout all four books was finally created and that it lived up to the hype I created for it in my mind. The battle scenes were just as I hoped, with wit and action and the proper interference by the supernatural to feel normal in the context of the books. I really thought this could have gone very wrong, with the gods all of a sudden utilizing powers they hadn't before, but they stayed true to the form Riordan created for them.

The worst part about reading this book is it is the last in the series. I have found myself wishing there was more, that the stories would continue. I know good things have to come to an end, but if immortals are really immortal, shouldn't they be able to continue with the stories, new adventures, etc? Anyway, I LOVED reading this series, am thrilled that I found them and am very impressed at the appeal from young readers to teens and even old people like me :) Really, if you are looking for a fun series for anyone who can read at this level or above, you will not be disappointed. I promise.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dear Santa

This is the time of year when many children write their letters to Santa. Here's the thing - there are many times in my life when I have to be mature, organized, responsible and put others first. But there are equally as many times when I sit down to a good meal and I do a little dance (seated, of course) because my food tastes so good and I'm hungry. I also will spontaneously grab Enoch and start dancing with him, which is a disadvantage to him because he can't hear the music in my head that I am dancing to (I just tell him he isn't trying hard enough). I'm quite a kid at heart. So, with that in mind, here is my Santa letter.

Dear Santa,

Thank you so much for everything you gave me last year to stay warm. It truly has been a delightful experience to sleep all the way through the night during winter because of my heated mattress pad, and I'm delighted when I walk in the door and my programmable thermostat has my house warm and waiting for me.

Here are a few things I would like this year.

1. I would like to be able to develop characters and use language like Laurie Halse Anderson. Please.

2. I would like 30 lbs to melt off me like the butter I keep leaving on my stove.

3. I would either like people to stop making movies about books, or, if they are to continue, to actually get the movies right.

4. I would like to produce literature at Stephenie Meyer's pace.

5. I would really like Will to not be scared to speak anymore.

6. I would like Enoch's golf game to include more birdies.

7. I am in my 30's and would really like to get over the whole acne thing. I've only got so many years before the wrinkles start kicking in and I would appreciate a few years of harmonious skin in the transition.

8. Please give Enoch a new truck. His stinks. Really. And I'm pretty sure it's contaminating the environment way more than the gas from cow farts.

9. Please bring me the magic dust you use to keep your shops clean. Elves are kids, right? And they keep things cleaned up a tidy. So obviously you are using some kind of magic dust. If it is a spray, that's okay too. I'm not picky. I could really use it on my girls rooms. Oh! I almost forgot about that whole naughty/nice list. I need to correct myself and stay on the nice list. I would use it on mine too.

10. I could really use a 28 hour day. It's genius, really. I could have two more hours to work and two more hours to sleep. It stays perfectly symmetrical, avoids that whole phobia over things with 13 and would allow me to get everything done in the day that I want to get done. I would appreciate it if you would work on that for me.

Thanks again for all you do, for the excitement you instill in my children's eyes, the way you make even the crabbiest old people smile and for your never ending kindness. I'm working on some amazing treats for you on the 24th that are delicious.

Love,
Tasha

Oh! If you have some kids who want a kitten or two, I have three that have adopted us, and with three cats already, I really do have some to spare. Please leave the big ones, my kids love them.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Didn't Win Again

In sixteen hours, NaNoWriMo will be over again. I realized about November 15th that I wasn't going to meet my goal this year. I have a terrific idea that I'm thrilled about and can't wait to explore. But this year, things just didn't click the way I hoped they would after having participated last year. Here are some reasons why.

1. Last year, I wasn't taking any Master's classes. And granted, this semesters classes were a joke and a half, including assignments about how to integrate a yo-yo into my classroom and how to
validate information about a half-human half horse from the Enquirer (really?) but they still took up time, energy and all creative ideas.

2. I'm in a primary presidency that is the most fluid I've ever experienced. We have teachers who won't call in subs, not enough people to fill callings, more people leaving...I guess this isn't uncommon right now, but since I was put in as the second counselor in July, we have never had enough teachers for everything and we still don't have a secretary. It's kindof a frazzled time in our ward right now and I am feeling that as well.

3. I have more kids involved in more things, and not even over the top. Will has scouts every Tuesday, which is also the same day Ellie has dance and every other one, I have a presidency meeting. Just people going places.

4. We have been SICK. My kids missed the first part of November with either Swine Flu or Influenza A (they aren't even testing anymore) so that was a stress to find people who could cover as I only have so many days I can take off from school. Then I spent a week with an annoying dry hacking cough that only flared up at night, you know, when I was trying to sleep. Throw in Thanksgiving, my kitchen experiments, my quest to not eat out, and writing just didn't make it to the top of the priority list.

What did I learn? Well, for one of the first times in my life, I let something go. I have learned that only I can determine the size of my plate AND how much to put on it. I really wanted to have success this year, but it wasn't essential. I think my ability to let that go made this past holiday much more enjoyable and I'm thrilled with the experiences I'm having with my kids.

Last night, Will, Ellie and Enoch played Apples to Apples, Jr.
They are getting old enough that they can think in abstract terms, make comparisons, etc. It was HILARIOUS. Catie and I played UNO (minus the Draw Two and Draw Four cards so the game doesn't outlast her attention span) I love it when she wins. She raises her little hands above her head (touchdown pose) and says "YEESSSS!" That's my girl.

Another positive from this experience is that I now have two stories I can work through. I would really like to get them to the point where they are publishable, whether or not that ever happens. I enjoy writing and really think it is going to be just what I need in the future, when the Master's is done, and I want that creative outlet. And yes, I have every intention of participating, and winning, next year.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Gift For Your Gifts

Here's a secret fact about me.

I can't crochet.

Or knit.

Or really do much that requires any manipulation of thread.

I once sat down with my mom to quilt and bent three needles beyond use.

In 20 minutes.

What I can do is write little ditties about thread. My mom recently wanted to send a doily she made to her friend who is serving as a mission president's wife in NY, but didn't want her friend to think it was just a doily.

Are you getting the feeling that my mom and I don't really share talents? In case you are wondering, remember this?

So, for her to not "just send a doily" I wrote her this poem. If you are one of those people who are talented like my mom, feel free to use it (just please give me credit...).

Some say this is just a piece of string with many knots and holes
What makes it more than this is the journey that it knows.
It started with a bit of hop, a dream of what may be
Just as this is more than string, you're more than a friend to me.

The knots are times I've hurt and struggled through trials, heartache and tears
Your encouragement, smiles and simple love helped me improve through the years
The pattern in this little string was made with time and good intent
This string, now more, demonstrates what your friendship has meant.

I hope you may find in your home a place where this string can do its part
Add some kind of delicate grace as you have done for my heart.
The laughter and tears we have shared leaves no room for just in the end
This string has become much more, as have I, for I have you as my friend.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Battle of the Labyrinth

This is the fourth book in this series, and the most enjoyable read up to this point. This takes Percy into the mythological labyrinth, as it is guessed that there are answers in there that can actually stop the forces of evil and provide some protection to Half-Blood Hill and the world.

Percy journeys down into the labyrinth with Grover, Annabeth and Tyson and we get to see a fantastic fusion of Riordan's imagination accompanying some of the most famous storylines in Greek mythology. In this book, the reader gets to meet Hera (what an interesting woman she turns out to be, not like you would be terribly surprised if you know anything about Greek mythology) as well as some known and lesser known people from the Greek society.

I felt like this story moved a little better and the complications, while still based on the mythology, seemed more probable. In some ways, the complications in The Titan's Curse seemed very forced and impractical, even for such a piece of fiction. Everything that happens in this book would have me thinking, "Yup, that could completely happen." Probably my favorite of the series so far and really got me excited to read the last one, but a little sad at the same time, because I have had such joy with this series, and I know there is only one left.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Titan's Curse

I just realized I didn't ever write the reviews for the rest of these books. I finished all of them in the middle of October, will get caught up now.

Just an FYI, these are getting more difficult to write about because I don't want to give anything away here that will affect your experience reading of the earlier versions. I will do what I can and try to avoid being too cryptic in trying to avoid any spoilers from previous books.

The Titan's Curse is the third book from the Percy Jackson series. I loved the beginning of this book. Percy and Annabeth are on their way to a school because they have received a distress call from Grover. What I found hilarious about this is that they have to get a ride to the school and have a very typical conversation on their way. He goes into the school and makes a discovery that truly made me shocked and not really surprised at the same time. In this book, we get to meet Artemis (goddess of the hunt if your mythology is a little vague) and learn that there are other creatures besides demigods who are battling against the ancient evil forces entering the world.

This book is like the others in that the journey to solve the new complications take these characters all over the continent (and beyond). While I felt that parts of the plot of this book were a little forced, I did like that the characters developed some depth beyond the angst ridden teens who have gods for parents. We learn more about the history of some of these characters, which was helpful in wanting to complete the series. This one wasn't quite as much fun for me to read, but that being said, I still didn't want to stop, couldn't put it down and was surprised at the twists that were created. And, it segways perfectly into the fourth, which is already out, and for which I will have a book review....tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Multiple Intelligences

When I first heard about this theory, I wondered why it took so long for me to hear about it. I truly believe that people are just wired differently, that they can all learn the same thing, but take in the knowledge in different ways.

I just took this little test. I like doing these things even though I'm never surprised at the results. I was a little shocked that the math was so high, but I guess the analytical part of me would fit there well.

LinguisticLinguistic=42
MathematicsMathematics=37
Visual/SpatialVisual/Spatial=33
Body/KinestheticBody/Kinesthetic=28
NaturalisticNaturalistic=31
MusicMusic=48
InterpersonalInterpersonal=36
IntrapersonalIntrapersonal=41


If you are interested in taking this yourself, go here

Monday, November 9, 2009

That Self Improvement Thing

So I'm trying to be a super-fantastic homemaker working mom who makes delicious meals, is warm and supportive and maintains my sanity. But I have this not so secret ambition of being a writer and NaNoWriMo provides me with that opportunity.

I'm feeling a little frustrated (note: not stressed, frustrated) because I just am not getting the time to write that I would like. So the idea enters my mind to just upload what I did last year and add to it for this year and then I would be further, still working on a great story (great in my mind at least and mine is the only mind to have seen it so far) and then I could get that sense of accomplishment. (Okay, it would be a false sense, but sometimes the validation is worth it, right?)

Sometimes things are much harder in reality than in theory. Self improvement is definitely one of those things.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Influential People

I'm pretending to be more thoughtful, grounded and in tune with my life. I've been recording and watching people who have done presentations on BYU TV and doing things to try to fill my spiritual cup as being in the primary doesn't always do it.* Then I saw this prompt and decided to participate. Please note, these are in the order as they appear in my head - not necessarily in order of importance.
1. Mary Ellen Edmunds
I remember hearing about her when I was young. Her niece, Noelle, was one of m dad's favorite students (yes, teachers have favorites) and my dad had her tape Love is a Verb. Being an English nerd since about 1st grade, I liked the idea that she was taking a word and explaining how it was a certain part of speech instead of another. But after listening to her tape, I was in awe of her sense of humor, of her ability to laugh about things - even when they didn't go her way, and how she had a perpetually cheery disposition. I tend to be a skeptic and over analyze things to the point that they aren't funny anymore. While I consider myself hilarious, others have always thought me to be too serious - something I'm trying to fix. Apparently dry humor and sarcasm isn't appreciated by all people. Who knew.

2. C. S. Lewis
I love Jack's writings. I have re-read Mere Christianity several times (although not since I entered blog land. Need to do that and get a book review back up). I was moved by Surprised by Joy. I really feel that my true healing after my first miscarriage came from reading A Grief Observed. I find him to express his emotions in a way I'm just not capable, to have a wit that I miss in our current society and loved that he didn't avoid talking about any topic just because someone thought he should. I wish we had more people like him.

3. Dallin H. Oaks
I adore his no nonsense way of talking about things. I'm sure part of it is from being a lawyer and judge, that he just says things as they are. I appreciate the integrity of people like him who aren't worried about being politically correct, can say things flat out and aren't offensive - he has a great deal of tact. Additionally, I was very impressed with the way he dealt with his wife passing and the issue of getting remarried. He exudes class.

4. David Lee
He was my Intro to Poetry professor and taught me about John Milton. I don't know that I really thought I was smart until I took his class. I developed a love for language, for words, unlike any I had before. He taught with a passion that was unparalleled, would tear up in front of class at the beauty of language, and get completely fired up over issues about which he had a definite opinion. I first thought I could get education beyond a Bachelor's because of him.

5. Sergei Rachmaninoff
This man could compose emotion into music in such a manner that even after I have heard his works several times, I still feel the emotion. His third Piano Concerto (2nd too), Elegy, Preludes for the piano, and Vocalise move me. There are amazing deep tones that only a Russian seems to really know how to use, and the tragedy that was in his life is portrayed through those notes in such a powerful way. He, Saint-Saens, Beethoven and Shostakovich are my favorites. (Cheating there....I know).

6. Laurie Halse Anderson
I have this dream to be a person who can manipulate language in the way she does. I haven't read a story by her that didn't move me, stay with me for days and leave me in awe at her talent. She can capture a voice with her characters that feels so real that I feel like I know them. She is not afraid to share her opinions, is very grounded in her life and just is herself (as far as I can tell from the writings on her blogs). Impressive.

7. Parents
One of the greatest compliments I can receive from someone is that they think I'm like my parents. They are two of the most driven and hard working people I know. I have the my work ethic because of them. They are firm in their faith, determined to improve and the example for my life.

8. Jeffrey R. Holland
He's got a temper, is passionate, well educated and calls it as he sees it. His love of literature and incorporation of it into his talks was what first drew me to him, his eloquence and passion about topics made him climb the list of people I adore to hear. His talk "How Do I Love Thee" is one I listen to each year - moves me to tears. I would like to think I love that much.

9. Carolyn Keene
I LOVED Nancy Drew. I read them all, re-read many and adored them all. There are few things that made me more upset than when I saw the spin they were putting on movie they just released. These books fed my desire to read, were cute, logical and perfect for a reading crazy girl. Someday I want to get a collection of all of her original books in hard bound for my house.

10. Enoch Seegmiller
Last the best? Maybe. Many of you may know that this guy and I have known each other since elementary, but what is funny is that so many of my really great memories involve him - even when we weren't dating. But he really started to change my life during the dating process. He helped me see myself in a way I hadn't before - to appreciate and even celebrate the craziness that is me, to quit trying to be everyone else and just be me. Sure, I married him and think he is the best thing in my life, period, but beyond that, I will never be able to thank him enough for person he has helped me become.

*An exception this was when our Sunbeams sang the first two lines of How Firm a Foundation - cried each time they practiced and in the performance. Moving.

Excitement and flying pigs

I look forward to sequels in many books, but when I saw the cover for this one, I actually clapped my hands and giggled a little. If you haven't read Shiver yet, give it a go. It's fun, cool (literally) and complete brain candy.

Still waiting for an actual publication date on the third Hunger Games....will let you know when I know...

Currently at 3600 words with NaNoWriMo - won't be working the next two days so I can be home with my swine flu infected children. Plan on baking, writing, playing games and cuddling.

Monday, November 2, 2009

WOW.

I know, you think I fell off the face of the earth - not quite, but close. I have taken pictures of the different things I've been making. Our family has not eaten out (with the exception of a couple of times Enoch and I went on a date) since I posted and I'm feeling fantastic about that. I have lots of catching up to do and hope to get to it soon.

In the meantime, a few things.

One - it's November. Sure, you are thinking Thanksgiving, food, etc. I am as well and have some great plans, but it also means it is NaNoWriMo - if you were here last year, you may remember this is the program where I pledge to write 50,000 words in one month. Last year I was about 12,000 short, but I have the expectation to do better this time. I'll let you know.

Two, I really want to make more personalized gifts for people this year. One of the blogs I have come to love, Skip to my Lou, is doing tutorials, etc. to help people who have the same goals I do. There is a button on the right to lead you the way.

I'm enjoying getting back to something resembling homemaker land - I'll try to keep this blog more updated in the process.

Happy November!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Making it a Habit

Some of you may have noticed the changes in this blog, especially the addition of the food links on the left hand side of the blog. I have been searching them out and finding ones that are for "real people" like me instead of those people who have nothing better to do than shop for things like eight different kinds of cheese and recognize them by texture and flavor or make their own ravioli from scratch, etc.

Here's the thing. I have this weakness for just grabbing something to eat when I'm stressed or tired or just don't want to cook. I think part of this has been because I've been rotating the same entrees for years and I need something new, but again, easy. It doesn't even necessarily need to be quick if I can crockpot the main time consuming thing.

The time has come, however, for this decision to be made.

This family will not eat out for 30 days.

I'm sure there are many of you who are thinking, really? Is that really that hard?

YES!

I guess part of the inspiration for this is from seeing Julie and Julia. Don't even think that I'm going to work through Julia Child's cookbook. Hello, I DO NOT have that kind of time, skill or ambition at this point.

But the catch with this goal is I really, really, really want to try to do it without making the same thing twice. Of course, I have the advantage that I don't cook our main meal on Sundays- we rotate between our parents (I know, tough life, right?) And I'm hoping, now that it looks my Saturdays are looking less full, that I can try that whole make things ahead and put them in the freezer thing.

I guess this techinically started on Saturday when I had some a few apples that someone gave me for free. I dried most of them, but still had some left over that weren't really good to do much with and weren't going to last long enough to be eaten. Then I remembered seeing a recipe for Gooey Apple Bread. It's one of those cake breads, but sometimes that's okay with me. I did the regular loaves, double the recipe and halved the oil by adding applesauce. I think it is delicious.
(BTW, don't plan on me necessarily posting pictures of everything...I'll try to remember but no guarantees...)
I will link or type up the recipes and am more than open to any suggestions.
Here's to personal development, edification and all that. May I not lose my sanity in my efforts to develop this habit.
Wish me luck!!!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Cousin's Cuteness Creation on my Cute Catie

Some of you may be aware of this cousin I have. She is witty, hilarious and enormously talented. Her blog makes me laugh and think about live and I had serious withdrawals when she took her month vacation from blogging.

She started an Etsy shop creating things that I didn't think possible. And I have these girls who love hats like I do. So when I saw that she makes things like this, I had to buy some.

Here's the cuteness on my favorite four year old cuteness.

I took this picture and Catie then told me I had to take another one of her being cute. Wow, is she ever photogenic!!!
By the way, this cousin of mine quite often signs her name cc - and my C only has one c, but I thought I would throw in an omage to the c's anyway.

The creative craving currently coarsing in my crazy cranium is clinging and clamoring for compliments and collective cognition. :)

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Catching Fire

This is the second in the Hunger Games and it was as enjoyable as the first. It arrived at my house and I had to leave it in the Amazon box for two days before I could even open it because I had the expectation that it would be like the first in that I wouldn't want to do anything else until I finished it.

I was right.

This story is the depiction of what happens to Katniss and Peeta after the Hunger Games. There has been news of revolt throughout the districts and somehow, the powers that be think that Katniss has something do with it. She is battling her new responsibilities and role in society which changed the dynamic of her home district and the previous relationships that she had. Then she experiences a series of events that she never would have thought possible in many lifetimes that will once again place her in a situation that could end her life.

I inhaled this book. This is also one of the most difficult books to write a review on because I really do want to avoid all spoilers, and there are about the first 30 pages of this book that wouldn't have spoilers. This book ends with a powerful cliff hanger. Yes, the first one did too a little, but this is one that, when finished, makes you hunger for the third. It's not set to be released until 2010 (tentatively). I love the idea, the structure, the story, the strategy and the characters. But be warned - it is going to be at least a year until the next one. Ah, the suspense.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Shiver

I heard about this book pre-publication and was completely intrigued. It takes the concept of werewolves, but instead of them changing with a full moon, they change seasonally when the weather gets cold. So the element of curiosity is heightened because during the summer, the people meet others but then just disappear for many months at a time.

This is the story of Sam, a teen werewolf who develops a crush on a girl he sees during the summer. Grace has a deep fascination with a wolf who saved her when she was a child - a wolf with penetrating yellow eyes. She sees him in the woods during the winter and knows he is watching her. Then she meets a boy who has those same eyes, knows it's her wolf and the story begins.

I don't know about you, but there have been very few reading experiences that were like those that I had with Twilight. True, it isn't the most intellectual reading, it requires a little imagination and the possibility of this kind of relationship ever happening is far fetched and preposterous. I didn't care. I LOVED this book - and I'm an Edward fan. The plots had twists, suspense and intrigue - the writing is tight even if it is at times fluff. I really want to read this again to slow down and just enjoy it. I read it very fast the first time because I HAD to know what would happen. If you have been looking for a book to enjoy (especially if you enjoyed Twilight) I really don't think you can go wrong with this one.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Boy Who Dared

This was another one of those books that kept popping up on Amazons recommendations for me and it is by a Utah author who I like to try to keep tabs on what they write, how I feel about them etc. Along with my great intrigue with Greek societies, one of the other societies that I am a little too obsessed with is WWII Germany, especially when it is someone who didn't experience the concentration camps. I wonder if they really were aware of what was going on, if they were too intimidated to do much about it or if they were the people who were secretly trying to help others even at the cost of their lives.

This is the story of a young LDS German boy who, as the power in Germany is shifting and people are just following, has a conflict with what is happening in the world around him and what he is taught in his faith. Helmuth reluctantly joins the groups as he is required and tries to do what is necessary to not cause any harm. Then his brother comes home for a short leave and brings a radio. Helmuth sneaks the radio out each night and becomes astonished at the truthfulness of the BBC and realizes very quickly how many facts are being distorted by his government. He receives his call to action after he sees a classmate beaten for his faith.

Somehow I expected this book to draw me in more, but it didn't. I spent some time trying to figure out why it didn't and I think it is because this is really a book for middle school children who haven't had much WWII information - a book that would introduce them to some of the things that happened in WWII Germany without being too harsh or gruesome. Taking that into consideration, I really feel comfortable recommending this book. Just know that the language and pacing may not compare to other books of this genre that you may have read. But for a 10-13ish aged child, it is the perfect book to introduce this part of history.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Sea of Monsters

This is the second book in the Percy Jackson series. I knew I had to read the next one after finishing The Lightning Thief, and really, the title and cover are just intriguing.

This book finds Percy once again trying to find success in a school only to have things once again go terribly wrong. He has his dodgeball game interrupted by a gang of cannibalistic giants and found out that the usually safe Half-Blood Hill is no longer safe and that he must help find a way to restore the safety.

There are parts of me that enjoyed this story more - it has many parallels with Homer's Odyssey, interacting with some of the creatures that are familiar to those who have read it (which I have about seven times). I like that Percy is still on a personal quest to discover who he really is, what all these events that keep forcing him to react really have to do with who he is as a person/demigod/kid. I thought the plot was well thought out, the commitment Riordan has to staying true to the ancient stories is admirable, and I was delighted with this reading experience. I'm hoping to get to the third very soon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Lightning Thief

I picked up this book because it was popping up on lists everywhere. The readers who I have come to be able to trust were ranting and raving about it and when I realized it had a Greek gods in with the story, it was just a draw that was too powerful to resist.*

This is the story of Percy Jackson, a troubled kid who has ADHD, dyslexia, a hot temper and the inability to stay in any school for more than a year. He fails every class, is currently at a boarding school, has a disgusting step-dad, a saint of a mother, no connection with his real father and he keeps encountering what he thought were ancient mythological creatures but they are in his life. Zeus thinks Percy stole his lightning bolt and even though he has no idea why such accusations could be thrown at him, he has to find the lightning bolt and get it to Mt Olympus in ten days or western civilization could be completely destroyed.

I LOVED this book. I loved it so much that I was willing to take a risk and read it out loud to all of my junior English classes. I am reading the whole book four more times, one chapter at a time. The writing is hilarious, the chapter headings make my day, the mythology is accurate. It is kindof like the movie National Treasure in that each validation of the gods influence on our society does have a decent enough premise that you could make a case for it. I laughed out loud several time the first time through, and still laugh, even my fifth time reading a section. It is an absolutely delightful book.

*(I have this thing with the Greek society - I LOVE it! The gods, the philosophers...it is always in my top five of other time periods I would visit if I ever found myself in a time machine)

Monday, September 21, 2009

My Juggling Act...and how YOU can help

Still busy, still working like crazy, but trying to be more on top of things. So I need your help.

I have just added two new blog lists - food and all things LDS. I'm over cub scouts as the member of the Primary Presidency, so that's not too bad, but I also need sharing time ideas quite often, ideas on how to make FHE more effective and be a better mom and visiting teacher. I like to do fun things but they need to be cheap and quick. If you have some favorite sites/blogs, etc. I would LOVE to have you tell me about them in the comments section.

Second, our favorite thing - FOOD!!! Because of the economy, rises in my health insurance, furloughed days, and everything costing lots, I'm also looking for recipe blogs from REAL people who don't have to go shopping for ridiculous ingredients that they use in a fancy restaurants and take forever to cook. I'm looking to utilize my crockpots (yup, I have three) more and spend the least amount possible. I have a food blog list going, but if you have a site that you just LOVE - please, make a lovely comment.

Those book reviews are coming - stay tuned for the reviews of The Lightning Thief, Sea of Monsters, The Boy Who Dared, Shiver and Catching Fire... :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Worth It!!!

Remember when I said I was rethinking my educational plan as a teacher? Guess what??

IT IS WORKING!!!

I have had students who have told me that they haven't read a book all the way through since elementary, but they found this one book, and they can't stop reading.

I'm beside myself with giddiness.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I did it again

I have myself maxed-out. I have many, many things going on, each on their own not something very difficult, but combined, pure ridiculous craziness.

Especially on Tuesdays.

School started - teacher again.
New calling - 2nd Counselor in Primary Presidency
Three kids in soccer
Dad coaching all three
Mom coaching when games overlap
Ellie in dance
Sophomore class advisor
Homecoming in two weeks - in charge of two halls
Sadie's six weeks after homecoming - Freshmen and Sophomores in charge
Ping pong club advisor - not a huge deal but a little paperwork
Two graduate classes
Implementation of a new curriculum that everyone is observing as the possible new model for English classes at CHS.

Yup - no stress.

Most of the time, it's okay, because with a carefully planned schedule, I can make everything work. But then there are those hormonal times when everything is a disaster, tragedy, inescapable devastation. Unfortunately, the burden of these times is Enoch, who is a saint and absolutely wonderful. I think he knows when it isn't personal - just estrogen, because he just walks away and doesn't say anything.

Those of you who know him know this isn't common for him.

So I just have to breathe, have a piece of chocolate (Have you tried the new coconut M&M's??? Or the dark chocolate mini Reese's cups?), a cold Diet Coke and remember that the stress is more in my head than in reality.

How's that for my bit of craziness for the day??

Monday, August 31, 2009

Combining Two Loves

There are several things I love - dark chocolate, my stir crazy popcorn popper, Kookabura licorice (yummy mango!), football, cute clothes/shoes/jewelry, etc. I adore my kids, continually fall in love with my husband and manage my life happier when i have a cold Diet Coke in my hand. I love to teach and it takes up most of my time during the school year (duh!) and I love to write, but between all my other loves above, it has been getting pushed into non-existence.

I teach two creative writing classes. Most of the beginner's writing books recommend that new writers develop the habit of writing by doing so for 15 minutes a day. I really didn't want this to feel like homework, a "must be creative or fail" situation because that kills creativity. Then I thought, since we are on the block schedule and each class is 87 minutes long, I could cut 15 minutes out of my teaching time and have them do a free write in class. And what is the best way to teach (all you parents out there know this one. No really, you do!) By example!

Epiphany!!!

I can write for 15 minutes each "B day" with my class. But wait! I have two!!! I get to write for 30 minutes a day and get paid while doing it!!!

My student's think it's cool because I'm not just giving them crap to do and they like that it is casual - I don't give them writing prompts, tell them this time it must be - they just get to write. We have only done this twice now, but I'm loving it.

Laurie Halse Anderson usually does a write fifteen minutes a day for a month on her blog and this year, because of some tragedies in her life, she didn't do it until August. August is just a hard month for me, so I'm going to go back through all of her posts she did in August and do them in September.

This year I am also going to try to succeed at my 50,000 word goal during November for NaNoWriMo. I would love some buddies who want to give it a go as well...let me know if you are interested. It's lots of ridiculous and at times stressful fun, but a blast!!! And the best part - I've worked this into the curriculum, teach by example and will have almost three hours in classroom to write with my students this year. Granted, I don't have a story I want to pound out yet, but have no worries...I'm brainstorming.

I'm having so much fun combining these two loves! Now, if I can only figure out how to mesh some others...chocolate popcorn? Football and shopping? Reading and playing with my kids (which reminds me - I have four books I need to write reviews for...their coming I promise!) I guess some things are just so good they are better left alone :)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Enna Burning

This is the second book in Shannon Hale's Bayern Books series. I really liked Enna's spunk and attitude in Goose Girl, so I was naturally drawn to a book that is about her. And the concept behind the book is fascinating to one who is intrigued by fire. :)

Enna has moved back into the forest to care for her ailing mother and stays there due to a feeling that she doesn't really belong in the city, but isn't sure that her life experiences will allow her to ever truly return. Then she discovers that her brother has found a way to control fire, make it do what he wants. She gets the same power and finds that it makes life much better, especially when war breaks out in her land, but it gets to the point where she isn't sure any longer if she is controlling the fire or if the need to burn is controlling her.

This is darker than Goose Girl, but I LOVED it. It is an addicting book, but also shows how someone can become so addicted to something that was once thought to be controlled. While it is a fairy tale in genre, I really found it to be applicable in life, and I may have even liked it a little more than Goose Girl. I really like Enna, found her to be very real and she has a spunk that made her even more likeable. The other thing I liked about this book is that it can work either as a continuation of the series or a stand alone. My author crush on Shannon Hale continues!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My Triumph over the Celebrities

I have to admit that there are times in my life when I wish I had some of the celebrity life. I mean, think about it. They have the smoking hot bodies because they have two or three hours a day with nothing else to do but work out. They have people who will come in their homes and cook for them, but better yet, they also clean up for them! No waiting in lines at gas stations so that the idiot three people in front can pay for a pack of cigarettes with coins. Really, there are many aspects about that celebrity lifestyle that really would be nice.

But I figured out a way to make my life better than the celebrities. See, I ten years and three months ago, I said yes when my friend since second grade got down on his knee on the steps of the St. George temple and asked me to marry him.

Ten years ago today, I made the drive with my almost husband to St. George, perma-grin fully in tact.

Ten years ago today, we sat together in the waiting room and had the officiator of our ceremony ask if we were nervous. No.

Ten years ago today, I held hands with the greatest man I've known in a small room surrounded by our family and were joined for eternity.

I beat the celebrities by having a relationship that has gotten stronger over the years. I beat the celebrities by not running to divorce court during the really, really hard times. I beat the celebrities because, in spite of having to wait my turn, pay for everything I own and working my tail off, I get to share my life with someone I know is as dedicated to me as I am to him.

I bet there are many celebrities who wish they were like me!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I heard about this book from several different people and had several students who would just rant and rave about it, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I have to say, I didn't really know what the book was about when I got it from the library. This is a powerful book with heart-wrenching experiences and laugh out loud moments.

This is a story about a boy named Oskar. He likes to throw out French words whenever, writes letters to all sorts of scientists and great thinkers with the hopes of being their protege. But primarily, he is a boy who enters survival mode after losing his dad in 9/11. He is convinced that his dad left one last message, one that he must find the clues to uncover, like the games they used to play. Along the way, the reader has the opportunity to discover incredible details about his family, his parents and grandparents.

I loved this book. I don't really know how to describe it or even what category it would fall in - the library I got it from had it labeled as a mystery, which is only partially true. This is a truly amazing book. I adore Oskar. I love the way he just says things, the way he wants to know more, his little expressions. This really was a great read that had me experiencing nearly every emotion possible. Very enjoyable.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why Dads Coach

When you see Ellie, it is easy to see how it is very much worth it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Dragon Spear

This is the latest in the dragon series by Jessica Day George. I liked the idea and the way that George can continue to add elements to a story that could get old. The dragons are true to their character and Creel is as stubborn and adventurous as ever.

In this story, a dragon is kidnapped from the refuge they have found and all the dragons, along with some humans, venture out to find the missing dragon. This story has adventure, deceit, alchemy and a revealation of the history George created that governs the dragon society. There is still some romance, Creel's crazy fabric skills and some twists.

I liked the way this story continued, but I didn't find it was the rapturing read of the other two. I was glad to have read it, stayed up late to finish it and thought the story flowed well, but it just didn't have that "it factor" that had me engrossed and hungry to find out what happened next. The story ended in a way that there could be others to follow but not a sequel guarantee. If there are more, I will read them as I don't feel that the story has been worn out. I have enjoyed this series and don't have any hesitation recommending them to anyone with the reading ability.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Amazing Voice

I saw this guy last night - he really has an amazing voice! I have a soft spot in my heart for a good bass :)

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian

This is another one of those books that was recommended to me during the spring semester when I was just too busy to remember my own name. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I would like it but I was completely sucked in from the beginning and lost some sleep because I didn't want to stop reading.

This is the story of Junior, as he is known on the rez, or Arnold, as he becomes known when he decides to leave his education on the rez and attend the white school 22 miles away. Thus, the part-time Indian. His Indian friends are annoyed and betrayed by his choice, but he is the only Indian at the white school and finds himself tormented by kids because of his background. The story is told from Junior's point-of-view, or rather, retold as he is writing in his diary. He is also an amateur cartoonist and several of his artistic creations are sprinkled through the book, adding humor and realism.

I LOVED this book, but, better yet, there are many students who I think would relate to this book because, in one way or another, most teens have had the experience of thinking they absolutely did not fit in with everyone else for whatever reason. Another reason I like this book is I really think that it could be one enjoyed by male teens - a group of readers who can be difficult to get interested in reading. It does have some swearing and references to the sexual thoughts and desired actions of a teen-age boy so it may not be for sensitive readers. It is within the grading of PG-13 however - really nothing graphic. I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

The Invention of Hugo Cabret

I started seeing this book pop up on recommended lists about six months ago, heard it plugged by several authors at the UVU conference I went to and finally found it at my local library. The idea behind the book was interesting, but I did hesitate for a moment because it is a BIG book. Really big. I didn't know if it was something I wanted to tackle right now, but I my curiousity got the best of me and I checked it out anyway.

A couple of things to note about this book. First, it won the Caldecott Medal. Now, if you aren't up on the various medals for books, you should know that the Caldecott medal is for illustration only, not words. And, it is given to children's and young adult books.

The first dozen or so pages of this book are pictures. Big, full page pictures. What Selznick has done is take the idea of a graphic novel to the extreme. Many of the pictures are there to depict what the narrator is talking about, but equally if not more of the pictures are there to tell the story. It is truly a novel and the graphics play a very important role.

This is the story of Hugo, a boy who lives in an apartment in a train station, is responsible for maintaining the intricacies of many different clocks and he is a theif. He steals his food, clothes and various little things along the way. He meets a girl that he doesn't want to, is trying to avoid the train station security and make several intriguing discoveries throughout the course of the book.

I had so much fun with this book. It probably took me two hours to read - I know, right? This book has 544 pages. Like I said, lots of it is illustration. But the thing I really like about this book is that you could give it to a kid - let's say 4th grade and up, especially a reluctant reader, and he/she could have the satisfaction of finishing a really big book. I can't help but think it would build the self-esteem of any reader. It is currently being offered along with the Benedict Society books - if you liked those, you will like this. If you haven't read them, just trust me, you will like this. I can't think of another reading experience I had that allowed me to have so much just plain fun.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Dragon Flight

This is the second book in the series by Jessica Day George. Quite often, when the ideas are as far fetched as people who can talk to dragons and said dragons can be controlled by others to do things they don't want to, the story doesn't sound like it is going to be of any quality. This, fortunately, isn't the case with Dragon Flight.

Yes, the ideas are far-fetched and the explaination of them would not be something you would think could be enjoyable, but it really is. I truly believe that the dragons feel what they feel. I truly believe that what Creel is able to create out of her fabric and stiches would really do what is described. I can imagine the dragons, the different settings are true enough to be believable, and I found this was a book that I just did not want to stop reading.

These books are probably for middle grade readers. They are probably also dragons books for girls. The action and description are written in a way to keep boys attention, but like the first one, there is a bit of giggly girls and anticipated romance. And lots of gushing over gowns, fine silks, etc. This much I can say, I can't wait to read the next one. Really, how many series can you say that about after reading the first two???

BTW This is my 50th book review on this blog - yeah! Do a little reading dance (not sure how that would look...)

Monday, June 29, 2009

Maid, I mean, Mom Helpers

There are a few products that just make my life happier when I'm eternally working on getting and keeping my house clean. I have a couple of things that are constantly stifling my efforts. First, I have kids. Enough said. Second, I live in Enoch, where the wind blows all the time. Third, on the south side of my house, the direction the wind blows during the summer, there is about 3-5 miles between me and the next structure - just dirt between. I truly believe that I could sit and watch the dust gather on my furniture. Nevertheless, here are a few of my maid/mom/sanity helpers.

1. The Downy Ball. Many of you may have seen the commercials when this product first came out. It releases the fabric softener into the rinse cycle. You don't have to listen or tune in your ESP or anything. Here's the thing. I have only been using this product for just over six months and I didn't know that sweatshirts could get that "new sweatshirt" feel back after it was lost. Static cling gone, softness back, easy, easy, easy.

2. Pledge Mulit-surface Cleanser. This is a really great product. I used to try to clean the TV and stereo/VCR/DVR and then try to clean the wood surfaces without getting that cleaner on the electronics, etc or reverse the product and somehow I always ended up with a weird residue on something. And then, the next day...dust growing all over everything. With this product I really can clean many different surfaces (not mirrors or windows though...a little streaky) and the best part? It really does repell part of the dust that is battling for permanent residence. I have the wipes too but I don't care for them as much.

3. The newest member of this club is the windex outdoor window cleaner. There are few things I love more than really clean windows, and quite honestly, the whole move the ladder around and negotiate the ground to get steady ground, move it if you have a big window, etc, getting the outside clean is a huge task. This new product is fabulous. My mother-in-law bought it first and was happy so I decided to give it a go. I really does what it says it's going to do. My windows are clean, they aren't streaky and it only took about 20 minutes to get all my windows done. Lots better than the couple of hours it probably would have taken me. And my windows look just like a HDTV screen. Fabulous.

So, there are some of my favorite things that make day to day life around my house better. When you get a sec, if there is a product that you just love, please, share in the comment section. Every little bit helps, you know?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Goose Girl

I was drawn to this book because it was the first that Shannon Hale published. I have heard and read her story about trying to get this published several times and, since I have been such a fan of her other work, I decided it was time to get back to the beginning, so to speak. This was a fun book that drew me in from the beginning and had me cheering for Ani throughout the rest of the novel.

This is the story about a princess who learns how to talk to animals, doesn't communicate well with most people, is a bit awkward for a princess, doesn't measure up to what her mom thinks she should be and is just trying to discover her role in the kingdom. It is a retelling of a fairy tale that I've never heard of, although now I am very curious to go read the original and see how the stories mesh and where Hale develops her own story.

I really liked this book and found myself drawn in from the beginning. The description in this story is unlike any in her other stories, but I loved it. She talks about trees shrugging snow and daylight blinking...just beautiful imagery. I love Ani - she is aware of what she wants but has the weakness in making her wishes and feelings known. She has that character flaw that is only detrimental to herself and her success. She is driven and manages to maintain her identity even when many are trying to eliminate it. I plan on reading the rest of the Bayern books and, if they are as lovely as this one, they will be added to my own personal library.

As a side note - this is my 200th post for this blog - fun, huh?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Wintergirls

This book. I truly don't know that there is an author other than Laurie Halse Anderson that could have written this kind of book and on this subject. This book!

This is the story of Lia, an adolescent girl who has a history of battling anorexia. She and her friend Cassie were having a competition to see who could become the smallest. Cassie was found dead, along in a motel room. Lia missed 33 calls from her begore she died.

This is told from Lia's point of view, allowing the reader to understand the constant struggle she is having at trying to keep her weight high enough that her family doesn't make a big deal and leaves her alone. She isn't skinny enough, is never skinny enough. She judges people by their BMI and what she is going to eat by the caloric content.

To say this is a powerful book is not enough to give it justice. I have heard people say they didn't want to give it to daughters because it may give them ideas about becoming anorexic or if it was a struggle, they may get more ideas about how to continue. I don't see it being that way. This is a powerful book that I think many, many girls who struggle with anorexia, bulimia or even cutting would read and find that someone finally captured their voice. This is a powerful, powerful book. I just can't say enough about it to give it the recommendation I think it deserves.