Saturday, April 2, 2011

Saturday Snapshot - Fishing with Daddy :)

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce over @ At Home with Books.

When I arrived home from the grocery story yesterday afternoon, this was what had been going on in my absence.  My youngest was so proud of her very first "real" fish and was determined to eat her catch.  Once she supervised the Head of My Household cleaning, filleting and otherwise "preparing" the fish for the pan, however, she quickly changed her mind and opted for a slide of cheese pizza instead.

No more worries for the fish in our little angler will toss them back in from now on.
I guarantee it.

Friday, April 1, 2011

TGIF!! Whew!!

There are some weeks like this one when I think I'm not going to make it.
Driving down the highway to the grocery store this afternoon I could barely keep my eyes open.

It's been a whirlwind of a week...and I don't look for things to get any smoother between here and graduation.
We left work yesterday though and drove to our state capitol. I love to look around in the historical building and just imagine what goes one in there on a day to day basis.
My youngest put it all in perspective when she commented, "Wow, Mommy, they must have built this castle a long time ago!!"

We were there because our middle daughter had the incredible opportunity to dance on the front lawn of the capitol with other groups of high school show choirs from within our state.  She was also chosen to be one of the 10 representatives from her high school to stay for the entire weekend and experience state show choir competition, choreography lessons, etc.

As we watched them dance in front of cheering crowds and as I watched my 7 year old wrap her arms around her middle sister when the performance was over, I was reminded of something very important...

All the chaos in the world is worth seeing these dimples :)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wordless (Almost) Wednesday

Wordless Wednesday is hosted at Beth Fish Reads
I have a difficult time being wordless hence my addition to the title.

My youngest learned how to ride her bicycle without training wheels over Spring Break last week.
All my babies seem to be riding away from me.
When I figure out exactly how I feel about that, I'll let you know.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Top Ten Tuesday - Authors that Deserve More Recognition

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by the ladies @ The Broke and the Bookish.  I usually make a note of the topic the week before and think/peck on the list all week.  Some lists are easier than others, but this list has been the most difficult for me of all the lists so far.  I had some trouble getting started bc I was trying to focus on "brand new" writers.  Then I realized that authors who deserve more recognition don't exactly have to be brand new.  Once I gave myself permission to look into my own past as a reader at authors who've meant a lot to me over the years and maybe are not heard from or about quite so much anymore, the names started pouring.

Top Ten Authors that Deserve More Recognition

1. Anne Bradstreet - I dislike poetry.  Yes, I'm an English major and dislike poetry...I had absolutely 0 positive experiences with poetry until I took an American Women Writers class in graduate school and was introduced to the poetry of Anne Bradstreet.   Anne was a colonial American writer, an incredibly intelligent and independent mother who was also deeply in love with her husband.  Her poetry is of home, nature, politics, and life in early colonial times in Virgina.  Some of my favorites are "A Dialogue Between Old England and New," "The Author to Her Book,"  "Before the Birth of One of Her Children," and "To My Dear and Loving Husband."

2. Bobbie Ann Mason - The first book of Bobbie Ann Mason's that I read was In Country.  Whoa.  In Country ranks right up there with Walter Dean Myers' Fallen Angels as far as shedding light on what the Vietnam War meant for the United States, those who fought in it and in the case of In Country especially, those who were left behind after the war.  Bobbie Ann Mason is a Southerner and writes from that perspective...true, honest, down to earth and real.

3.  Lynda Van Devanter - Home Before Morning is one of the most moving memoirs of the Vietnam war I have ever read.  Van Devanter went to Vietanam as an army nurse, performed complicated surgeries in the trenches under emergency trauma conditions and returned to the U.S. where she was relegated to the bedpan squad, not because of her skills but because of the gender defined responsibilities of nurses as opposed to surgeons as well as disintegrated American attitudes toward the war.  Home Before Morning is a modern day version of Virginia Woolf's examination of what happens to the woman writer who's not allowed to write, except in Van Devanter's case, it's the woman doctor who's not allowed to heal (herself as well as others).

4.  Betty Smith - Is there a better coming of age novel than A Tree Grows in Brooklyn?  I accidently stumbled on this one as a middle schooler in the library at Mississippi State while my dad was working on his research.  In my opinion Betty Smith paints as vivid a picture of Francie Nolan's life in Brooklyn, New York as Harper Lee paints of Scout Finch's life in Maycomb County Alabama.  


5.  Khaled Hosseini - the only writer on my list who is actually "new."  It is difficult for me to put into words how much I was touched by The Kite Runner.  I gave it a shot in my review several months back, but I think it would be impossible to completely do this author justice.  Hosseini is an example to me of one of those exceptional writers who comes along just at the right time. His knowledge and obvious first hand experiences with all things Afghan interwoven with his knowledge of life outside of Afghanistan complete a circle of thought that we must all consider.  As Americans we tend to be egocentric and find it difficult to look at life outside our own backyards and/or to actually think about the possibility that our way is not necessarily the right way and someone else's way is not necessarily the wrong way.  I see this attitude daily in my students who have grown up entitled.  We are going to be in trouble as a nation if we don't start making what we call at our house some "attitude adjustments."

6.  Rita Mae Brown - Sneaky Pie Brown mystery series - For the writer of Rubyfruit Jungle to also be the writer of Sneaky Pie novels as well as the Sister Jane foxhunting series is absolutely astonishing.  Brown embeds a gamut of political, historical and natural issues within some of the best mystery writing out there...and doesn't have to use horrifying descriptions of serial killers' minds and/or their methods of killing to bring chills to your spine.  One of her best in the Sneaky Pie series is Murder at Monticello.

7.  Lilian Braun Jackson - Now you know good and well that I could not leave out KoKo and Yum Yum's mommy.  Jackson began writing her mysteries when one of her own beloved Siamese cats accidently fell off the ledge of her apartment...makes me want to cry to think of it.  Jackson's lead character is reporter Jim Qwilleran....a sophisticated gentleman who finds himself caught up in some of the most artistic, literate and intricate mysteries around.  One of my early favorites is The Cat Who Ate Danish Modern :)

8.  Elizabeth George Speare - As a young girl I accidently learned a lot about history from some of the stories I read.  I was enthralled with books that had young people from all over the world as the protagonists and told me about things that really happened a long time ago.  As a young teacher it occurred to me that I was not a common adolescent reader...hence the classrooms of students sitting before me who had no idea when the Declaration of Independence was signed, various timeframes in Western Civilization and/or the relevance of knowing not just dates but the contexts within which our world has changed, power structures, political figures, etc. etc. etc.  The knowledge that I own of history didn't come from history came from the books that I read by authors such as Speare who pull the young reader in and make it impossible for him/her to forget the past.  My favorite is, of course, The Witch of Blackbird Pond

9.  Katherine Paterson - More classic coming of age...I'm afraid sometimes that we get so caught up in the newest and grandest stuff that we forget about stories and characters created by authors such as Paterson, characters such as sisters Sarah Louise and Caroline from Jacob Have I Loved, and friends Jess and Leslie from Bridge to Terabithia tackle the same issues as young adults today but possibly with richer storylines and depth than some of what's available today.  I'm not knocking what's available today...I'm for whatever we can get kids to read...I just don't want anybody to miss out on these gems :)

10.  Richard Adams - I worked in an indie bookstore all during my junior high and high school years so I was probably exposed to more there than I was any other place.  I stumbled into Watership Down
just because of the big brown rabbit on the cover and was literally swept away into the warren community.  Comparable to any other classics whose themes deal with alternate societies...the rabbits are not that much different than us.  Even though I know Watership Down began as stories Adams told his daughters, I have never and will never see the cartoon...this author is that special to me.

Next Week: Top Ten Book Covers I would Re-Design...hmmmm

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review - Sea

Golden Lines

His forearm glistened with sweat next to mine as we leaned over the railing to watch, to listen.  "When the wave came to Aceh and took everything away from us, it did not take the great mosque.   Great and proud.  Flooded but not destroyed."

Short and Sweet Summary:

Sienna reluctantly travels with her psychiatrist father to Indonesia to help orphans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after the 2004 tsunami.  Her mother died in a plane crash over the Indian Ocean 3 years previous so Sienna herself deals with her own PTSD when it comes to traveling by airplane or anything that has to do with the ocean.  In Indonesia Sienna meets Deni, an older teenage boy, who lost his entire family in the tsunami.  Through Deni, the living conditions at the orphanage, the other orphans and the Indonesian culture, Sienna learns that life doesn't always give choices but that she has choices in responding to what happens in life .  Most importantly, Sienna learns that no matter how devastating the circumstances my be, life does indeed go on.  

My First Response:

I probably read this more with a teacher stance than from a personal perspective; however, there were a few places in the story that I had to remind myself to breathe...especially when Deni takes Sienna to see his home...the epicenter of the earthquake and the village hit head-on by the tsunami...Deni's descriptions of escape attempts by others as well as his own and what he and his friends witnessed in the aftermath of the tsunami will break your heart in light of what is happening in Japan right now.

What I Liked:

Deni is Muslim - I know from the attitudes of many Americans today that there is undeniable prejudice against Muslims because of the terrorist attacks on 9/11.  The reader is allowed to get to know Deni ...I've no doubt my middle daughter was swooning over him by the time she found out through Sienna and Deni's conversation about religion that he was Muslim.  Younger generations will grow up with prejudices they can't even explain if we don't give them opportunities to see others in the world as they truly are...human beings who are labeled and discriminated against because they happen to fall under the same label claimed by others who mean harm.  There is no discussion of discrimination, the terrorist attacks, etc. which I think is actually a much better way of introducing "others" to our children in their true light as human beings just like the rest of us.

Realistic Cinderella riding off into the sunset with her Indonesian boyfriend...I began to get very afraid close to the end...surely, I kept thinking, Kling won't end this like a Disney movie...which would have made it about the stupidest book I've ever read.  But, she didn't.  Sienna and Deni have to face reality when another very important person in Deni's life is found.  Not only do they face reality but they do so with their heads held high...embracing their own lives and their individual cultural and familial expectations.

Indonesian phrases and cultural explainations were embedded within the story....this would be a perfect story to pair with a geographical/sociological lesson on various languages, beliefs and cultures around the world.

What I Didn't Like:

The story is a little slow starting and I don't think I really got involved until Sienna, her dad and her dad's friends arrived in Indonesia.

The possibility of a relationship between Sienna's dad and Vera was unnecessary I thought.  Nothing ever became of it so I wondered why Kling even threw it in there?

The conditions at the orphanage and the caretaker who might have been stealing from the orphans was a storyline that also seemed to get started but was never resolved.

Indonesian "toilet paper"...nuff said.


Those who enjoy contemporary, realistic YA fiction that deals with real life issues but does not deal with vampires, fairies, angels, or a dystopian society :) will like this one.  Sienna is 15 and Deni is 17 so there is no serious love affair going on here.  Both are independent and seem to have pretty good heads on their shoulders...both have suffered and have grown stronger than their years because of their losses and are also very smart. 

I'm glad to have met Heidi Kling and her characters :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sunday Salon - My Reluctant Reader

My reluctant reader wouldn't mind that I call her that. 
She knows.
She's also my middle daughter...and has a pretty nicely developed case of middle child syndrome.
She knows that too.

I have been a reader all my have a child who chooses not to read has been difficult to say the least.  When she was little I bought her anything and everything I could possibly think of that might spark her interest in reading...the last book I remember us enjoying together was Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone...we read it aloud as a family because our school librarian told my oldest that reading Harry Potter was like worshipping Satan.

Yes, I did go to the school the next day.
Yes, they still remember me.
But, that's a story for another day :/

Every year for Christmas, birthdays, Easter, Groundhog's Day, you name it, I buy books.  When we go to BooksAMillion, my kids learned quickly that Mom can't say no.  My reluctant reader would always manage to find YuGi-Oh cards or some such as that rather than a book.  I remember vividly sitting on the floor beside her pulling down all the comic books.  She went through a comic phase and I bought them all.

Two years ago she was introduced to To Kill a Mockingbird at school.
She couldn't put it down. 
I tried not to say much because by that time she had reached those early teenage years when one encouraging word from Mom could've very likely have shut the whole process down.  She finished the book and couldn't stop talking about how good it was; she asked for the movie for Christmas and of course received it.  I have no earthly idea how many times she watched it, but if you have any questions about it, be sure to email her ;)

I very subtly started trying to find other books that I thought might interest her...but no luck...she began to shut down on me again.  I didn't want to push, so I backed off.
After buying her the usual books for Christmas this past year, as a last ditch idea, I bought her a Nook-Color. 


Not only has she read several Lauren Conrad's since Christmas, but she and I have finished our first story together!!
She read Sea by Heidi Kling on her Nook and I read the hardback copy we have.  Yes, we had to pay for it twice, but let me shout from the rooftops that I DON'T CARE!!!!!!

We have now started on our second choice, The Heart is Not a Size by Beth Kephart...again, her on the Nook and me with the hardback. 

She is actually ahead of me right now so I've got to get moving ;)

She checks with me periodically to see where I am and compare with her progress...she came in my bedroom last night and announced that we would be reading Night by Elie Wiesel next.  I've already read this one and know that it will wear her out emotionally...that's the kind of sensitive kid she is.  But, I'm going to continue following her lead. 

I think the part that makes me happiest is to be able to share the books with her.  The fact that she's reading by choice and is choosing some really interesting selections is incredible...but the fact that she wants me to share it with her is the icing on the cake.
Keep your fingers crossed :)