Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Virtual Advent Tour - Thursday, Dec. 8

The Thanksgiving and Christmas season has always meant family and tradition to me.  From the ornaments we hang on our tree to the cookies we bake, there's usually a sentimental reason behind everything we do.  For last year's Virtual Advent Tour I shared some examples of the types of ornaments that are on our tree here.  As I thought about what I might share this year, I decided to share our newest tradition inspired by our new addiction to Pinterest :)  

Requested by my oldest daughter, we decided to wrap up all of our Christmas movies and books.  They are all under the tree, and for each day of advent, we choose one of each, one book and one movie.  No peeking is allowed, and so far we have been happily surprised at our selections.  My youngest, of course, has enjoyed the children's books the most; she's been able to persuade a different family member to read to her each night.  We have all enjoyed the movies though, and many nights we end up enjoying them all together, so I decided for this year that I would share with you what we have watched so far :)

On Nov. 30 my youngest unwrapped the original "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" on VHS (remember those?) 

I have memories of this one from my own childhood...back in the days of catching it the one time each year that it was broadcast on television :)
I used to feel so sorry for the little dog Max...especially when the grinch made him drag all that stuff up the mountain.
Yes, I've been an animal lover all my life.
And, the song...who could forget that catchy song??

We all enjoyed this one.

On Dec. 1 the youngest picked out "A Christmas Carol" with George C. Scott.

I've seen many versions of this classic tale and usually enjoy them all.  Last year I actually read Dickens for the very first time and loved it even more (of course).  The youngest, however, was not impressed...round about the video below she announced, "Christmas movies aren't sposed to be scary, Mama!" and left the room disgusted.  Needless to say, the big kids and I enjoyed this one more than anyone.

On Dec. 2 the youngest picked out an old, old, old VHS tape that belonged to her big sisters when they were just little whippersnappers.  My girls loved Spot and I did too...he was just a peaceful little creature...mostly minding his business.

If you'll fast forward this video to 4:30, you'll see the famous reindeer dance...both my older girls sang the song right along with the video...they are 17 and 18 and still remember :)

On Dec. 3 the youngest picked out the original claymation version of "The Little Drummer Boy."  This one also brings back lots of memories for me.  

This one doesn't come on as often as the others, and we'll soon have to replace this old VHS because we fought the tracking all the way through it.  I am always devastated by the injuries to the animals in this one...and it can still be a little intense I think.  No one spoke a word during this one.

On Dec. 4 I squealed when my youngest picked one of the two Little House on the Prairie Christmas movies that we own.  "The Christmas they Never Forgot" finds the Ingalls family all together again in the little house as a snowstorm sets in and strands them together overnight.  The adults sit up and tell stories of the Christmas each of them never forgot...

Yes, I'm a goober Little House on the Prairie fan ;)

On Dec. 5  after a couple of false starts with older VHS tapes that have finally given up, the youngest found "The Santa Clause 2" with Tim Allen.

This one is a more contemporary holiday movie obviously and the older girls really liked this trilogy...I like this one because Santa Clause finds Mrs. Santa Clause :)  Tim Allen is a hoot.

On Dec. 6 the youngest picked another classic..."A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Now who could ever forget the sad little Christmas tree, Lucy's obnoxiousness, the whole gang singing together at the end and of course Linus reciting the Christmas story from the gospel of Luke.  We actually watched this one twice :):)

On Dec. 7 my oldest brought home a new Christmas movie, and we all agreed to watch this one instead of choosing one from under the tree.  We knew we didn't have quite enough movies for the all 25 days of advent and were going to try and pick up a few in the discount bins along the way.  We all needed a good laugh, and boy did we get one.

This one is about is not for the faint of heart...there is some language and off color humor...but it is hilarious...and SOOOOO true about family holidays.
Every single one of us sat in the living room and howled our way through this one.

And there you have it...our newest tradition so far.  I can tell you that we've loved this idea, and it has brought us together in the same room of our house during this busy time of the season for 30 minutes -2 hours each night...and that's what memories are made of.

Warm and wonderful holiday wishes for all of your in the blogging world this year!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Cold Mountain with My Students - The Final Discussion

I was about 5 minutes late for our final discussion of Cold Mountain, and by the time I arrived, my students had already discussed the book and come to a consensus that they didn't like it.

I wasn't surprised.

I asked them if they had to come up with one reason why they didn't like this book, what would it be.
Every single one of them said their #1 problem with the book was the end.
Their #2 problem with the book is the long descriptive paragraphs about everything, especially the mountain terrain, the foliage, the sky, the stars, etc.

The rest of our discussion was focused on these two complaints.

**It will be difficult for me to discuss the end without spoilers, but I'm gonna give it my best shot.**

My class is comprised of 12 traditional aged college students, and only 2 of them are male; the bottom line is they wanted a fairy tale ending.  They were mad at Frazier for putting Inman through all that he went through for essentially what they saw as nothing.
And, when I say mad, I mean mad.
I stayed out of the discussion for about 30 minutes and just let them trash the author.  Then, I asked them to discuss what they knew about the Civil War.  That didn't take very long.  We discussed together aspects of the Civil War embedded in the novel such as faulty expectations, what it really means to "win" a war, lives lost,  those left behind, life afterwards, etc.  
Together from this discussion we concluded: 
War is not a football game with obvious winners and losers.
War hurts everybody.
No one was the same after the war that was supposed to last a few months lasted years and years.   Families were destroyed, lands lost, fortunes wasted, and the United States was changed forever.
We discussed details covered in the novel that substantiate these concepts.  

The climate of our classroom was very different at that point...
Could it be possible that Frazier was illustrating those very points with his ending?  Would it have made any sense at all for Inman and  Ada to walk off in the sunset in the end? 

Does it mean that their immediate response to the novel was wrong?
Heavens no.
We all begin with a personal response.  What I try to get my students to do is push past that personal response and dig into the text.  Step outside their comfort zone and really analyze what's happening...based on the TEXT, not just their emotions.  It takes a lot of practice to read a text this way.

Most of them have never been in the mountains of North Carolina...I have.  Frazier's descriptions are spot-on.  Here to me was an example of how prior knowledge affects the way a person reads a text.  No matter how pretty the words are, if you've never seen what's being described, or even if you've seen it but not really "looked at it," the description won't mean anything to the reader except as a bunch of words that get in your way.

Our students in America don't read enough.  And, when they do read, it's in an English classroom, and much of the time there, American students are reading (or SparkNoting) age old classics that they hate (Wuthering Heights) or beautiful classics that they are nowhere near ready to really comprehend due to a lack of life experience (The Awakening).  Imagine what we could do with texts like Frazier's in a history classroom...or science classroom...along with the English classroom?  What about in a political science or government class?  The possibilities are endless for promoting engaging discussion with real life examples instead of just reading the chapters of a textbook and answering the questions in the back, with a multiple choice test of facts rounding out the experience.  

For our last class meeting tomorrow, we will be discussing the movie as compared/contrasted to the book.  I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Wolf Hall ReadAlong Parts 1 and 2

Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Henry Holt and Company, 2010
On my Nook

Part I Golden Lines

"If you cannot find him a son," he says, "you must find him a piece of scripture.  To ease his mind."
The cardinal appears to be looking for it, on his desk.  "Well, Deuteronomy.  Which positively recommends that a man should marry his deceased brother's wife.  As he did."  The cardinal sighs.  "But he doesn't like Deuteronomy."
Useless to say, why not?  Useless to suggest that, if  Deuteronomy orders you to marry your brother's relict, and Leviticus says don't, or you will not breed, you should try to live with the contradiction, and accept that the question of which takes priority was thrashed out in Rome, for a fat fee, by leading prelates, twenty years ago when the dispensations were issued, and delivered under papal seal.
"I don't see why he takes Leviticus to heart.  He has a daughter living."
"But I think it is generally understood, in the scriptures, that 'children' means 'sons.'"

Part II Golden Lines

"Men say," Liz reaches for her scissors, "'I can't endure it when women cry' - just as people say, 'I can't endure this wet weather.' As if it were nothing to do with the men at all, the crying.  Just one of those things that happen."
"I've never made you cry, have I?"
"Only with laughter," she says.
Conversation fades into an easy silence; she is embroidering her own thoughts, he is plotting what to do with his money.  He is supporting two young scholars, not belonging to the family, through Cambridge University; the gift blesses the giver.  I could increase those endowments, he thinks, and - "I suppose I should make a will," he says.
She reaches out for his hand, "Tom, don't die."
"Good God, no, I'm not proposing it."

My Impression of the Story so Far

I'm a Tudor England fanatic, so I was drawn to this readalong without question...and it hasn't disappointed me yet.
The story, unlike many others set in this time period, is told from Thomas Cromwell's point of view and is more about Cromwell than Henry VIII.  I love this aspect of it simply for that's another perspective, another side to the story, another look at history to see how it all came together.  This is not a story, however, that can be skimmed.  I've had to pay very close attention to names, dates, the provided family tree, etc. to understand all the connections between people, families and events.  

Wolf Hall is specifically about Thomas Cromwell himself...his early life, his dysfunctional childhood with an alcoholic father, his decision to leave home at 15 rather than be killed by his father and how he supported himself for the next part of his life.  Thomas was incredibly smart, a fighter, picked up on things easily, and specifically was a whiz with numbers.  He came home eventually, a made man and became a trusted, vital part of the business end of Cardinal Wolsey.  Cardinal Wolsey was, for a time, King Henry VIII's most influential adviser.  The tide turns for Wolsey when King Henry decides he wants a divorce from Wife #1 Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn, and he's willing to break England away from the Roman Catholic Church in order to get what he wants.  King Henry essentially tells Wolsey to get his divorce...or else.  Cromwell then has to stand by and watch his mentor fall from grace because of the impossible whims of the King.  

Thomas Cromwell was a good man.  The love he showed his family and others who needed him are things I didn't know before this novel.  He was a fighter and a survivor and seemed to have it all at one point.  Unfortunately each year all London families fought the sweating sickness, and many were lost quickly...Cromwell's household doesn't escape death either.  Thomas was able to overcome his traumatic childhood in order to have a happy, stable family...only to lose it again.  This is where I believe Cromwell begins to cut himself off emotionally from everyone and everything...that Cromwell is the one most well known during the Tudor era...or the one that is legendary.  I'm looking forward to more of this author's in depth look into the life of Thomas Cromwell during the Reformation.

This ReadALong is a joint endeavor of Natalie @ Coffee and a Book Chick and Nicole @ Linus's Blanket