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Archive for June, 2010

Monday afternoon we met for a “medieval themed” book club meeting. About half the kids had read the book — The Whipping Boy (some had not finished and some participants were younger brother and sisters who joined us for the event) so we started with book commercials — defined by “The Book Whisperer” and teacher, Donalyn Miller as “short, impromptu testimonials from students about the books that they have read and enjoyed. (Think about how you might tell a friend about a book over lunch.) The intent of a book commercial is to provide students with a forum for sharing the books they love and for recommending those books to other readers in the class.”

The second benefit to this introduction was that everyone was up so speed on the setting and the time of the book. We launched right into a fun game with skittles. I assigned the kids with a “feudal class title” – Katie – was the Queen, the 3 and 4 year-old siblings who were along for the fun were the Nobles, and everyone else was a peasant. The game started with everyone having 10 candies in their bag. The peasants had to pay the Nobles for land rental and protection– that was a skittle for each — leaving everyone with five skittles. Then they all had to pay taxes to the Queen – four skittles – and only one left in their bags. As you can imagine everyone was alarmed by the inequity of the candy distribution. We finished the game with discussions about over taking the Queen, leaving the kingdom and becoming  hobos, or employing Robin Hood tactics to even the score. I’m pretty sure they got the point, because I imagine most medieval street corner discussions to have run along the same themes. I did in the end give everyone a few skittles  – just to keep the peace.

Then it was time for a scavenger hunt looking for the Queen’s treasure. I had placed random items all over the park where we were meeting. The hunt started with a clue that they had to solve together. Then as a team they had to go find the item they were looking for. The last brought them to the wagon that I had filled with laffy taffy for everyone.

The last activity was the reading of a ballad – our Queen Katie offered to read it. We had a short discussion about how ballads tell stories and are sometimes funny or romantic.

Finally, we talked about the next book on our list – Harriet the Spy. It’s a longer book – 300+ pages and some of our younger readers were not feeling confident about trying it – so we decided that everyone who reads it will do a commercial about it next time and everyone that wants to take a pass will read another book and be ready to tell the group about it. That way the younger brothers and sisters can continue to participate in the fun and hear about books they might want to read as well.

I am really happy that the kids all participated and got excited about a book club. My goal is for them all to become avid and skilled readers – so there is not a lot of pressure to have a big discussion or make it an overly academic event. Instead I’ve tried to make it all about how “cool” reading is and how much fun it can be to share books with each other.

Hope everyone had a great time… Happy Reading!

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I’ve  recently moved to the front porch swing to read… and this page turner is a great choice for summer reading.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane is a debut novel for author Katherine Howe who gives voice to women – mothers and daughter – past and present – involved in the Salem Witch Trials. It is a little spooky, a little romantic, and a little scholarly as it tells the story of Connie, a Harvard student, researching and cleaning her granna’s abandoned home during the summer of 1991.

The book’s interludes, in contrast, bring to life the story of Deliverance Dane and her descendents, whose knowledge of  healing herbs and the power of prayer lead them to be suspected of witchcraft. The lineage of women earn their livings as midwives and healers at a time when science could not answer the medical questions of their communities. As grateful as many are for their trade, there are others who are uncomfortable with the independence and strength these women display among their Puritan neighbors.

As Connie researches for her PhD, she finds a personal connection with their stories and I’m won’t tell you anymore than that for fear of giving too much away!

The book delivers enough history to be good for you and enough romance to make it a page turner. It’s a 4 star park bench read! Let me know what you think and as always – “Happy reading!”

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stormy day fun

Friday afternoon we had a beautiful summer thunderstorm pass over. It would have been a great time to stay tucked in the house and watch the rain, except that I had a letter that I wanted to get to the post office before the end of the day. So I loaded the  kids into the car as the thunder howled, the skies let loose, and the questions began…

“Mom, can the car be struck by lighting?”

“I guess so, but I think the rubber tires provide some shielding and the  metal body of the car sends the lightning toward the ground. I think we are pretty safe..”

“Mom, can you have lightning without thunder?”

“No, the answer to that is definitely, no.”

“Mom, statistically what are the chances we get home alive?”

“I think the odds of being struck by lighting are about 350,000 to 1.”

“Is that good?”

“Yes, those are good odds, I think we’ll be fine.”

“Would we be safer in a building?”

“Depends, which building.”

“Why?”

“Because, the Empire State Building gets hit about two dozen times per year.”

“Do a lot of people die?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why”

“Because, they probably decide a thunderstorm is a good time to go to the post office, so they leave right when it starts.”

“You are so weird Mom.”

Drawings of the Storm…

A poem from Anna Mae…

The Earth

The sun shines

The stars twinkle

The sky is blue

The grass is green

The trees wave in the wind

The flowers show their beautiful petals

The winds blows and

The Earth spins.

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I came up with a fun idea for the butterfly garden — a butterfly bath. After reading that butterflies like to drink water and land on something shallow – I thought this would be a cool addition what will soon bloom into a colorful corner of my back yard.

I used a platter and tea cups that I found at a thrift shop. Bought the planter and the hardware for almost nothing and talked Tim into pulling out the hammer drill to make it easy.

I have been letting the rain fill it up – but if I water the flowers I give it a little splash as well. I read that the butterflies also like a little sugar in their water, but that sounds like one more thing I have to worry about – so this little bit of whimzy and plain water will have to do for now…

If I get a photo of a butterfly on the bath – I’ll be sure to share. There have been a few visits, but I’m not quite fast enough with the camera.

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I cried myself to sleep when I finished this book – I’m not exaggerating – just ask my patient husband who had to deal with me while I fell apart.

This is a beautifully written book is about a poor German family during World War II. The main character is a young girl who at the start of the book is traveling to meet her foster family. The narrator of the book appropriately is “Death.” The plot is heart breaking and moving and sweet all at the same time.

It’s written as a YA book and my first reaction was that I would not want my kids to read this for a really long time. I found myself so wrapped up in the characters, their frail lives, and the profound voice of death in the book – I could not put it down. In contrast, as the narrator gave hints of what was to come I wanted to keep the characters safe and was scared to turn the page. When I tried to tell my friend about the book, she suggested that I may feel things more profoundly than a teenager would. Her thought was that I am at a point in life where I understand the perspective of too many of the characters and the thought of losing a parent, a best friend, or a child is just way too much to deal with gracefully. That’s most likely just it – I was absolutely overwhelmed with it all – to the credit of the author who weaved such a moving story together.

I absolutely do recommend it however, as a book that needs to be read. When I was young my parents took their first trip to Poland– about 30 years after the war. When she returned, my mother gingerly told us about what she saw. I will never forget the image she described of rooms full of hair shaved off people who were to be showered to death – I didn’t understand how people could ever be so cruel to each other and happily,  even as an adult, I still don’t. This book will haunt it’s readers in the same way and perhaps that’s a good and necessary thing.

If you give it a read – I’d love to hear what you think – I’m off to find something romantic and lighthearted  – happy reading!

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This has been our first year in 4H and I LOVE IT! My favorite part is that the older members put all the games and activities together and get the younger ones excited about learning and trying new things. As the summer moves on I am sure I’ll have lots of blogs about the county fair, projects, and our record books. Tonight’s meeting however, was an old fashion celebration of summer  – even if it was a little to cool outside to feel like June. They had a “cow” to milk – a pie eating contest – and homemade ice cream that the kids rolled in coffee cans. Needless to say… a good time was had by all!

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The kids love to swim in the lake, but once a year they have to entertain themselves on shore —  Officially “swimmer’s itch” is an itching inflammation of the skin caused by parasitic larval forms of certain schistosomes that penetrate into the skin, occurring after bathing in infested fresh or salt water.  Unofficially it’s an excuse to hang out in the garden where water fights, plastic pools, and sunshine make for a perfect day…

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