Tuesday, June 29, 2010

As Far as the East is from the West...

so far does He remove our transgressions from us. Psalm 103:12

The sweet girl and I were reading Psalm 103 the other evening, talking about each verse as we came to it. When we got to verse 12, I stretched out my hands and said something like: "Think about a map and how far apart east and west can be. It's like God puts our sins so far away from us that we can't see them or reach them anymore."

The sweet girl thought for a few moments. And then she said, "It's sort of like he puts them away in a drawer. And then we never wear them again."

I love that image, and I've been pondering it ever since. (It reminds me of how good it is to really meditate on the Scriptures with my daughter.) Think about it. When the Lord forgives us, he doesn't just put away our sins. He puts them away for good, and doesn't ever expect or want us to "wear them" again.

And we do sometimes wear them, don't we? I know I do...sometimes pridefully, but often as not unconsciously. I trot the old stuff out, including sometimes the transgressions I've already confessed and been forgiven for. I should be free of these, free so that I don't put them on and live out of them ever again, but sometimes I forget. I wear the old clothes instead of remembering that he has dressed me in new robes of righteousness and love. Those days when I am wearing tatters instead of the beauty he's designed for me, it's especially good to remember his graciousness and mercy.

I'm also reminded of clothing ourselves in God's armor, and of the Celtic tradition of dressing prayers...prayers prayed during ordinary, daily activities such as putting on your clothes or kindling the morning fire. St. Patrick's breastplate is related to the Scriptural admonition to put on the whole armor of God, but also seems to partake of that Celtic tradition. "I bind unto myself today..." is a prayer for protection, as one takes up the the shield the Lord has provided, but it's also a girding for battle, and it's a very specific prayer for this particular day. Maybe as we dress each day, we should remember who we belong to and what he has asked us to wear as sons daughters of the King. And we can be thankful that he has put away our old ragged and stained clothes forever.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Multitude of Thanks on This Monday

It's been a while since I've done a "multitude Monday" posting. But I am feeling so deeply thankful for so many blessings today!

51) The sweet girl turned 8 yesterday. 8! Where did the time go? She's been wanting us to revisit stories of her babyhood -- she particularly loves to hear about the day before her birth and the story of her actual birth. For her, it all seems like ancient history, but to me it still feels about as fresh as last week. I am so thankful for our precious daughter: her creativity, her humor, her love, and all the ways God is growing good things in her heart.

52) A fun celebration of her birthday. We had a good time yesterday with a number of S' friends at the seminary family center. This year's theme (the sweet girl loves themes!) was "under the sea" and the kids had fun playing "pin the tail on the whale." S. and her Dad created the game together, and the whale was colorful and creative! Hugs, well-wishes, cards, and gifts from other friends and family members also blessed her day and our's.

53) The amazingly good and encouraging news about my dad's health. Those of you who have been following my posts in recent weeks know how sick he has been, and how this turn in his health was quite sudden. Because of the weakness of his heart (congestive heart failure) he's been unable to have some procedures done to clear up a heart blockage. But thanks be to God, he is definitely improving. The doctors are encouraged: his ejection fraction has improved to 37 (from a low of between 10-20 at the hospital just several weeks ago). That means they will be able to go ahead, Lord willing, and do some of the procedures -- like a new kind of pacemaker and maybe even stents -- that just a few weeks ago they were saying were impossible. Our whole family is feeling profoundly grateful for this news!

54) The return of our computer, with most of our data intact. After our big computer crash a couple of weeks ago, we thought we'd lost everything for good. But a friend who is also a computer expert was able to recover a lot of things for us. I'm still finding out what made the transition and what didn't (some files corrupted) but there's more here than I dared hope, and we're just so thankful for our friend's willingness to spend so much time and wisdom helping us out. Not only is the computer a blessing to our lives because it helps us to stay in touch with friends and family, it's a huge part of our livelihood.

55) Summertime. It's just so good to have moved into a slower rhythm. I'm grateful to be getting some time to read, write and think, as well as organize and clean. Projects that have been simmering on the back burner are finally getting moved toward the front of life's stove. Although it's really too hot to do much cooking these days -- so perhaps I should change the metaphor. But I'm feeling too almost-July-lazy to do it.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Poety Friday: Rain in Summer

I love rain. When I was a little girl, I was sure that rain in the summer smelled differently than rain at any other time of year. In fact, I still think that even now. I think some of it has to do with certain other smells we associate with summertime, like the sulfurous scent of thunderstorms or, to pull on some of the predominant summer smells of my childhood, melting street tar or blooming magnolias.

To me, rain smells and sounds are often associated with colors. There can be green rains (often in spring) blue rains (especially in certain mountains, or near twilight) and brown rains (some I've experienced in the desert, or in autumn). Silver-grey rains (the misty kind) and crystal-clear rains (the pouring kinds).

I just love rain. The way it refreshes the world. The way it refreshes me. The way it makes things grow. Its beauty when it falls. The way it fills rivers up and sends streams rushing. The puddles we can play in with great abandon when it's over.

I thought I'd celebrate the first week of summer with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's Rain in Summer.

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.

You can read the rest of the poem here. And all of the Poetry Friday posts this week can be found at The Art of Irreverence. This is my first time joining in with an official post for Poetry Friday, but I've enjoyed so many of the poems I've found there over the past year or so.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Notes from a Learning Life: Earth Science (Grammar 2)

Rumors of my venerable computer's demise have been exaggerated. Apparently it still lives, and thanks to the help of a computer savvy friend, we may actually soon have it up and running again, with documents intact and increased memory. Among other things, that means I haven't lost all my school-year notes -- the "things we learned" types of documents from second grade (which I'm still working on turning into a portfolio) and my tentative book lists and plans for third grade. Hallelujah!

I've been planning to write some school notes for awhile. I thought I'd start today with science, and share a few ideas (and resources) regarding what worked for us during the grammar 2 year.

Grammar 2 Science: Exploring the Earth!

Although I loosely follow the Well-Trained Mind recommendations for science, I was glad I decided to branch out a bit this year. Most of the earth science recommendations had to do with reading books and having the child narrate back to you, and while we did a good bit of that (across the curriculum) we did a few other things too.

Here are some of the resources I found most helpful:

A Child's Geography: Explore His Earth by Ann Voskamp (Knowledge Quest/Bramley Books)

~Don't let the title fool you; although this is a geography book (and the place where we picked up most of our geography studies this year) it also works well as an elementary earth science text. I thought the text might be a bit over the sweet girl's head, and parts of it were, but she "got" a lot more of it than I expected. And she loved it. A week didn't go by without us using this book, and we actually finished it near the beginning of second semester, which surprised me.

The main topics covered: atmosphere (upper and lower); continents; oceans; seasons, climate and weather; the structure of the earth and plate tectonics; earthquakes and volcanoes; latitude and longitude. Besides the very engaging text by Ann Voskamp, which does a wonderful job of painting pictures in young minds, and providing examples they can grasp, we also utilized the book lists provided in each chapter.

We didn't get to into some of the notebooking ideas (the little "postcards" for sharing facts seemed small, and didn't capture S's imagination very well) and we didn't do a lot of the supplemental activities provided in each chapter, some of which I plan to go back to in the next few years. But we read the main text cover to cover and did some of the experiments and main activities, and it turned out to be an excellent spine book for earth science and geography.

Scholastic's True Book series on the planets

~Here's something fun! The link above is to my review of one the books in this series, the one on Mercury. And I just found it "accidentally" on Google when I went look for a page link to provide an example. I thought the title was catchy -- forgot it was mine!

At any rate, we loved these Scholastic books on the planets in our Solar System. Not only are they very up to date and colorful, they're highly readable (and can be read in one sitting). S. liked the "true/false" statements at the beginning, which helped her stay attentive to figure out which statement was which. We read every single one (including the one on Pluto, the "new" dwarf planet) as well as the books in the same series on the Sun and the Moon. We did narrations from these, and at the end of our planet studies, the sweet girl created a planet poster.

Astronomy Picture of the Day

~There are a lot of excellent space websites out there, some of which we found exploring the notes on current space missions in the back of the True Books. This website, however, simply provides a beautiful, often stunning picture of something in the heavens each day. The explanations for some of the photos were sometimes above the sweet girl's head (mine too, for that matter) but they always inspired awe. "When I consider the heavens, the work of thy hands..."

Find the Constellations by H.A. Rey

~Yes, *that* H.A. Rey, the author/illustrator of Curious George. This book has been updated from his original (to include current information) so make sure you find the 2008 edition (there are still lots of older used copies available from online vendors). We were blessed to have the full use of a library copy for several weeks. It includes terrific introductory descriptions and drawings of constellations, along with star charts for different times of the year, and intermittent "quizzes" where a kid can test her knowledge. It turned out to be our "go-to" spine book for astronomy, although I'd already purchased the Usborne Guide to the Night Sky which I'm glad we own, but we didn't use much this year.

The sweet girl does like Usborne Books, and we ended up using The Usborne First Encyclopedia of Space to supplement some of our studies. It's got bright pictures and incredibly simple text, and is really more of a jumping off place to find topics you want to explore. I decided to use it to encourage independent reading in science, which seemed to work.

We also really liked Glow-in-the-Dark Constellations by C.E. Thompson, a book we pored over on many a cloudy morning while snuggled under the dining room table (one of the darkest spots in the house) a flashlight in hand.

Things To Ponder

Here are a few lessons I learned while teaching earth science to an inquisitive second grader.

~Do try to give your child some field trip time. We didn't do a very good job of that this year, though we made it to the National Air and Space museum for a brief visit the day after Christmas. It was overwhelmingly crowded, with what seemed like the whole world on vacation in D.C., and we forgot to take snacks (shudder) and couldn't afford to buy any. Still, I'm glad we went.

We really wanted to visit a planetarium this spring, our main time to study astronomy, but we couldn't afford ticket prices for the local one. A family membership to the Carnegie Museums downtown costs $130 per year, an utter bargain given regular ticket prices. I've been salivating over that membership page all year. While I'm grateful that we can sometimes tag along with friends, and that there's about a week of various free days to local museums and cultural events around here each fall, if I could tack one thing onto our almost non-existent homeschooling budget, some memberships would be it, especially this one. It would be wonderful to be able to schedule trips that work with our family's schedule and coordinate with things we're learning. (Suggestion: if you know a struggling or even not-so struggling homeschooling family you'd like to bless, ask them if they might not enjoy museum memberships or magazine subscriptions. I'll bet they'll say yes!)

~Don't buy "toy" equipment. We purchased a nice looking beginner's telescope at a toy store as a Christmas present, and it's hardly been used. We knew it probably wouldn't be very good, given its price, but the packaging fooled us into thinking it would work a lot better than it did. Save your pennies for the real stuff or go without.

~ I also learned that it's good to try to cut across the curriculum wherever possible, blending disciplines. So we did reading practice in the Usborne book, narration work with the picture books and True Books, art time with the planet poster, etc. I had good intentions about bringing more copy work into science, but it fell by the wayside partway through the year, mostly because I was trying not to push it...S. already seemed to be doing a lot of writing, and was balking at doing more (though in retrospect I think I could have pushed her on it a little bit more).

~ Go hands-on as much as possible. With earth science, that was a bit trickier, though we managed some good projects. I'm looking forward to doing more hands-on experiments in grammar 3 science, where we'll be focusing on introductory chemistry (and I think also doing a few units in biology/life sciences again). But that's a post for a different day!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

N.D. Wilson to Write "The Great Divorce" Screenplay

Well, here's a bit of interesting news: children's author and professor of classical rhetoric, N.D. Wilson, is on board to write the screenplay for the film version of The Great Divorce.

Tell me how you feel about this, Lewis fans!

I found it interesting news on two fronts: 1) I had no idea they were planning to make a film of The Great Divorce and 2) I'm intrigued by the choice of Wilson for the screenplay.

Wilson, in case you're scratching your head, is the author of the 100 Cupboards trilogy I mentioned in my Book Notes post last week. I just posted my review of Dandelion Fire, the second book in the 100 Cupboards trilogy.

It's been quite a while since I've revisited The Great Divorce. It came up quite a bit in the Hogshead conversation regarding the finale of LOST, which inspired me to put it on my TBR-R ("to be re-read") list. Now I think it's just moved to the top of the re-read pile.

Hooray for Biblical Literacy

During our Virginia trip, my mother-in-law passed on a water-squirt toy to the sweet girl. It was a little one she'd gotten from a box of Cheerios: a plastic version of the donkey from the umpteenth Shrek movie, and S. has been having a good time playing with it in the bathtub.

The sweet girl isn't familiar with the Shrek films, but she's quite enamored of movies these days, especially the first two Toy Story films. (We're hoping to make a family outing for the third in the theater.) So she was asking about the donkey. I've only ever seen the first Shrek film myself, and that was long ago when it was first released. I couldn't remember much beyond the fact that the donkey was voiced by Eddie Murphy, which I knew wouldn't mean a thing to her. So I told her that the movies were sort of funny fairy-tales and that Shrek was a friendly ogre and the donkey was his friend. "He's a talking donkey," I said.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, as light dawned in her eyes. "Sort of like the donkey in the Balaam story!"

I'm sure there's an essay or sermon illustration in there somewhere...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer Gratitude

We got back late last night from our whirlwind trip to Virginia. I sometimes use the word whirlwind to describe any trip that seems particularly busy and/or fast, but this one really was...we couldn't leave until dinner-time Friday evening and had to be back in time for D. to get to work this morning.

Actually the trip was an odd combination of fast and slow. It moved so swiftly when we were spending time with loved ones, but the travel in between destinations sometimes literally crawled. On Saturday, going from my mother-in-law's to my mother's, what should have been a two hour trip turned into well over four (with a stop in there for food, when we desperately needed such a stop). The traffic was bumper to bumper for much of the way, and moving slowly when it finally did getting moving. And this on a day when the heat and humidity were astonishingly high -- the heat index was around 105 -- and of course we have no air conditioner in our car. Despite having grown up in Virginia heat and humidity, I didn't bear it well, and ended up having to douse myself with ice from the cooler a couple of times (ice and cold water bottles on the neck help immeasurably!) when I started to feel sick.

The sweet girl traveled like a trooper for most of the way, except for a rough beginning on Friday evening for all of us (it suddenly occurred to us, amidst sharp and stressed words to one another before we managed a stop for dinner, that we had not prayed before starting out, which we always do). We remedied that and decided to do a sit-down meal in air-conditioned comfort, which got us to Grandma's even later than we expected -- we didn't pull in until about midnight -- but all of us felt better for it.

I had not realized just much I needed to see my parents until I actually saw them. Despite the detailed reports from all of my siblings on their recent visits (we've been spacing the visits out) and my mother's wonderful almost-daily "updates on her beloved" as she calls the emails she sends to family about Dad's well-being, the last time I saw my father he was still in the hospital. Though I knew he was home and doing as well as could be expected, I think I needed to see that with my own eyes. I am so glad I did!

"As well as can be expected" about sums up Dad's physical well-being right now. His heart is weak and he has very little stamina or energy, a frustrating thing for a man who loves to be active. The suddenness of the development of his heart problems, especially given his very good health history, is a mystery the doctors can't seem to solve. The shock of that has worn off a bit now, and my folks have settled into the daily, long-haul of doing what they can to make sure that whatever time my father has, be it short or long, is as good and rich and precious as they can make it.

Both my parents shared with me, together but also separately, how they feel they are doing emotionally and spiritually. And even though I was prepared to be impressed (given everything I've been hearing from them and from my siblings) I still wasn't quite prepared for the *depth* of their steadfast, faithful trust in Jesus and their peace. Gratitude has deep, deep roots in my parents' hearts, and it doesn't seem to be leaving any room for fear or anxiety. I am so utterly grateful to see that. My mother even told me, completely sincerely, that although this has been the hardest month of her life in so many ways, it's also been oddly exciting. They've learned new levels of trust, they've experienced a profound realization of how deep their faith is and how much they love each other, and their experiences have opened up countless doors for them to share their faith with other people, including some they've been keeping in prayer for quite some time.

It gives me pause, especially when I consider how easily I give into stress and anxiety about the small, daily things. Even when I sometimes legitimately feel I have reason to feel those things (and when I know the Lord patiently listens and loves me through it) I find myself wanting to walk more closely in my parents' footsteps. They are majoring in the big things and finding joy in the little things as they walk through this season of their lives. Make it so in my life too, Lord!

Getting to celebrate Father's Day with my dad was also such a privilege. I made a big tossed salad and we had lemon cake and orange sherbet (Dad really wanted that sherbet) and mostly just had a wonderful time being together, talking and laughing.

Our trip back was pretty tiring -- another hot day and no way to avoid traveling in the worst part of the heat -- but we had some good time with D's family yesterday morning and afternoon, so again that made it worth it.

We even got in some good reading time in the car. We finished By the Shores of Silver Lake and re-read All-of-a-Kind Family (one of the sweet girl's utter favorites) and Jenny and the Cat Club. Then home to our own beds, a good night's sleep, a rainstorm that cancelled the second day of Sports Camp (yesterday was the first, but S. missed it) but not indoor Arts Camp in the afternoon. D. is at a VBS planning meeting this evening and on a Misionero deadline, and I've begun my summer-time cleaning and organizing extravaganza. Our computer crashed last week (in a big way) but I'm provisionally set up with another one, so at least I can tackle some of the writing projects that have been on the back burner for months.

The sweet girl's 8th birthday is coming up this Sunday, which means shopping and baking later this week.

Definitely summer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Book Notes from a Reading Life

I've almost given up on the idea of posting a reading round-up that actually reflects what I've read so far this year. It works when I do it quarterly. When I get behind, and suddenly discover the year is half-over(!) then the backlog feels overwhelming.

And I don't want to feel overwhelmed about doing something I love to do: talk about books.

So I think I may just dive in with some book notes on my current reading and see where it takes me.


A couple of weeks ago I read Linda Sue Park's A Single Shard. Have you read anything by Linda Sue Park? If not, may I humbly suggest that you head to your library and find something by this marvelous author as soon as you can?

The first book I ever read by Park was Keeping Score. It's a mid-grade novel about a young girl growing up a fan of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1950s. It had me from the cover blurb, mostly because I'm from a family of baseball fanatics, and my Dad loved that Dodger team (he was actually offered a try-out with the Brooklyn organization, but had to decline because of back problems...which led him to the hospital...which led him to meet a very lovely nurse...who became my Mom. But I digress.)

As much as I enjoyed Keeping Score, however, I was unprepared for just how much I was going to love A Single Shard. (My dear friend Tara has been telling me for months that I should read this book...oi, I should've listened sooner!) It's set in 12th century Korea and follows the life of Tree-Ear, a young boy who lives under a bridge with a lame and homeless man who goes by the moniker of Crane-Man. Tree-Ear and Crane-Man genuinely love each other. They're family. But Tree-Ear dreams of life beyond the bridge, particularly the life of an artist-potter. How he ends up apprenticed to Min, the best of the local potters, and what happens as a result, is a beautiful story.

And it's beautifully told. Once in a while, you read a book that you can't put down because it feels like a luminous pearl. You hold it in your hand and marvel over its perfection, turning it over and over in your fingers, amazed by the smoothness, the roundness, the evenness of the colors. A Single Shard was that kind of book for me. It had such clarity of vision, and Park never seemed to falter, from first page to last, in telling the story the way it just felt it should be told. I loved it. The link above is to my longer review on Epinions.


A few days after reading the pearl, I turned to the dandelion. That is, Dandelion Fire, the second book in N.D. Wilson's 100 Cupboards trilogy. No link yet, because I'm still wrestling with the draft of my review. It's one of those books I find hard to write about, partly because I'm not sure of my own response to it.

If you're a 100 Cupboards fan, maybe you can explain the allure of the series. I find myself feeling grumpy because I think I'm supposed to like the books more than I do. This is, after all, intelligent, coherent, fantasy writing for the mid-grade/young adult crowd. It's written by someone who clearly loves fantasy of all sorts, and who lets fantasy writers like Lewis and Baum sneak all over his narrative and leave their giant footprints. He's also willing to take some pretty giant leaps across the fantasy landscape himself. And yet...

I struggled with the original 100 Cupboards partly because it felt like mostly set-up. I liked Henry York, the main character, and his quirky Aunt, Uncle and cousins who lived in Kansas. I liked the 100 Cupboards lurking in the wall of his attic bedroom, and was intrigued when Henry discovered they were portals to other worlds. Henry seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time in that book chipping at the cupboard walls and trying to find a way in. And I kept waiting for the story to really start. When it finally did, it exploded in a few scenes of intense action, set up a cliff-hanger, and poof! ended. Most of the book felt like set-up for what I was expecting would be big pay-off in book two.

And did it get paid off? Well yes, in a big way. In fact, in such a big way that I felt as thought I had whiplash. If the first book could be critiqued for slow pace and not enough action, this one makes up for it in spades. So much happens, and so quickly, that I had a hard time keeping up. Many new characters are introduced. We zoom in and out of worlds that I feel like I barely have time to glimpse. Although I continue to be impressed by Wilson's writing, there's also still something about it that keeps elbowing me in the ribs, like someone trying to push past me in a crowded room. Sometimes I find myself reading a sentence and then reading it again and then trying one more time, and I'm still not sure if I'm visualizing what he's describing.

Granted, I liked Dandelion Fire. I had a hard time putting it down, especially in its second half. I felt compelled to find out what happened to Henry...and also to Henrietta, his cousin...and to his Uncle Frank (my favorite character) and the rest of the family. They get split up early on, so you actually follow those three characters on different arcs/journeys. It's not an easy narrative to keep up with. I'm sure it was a challenge to write.

But it just felt a little ragged. I'm beginning to realize there are at least two kinds of writing styles/sensibilities when it comes to novelists/storytellers. There are the neat and tidy tellers, like Park, where every line feels purposeful, as though it's building toward a beautiful whole you can almost envision as you're seeing it and hearing it built, page by page. And there are the creative but ragged tellers, who seem to craft with great abandon and imagination, who sometimes follow rabbit trails (taking their readers with them) and who eventually get back on track and find themselves providing an ending. But it may not be the ending you expect. It may not be the ending they expect. It may not, in fact, entirely fit with the beginning and the middle, but they had a great time getting there. It's sort of the LOST style of writing, and it tends to leave me a bit breathless, if not fully satisfied.

For me, I think it's Austen vs. Bronte. Process affects and maybe reflects sensibility and style. Cultivated gardens, traditional country dances and two inches of ivory? Or ruined buildings in a pouring rain on a ghost-haunted moor? I love them both, but it's the carefully tended gardens and well-learned dance steps I go back to, the fine-brushed artistry on the tiny canvas that tends to make me gasp. And I suspect that this is the kind of artistry I've aspired to as a story-writer over the years, though I've never really managed it.

Of course (she says cheerfully) I could be all wrong about this. It's possible that someone like Park may have a much looser and intuitive way of composing than I imagine, or that Wilson plans out every single scene before he commits it to paper. I only know what resonates with me mostly deeply at heart levels when I read the results of all their labor.

Friday, June 11, 2010

And Thus Ends Second Grade...

I almost wrote "not with a bang, but with a whimper..." Except really, it's been a very good last week of school.

I had thought we'd wrap up our school year last week, but the sweet girl has been going strong, especially in math. She wanted to keep going a little longer. And since I felt like we hadn't really had a chance to do a lot of review and wrap-up, I agreed.

It turned out to be a good week for review. It's poured rain -- often! -- and we've had some true humdingers of thunderstorms. S. is terrified of electrical storms at the moment, so even a hint of one makes her want to stay in. And staying in, at least most days, wasn't a bad thing at all this week.

I'm having some slight pangs of "I wish I'd made us keep better notebooks" across the board, especially with our art and music appreciation studies. We essentially didn't notebook for art and music this year, which is fine, except when we got to the end of the year we didn't have that neat little stack of pictures to go through and I missed it. Wait till next year (the mantra of many a baseball fan works for homeschooling parents as well!).

It was fun hearing what the sweet girl especially remembered and enjoyed from her studies. In science, she named our studies of the atmosphere her favorite. In history, she chose Magellan and Queen Elizabeth I as her favorite historical figures. In Language Arts...well, this completely knocked me over, but she told me that this year she especially liked spelling. She liked spelling!! After the spelling debacle that was first grade, I felt like throwing my apron over my head (if I owned one) and yelling "Glory be and the saints be praised!" And she really is becoming a better speller. She's not an intuitive one (and I am, which makes learning to teach it a challenge) but she's getting there.

I was so proud of the leaps in her reading skills this year. She progressed from reading picture books and readers on her own to reading longer chapter books. Though she will always be a picture book girl. Me too.

In math, she told me she especially liked Roman numerals. And she continued to love our daily read-aloud times. Those and math will both continue, albeit in highly relaxed form, as we head into summer.

And here it comes! We've got so much coming up: a visit to my parents in Virginia soon; the sweet girl's 8th birthday with an "under the sea" theme (for which we made the invites today); the beginning of summer camps; VBS planning.

I've been on a writing deadline and have been having major computer problems, but I hope to return you to your regularly scheduled blog posts soon. Happy summer!

Friday, June 04, 2010

What Would Your Childhood Memories "B"?

Years ago, my husband and I instituted a late-night word-association game. We tend to play it more during certain seasons of our life together, when one or both of us is having a hard time getting to sleep. (The sacrificial love comes in when one of us is exhausted enough to be dropping off but the other is having a hard time sleeping, so the sleepy one wakes up enough to enter into the game...thus often waking up more fully than the other one!)

It's an "easy-peasy" kind of game, as my seven year old would likely tell you -- we play a version of it with her before she goes to bed sometimes too. We pick a letter of the alphabet and a category, and try to think of things that fit the category that begin with that letter. We've tried all kinds of categories over the years, from food to books to movies to intangibles to adjectives...and on and on. We've instituted a few basic guidelines along the way, especially in the categories we tend to play a lot, like movies. In that case, we always count first names for characters and last names for directors/actors. For example, if we were playing "H" in the movie category, we could say both Hagrid and Harry Potter, but we couldn't say Helena Bonham-Carter: she'd come under "B."

My husband is great at coming up with new, creative categories. The most recent one he suggested was "childhood." We decided it could mean any sort of association with childhood, but as you might expect, it's turned out to be more specific to our own childhoods/youth. Last night we were doing the letter "B" and we ended up laughing a lot over some our associations. Here are just a few:

bubbles; balls; books; banana popsicles; Batman; Barbie; Bazooka bubble gum; Bonanza; Brady Bunch; Bee-Gees; Betsy-Tacy; Benji; bicyles; baseball games

There were lots more (including a lot I don't remember because they came in that hazy, blurred horizon between awake-asleep) but that gives you a flavor of the game. It might even give you a flavor of when we grew up ~ albeit several years apart!

So what would some of your childhood memories/associations "B"?

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

A Good Dose of Laughter

Today was just one of those days. Yep. Just one of those days. (And that's all I'm gonna say about that...)

When I have a day like this one, I sometimes just need some laughter. So I asked my husband if we could read for a while.

Just a few nights ago, we started reading Gary Schmidt's The Wednesday Wars. Actually I've read it before, but as is the case with many books I truly love, I eventually get around to reading it aloud to my dear D. I remembered it was funny, but I had forgotten just how funny: laugh-aloud, sometimes too choked up to read kind of funny, at least in parts.

If you haven't read this Newbery Honor winning book, I highly recommend it. In fact, I recommend it so much that I'm going to do something I rarely do, and quote from my own review, which I penned back in 2008:

"Holling Hoodhood is pretty sure that seventh grade is not going to be a banner year for him. That's because he's convinced from Day One that his teacher, Mrs. Baker, must hate him.

Every Wednesday, half of his class heads to Hebrew School while the other half heads to Catechism Class. But Holling, the only Presbyterian in a sea of Jewish and Catholic classmates, has no where to go. That means that Mrs. Baker must keep him in her classroom, a time-wasting prospect that both of them look forward to with gritted teeth.

But after Holling has cleaned every eraser in Camillo Junior High...and after he has accidentally let escape the class's pet rats while cleaning their cages...Mrs. Baker (perhaps a bit unnerved by the escape of the rodents) hits upon the perfect solution.

Holling is going to read Shakespeare. Every Wednesday. Sometimes with Mrs. Baker. And she is going to quiz him about it, to make sure he has done the reading and to make sure that he understands it. Until he's read a few plays and showed his mettle, at which point she begins to make him write full-blown essays.

Did I mention that seventh grade is not turning out to be a banner year for Holling?"

I hope that little intro might make you want to read the rest of the review, but most of all I hope it makes you want to read the book. Especially if you need a dose of laughter too.