Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This Chick is Flying the Coop...

I am flying this coop....
flappin' my wings to Women's Conference in Provo.
Of course it takes a bunch of work to get myself off the ground...

sub plans - check!
Career Ladder finished - check!
Spring Fling assignments completed - check!
IEP/RED meetings - check!
shopping for birthdays - check!
house cleaned - check!
meals made for my dear hubster - check!
checking the weather in Utah - check!
packing (how many books will I need?!) - check!

Wow, I'm tired already and I haven't even left the ground.
I hope this is worth it!!

Back this weekend :)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Battle of the Books - for next year!

In honor of National Library week and Battle of the Books I read two new stories....

Four short stories of how a small blue library card changes the lives of kids who discover it. That's what Newbery winner, Jerry Spinelli crafts
in his book, The Library Card.

There's Mongoo
se, a school-skippin', graffitti artist who's destined for more trouble until he discovers the small blue library card and the secrets it holds.

Brenda, the TV addict (think Mike-Teavee of Willy Wonka fame) has to endure the Great TV Turn-Off for a week. The library card
turns up next for her.

Sonseray, a homeless, angry teenager knows he can find peace and quiet and air conditioning in the library. The blue library card is his ticket in.

April is lost without her connection to her old library. In her new rural home she feels lost. To soothe her heart and mind she car
ries her old New York library card with her everywhere, that is until she discovers a new blue card and a bookmobile.

Libraries provide access to books and the myriad of worlds contained in books. Spinelli explores the theme that with knowledge and imagination anything is possible — books can change lives in mysterious and powerful ways. Each character faces a different challenge in his or her life and the library card played a role of acceptance for each character in each story. There seems to be a strong element of magic in each of these stories. Does Spinelli intend us to take these stories at face value, or is their meaning as much symbolic as literal?

When I read the frontpiece of the book I was taken in, but this was not my favorite Spinelli book. Each story had snippets that I was taken with, and each held such possibilities. Oh well, it was the idea that counted!!

The View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg . Now this one was a winner! What a unique book. The story of 4 sixth graders, chosen by their teacher to compete in the Academic Bowl as a team. The story weaves together the path of each of these kids and how their paths cross with each other and that of the development of the Academic Bowl Team. So how did Mrs. Olinsky know which students to choose for the team? Read it to find out!!

The Battle of the Book kids will love this book this next year, but it is the most difficult of the books chosen based on the intricate plot device. There's depth here. It's great!! BUT...they may need some patience and help.

One of my favorite books as a kid was From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, also by Konigsburg. What fun to try her again!! Although it is not really for my third graders, the Battle of the Books kids will love it with the right guidance and adept coaching!! I'm think I'm ready to sign up for coaching right now!!

Monday, April 25, 2011

One of the Seven Cities of Gold

I found it!!
I found one of the Seven Cities of Gold!!!

(Taken Friday at a nearby store that was glowing in "gold"!!)

It's that time of year when the whole city is bathed in"gold" - the "gold" of the Palo Verde trees and their blossoms. Sometimes it just takes my breath away and I wonder what our pioneer ancestors thought. I love to see the blossoms scattered on sidewalks, across the streets and floating on the breeze. It truly looks like a city of gold!

Where does all of this talk about a City of Gold come from?
I found this in a school textbook:

There were many rumors or stories about treasure in the land north of Mexico. When the Spaniards heard these stories, they sent expeditions to search for the gold. One famous story told about the Seven Cities of Gold.

The story begins when four men survived a shipwreck off the coast of what is today known as Texas. They were three Spaniards, and a North African named Esteban. After the shipwreck, the four men walked across Mexico until they arrived in Mexico City in 1536. During their journey, they heard stories along the way about seven cities rich in gold, silver and jewels.

When the four men arrived in Mexico City, they told the story of the Seven Cities of Gold to the Spanish leaders. In 1539, the leaders of the city sent Esteban and a priest named Marcos de Niza to investigate the rumor. Esteban was killed by Indians during the expedition. But Marcos de Niza returned to Mexico City. He lied and reported he had seen the golden city.

In 1540, Francisco Coronado and more than 1,000 soldiers set out to find the Seven Cities of Gold. They traveled north out of Mexico into the present-day states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and parts of Kansas. They never saw any traces of the Seven Cities of Gold. Coronado then took the long trip home. The route he took back toward Mexico would later become known as the Santa Fe Trail. In 1542, Coronado returned to Mexico with only 100 of his soldiers. Coronado never found the Seven Cities of Gold. However, he did claim the lands he had traveled through for Spain.

We are so enmeshed in the history of this area. Many of our local High Schools are named after these discoverers, several of the cities in southern Arizona house statues to several of these men, and local legends still abound.

But I found it this week.
Who knew it was at WalMart?!?!.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Wide Awake Princess (both of them!)

The Wide Awake Princess
by E.D.Baker

In this new stand-alone fairy tale, Princess Annie is the younger sister to Gwendolyn, the princess destined to be Sleeping Beauty. When Gwennie pricks her finger and the whole castle falls asleep, only Annie is awake, and only Annie is blessed (or cursed?) with being impervious to magic. Only Annie can venture out beyond the rose-covered hedge for help. She must find Gwen's true love to kiss her awake.
But who is Gwen's true love? The irritating Digby? The happy-go-lucky Prince Andreas, who is holding a contest to find his bride? The conniving Clarence, whose sinister motives couldn't possibly spell true love? Joined by one of her father's guards, Liam, who happened to be out of the castle when the sleeping spell struck, Annie travels through a fairy tale land populated with characters both familiar and new as she tries to fix her sister and her family . . . and perhaps even find a true love of her own. (summary from GoodReads)

E.D. Baker throws in some of almost every fairy tale out there as she concocts this story, but somehow it worked. I enjoyed reading this 'fractured' fairy tale with the hopes that I could share it with some of my advanced reading 3rd graders. By the time I was done there were 4 girls lined up and waiting to read the book that had me so engrossed and giggling. The main character, Annie, was ordinary and that's what makes her endearing!! No fairy tale beauty for her. No Prince Charming coming to rescue her. Yet so many princess books today have overblown and over-the-top heroines - not this one. She was just ordinary and celebrating that was a joy. It was a light, fun book that was perfect for reading during testing week.

Just a note - The cover is adorable but looks more cartoon-ish than the book is. The reading interest level would probably be middle reader, but my little gals in class are dying to try it.

(downloaded off my phone)

Tonight MY princess is staying wide-awake as well.

Our daughter,Jennie, and her husband, Kyle, are more than heroes as they chaperone a team at the Relay for Life Cancer walk. They have been there since early this afternoon and will be there through the night until 6:00 am. This is the luminaria that Jennie made in honor of her grandpa (my dad), who passed away from the results of lung cancer this last summer.

We are sure proud of them and all that they do!!

On a school note -

We survived the AIMS test in our 3rd grade classroom!!
These standardized tests are killers!
The kiddos get so nervous, but at least they took them seriously.
The tests are not timed so the students all made sure that they had plenty of books to read when they finished. (I adored seeing them all with their noses in books and really in the 'reading zone!')
It was three days of intensive testing, no recess, and even
the 'testing-police' came to make sure we were following standards and protocol!!

Yeah!! Big sigh of relief!
I can't believe the school year is almost over!

We spent the morning cleaning and busy with projects. Tonight we finished our Saturday up with a bike ride. Now I'm ready to read!!
Next up for reading - some 'Battle of the Books' books to prepare for next year; The Library Card by Jerry Spinelli and A View from Saturday by E.L. Konigsburg.
I love Saturdays!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Bones of Faerie

I was sick this week.
The flu hit hard and the teacher sent herself home and right to bed! Wow, did I sleep!!
When I finally woke up and saw that I was indeed still human I delved into a book where people weren't sure if they were 'human' or not!

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, 20 years after the WAR with faeries and humans, the world is not an overdone wasteland filled with poison gas, but a world where plants have sought revenge, fighting back.

The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so 15-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza’s world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Then Liza discovers she has the Faerie ability to see—into the past, into the future—and she has no choice but to flee her town. Liza’s quest will take her into Faerie and back again, and what she finds along the way may be the key to healing both worlds.

Janni Lee Simner’s first novel for young adults is a dark fairy-tale twist on apocalyptic fiction—as familiar as a nightmare, yet altogether unique.
(Amazon, product description)

Like most interesting stories, this is a personal story of life midst the chaos of the post-apocalypse. Folks have adapted. Change happens. So set with the backdrop of upheaval and global recovery, Liza's personal drama unfolds.

In the village of Franklin Falls, Liza believes all that her father tells her about magic being evil - that it must be cast out wherever and whenever it is found. She even believed it the night her father took her newborn sister out to the forest to die. Her sister, born with silver eyes, translucent hair; born with magic! Yet, she followed him and found that faeries didn't come to claim their own. Liza's mother was next - she just disappeared one day and Liza is left to sort the changes happening in her own life on her own. Now she's not so sure that magic is so terrible. Liza is confused and after a particularly brutal encounter with her vengeful father, Liza leaves her village to protect the villagers she loves. You see, Liza 's own magic is awakening within her and she doesn't exactly know what to do about it or with it. She dares not bring them pain or calamity as her magic becomes stronger.

Maybe it was my flu-induced stupor but I thought Liza was more than stubborn sometimes. I guess when you take into account the events of her life it may be natural, but it was one flaw that did not endear her to me. I did however love several of the sub-characters. The author was deft in crafting their qualities and voice. (Give me Alicia any day!)

I know that others have gushed over this book. By golly, the author herself seems truly awesome; but 4 days later I am still on the fence about this book. Was it too dark? Was I just too sick? I will admit that it read quickly, it was intriguing, but I was never totally head over heels in love with this one...

Will I try the sequel? Well, maybe, but not on a sick day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Birthday Bash Mania - Starring KIDS!

This was the weekend of the Birthday Bash!

The main players this weekend are 8, 6 and 4!!

(Cute grandkids - Ariel is 8, Jase is 4, and Gracie is 6!!)

The supporting ca
st are 8, 4, and 2.

(Cute grandson Noah & cutie pie granddaughter, Emma)
(Adorable granddaughter, Hero is 2 and very happy to be here!)

It was NOT supposed to rain a
nd ruin our zoo day

ture won!

(It rained ALL day!)

This was all even harder to finagle as we live 100 miles away. It put our creative thinking skills to the test. But... 19 emails
later and we think we found the perfect combination for fun...

We visited the Children's Mus

and dined at Little Anthony's Diner...

This weekend was the April Birthday Bash and we LOVED it!!

(I was very good and did not even suggest a trip to Bookman's or Eegee's and instead of reading in the car I watched Tangled!! I bet you're sorry you weren't at OUR party!!)

Thanks to the awesome party sugg
estions and emails (Jenn, Q, Jess and Paul)


the awesomest reservation arranger - Opa

(PS. Opa has even more cool photos on his camera!! Check his blog in the next few days for his take on the day!)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Once a Spy

Once a Spy
by Keith Thomson

I was ready for a spy thriller. I was ready for a ride. I was ready for Drummond Clark and his son, Charlie, the two main protagonists of Once A Spy by Keith Thomson.
Rich and I went to go see Keith Thomson at The Poisoned Pen over Spring Break. He thrilled the whole place when he brought in a drone flying craft and then truly wowed us when he began to speak about the premise of his books. Alzheimers. Mmmm.

Drummond Clark is a legendary spy who purports to be simply an appliance salesman. A spy, however, is only as good as the secrets he can keep and with the onset of early Alzheimer's, Drummond's rapidly deteriorating mind is now a threat to national security.
Charlie, is Drummond's 31 year old son who hasn't 'found himself' yet.
He's wasting his life playing the ponies.
When Charlie becomes aware of both his father's dementia AND his secret spy-life a frenzied adventure begins. Charlie tries to keep his father alive for those rare moments when his dad can 'pull it together.' That is no small job.
But wow, when Dad is lucid, he is lucid!! Sharp as a tack and lethal.
Drummond seems to 'snap out of it' when tension is high and the peril is great.
Thomson spoke about the effects of Alzheimer's and how many patients will become lucid and clear when under the greatest stress and need. He stated that when he was writing he pictured Charlie taking the lead until, at the last minute, Drummond would 'come out of it.'

Keith Thomson certainly enjoys his two main characters.
I loved the dynamic of Drummond and Charlie.
Charlie was ambivalent about his dad, was saddened by the early death of his mom, and could be angst ridden and bitter, but Thomson crafted a different father and son duo.
Charlie just accepts what and who his dad is.
Drummond simply does not remember, and to his credit, Charlie realizes that it would be cruel to remind his dad of the missed holidays and birthdays.
Instead they begin virtually with a clean slate - almost every time that his dad 'comes to' and remembers something. Every new minute or hour is a new chance for them to begin their relationship again.
I really enjoyed their banter and how Charlie grew to appreciate his dad.

My favorite line -
Drummond realizes that he has Alzheimer's. As Drummond has to get both himself and his son out of a real sticky situation, Charlie is amazed at what his father can do, that he knows so much and that he can basically clean up on almost any bad guy. When Charlie praises his dad, Drummond responded:

"The hard part is acting like I do it all the time." (p. 144)

Boy, I love that!! (I can relate.)

Rich is happy I'm done - he's been waiting patiently for his turn at the book.
Here ya go, dear!

Major Pettigrew's Last Stand

Oh, dear me.
Helen Simonson, I owe you my utmost apologies.
You were right.
This book is a keeper.
I did have my doubts.
I wasn't sold right away.
But now I know -
Major Pettigrew is a stud, Mrs. Ali is a looker, and Edgecombe St. Mary is the new Hamptons. They are THE people to hang with.
Now they are my pals, my peeps.
Mrs. Simonson, I am so glad that you didn't want to "write about drug addicts and sex at truck stops" as you stated at the Tucson Book Festival.
I am glad that you "see the world differently" ; that you gave friendship a sense of passion.
I do believe that your first time effort is praiseworthy and delicious.
I most humbly grovel before you.
Forgive me for doubting.
I am, most humbly yours,

Inside a Book.

PS. Where can I get a Major Pettigrew action figure?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Great White Brother

We buried a good friend today.
It was a total surprise.
He seemed fine.
He just didn't wake up.

It will be lonely without you.
Your brother keeps looking for you.
Who will I turn the water on for to get a drink?
Who will tell on your brother?
Who will sit on our laps when we wear black?

I'm grateful for the wonderful animal companions I've been blessed with.
They teach me lessons I never thought I would need to learn.

Thank you.