Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Recommendations

A friend of mine was asking me for some book recommendations.  She's in that lull that often comes when you've finished a good book and don't have something else waiting for you right away.  And she wanted a couple because she's due to have her baby any day now and you always need a good stack that you can readily go to when you know you're going to be to busy to get out and find things at the library.

Besides, I don't look for books for myself at the library anymore.  I get "looks" from the librarians about having 2 young children on the adult floor.  Library hold is the only way to go anymore, but that means you have to know what you want.

Back to the subject at hand -- after getting a feel for what she likes, I ransacked my boxes that have been tucked away and pulled out a few.  Of course it took me more time than it should have -- I kept reminiscing over wonderful books and put aside a pile (promptly knocked over by the crawler and then delightfully spread around by the 3-year old) to re-read.

And in doing all this: I realized I need a better system for recommendations.  It will still be highly personal and subjective (because there's no way for it NOT to be) but it will be more clear.  And it's coming soon -- after the 4th of July holiday probably.

In the meantime, one of the books I gave her was David Baldacci's Wish You Well.
Baldacci apparently mostly writes law thrillers (or is it science thrillers -- I've never read any others of his) and has A LOT of books published under that genre.  This one has a law element (so I'm pretty sure it's law thrillers), but is a touching, wonderful, growing-up story of sorts.

The main characters (see above) lose their father and partially lose their mother in a car crash.  Their only living relative left is a great-Aunt but they must move from populated city to rural mountain Virginia to live with her.  The story is about adjusting to a new life, growing up, coming to terms with yourself, and finding healing.  It's not action and adventure but it keeps you reading.  There is suspense, love, anger, forgiveness . . . am I sounded so vague I'm on the verge of cliche?

It also made me want to see the places where this novel is set -- his description is clear and beautiful.
And it's worth a re-read because it's wonderful.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Writing and English Classes

Remember my rant about wanting to pick writer's brains?  Well I found a book that has done that.  I haven't read it all yet but I wanted to share a few things.
The authors "interviewed" in Daniel Alarcon's The Secret Miracle are mostly foreign, but a writer is a writer!  The book is a compilation of some panel interviews conducted by the author and simply consists of questions and each author's answer.  The chapters are organized to reflect basically different parts of the writing process: influences, starting, plot, character, scene etc., revision, and finishing.

I'm mostly skimming right now but loved this answer from Santiago Roncagliolo in response to the question: "How many books do you read in a given month?  How many books do you read at a time?"

"If I don't like one, I abandon it and I begin another.  There are lots of good books to be read.  There's no need to obsess yourself with the bad ones.  There are also good books that you read at the wrong time.  In those cases, it's better to wait and try again later."

I could not have said this better myself!  He is so right and that of course leads directly into my biggest soapbox:  English classes in high school.
(I'll try to be brief and concise here, otherwise we could be a while.)

With 5 years of English teaching experience across a broad spectrum of "abilities" and desires, I've come to the conclusion that 4 years of English classes reading "classic" literature is a waste for most students.  I, personally, love classic literature and yet there are certain authors that I DO NOT READ FOR FUN:  Nathaniel Hawthorne and John Steinbeck are just two.  So yes people, the smart thing here is to require it of teenage boys and girls who are planning to spend their lives in construction, as math teachers, as scientists or doctors, working at Walmart, or painting, or whatever!  (Please read heavy sarcasm here).  

Education should be focused on teaching students to read and write well and should use a variety of tools to do that.  If that means you dig out Captain Underpants then so be it.  The tools will lead them to greater success than the actual book.

That being said, I do have books that I have put aside only to love them later.  A good example of that is Charles Dickens' Hard Times.  Love that book.  Love love love that book.  But I didn't love it until college.
And my grandmother often sends me books with a note that she didn't like it and stopped reading but here you go anyway.  Although we have similar taste, there's a few that I have loved that she hasn't been able to get through.

That's what makes a blog like this problematic.  I can recommend books, but that doesn't guarantee that YOU will like them.  And that's ok!

I'll still love you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Blackout Poetry Attempted

That was harder than it looks.

I sat down last night watching reruns of The Closer and Bones and picked up our newspaper to try blackout poetry.  I picked the "Arts and Life" section thinking there would be better words.  And there were great ones!  But it was actually really hard!

Once I got started, then I wanted the poem to go somewhere that I just didn't have a the words for.  I had to look at the article and think about how the words would work outside of what my vision was.  It was definitely an exercise in thinking outside the box!

So this is my poem:  It's hard to see but what it says is -- art this fascinating cultural masterpiece ties the world over the years, to the present

Sounds more like a wise saying than a poem to me (I gravitate towards more traditional poems myself) but it works!

Monday, June 27, 2011

A New Kind of Poetry

I completely forgot that I was going to blog about this.  But better late than never!

There was an article in our Dallas Sunday newspaper a few weeks back about a gentleman by the name of Austin Kleon.  He has just published a book of poetry using a method he more or less invented called "newspaper blackout".  

The premise?  Take a newspaper articles, column, advertisement, whatever -- and black out all the words except for those that make a poem.

He blogs about it and posts his poems here.  It's actually really neat!

Ok I'm downplaying it -- I think it's really cool!  Yet another idea to make me jealous.  After all, what a great way to get students to create poetry.  So often it's hard to come up with the words, but when they're already there for you . . . but you're looking for poetry really.

I can't use this until the girls are older unfortunately but IF YOU TEACH ENGLISH SOMEWHERE OUT THERE, you really should check this out.  I might just have to try it myself as well.

Where did today's newspaper go . . . 

Friday, June 24, 2011

On Writing

I am a reader.

I have been since I was very young.  I've always preferred reading to pretty much every other activity out there.  So when I say that I've been sucked in to a book that means nothing else gets done.  Which is a little more complicated now that I'm a mom of course, but it still happens.

But am I a writer?

I can't decide.  I'm not one of those who has made up stories my whole life.  I've been content to read others.  But that doesn't mean I couldn't be a writer I think.  And I've had some ideas here or there that might be interesting to read if I could get it down on paper fluidly.  I just don't know.

When you hear writers talk about their work, they always talk about how difficult it is to write.  But the thing is, they don't really go into detail.  I would love to KNOW how Rick Riordan gets his ideas for his books.  What happens when he's stumped?  How does he connect events to make a whole cohesive story?  I would love to pick Shannon Hale's brain about character.  How do you make each character endearing and have a real voice?  How do you write them so that they come alive?  I want to ask Richard Peck how to write humor and create situations that make me laugh out loud (because they do).  And I want to ask them all about process.  How does a book go from an idea to a finished product?  All I get to see is the finished product -- what does it look like in the meantime?

But I can't.  So I guess I have to experiment myself.

I wrote a first draft of a children's book about 2 or 3 weeks ago.  And this is how it went -- had the idea, sat down at the computer, wrote the entire book in one sitting visualizing what it would actually look like as I went.
Then I sent it to some friends and family for feedback.  First draft.  I didn't hear back from most of them and there may be several reasons for that but I can't help but wonder if it falls under the old adage: "if you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all."  Because I'm self-conscious.

So now I'm going to do my second draft.  I haven't decided how yet: print off the original and retype the whole thing or just fix bits and pieces on the computer.  I don't really know what my process is, it's been so long since I've written fiction (since college actually).  But I'm going to try and see what happens.

Oh and just to document it as I go, I've also begun a young adult novel.  That has been a bear.  I have lots of ideas floating in my brain but no clue on how to make them connect or be exciting to read.  So I just type as I think of things and maybe I'll try connecting the dots later!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

It Sucked Me In Again!

Did you like the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan?  I did.  I've honestly read better writing but the adventure and excitement was top notch and I love LOVE LOVE the idea.  Actually, I'm quite jealous that I didn't think of it first.  Sigh.  That's a lot of research though and I don't know that I have that much time on my hands.

The past few days I've managed to carve out a little bit more though (thanks for Sesame Street and Care Bears) and have read the first book in his next installment of demigod disasters:  The Lost Hero.
I had heard that he was going to continue on this theme but I was surprised that he's continuing with Percy Jackson and all of the heroes of Camp Half-Blood.  With a twist.

There are Greek gods and demigods of course, but now there are also Roman.  I don't want to say too much because this book is one big mystery and I like that.  Same fast-pased, high adventure style as the others but the focus is on three entirely new heroes who are very endearing in their own ways.  And of course an earth-shattering enemy.  Literally.

Book 2 comes out in October and I'm already excited.

Well, with Harry Potter ending, I'm glad I have something else to look forward to.  Which speaking of Harry Potter, there's something about a major announcement I think . . . hold on.  Rowling's announcement is here.  Sounds interesting don't you think?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

H is For House

Today for preschool we did the letter H and I was so bummed about what I COULDN'T do!

I remember a book that my parents had called A House is a House for Me.
It goes through all of the "houses" that different creatures live in really great rhyme.  The reason that I'm so bummed is that I didn't think about it until Monday (not enough time to get the book sent from my parents) and even though it's technically "check in" at the library, it was definitely not on the shelf and has been lost to the ages.

I can't blame the library though.  I know that my own darlings frequently pull books and we don't get them back where we belong . . . sorry!

So I didn't get to read the kids this book that I LOVE but we did a matching game based on the idea.

It is super simple to do a Google image search for various creatures and their houses: bees and beehives, squirrels and trees, princesses and castles, etc.  In word, I set the paper size to 4" by 6" and then dropped the margins way down so that one picture was on each page.  Then I stuffed my printer with 4x6 index cards and printed!  Voila!  Instant matching game!  

The kids enjoyed it (they all wanted to keep the pictures) and they learned a little bit about different types of houses.  

But I still want to get a hold of that book.  It might just "accidentally" find it's way into my car the next time we visit the grandparents . . . 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Need Something to Do?

Skip to My Lou has 30 days of craft camp.  There's a variety of activities for various ages and they look like fun!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

If You Loved Little Women

Louisa May Alcott's birthday isn't until November 29.  But I don't think I can wait that long to celebrate her!
  I just read a book about her that has made me want to pick up Little Women again and of course watch the movie version that stars Winona Ryder, Susan Sarandon, and Christian Bale (whom I love love love just below my husband and Robert Sean Leonard -- long story!).

Anyway, it's called The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott by Kelly O'Connor McNees.

Despite being an English major and an English teacher, I am ashamed to say that I learned so much from this book!  And I'm only ashamed because I feel like I should have known it all before.  But despite it being historical fiction (which I love actually), the history and biographical information about Alcott is very artfully woven in to enhance the story and promote reader understanding of Alcott's motives and life.  Wow -- that sounded a little too academic -- teacher moment, sorry.  In other words, it still reads and feels like a novel, not like a biography.

Anyway, the premise of the story comes from a few facts: Apparently, because Alcott was famous in her lifetime, she frequently burned letters and destroyed documentation of things that she felt were too personal.  Also, a comment was made by Julian Hawthorne (son of Nathaniel -- The Scarlet Letter) that she must have known love to write so wonderfully about it.  Thus, the book is about a love affair that Alcott had one summer where the documentation of her life has been very scarce (that's the fictional part). 

I found this book informative, compelling, and romantic.  I can understand now why Alcott would CHOOSE to be an "old maid" rather than marry.  Of course, the affair itself is speculation, but given her parents marriage, her father's EXTREME transcendental ideals and their impact on his family, and how the roles of wife and mother would affect her independence and her ability to write, I think that had there been a love interest in reality she most likely would have chosen to end it.  
But the romance was so sweet.  And genuine.  And I cheered for it even as I knew that is was doomed.  Oh, but be warned, there is a "scene" in the middle.  It's not graphic or explicit but it is the one issue I had with the book -- good romances don't need sex.  And that is evidenced by Alcott herself, as well as many other wonderful writers of romantic novels (not romance novels though of course!).

I also had never realized how closely Little Women mirrored her own life.  My next task is to reread that -- it's been years!  And then on to Whitman's Leaves of Grass which plays a key role in the novel and (again I am ashamed to admit I have never read the whole of it!) then maybe even a biography!  McNees references one by Martha Saxton that she just loves.

So between all that and projects I'm trying to finish, I should be busy!  And in such a delightful way.

Friday, June 17, 2011

For Picky Eaters or People Who Hate Oatmeal

So this was a quirky little book.  Not one that I'm planning on buying for our personal library but a funny little story nevertheless.
The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster says it's a tale of picky eating but the main focus is that staple of cheap and stick-to-your-ribs breakfasts:  oatmeal.  In fact, oatmeal is the reason for the existence of the Loch Ness Monster!  According to A. W. Flaherty, without Katerina-Elizabeth throwing her oatmeal overboard every day, the Loch Ness Monster would still be a tiny little worm at the bottom of the ocean.

After reading this book, my 3-year-old still will not touch oatmeal.  Sigh.  Hopefully she eats enough other healthy foods that she won't be stunted!

At the end of the book is an interesting experiment that you can do to assess your picky eaters.  Apparently, picky eaters actually have more taste buds and pick up on bitter tastes that we non-picky eaters do not.

But that does not explain why my 3-year-old will eat raw peppers, pickles, and olives, and yet refuse her oatmeal.  Hmmmm.

Back to the book -- it's a cute one that would work for talking about several subjects including the Loch Ness Monster (and perhaps leading into other unexplained . . . things), eating and tasting, and maybe even a little bit of boat travel.

But don't read it your child might be inclined to throw their oatmeal in the fish tank. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Resolution Number Three

Make and Maintain Friendships.

First of all, thank you to those wonderful people who have sent me notes about this blog.  It's kind've nice to know that someone likes it!

On that note, it's been a little difficult here to make close friends -- you know, kindred spirits, as Anne would say.  Everyone is very friendly, but it seems as though they are not so proactive.  My friendships here have been started mainly because I'm doing the calling, inviting, etc.

It's a little frustrating to be honest.

So I'm making another attempt, more social this time (my first attempt -- which actually is going well -- involves kids.  I want something for me too!) to see if I can find that kindred spirit.  

And I don't know why I didn't think of this before!  But the lightbulb went on today so here's the plan:

An open book club!

I love book clubs!  I love talking about books and I've loved doing this blog.  But I also want people who will talk back (no offense).  The problem with traditional book clubs is that maybe I don't like the book or didn't get time to read it that month.  So an open book club could be really simple and flexible:

1.  Read a book that month -- or not -- you could also pick one you've read and loved before.
2.  Bring it and a snack to a book party.
3.  Tell others about your book, learn about some other books you might be interested in and have a fantastic time munching and socializing.
4.  Books could be any kind -- children's, YA, adult fiction, nonfiction, church-related.  You could do a different theme every month or leave it completely open.

What do you think?  It's definitely worth a shot I think!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

If You Like Shakespeare

And if you like romance and suspense, then you might be interested in this book:
Ophelia by Lisa Klein tells her story.  And it was beautifully done.

I picked this book up from the library on Monday (wait, that was yesterday) and I finished it about a half hour ago.  You should see my house . . . It's labeled as young adult fiction but I would put it in the upper teens, true young adult realm -- not the "tweeners."

Quick synopsis: Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius, a man who spends his life scheming on how to get into the castle and the good graces of the king.  This puts Ophelia in Elsinore at a young age where she is trained up as a lady's maid to the queen and falls in love with Hamlet -- first as a girl, then as a young woman.  Hamlet returns that love, but then of course his own tragedy unfolds.  
The twist?  Klein's Ophelia doesn't actually die.  Her death is a ruse very much in the vein of Romeo and Juliet (I think Shakespeare would approve) and she escapes in fear for her life to France where she takes refuge in a convent and seeks to find solace after the tragedy that she has experienced -- the death of her father, brother, and Hamlet.  I don't want to give away the ending but it is good.  Both a good read and a happy ending.

Synopsis aside, I've been thinking about this book nonstop.  Ophelia is a complex, but real character and I love Klein's portrayal of her.  She is independent and smart but not so much that you think it unrealistic for the 16th century.  She loves Hamlet and is somewhat ruled by him but also seeks to sway him from his revenge.  Her time in the convent did drag a little, but her struggles with herself felt so genuine.  Part of her healing in the convent is discovering who she is for herself.  And when she finds herself, then she is truly happy.

Please note, there is some sexual content.  Nothing graphic (I was so glad!!), instead it was more referential to how things work in the castle (soldiers and serving maids, etc.) and Ophelia spends a bit of time deciphering for herself what love is.  It was more romantic than romance though, which I've always preferred.  

I really thought that Klein stayed so true to Shakespeare's Hamlet while at the same time giving Ophelia her own story wonderfully told.  I might even have to go back and read the play to refresh myself on the original character.
And I just love this John William Waterhouse depiction.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Resolution Number Two

For preschool on Wednesday, we covered the letter F.  And that meant fish, flowers, and family.  I have a ton of pictures that I took from a recent visit from my parents and I pulled out others I have paper copies of (most of course are digital) and created this "display" on my wall.

I love it . . . but . . . 

Ok #1 -- it's very temporary looking and ultimately I would love to have something more permanent in decor but also easy to change out -- there are so many pictures I love!
#2 -- I have zillions of pictures of my girls and a good amount of my parents but hardly any of anyone else -- and that's my in-laws, my 4 brothers and their (some of them) families and my husband's six siblings.
#3 -- We don't live near any of them and my girls don't know them.


Resolution number two is to get to know family better.  And that means two things:
#1 -- Figure out a nice way to display the pictures I love and also pictures of extended family so that my kids can at least see who they are!
#2 -- Get pictures of extended family!

That could be more difficult than I think it will be though . . . 

Wish me luck!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Resolution Number One

In The Happiness Project (yes I'm going to blog about it more than once, it was that good) Rubin establishes theme resolutions (my words) for each month.  An area she wants to work on and then a few resolutions that will improve her happiness through that area: marriage, friendship, money, etc.

I don't think I'm going to go that far but definitely some individual resolutions are in order and many of them have been inspired by her.

I think my most favorite thing from The Happiness Project is Rubin's saying "the days are long but the years are short".  How true is that?  I seem to have been so bogged down in long days lately -- always looking for the next thing to make time go by faster.  I know now that part of that is somewhat chronic fatigue that I'm having taken care of, but part of it is also my attitude.  

So my first resolution for my own happiness is to enjoy my children more.  That means that I often think to myself "the days are long but the years are short".  It's really come in handy lately actually.  Of course we still have our moments, but I feel as though I'm appreciating more those that will soon pass.  For example, my one-year-old has been so clingy she screams if I put her down.  I keep telling myself that it's not going to be too much longer before she's too big to carry around AND she won't want to be!  So I enjoy her cuddly self as long as I can (meaning as long as my arms hold out) and then when I do have to put her down (holding child and hot stove = not a good idea), well, she just has to cry.  But this too shall pass.

Anyway, as part of enjoying my children more, today we made Bunny Buns from The Friend magazine.  If you're not LDS, that's a children's magazine published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  And it's fabulous!  But anyway, they turned out really nice!  It's a basic bread dough with a hint of orange (which I love) and a sweet (but light, unless you go heavy with it, mmmmm) glaze.  We had a good time.
This was my little one's first experience "standing on a chair" and she took full advantage.  Can you see how the end of that dough near her is pulled and has a big hole in it?  That would be because I turned around for a second and when I turned back she had the whole end in her mouth!
 And then she needs her rest -- don't worry, I only let my children help (and taste and poke and lay on the food) when it's just for us.  I run a cleaner operation when it's for other people!!

This is sweet to me because it looks like they're working together on making the buns.  They're not, she's just getting her own taste!
And one for me.  My little one loves to feed me.  But I draw the line at raw bread dough.  And certain other delightful offerings that only a 1 year old can give.

Sorry I don't have a picture of the end result.  You cut and twist them into bunny shapes -- it's really easy actually and they were really cute, and tasty.  I've eaten several already and I may have to have another before I go to bed . . . 

But my resolution is working!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

To Be Uplifted and Inspired

Read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project.
The biggest mistake I made with this book was in getting it from the library and not buying it myself.  The entire time I read it, I itched to pick up a pen or a highlighter and go to town underlining, making nice little stars in the margins, and writing my own insights.  Sigh.  Not in a library book.

Like Gretchen, I too had an epiphany of sorts a while back.  I love my children, I have many blessings in my life, I'm doing what I want to be doing -- but I think I could be happier.  That's when I started this blog.  I wanted an outlet to get back into literature.  That's the biggest thing that I miss about teaching after all.  And it's helped -- really -- even if I only have 6 followers and at least 3 of them are related to me (love you all!!!).

But this book.  THIS BOOK!  My head is now swimming with so many things that I want to do that would help enrich my life.  I've already started a few of them.  And I feel better, I really do.  Ok it also helps that my Vitamin D levels are going up (who knew?).  By the way, if you're feeling constantly fatigued -- beyond I-have-two-small-children-that-run-me-ragged fatigued, have your Vitamin D levels checked.  Seriously.

Ok back to the post at hand.

There is also a website for this book, also titled The Happiness Project.  There's a lot going on there but definitely worth checking out, especially if you're not sure about the book.  She also freely offers up a starter kit and her resolutions chart for your use.  Love that.

My favorite things about the book:
1.  Readable.  Her personal experiences were instructive and engaging!
2.  Researched.  But not in a let-me-throw-the-experts-at-you-to-prove-me-point kind of way.  They're almost an afterthought that solidify the point she's making.
3.  She is so flawed.  Even when she is doing her best.  When I read about superwomen it can be discouraging because I don't feel I can be that.  But this, I can do.
4.  Funny.  I smiled and laughed quite a bit actually.

I highly recommend it and will be doing my own happiness -- maybe not a complete project -- but mini-projects.  I'll have to figure out what to call them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Princes, and dragons, and kisses -- oh my!

We get a lot of princess books around here.  I've always been a fan and two little girls only encourage that.  But this week, we've branched out and found a book about a prince, his father the king, and a brave (somewhat) knight that all kids -- princes and princesses -- will love.
David Melling's The Kiss That Missed is utterly delightful!

It's the story of a busy king who, in a hurry, blows a kiss to his son -- that misses!!  The royal family sends their loyal knight to catch that kiss and of course he runs into all sorts of danger.  Fortunately, that kiss flying around helps him out -- just a little bit and he is able to return to the castle with the kiss.

The king learns that he needs to take a little more time and everyone benefits from the power of that kiss.

Fun illustrations, cute cute story, and a little reminder to take some time
So go read your kids a story and then give them a whole bunch of kisses -- just to make sure they don't miss.

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Book I Can Relate To

First of all, you have to love a book where the main character is named Farmer McPeepers and he looks like that.  I love wrinkly old people!

If you can't tell, Farmer McPeepers is blind as a bat.  And his milk cows know it.  So they steal his glasses and have a grand old time.  Farmer McPeepers searches and searches but he just can't seem to find them.

I understand.  I have a clarity range of about 10 inches without my glasses.  Thank goodness I don't own any milk cows.  And hopefully my kids won't discover the problem too soon!

I loved the illustrations in this book.  They are bright and fun and each page contains one cow delightfully sporting Farmer McPeeper's glasses.  My 3-year old loves the story (she really loves animals) and loved searching each page for the Farmer's glasses.  I may have to get some I Spy or Where's Waldo books next.  Do those even exist still?

I don't know what it is about farm animals pulling the wool over their farmer's eyes (haha), but they sure do make for a moo-velous read!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

E is for Egg

My preschool playgroup is on letter E and that really had me racking my brains.  There aren't a ton of E words that use the short sound instead of the long sound.  Plus, we have a little one in the group that is actually allergic to eggs so there go all those ideas!  

Instead, we exercised (which started off a round of running through the house -- toddlers -- love them) and then we made nests with play-dough eggs.  

Play-dough?  Are you nuts?  
Well, not totally.  I knew that six 2-year olds with commercial play-dough was a bad idea, so I did homemade. That way, accidental (or on purpose) eating was ok and what gets ground into my carpet won't stain and will (hopefully) clean up fairly easily.

Plus this was a super easy, smooth recipe to make.  Sorry no tutorial (I never think about it when I'm making something) but I have end result pictures and some tips.

Kindergarten Playdough
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp. cream of tartar
1 tab. vegetable oil
food coloring (which I didn't do -- sorry I don't know if it will dye your kid's fingers -- I'll try it next time!)

Combine all ingredients in a pot on the stove.
Cook over medium heat continually until mixture starts to pull away from sides of pan (it starts actually lifting out as you stir).  
Place dough on cutting board and knead for 1-2 minutes.
Keeps in fridge for up to 6 months.

 The nest is a just a paper bag (ok sorry, it is actually a PRINCESS paper bag but not because it has to be) and the directions are found at FamilyFun Magazine online.  We didn't do twigs (although we could have since several limbs off my willow tree were pulled down by the end of today) and it still looked "nest-y".
The kids got a big kick out of it and although it was still a parent-as-major-helper craft (I didn't know rolling playdough balls was a skill we needed to work on!), they loved making eggs and talking about all the things that come out of eggs.

Oh and we read Ollie by Olivier Dunrea to cap it all off.  This is one of his darn cute goose books.
We also love Gossie and Gertie, and Peedie especially.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Learning about the President

Teaching 9th grade American history, I really enjoyed teaching kids about how our government works: the three branches of government and their roles mainly.  But sometimes they had a hard time relating to or understanding what exactly each role does.  Understandable.  Government is a complex issue.  Just recently I found a great book to help school kids understand a little better the role of the President.

Madam President by Lane Smith is a funny, clear-cut look at the life of the president.  But the president in the book is a young girl who simply exercises her authority in her own life

The book reads well, the illustrations add an explanatory element (that opens up discussion), and it's funny.  Check out the "list" of all of her cabinets -- they correspond with the toys available to fill the position.

My 3-year old enjoyed it as a story and I found myself wishing she were school-age and learning about this stuff so that we could talk about it more, not just read it.

But that will come.  And then it will be back to the library to check this out again!