Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (Ransom Riggs)

This book comes at an interesting time. It's a story about a boy's Grandpa who was alive during second world war, which is a bit of a follow up from Unbroken. Also, it's a book that is about pictures, kind of like The Fairy Ring. It is also very much a story about finding out about your ancestors - something I've been thinking I should be focusing more on. He has also written a book about Sherlock Holmes - and the author of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, was talked about in The Fairy Ring. There's some characters too who never age, like in Tuck Everlasting! A strange juxtaposition of ideas and promptings in my life!

The story is of a boy whose Grandpa is seemingly crazy. But then again, is he? Maybe the crazy stories he has told are true. The grandson, seemingly Grandpa's favorite, sets out to figure out the mystery after witnessing Grandpa's death. It's kind of a dark, kind of a mysterious, kind of silly mix of a story - and I really enjoy it.

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I looked up the author and it turns out this is his first book. He has been overwhelmed with enormous success. It also turns out it is a huge best seller AND a movie is going to be made. How does this happen to these first time authors!!! So crazy. Good thing he seems like such a down to earth, nice guy.

He has a blog, and this was a post just a few days ago, talking about how he can't believe how many books he has sold:


Monday, 30 July 2012

Lego Inspiration

Today Peirce had a playdate with one of his favorite friends from church. They played most of the afternoon with lego - something I try to encourage Peirce to do, but it rarely happens. After playing with his friend who has buckets and buckets of lego he decided maybe he was interested after all.

Photo: Peirce is re-inspired to play with lego after his successful play date today.

What a kid. Don't ya' love how he's got his nest all set up  - computer is playing his favorite sitcom, and he's working away at lego. Love that boy!

What I Am Reading

I feel like I'm in part 2 of my summer vacation. July with all the busy plans is almost finished and it is free sailing in August. Time to get caught up on some reading! I think I'm going to have to get into some picture books to get caught up a little bit on where I should be. There's no hope otherwise! (And that is okay with the rule maker!)

This is my reading for this week:

Miss Peregrin's Home For Peculiar Children
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Half Broke Horses

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The Forgotten Garden

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The Whole Truth

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Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Swimming Life

The other day Jill was commenting about how swimming has taken over her life. I think it's funny she hasn't realized this until now. It took over my life long ago!  Jill is about to embark on a month of babysitting in Edmonton to pay  for her away camp this winter. We will miss her. I hope she has a great time!

Swimming has definitely taken over our life. This week has been the Canadian Age Group Champs and we have been volunteering and enjoying watching this week. Tonight I will go volunteer at the football game to make $$ for swimming. And now Olympics have started and everything in life seems to be scheduled around favorite races and swimmers.

Photo: Olympics!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Cyber Friends

The world is a changing! Today I got to meet one of my cyber friends! It's a strange thing for me to say I have friends who I have never met in person. 

Valerie Ackroyd lives in Arizona. She's married to a relative of Allen's and I met her on an email list. She was coming to Alberta today for a wedding in Waterton. We picked her up at her hotel this morning and went for breakfast. We had a great visit! It's funny to meet someone and have a start off point to a conversation that is so far down the line of familiarity. It was pretty funny to have so many common understandings with being married to an Ackroyd! We might be able to provide each other some effective and inexpensive therapy. :)

Photo: Val Ackroyd and I

Symbolism in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane (Kate DiCamillo)

I was reading a blog post the other day about The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. I've read and blogged about that book before. I love it. The post I read talked about all the Christian symbolism in the book. I was so surprised! I never thought of that! It reminded me of how fun it was in university to talk about symbolism in stories I was very familiar with. Big aha moments!

That being said, I always wonder, did the author do that on purpose?? Or did some magic happen inside of them when they were reading the book?? A bit of literary big bang?? In all the googling I did I did find someone who said the author has never admitted to the symbolism behind the story. Why?? Maybe it isn't politically correct?? Hasn't that often been the way Christianity has been spread....secretly? Interesting!

When I started googling the idea for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane I found lots of people writing about it. Here and here and here (this one even hated it!) and here. They weren't hard to find at all! Made me wonder how I missed it! The truth is, when we read it this year, some of the kids must have sensed it. We made a video where they re-told the story. I kept having to do re-takes (and finally gave up) in the section where he is made into a scarecrow because the kid kept saying he was nailed to a cross. Even then I didn't make any other connections.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Unbroken (Laura Hillenbrand)

Warning: don't start this book while you are in a vacation with your family. They will think you are a party pooper for wanting to sit and read while they want to go do stuff!

This book had me right from the prologue. It is an amazing story. It is the story of Louie Zamperini, a man born in the 1920s that grew up in Torrance, CA. He was a kid that no one could tame: stealing, lying, and doing all he could to cause trouble. He was a fast runner (maybe from having to run from being caught?) and in University trained for and went to the Olympics. His Olympic pursuits got stopped by the 2nd world war. He was a pilot and ended up crashing and survived longer on a raft than anyone else ever has. The stories of survival on the raft were astounding to me! But that was only the beginning. He ended up getting caught by the Japanese and was a POW. I had to read those chapters with one eye closed. The things those POWs endured were unbelievable!

I have a confession. Don't tell the librarians. When I read a book, I turn down the corner of pages I want to remember, or write about. Well, if I am being really good I write down the page number, or make some notes.....but sometimes, when the story is really gripping, I can't take the time to write anything - so I just turn down the page. I had a bunch if turned down pages in this book because I had to keep reading and find out what was going to happen.

There was a common thread in many of the turned down pages: choice in how to respond to the cards people are dealt.

p. 147 It means a mystery why these three young men, veterans of the same training and the same crash, differed so radically in their perceptions of their plight. Maybe the difference was biological; some men may be wired for optimism, others for doubt.
In this part of the story there are three men who are on the life rafts. One of them eats the only food they have while the other two sleep. It was a choice that proved to be a drastically terrible one for them all. And in the end, the one who ate the food never survived. He also didn't survive the trials along the way very well.

When the war is over and the POWs are ready to celebrate, they are told:

p. 309 The POWs immediately gathered for a thanksgiving service. They were told that they must not seek revenge; they were officers and gentlemen, and they were to behave that way.
I was stunned. I had to read that page over a few times to really let the expectation sink in. Here they had been treated worse than animals, and the response was that they were not to seek revenge. If anyone deserved to do so it was them!

Almost all the soldiers suffered immensely after the war. They didn't really know much about post traumatic stress disorder back then, but they all sure suffered from it:

p. 348 Some former POWs became almost feral with rage. For many men, seeing an Asian person or overhearing a snippet of Japanese left them shaking, weeping, enraged, or lost in flashbacks. One former POW, normally gentle and quiet, spat at every Asian person he saw. At Letterman General Hospital just after the war, four former POWs tried to attack a staffer who was of Japanese ancestry, not knowing that he was an American veteran.
It is amazing to me, that now, years later, we live and rub shoulders with Japanese people all the time. I wonder how hard it was for people to look beyond the war and be accepting?

p. 366 The paradox of vengefulness is that it makes men dependent on those who have harmed them, believing that their release from pain will come only when they make their tormentors suffer. In seeking the Bird's death to free himself, Louie had chained himself, once again, to his tyrant. during the war, the Bird had been unwilling to let go of Louie; after the war, Louie was unable to let go of the Bird.
In the story Louie does learn to forgive and learn to let go.

p. 375 Louie found himself thinking of the moment at which he had woken in the sinking hull of Green Hornet, the wires that had trapped him a moment earlier now, inexplicably, gone. And he remembered the Japanese bomber swooping over the rafts, riddling them with bullets, and yet not a single bullet had struck him, Phil, or Mac. He had fallen into unbearably cruel worlds, and yet he had borne them. When he turned these memories in his mind, the only explanation that he could find was one in which the impossible was possible.
Louie is finally able to forgive and let go.

p. 379 At that moment, something shifted sweetly inside him. It was forgiveness, beautiful and effortless and complete. For Louie Zamperini, the war was over.
And when I finally finished the book, I could finally take a breath again. Wow! This is an amazing story. A must read!

7 and 8/58 
(this book was 400 pages long with very small font....so I figure I will count it as two books!)

Monday, 23 July 2012

Las Vegas/SLC

We have been having a great time on our trip. The conference has been amazing and inspiring, and it has been a good time with our kids and with friends. I have to say, Las Vegas wouldn't be my top pick of destinations. I can hardly stand the heat, and the crowdedness of The Strip is mind numbing, but overall it has been wonderful. Mostly it's just great to get away!

On the way home we stopped in SLC. When we got to downtown SLC we passed by The Beehive House and I said, "And on the right we have Brigham Young's house." Peirce was so shocked. He couldn't believe it could be Brigham Young's house and so we definitely had to stop and tour it. It was really an interesting tour, with two sister missionaries, one from Australia and one from Mongolia! After that we went over to temple square and took looks of pictures and hit the highlights. Peirce had a wonderful time taking pictures. Jill ran into a French speaking family and had a great French conversation with them. (It all started with "I love her sac a dos" by one of the children). There are missionaries all over temple square and Jill was thrilled to see all the sister missionaries. She declared, "I want to be a sister missionary when I grow up!"

We have had a great time on our trip. We need to do this kind of thing more often! So happy to have these guys for my forever family!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Las Vegas!

We left Wednesday night and drove and drove and drove for our destination: Las Vegas!

Yea for a husband who needs very little sleep and loves to drive!

I was pleasantly surprised to see how well our kids did on the trip. It takes 20 hours to drive from Lethbridge to Las Vegas.  They got along and were good sports for the drive. They were thrilled to be going to the states as it has been a while, especially for Peirce.

We are staying in Henderson, NV and are here for a PFS event. Loving it! The hotel is huge and beautiful and it is wonderful seeing so many good friends.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Geronimo Stilton

I decided this summer I should read a book from all the popular series that kids like to read - so when I finished one book while we were driving, and couldn't get my next book from my suitcase, I grabbed one of Peirce's Geronimo Stilton books. I read Run for the Hills, Geronimo, however one I read doesn't really matter. I'm sure they're all pretty much the same....at least the parts I noticed about it are likely common in all of them. I plan to try Hardy Boys, Goosebumps, the fairy books, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and Dolphin series.....what else....???

I'd definitely rate these below Magic Tree House. The colored words and illustrations are cool. I'm sure that is one thing that really helps younger kids stick with these books. In the book I read I learned some interesting things about some American Historic sites. That was cool.

The book took me less than 30 minutes to read. Jill mentioned that she used to read one book on the bus ride home from school each day. The interesting thing to me, was that it was written like the kids in my Gr. 3 kids write stories. There are interjections now and then with, "Oh, I forgot to mention that....." and then the story, told in simple first person, continues on. Do kids write like that because they read these books? Or did they write these books like this because kids write like that?? Chicken and egg questions. Not sure. I tried to do some Geronimo Stilton research but I cannot find even who writes the books - which makes me think they're mass produced by some company and have multiple writers.  In this book Geronimo goes on a vacation full of surprises. The plot is pretty poorly developed and the author really missed opportunities to build suspense. Stuff just happens....and it kind of felt like someone was belching out the story.

Yup. One Geronimo Stilton is enough for me.


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Fairy Ring (Mary Losure)

This book is delightful. It is a true story about two girls in England in the 1920's. Two girls: Frances and Elsie become friends while their families help one another during the war. They have a great friendship. It reminded me of my good friends-the ones that when you get together you have a great time, like you've never been apart. I've never been one to make friends quickly - but these two do. "Elsie was the kind of person  who seemed as though you'd always known her" (page 7)

The photos looked likes ones I think I have also seen. Experts in photography at the time believed that the photos were real. and influential people of the time, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (author of Sherlock Holmes) were sure that fairies were real and latched onto these photos as proof.

P. 142 Sir Arthur's father lived in that insane asylum. He'd gone away, never to return, when Sir Arthur was seventeen. In the asylum, Sir Arthur's father drew pictures of tiny people holding leaves as big as umbrellas or lucking in flowerpots or hiding on the backs of birds. Sir Arthur didn't mention any of that in The Coming of Fairies. But if fairies were real, Sir Arthur's father wasn't crazy after all.

The story is entertaining as all these people start and continue believing the girls. They're educated and wise and older and the girls become kind of cynical of these people. They grew to be old ladies before the truth of the photos came out. Perhaps people’s beliefs that there are fairies made them more inclined to believe that these young girls were innocent of any scam. They were innocent in that they never intended the photos to become public and particularly not in the vast way that happened.

I think this would be a fun book to do in our school's Gr. 3 book club. They would, however, need to be interested in the idea of fairies to stick with it, I think. Then again, maybe they'd be interested in the simple idea that these girls fooled the world.


Monday, 16 July 2012

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Stampede 2012

I'm one of those Calgarians who usually prefers to leave town during the Stampede. This year, however, I got quite a lot of Stampede life! Here are some of my favorite parts:

I loved the performers at The Steps of the Saddledome. Some of my favorites:

The Twin Tango

Becky Hoops is also hilarious! Someone who was a volunteer in her show has posted a video on YouTube here. So funny!

My favorite has to be the Calgary Band of Outriders. I could watch them perform again and again. Well, I did. Loved it.

Tonight when we were heading back to our meeting room the band was playing. It was raining so I was surprised they were playing. It turned out they were under the +15. They were kind of in a mob, dancing away, and people were all around them dancing along with them. It was so fun! Made me proud to be a Calgarian!


Saturday, 14 July 2012

How To Hug a Porcupine (by Julie Ross)

This is a great book. Every time I read a great parenting book I think I should make a list of books that could be read and read again to help me with the little reminders I need to be a better parent. This one would be on that list!

Amazon.com's summary says:

Yesterday, your child was a sweet, well-adjusted eight-year-old. Today, a moody, disrespectful twelve-year-old. What happened? And more important, how do you handle it? How you respond to these whirlwind changes will not only affect your child's behavior now but will determine how he or she turns out later. Julie A. Ross, executive director of Parenting Horizons, shows you exactly what's going on with your child and provides all the tools you need to correctly handle even the prickliest tween porcupine.

This books has lots of great topics - dealing with disorganized kids, defiant kids, computer addictions, sex, need for independence, learning to be more responsible, solving problems with siblings and others, and more.

As I read my heart was really touched. I loved the author's way of encouraging respect and independence as kids enter this age. It also made me sad for people I know who didn't get what they needed at this age. I am starting to believe the tweens and early teens are a real foundation time and that if you can get through those ages with a good relationship in tact, then you can be more assured that it will continue.


Monday, 9 July 2012

Litter Patrol

I have been working at the Stampede for the Boys and Girls Club. I supervise a crew of six 14 year olds as they pick up litter. It isn't a glamerous job, and it is way too hot outside. And it has seriously put a dent in my summer reading.

On the good side: Being at the Stampede is fun though and the kids are really great. Sometimes we have to play games to keep ourselves entertained. Yesterday we came up with acrostic poems. This was the LITTER winner: Lessons In Treating The Earth Respectfully.
Ran into my FFCA friend, Janet W!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Hyde Reunion 2012

What a great time. Family, fun, beauty, rest and plenty of food!

Setting: Payne Lake Lodge in Southern Alberta

Cast of Characters: Nobles, Jensens, Wilsons, Boyers, Dudleys, Laws, Ackroyds, Nelsons, Bailies, and Andersons.

Plot: Arrive Saturday, have a family fight (also known as auction), take bids over the phone from Las Vegas (go Nickee!!), let Brad have all the quilts AGAIN, share stories, laughs, and food, stay up late, play the baby grand, catch frogs, give away Happy Tickets, cash in Happy Tickets, drive Brad's quads, play guitar, play pool, cruise around in paddle boats, have a bonfire, stay away from bears, explain to people who drop by to see if there's anywhere to camp that we are having a family reunion, learn about the stories of our Uncle's families, family prayer, family stories, entertainment, share talents, and more.

Moral of the Story: Great memories are created when we are together.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool

This one wasn't on my TBR list for this week, but I've had it around for a while and I grabbed it while packing for our weekend. I picked up Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool because she is one of the authors coming to Kaleidoscope in the fall. Books like this amaze me: this is the author's only book, and it has received at least seven awards. It is a really great book!

Here's a great summary, found on Random House:

When Abilene’s father puts her on a train headed for his boyhood home in Manifest, Kansas, she is none to happy, but her unhappiness turns to downright disappointment and abandonment when she gets off the train in a dried-up, worn-out old town.  But all is not as bad as it seems when Abilene discovers some old letters and trinkets in a cigar box hidden under the floor in her room.  The letters hint at a spy named the Rattler who lives in Manifest and that sets Abilene and her friends on spy hunt, leading them to talk to the mysterious Miss Sadie who lives down the Path to Perdition and discovering the well-kept secrets of Manifest.   On the surface, none of theses secrets have anything to do with her father and everyone in Manifest is hiding something about her dad from her.  What she discovers will heal her family and the town of a wound inflicted long ago.

It was interesting to read this book while at a family reunion where stories were shared of our own history.

As much as I needed to hear her story, she had a need to tell it. It was as if the story was the only balm the provided any comfort. (page 154)

This book is amazing. The further I got into it the more hooked I was. It would be a great book for a book club discussion. I loved how the story all came together in the end to provide closure for so many in the story. I am not surprised this book has won all the awards it has. It is terrific!


You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl by Celia Rivenbark

You Don't Sweat Much for a Fat Girl was a book I just ran across in the library and figured it looked fun. It is by Celia Rivernbark. I read this book on our three hour trip to our family reunion. Well, almost read it all. I had to go sneak off to my room to finish it off when we got there.

At first I had a hard time getting into it. I had this fight going on inside my head that I should have picked a book that was more meaningful, would help me learn something or accomplish something. However, after a few chapters of smirks and chuckles I forgot about all that and enjoyed the laughs. It's a hilarious book! She's a southern girl without the southern girl rules of what nice girls say. Love it!

There were so many times when things would come up at the reunion that reminded me of humor from this book. I can't help looking at Chico without wondering what he would tweet in that moment. There's plenty of fun made at US politician dirt bags who have no morals, most of whom I think I heard about in the news but didn't bother keeping in my memory bank. I will never be able to look at Hello Kitty the same again, and single Asian guys will not garner any sympathy - well, maybe a little. Then there's the perspective on parents at elementary science fairs....you have to read it. Hilarious!