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Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Basketball, College Halls, & Duck Calls

It’s finally here!  The balls are swooshing, late night practicing, team dinners cooking, and basketball shoe buying.  We are the Imelda Marcos of basketball shoes around here.  And I thought girls were supposed to be the big spenders, it’s the boys and their NBA swag and JackThreads socks.  I guess crazy socks are what’s in on the basketball circuit, so I'll ignore the kangaroo and giraffe feet.  So now a senior and seventh grader basketball schedule is being thrown into our myriad of activities, but this just adds to the fun, the on the go, never-ending chaos.  How do I capture the insanity on this year’s Christmas card?  I love sending unique non-traditional greetings, and planning to make a DVD movie case for this year's Christmas card.   Not sure if we should go with an action packed movie or something like A Griswold Family Christmas?  I’ll explain later how my first idea was shot done, literally!

And ouch! When did a college dorm start costing as much as a house payment?  We are thrilled that our oldest son is receiving college acceptance letters, but the price of campus housing is unreal.   Every freshman needs to have the college dorm experience after leaving the nest.  After all, I wouldn’t be the same person today if it weren’t for experiencing the Chitwood dorm life @ Texas Tech.  Aside from the R A pouring our wine coolers down the sink and the 3 a.m. fire evacuations due to flaming pizza boxes being thrown down the trash shoot, it was a great way to meet people and connect with Raider land.  But I’m assuming college kids aren’t doing stupid things like that today?  Um okay mom, keep living in your delusional world.  But hopefully thinking, if he takes the basketball scholarship route not only will it save us a little money, but keep him so busy he won’t have time to be a part of dumb, not so well thought out activities.  One can hope right! 
But for tonight, I’m getting the chance to hang with the oldest and youngest and watching Monsters University.  Thinking he should apply there!
In prepping for our hill country Thanksgiving I gave into the Duck Dynasty craze and bought the family camo shirts and personalized duck calls.  No were not hunting, just thought we needed a little duck in our life.  I made a camo cake and announced that we were going with a Duck the Halls Christmas card this year.  The cake looked funky and was a big hit, but can’t say the same excitement was there for this theme choice, so back to the drawing board I go. 
I found this cake mix @ Wal-Mart? 
It’s Ace of Cakes & worth the extra pennies! 
Our camo and duck calls will still be put to good use in the woods this Thanksgiving, and I'll sneak in a few pictures.  Were sure to keep all the deer and other wildlife away, but maybe I can talk the family into a polar bear dip in the freezing river.  Just kidding, they think the water is too cold even during the summer.  And it is, the water @ Blue Hole holds a 68 degree constant water temp.  Brrr… 
So what are your Thanksgiving plans - to put up lights, watch the big game, Christmas shop?  Were keeping it simple and going to the Wimberley Christmas village, town square shopping, and hopefully a visit to Santa.  Not sure what happened with my six year old, but last year she would have nothing to do with Santa!   But hopefully now, she’ll sit on his lap long enough for me to get a picture!  Anyway, I wish you a Happy & Blessed Thanksgiving, and will get back with you on the Christmas front soon!

The Good Reads
No Place For A Pig
By Bloom, Suzanne


Ms. Taffy wins a pig on the radio station, but soon realizes it’s not the sort she expected to add to her collection.  And can she manage a growing pig and her cats in a tiny apartment?   Through zany and clever trial and error attempts from her neighbors, a solution is reached.  A compassionate swine story, but I do have to interject on the truth about pigs. 
Do you remember last years pig posts where my daughter joined FFA and we got roped into buying not one, but two pigs?  The only real suitable place for a pig is a farm because they’re smelly, destructive, noisy, carry mites, and without proper exercise can get unruly.  Sorry to take the rose colored glasses off this story but in case you were thinking a pink curly tailed pig is just what you need, it’s not!   I apologize for the bias review, but even my reader thought the people living in the neighborhood would take the pig during the night and turn it into pork chops.   That’s what we did, and now have enough pork to get us through a Zombie apocalypse.
Mr. Tiger Goes Wild
By Brown, Peter
Tiger Gone Wild!  This charming tale is no different than Peter Brown’s other loved books, like Creepy Carrots and Children Make Terrible Pets.  Tying to shake it up a bit and going through a mid life crisis, this Tiger’s had enough status quo.  He wants to run wild, but in doing so begins to miss companionship.   Amusingly, on his return, his uptight friends have also gone a little wild.  Don’t we all feel the need to release our inner tiger now and then?   Grrr…eat that this shimmering orange tiger discovers when you open the door and allow others to be themselves, positive things can happen.  As they say, a tiger cannot change his stripes after all.
Our Librarian Won’t Tell Us Anything!
By Buzzeo, Toni

A library guru, nut, fanatic, or whatever you want to call me I always enjoy life lessons coming from the library.  Mrs. Skorupski the librarian won’t tell the students anything, but instead has them do the required tasks themselves.  Delivers that we learn best by doing, but the writing was tedious with too much unnecessary detail.  My reader stuck with it though wanting to see what would be dangling from the librarian’s ears.   Spiders, bees, what will she wear next?
Jangle: A Big Fish Story
By Shannon, David
A smooth tale of a story, that’s so famous, fisherman have been talking about it for years.  Jangle’s the legendary fish is more than you can imagine and you’ll love this boy’s underwater adventure, and better yet his choice in the end.   Beautiful watery illustrations with jangling lures from the fishes' mouth will “catch” you by surprise.  Always been a David Shannon fan, but this one more than others captures a valuable lesson.  One green fishing tackle box you just gotta open.
 I cut out a fish from a piece of felt, bought safety pins, and let my reader pick out beads that resembled fishing lures.   
And there it you have it, her very own Jangles.  
Turkey Trouble
By Silvano, Wendi


Oh no, turkey is in troubled and will go through lengths not to end up on the Thanksgiving table.  Will Farmer Jake be fooled by his disguises and eat the rooster instead?  Ding, Dong! ... Pizza’s here, so it looks like there will be another year for this turkey. Loved how the clever bird uses his resources, and my little reader enjoyed matching the garden veggies to the pizza topping.  “The pizza is a flat pumpkin, don’t you see it?”  Pairs great with our home books, Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving and Sometimes It's Feathers.
And here’s one turkey in disguise that you might find on an episode of Duck Dynasty.  Yes, it’s Si with his tea glass.  Who woulda' thought? 
Thanksgiving At The Tappleton’s
By Stuller, Judith

Everyone in the family is responsible for a part of the Thanksgiving meal.  But through a series of unfortunate events one by one they loose their assigned foods.  After learning it’s not about what’s on the table, but in your heart they feast on delicious Liverwurst sandwiches and pickles.   My first grader thought because they were wolves, they were going to invite the goat milkman over and eat him for Thanksgiving.     
We just watched the Thanksgiving Charlie Brown and my reader connected that the wolves in this story didn't have a "regular" Thanksgiving dinner just like in a Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving.  She’s going with the toast and popcorn over the Liverwurst. 
This Never Gets Old

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover.

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Friday, November 8, 2013

Turkeys, Pintrosities, & Youth Reads

I should write a survival guide!  How to put together a cheerleader scavenger hunt, Host a varsity team basketball party, Conjure up spooky treats, Pumpkin patch the yard, Sew an angel costume, Romp, & Read?: All in one week.   Wish I could say I’m done, but is a mother’s work never done!  And now that Halloween's over, were moving on to the next thing!  Just a reminder, it's almost the ABC Family's Countdown to the Countdown to the 25 days of Christmas.  ☃ But enough about me, I'm sure you have a lot on your own plate.   Unless I tell you I have the answer on how to Git-R-All-Done!!  - Why is it that we suburban driving, middle-class, Texan suburbanites feel it necessary to bring redneck words in to conversation?

Well, it’s finally November and the turkeys are taking roost in the trees, so I hear from our hill country dwellers.  Ha, I’d love to see a turkey try and shimmy up a palm tree.  And to answer a follower’s question, no I’ve never climbed up a palm tree.   Most people don’t know they can be sharp.   While trimming ours, I got poked in the arm leaving quite a whelp, apparently some are toxic. So hats off to Tom Hanks for mastering how to shimmy up a coconut tree, after spending four years on a deserted island.

And now another reader question, “Why not post more pictures of your activities from your previous posts?”  I’m not one for putting all my goings-on out there, but occasionally try and capture the successful things.  I want to inspire and give ideas of ways to connect with your reader, not bore you with our family Kodak moments.  And as for Pinterest, in comparing what my finished project often looks like, some might say it’s a Pinterosity.   But at least this years Halloween costume was a successes.  0:)
  Picture Perfect  
Pinterest Angel   Mom’s Angel
Failtempts of the Week  
Pinterest Turkey Pies In A Jar      Mom’s Turkey Pies In A Jar 
Pinterest Pumpkin Pie Cookies    Mom’s Pumpkin Pie Cookies   
My twelve year old son can’t fathom my book excitement, and why our library adventures are a high point of the week: “How long have you been so crazy about reading?”   Actually, I was around six when my love of books began.  I accredit this to summer reading @ my neighborhood library.  The perfect day was a hot walk to the neighborhood pool, then off to the library to fill up my wagon with books.  Wagon? I had to have something to carry them in, so I’d have a free hand to buy a Sonic The Hedgehog Bar from the ice cream man.  I remember this profoundly; but also that my friends thought it was weird putting books in a red wagon.  They were busy filling out reading logs without even reading the books anyway.  And why on earth did they do that, it’s not like the libraries were giving out reading prizes like they do today?  We just got a certificate!   My son's reply, “Hedgehog Bar, what’s that, I only know about the game?”  I see he really grasped the important aspect of the story here. 
But Do They Still Sell These?
Next, I have to say we are undertaking another reading project at my reader’s school. Only in first grade and reading above grade level, I’m working with her teachers in putting together book activities for her chapter books.  Her school still does AR (Accelerated Reader) Tests, and she’s bored.  Imagine a first grader that doesn’t want to read and take tests over and over, so now talking is the better option.  Looks like Junie B Jones is what were starting with and today it’s, Monsters Under The Bed.  Putting learning extensions together for each book, and tonight kicking it off with a popcorn dance party!  On the local library front, she’s mostly checking out youth reads.   They do take a bit longer, so you might not see as many book reviews on each post, but instead longer and more focused on extended activities.  So onward we press zigzagging through the library expanding our reading journey, so enjoy :-D  

Lastly, let's look at another reader comment.  It inferred that too much reading is detrimental because it doesn’t allow a teacher to do their job successfully.  Does this warrant  response?  Um, this is probably not the blog for you my friend, as my intentions here are to inspire, motivate, and connect with parents, readers, writers, publishers, and also teachers with a passion for the written word by bringing books to life.  And that's all I'm gonna say bout' that!   
It's All About The Books
By Becker, Aaron

If you’re a follower, then you know I’m not a fan of wordless picture books.  Opening this I thought, great no words, so it's up to me to make up the story.  But this quickly changed as I was transported into a world of wonder, where a lonely girl uses her magic red crayon to travel to far off lands.  It begins with a red door opening to a forest lit with Chinese lanterns, where here a creek invites the young girl to make a red boat.  From there she travels to a castle of aqueducts, rides a magic carpet to another destination, and then draws a hot air balloon in hopes of rescuing a purple bird.  Will she set the bird free, and do so without letting go of her magic crayon?  We all need inherent beauty in our lives, and this does so delivering a message of heart and courage.
Little Reader immediately compared this to Miyazaki’s, Castle in the Sky.  And she’s right, we’re long time Miyazaki fans after first discovering Kiki’s Delivery Service at the library years ago.  Come to think about it, this is when my passion for eastern culture emerged and I began taking Taekwondo. Miyazaki somehow brings in a realm of beauty capturing the essence of a culture that we American’s often don't grasp.  If you’re already familiar with his movies, great, but if not let your library hook you up. 
Anything Is Possible
By Belloni, Giulia

You’ve heard the saying, if at first you don’t succeed try try again?  That’s where this was trying to go.  Trying being the optimal word here, as it never seemed to get off the ground.   The sheep and wolf are trying to create a flying machine, but the author didn’t capture determination like the title implied.  The cut paper illustrations did captivate Little Reader enough to deem this a cute book, but couldn’t recall what happened in the story.  And for the most part, nor did I.

Fenella: A Fable Of A Fairy Afraid To Fly
By Cord, Susannah
Enchanting, unique, amazingly illustrated, and vividly worded.  Fenella has a perfectly wonderful fairy life except for one thing, she’s afraid to fly.   Through a dad’s words of encouragement, a wondrous butterfly, a bee, and a human encounter she faces her fear and finds her true colors. 
I can vouch for Fenella, that it’s our journey that leads us to the answers were looking for.  It's here we find the courage and motivation to face uncertainties.  So don’t pass this one up, it would make a great tooth fairy gift.  Our tooth fairy loves to leave books!Show more
Palazzo Inverso
By Johnson, D B

Upside down or inversed castle is the Italian to English translation.  - This is need know info before reading!  An Escher-inspired masterpiece, about a clever apprentice who does a bit of blueprint meddling.  Mauk may love his where up is down and down is up palazzo creation, but do others feel the same?   You will enjoy reading the black text at the bottom of each page and at the end, literally flipping the book upside-down and reading the grey text along the top.   Multiple layers of re-readable fun with its optical illusions or “tricky eyes” and of course Mauk’s silly antics.
There’s No Such Thing As A Dragon
By Kent, Jack

Somehow I missed this delightful tale as a child?  You will immediately fall in love with this adorable dragon.   He may start out the size of a kitten, but grows to be as big as the house by the end of the day.  All the while Billy’s mom insisting, “There’s no such thing as a dragon!”   Hats off to Jack for hysterically using the dragon as a metaphor, meaning often people innocently create trouble in the hopes of being noticed.  Loved how he layered the themes of imagination, dealing with problems, longing to be acknowledged, and ended it on a profound note.  SPOILER ALERT!!
                                   - Diane Duane

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