Noah’s Reading – October 2007

October 31, 2007 Categories: Books , Homeschooling , Kid Stuff | Comments Off  

Monster Blood by R. L. Stine
The Yellow House Mystery (The Boxcar Children, No. 3) by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Jonathan’s Reading – October 2007

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The Beginner’s Bible: Timeless Children’s Stories by Karen Henley
Geronimo Stilton #9: A Fabumouse Vacation for Geronimo by “Geronimo Stilton”

Read Alouds – October 2007

Categories: Books , Homeschooling , Kid Stuff | 2 Comments  

Making Brothers and Sisters Best Friends by Sarah, Stephen, and Grace Mally
Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
The Book Without Words by Avi
Eldest by Christopher Paolini (to Noah)
The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (to Natalie)

Natalie’s Reading – October 2007

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Rules by Cynthia Lord
Kirsten’s Surprise by Janet Shaw
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Junior Edition by David Borgenicht

Review of Ratatouille

October 27, 2007 Categories: Movies , Reviews | 4 Comments  

(Ratatouille was provided to me by Click Communications for the purpose of review.)

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The kids and I watched Ratatouille last night. I had heard so many good reviews of this movie when it was in the theaters, and they were right. Pixar has done it again – created a delightful animated film that kids and adults will both enjoy.

Ratatouille is the story of a rat named Remy. Remy lives in France, and he has a dream. He wants to cook. But, of course, there is a problem – he’s a rat. Through a series of circumstances, Remy teams up with Linguini, a young man working as garbage boy at Gusteau’s restaurant in Paris. Linguini can’t cook, but Remy can, and together they create culinary masterpieces.

Ratatouille has a great storyline, a good romance, fun characters – and a meaningful theme: brilliant things can come from unexpected places. The kids all loved it – well, three of them. Josiah fell asleep – but he had an excuse, we had spent the evening at the Tae Kwon Do Halloween party and he had partied himself out. The older three all give it multiple thumbs up – and asked to watch it again today.

Review of The Best of the Colbert Report

Categories: Reviews , Television | 7 Comments  

(The Best of the Colbert Report was provided to me by Click Communications for the purpose of review.)

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First, a confession. Four years ago, I would never have considered reviewing a DVD compilation of clips from a Comedy Channel show that makes its living by satirizing Republicans and Republican-leaning news shows. Four years ago, I considered myself a die-hard Republican. I thought the whole of politics revolved around one issue: abortion. I thought President Bush was the best possible choice for our president. Although I may still think he has been better than the alternatives we were presented with (Kerry or Gore) would have been, I no longer think that he is a sacred cow whose decisions and integrity can’t or shouldn’t be called into question.

Having said that, I have to admit that when I agreed to review The Best of the Colbert Report, it was pretty much on a whim and I didn’t give it much thought. I’d seen The Colbert Report on TV; I knew the premise. I find it humorous – and although Colbert’s most frequent targets happen to be conservatives, he is also willing to satirize the Dems when they deserve it. I thought it would be interesting to watch the DVD and see what has made Colbert’s show so popular over the past few years. What I didn’t think about was the fact that I might be angering some of my loyal readers by reviewing this DVD. I’m hoping that this won’t be the case.

Having said that Colbert is willing to ridicule the Dems when they are asking for it, I must admit that this DVD compilation pretty much targets the Republican Party, and the man Stephen Colbert modelled his program after, Bill O’Reilly. And, frankly, I find a lot of it very funny. Some of it is too one-sided, but sadly, a lot of it has the ring of truth to it. I can no longer listen to Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly because they are unwilling to admit or discuss the fact that Republicans can and do make mistakes, and that they can and do move outside of the bounds of ethics. (Most politicians do, unfortunately.) That stubborn pride is what makes them easy targets for someone like Stephen Colbert.

So, I guess my bottom line is this: If you like political satire, and you aren’t so married to the Republican party that you can’t see when they are wrong, you would find this DVD funny. If you don’t like political satire, or you think that Republicans shouldn’t be the target of satire and ridicule, I’d avoid it.

And, lastly, please don’t hate me if we disagree. ;)

Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself

October 26, 2007 Categories: Books , Commonplace Book , Reviews | 14 Comments  

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Alan Alda on acting in live theater (I miss it!):

“Sometimes, standing on the stage, I have an experience of unusual awareness. I know I’m in a theater and that an audience is watching, and I know that the woman across from me is not really who she’s claiming to be. And in spite of knowing we’re in front of other people, I know we’re alone in this room. I’m also aware of something much weirder than that. I’m aware that the two of us are other people, someplace else, arguing over something. We are so completely involved with this struggle, we could say almost anything at this moment. But we say the same thing we said last night. And I’m aware that this is because we’re acting. It’s like an endless arc of images in paired mirrors curving off into infinity. And when this moment is at its most intense, it’s at its lightest. There is no strain, in fact, there’s a feeling of floating. But, of course, I’m aware that, far from floating, I’m standing on a stage that’s raked for the audience to see us better, and I have to be careful where I plant my feet or I’ll lose my balance.

This multiple awareness is for me the ecstasy of acting. When this happens, there doesn’t seem to be any part of my brain that isn’t working on something. The clock stops, and an intricate pas de deux takes place in slow motion. You choke with emotion, yet you feel nothing. You know everything and nothing at once. You walk a narrow beam a hundred stories high, but your steps are as sure as on a sidewalk. Failure can’t happen. Death is remote. There is no way to know what you’ll say next, and then you say it. And you notice that you’re saying it slightly differently from the last time you said it at exactly this moment.”

~p. 79-80

On September 11th:

“They were buildings so tall, they had thrown out television signals across all of New York City and beyond, so simple and staunch that one glimpse of them, in a movie or on a souvenir plate, instantly said, This is New York. One by one, they descended to the ground, billowing an ugly, toxic cloud while disbelief and confusion rose in each of us from a place in our chest where once we had felt safety and comfort.

The towers came down, carrying with them the lives of people who had left us not at the end of their time, or even in an unexpected accident, but in an act of ignorant, malicious hatred. When that happened, a little patch of meaning seemed to come loose from us, like a layer of skin gone dead. Remember how after the disbelief came a desperate urge to do something? We all felt it. It was intolerable to think there was no action you could take. Out in the countryside where we lived, I went with three of my granddaughters to a shoe store. The girls were four, seven, and nine years old, and we gravely picked out a dozen pairs of heavy work boots for the rescue workers. We brought them to a truck parked across from the village commons, where two women on the back of the truck were hoisting up contributions meant for Ground Zero. In the days that followed ths attack, so many people sent truckloads of boots, blankets, and work clothes that trucks piled up along the Hudson and many tons of supplies never made it across the river from a warehouse in New Jersey. But it hadn’t been wasted effort, because we all needed to take some kind of action. The satirical website The Onion published a fake news article that, while it may have been meant to be funny, captured with poignancy our desperation. It told of a woman in Topeka, Kansas, who felt so helpless, so in need of doing something, that she baked a cake. Then she covered it with strawberries and food coloring in the shape of an American flag. Like her, and like millions of others, I made American flags, too. I went to a website and printed out flags that I taped to the rear windows of the family cars. I nailed a pole to the fence at the end of our driveway and tied a hardware-store flag to it.

As you walked the city in the days following the attack, you would see dozens of flags thirty stories high in the windows of apartment buildings. People had pasted the flags to their windows on the chance that someone would look up and know that someone else was pulling for them. During those weeks, the flag had stopped being an expression of particular political leanings; it belonged to all of us again.”

~p. 91-92

Advice for living:

“1. Make someone happy. Learn how to laugh and how to make someone else laugh. Take pleasure in who they are, as they are. In other words, love someone. Surrender to the person you love. I don’t mean give in. I mean surrender. Put down the arms of war and open the other kind. You don’t need to debate and compromise with someone you love. Just make them happy.

2. Find out how you can be helpful. It didn’t occur to me at first that being helpful was better than being the center of attention. That’s not an idea that would tend to occur to an actor. But it turns out that if you can really find a way to be helpful, more satisfaction and praise than you know what to do with will come your way. Being helpful assumes that the people you help actually want your help. And that you know enough to actually be of help and not make life worse for them than it already is. This means getting as smart as you can. But getting smart is a tricky business. The smartest people I’ve ever met are the ones who knew exactly what they were ignorant of. If you don’t know much about something, assuming that what little you know is all there is to know is not the way to find out more. And try not to assume you can just take a stab at complex things. Complex things bite. So be wary of simple answers to complex questions.

3. If you keep score, keep score your way. Don’t let the world tell you success is a big house if you think sucess is a happy home. If you meet a bully who says, “I’m stronger and richer than you, and you’re nothing if you’re not richer or stronger than I am,” and if he’s richer and stronger than you’ll ever be, wouldn’t it be stupid to get into a pissing contest with this guy?”

~p. 206-207

I’ve had a little bit of a crush on Alan Alda since I was in sixth grade and would sneak downstairs after everyone was asleep to watch M*A*S*H reruns at 11:30 p.m. I would hunch real close to the TV, the volume down almost so low I couldn’t hear it, so as not to get caught.

Of course, I guess you could say, I’ve had a crush on Hawkeye. He was smart, funny, loved the ladies – and was an all-around nice guy. I know that Alan Alda is not Hawkeye, but after reading Never Have Your Dog Stuffed, and Other Things I’ve Learned two years ago, and now having just finished Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, I do know that the smartness and humor are present in the actor, not just the character. Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself, his second memoir, takes up where the first one left off, but is more than just a list of experiences. It is Alda’s attempt to make sense of life. What does it all mean? I may not agree with some of his conclusions, but I thoroughly enjoyed reading about how he came to them.

5 out of 5 stars

Deep breath

October 24, 2007 Categories: Blogging , Books , Faith , Holidays , Homeschooling , Kid Stuff , Marriage , Parenting , Writing | 9 Comments  

My thoughts of late have gone something like this:

Articles due – need to finish Gryffindor scarves – why doesn’t Wal-mart have crowns or wands? – grocery list: can’t forget yarn to finish scarves and ingredients for dessert to bring to Tae Kwon Do party – more articles due – need to write review – haven’t written a personal blog post in ages – miss my books – ah, girls’ night – need to plan party for Mom and Dad’s 40th anniversary – oh my gosh, Josiah lost a tooth – oh yeah, Josiah’s birthday is coming up – which Harvest Party are we going to? – more articles due – forgot to call that lady about that thing – need to cancel satellite – stacks of papers to correct and file – etc. – etc. – etc.

Is it any wonder that this frantic feeling is building up and I just need to stop and take a breath? In the midst of all this busy-ness, I don’t want to just breeze past the things that really matter. Like:

~ Josiah is reading. Short-vowel words and some sight words so far, but he’s reading. Four down, zero to go. What a strange feeling – no more non-readers in the family.

~ He also lost his first tooth, and he’s turning six next week. Thank God, he is still a cuddle-bug. Lately, he has taken to jumping on my lap, wrapping his arms around my neck, and saying, “Amo, Mommy!” (Amo is “I love” in Latin.)

~ The kids and I have been doing origami every afternoon this week. We just finished the chapter on Japan in Story of the World II: The Middle Ages, and we are enjoying origami as part of that study. We also wrote haikus. These are the days I love homeschooling.

~ My parents are celebrating 40 years of marriage! I’ve watched them go through a lot of ups and downs, and they’re still together and still love each other.

~ Christmas is coming. This will be the last Christmas that Marni and Hans and their little boys, Peter and Andrew, will be with us for a while. They have sold their house and moved into an apartment and are planning to move to St. Louis in the spring. Hans will be attending Covenant Theological Seminary. Right now, they live in the Coeur d’Alene area, which means Marni is the closest sister geographically. (Andrea is in Boise; Debra is in Silverdale.) When they move, there will no longer be any siblings within a distance that takes less than a day to drive. Sob.

~ Natalie is not a little girl anymore. She is turning into a young lady – she’ll be eleven in December. Oh. my. goodness.

~ We’re in the process of… starting to… begin to get our house ready to sell. ~grin~ I’m very excited about moving into a bigger house in a different neighborhood, but… This was our first home. When we moved in, Natalie was 3 1/2, Noah was 2, Jonathan was 1, and Josiah wasn’t even being considered yet. It is bittersweet to think about moving.

~ We are slowly getting more involved with our new church. It’s the best choice we’ve found for our family, but I still feel a longing for something more. More community, less programs, more worship, more tradition, more authenticity, more loving God with all your mind as well as your heart. The kids are thrilled with Awana, and I’m glad they like it, but I have some reservations about making the studying and memorizing of God’s Word into a competition. And can anyone please tell me why children’s programs and obscene amounts of candy have to go together?

~ I have a bounty of riches when it comes to my to-read shelves. (And stacks.) The extra income from the freelance writing is so needed, but I don’t like feeling guilty whenever I sit down to read. Every once in a while, my stacks catch my eye, and such a feeling of longing comes over me – when will there be enough time? There are so many things I want to know, to understand, so many stories I want to dive in to. Sigh.

In the midst of all these thoughts, I want to thank you for sticking around. There haven’t been many comments lately, but I know people are still reading and visiting, and I appreciate
that more than you will know.

That’s what’s been going on with me. What’s going on with you?

Review of October Road

October 22, 2007 Categories: Reviews , Television | 1 Comment  

(October Road was provided to me by Click Communications for the purpose of review.)

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I have to admit that until Click Communications contacted me about reviewing Season One of October Road, I had never heard of the ABC series, which stars Bryan Greenberg, Laura Prepon, and Tom Berenger. The premise sounded interesting, so I said sure. The first season only includes six episodes, so I figured I could watch it over a couple of weeks, write the review, and be done.

I watched all six episodes in three days. Don’t worry, it was a weekend, so I didn’t neglect homeschooling. I did feed the kids, and I was crocheting the kids’ Gryffindor scarves for Halloween. So I wasn’t completey unproductive.

I can’t think of another show that this reminds me of – and that is such a good thing. It is an hour-long drama, with lots of comedy and a fabulous soundtrack. Nick Garrett left his tiny Massachusetts home town right after high school for a six-week backpacking tour of Europe. He left behind Hannah, his high school sweetheart, and Eddie, his best friend and the person with whom he planned to go into business. Nick never came back. Instead, he wrote an autobiographical novel and didn’t disguise the characters he based on his friends very well.

Ten years later, Nick’s book has been turned into a hit movie, but he hasn’t been able to write another book. Hoping that going home again will break through his writer’s block, Nick heads back. Eddie isn’t speaking to him, and Hannah is raising ten-year-old Sam, who she swears is not Nick’s son. Episode two is called “Pros and Cons of Upsetting the Applecart” – and that is basically the idea of the series.

The characters are terrific, the acting is wonderful, and now I can’t wait for season two. It hasn’t been scheduled yet, but it has been filmed and I think ABC is holding on to it for a replacement when the first new series tanks.

Be sure and catch up with Season One before they start showing season 2. I’m heading to Amazon to see if they’ve put out a soundtrack CD.

Ayo’s Joyful Giveaway

Categories: Contests , Music | 2 Comments  

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I have another great giveaway, thanks to the folks at Special Ops Media.

According to the news release:

Ayo is a supremely talented artist. She broke through in Europe last summer with the hit single “Down On My Knees”, followed by her Platinum album Joyful, produced by Jay Newland (Norah Jones). She has since rapidly conquered such diverse markets as France, Italy, Germany, Poland, Argentina, Korea and Australia .

Ayo was born of a Nigerian father and a Romanian Gypsy mother. She was discovered in New York and was signed worldwide by Polydor France (Universal/Interscope in the U.S).

Ayo is being compared to everyone from Sade to Stevie Wonder, to Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading and even Otis Redding, but Ayo is Ayo. Her songs are very ‘personal’ and her audience hits all age categories evenly, from very young to mature.

Check out Ayo’s official web site, listen to some samples of her songs here and here, and then leave me a comment if you would like to win a copy of her upcoming CD Joyful. I’ll keep the contest open until Tuesday, October 30th at 12 midnight Pacific Standard Time.