Oh Heavenly Days

February 5, 2013 at 8:44 pm (Events, JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

DSC02517My post today is supposed to be  an update of last night’s book club meeting at Half Price Books in Humble.  We discussed Geraldine Brooks’ March, Alcott’s Little Women, Bronson Alcott, Fruitlands, and more.  Gigi’s Cupcakes in The Woodlands donated a half dozen cupcakes (which are more like really rich mounds of awesomeness than your typical idea of a cupcake) and mid way through the discussion and a bit of double vanilla icing melting in my mouth, all my very southern self could  think was “Oh My Heavenly Days.”  The I-literally-feel-like-I-am-in-heaven version of that line, not the rolling of the eyes sarcastic version… you fellow southerners know the very huge difference.

The discussion was awesome. I am quite enjoying this little once a month activity. I love how prepared my gentleman patron comes, with several books and research in tow.  I love yacking aimlessly on end about our likes and dislikes and anything about the book that has moved us that much.  Add in free cupcakes from GiGi’s and I feel as though we have created a true little slice of heaven tucked away in the corner of Half Price Books.

As far as the discussion of March was concerned, one thing that was agreed upon was the difficulty in reconciling the characters Brook created with the characters we all know and love from Little Women.  How did such a hot-headed Marmee become such a controlled and beautifully calm version we read in Alcott’s original work? Things that Brooks clearly well researched don’t mesh with the feel we have for the same history growing up in the States. One thing that stuck out in our minds, as a group, is whether Marmee would have actually gone and stayed under the same roof with the character Grace.  What do you think? It’s not too late to join the discussion, leave your thoughts in a comment or come to the meeting next month.

We also agreed on a memorable quote that made an appearance quite early in the novel:

“For to know a man’s library is, in some measure, to know his mind. And this mind was noble in its reach, wide in its interests, discerning in its tastes.” – pg. 18-19

Of course a group of bibliophiles would enjoy that one, of course.

January 2013 078I am still reading Eden’s Outcasts, a book about Bronson Alcott and his daughter Louisa May.  I believe I expressed this opinion last night, so I shall re-hash it here, and will probably say it again when I provide an official review of the biography… Bronson Alcott was a weird dude.

Louisa May Alcott’s father was a true transcendentalist, and with that come some shocking beliefs to someone raised as I was.  To have your sole guide to life be your own conscious is rather difficult when your conscious moves you to establish a commune with other transcendentalists.   Fruitlands became a commune of many differing beliefs and activities that never seemed to find a happy balance.  You have one member running the place naked with another member refusing to farm, another with children, and others anti-children.  The only common belief system to educate and be separate from the world.  In Bronson Alcott’s attempt to create a heavenly utopia he created a hot mess, which upon seeing it I would exclaim in sarcasm now: Oh My Heavenly Days.

I am amazed that Louisa May Alcott came out mostly well adjusted. I am not, however, surprised that the story of Little Women in a happy little world to lose yourself.  Little Women functions as a biography of the best versions of her family brought to life in fiction, all the strange and unhappy parts discarded probably for the sake of sanity.

That brings me back to Geraldine Brooks’ March.  March is a much darker, sinister, true to life version of the tale of Little Women and Mr. and Mrs. March.  It is a grown ups history.  I think what is most difficult is reconciling the fictional tale of Little Women with the very real feeling war novel of March.  There are some details here and there that ring false, but for the most part it is graphically realistic of some pieces of the Civil War.  It captures the darker sides of human nature that Little Women does not address, things that coming from an abolitionist’s family Louisa might have been very familiar.

What do you think?

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Magic Tree House Adventures – Knights!

January 23, 2013 at 1:40 am (Education, JARS) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World

The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World

(… Castles! And Medieval Times!)

the-knight-at-dawnToday we read up on everything Knights and Castles we could get our hands on in our house.  We started with The Magic Tree House #2: Knight at Dawn then moved onto the Research Guide Knights and Castles.  While I read these two easy readers aloud to the kiddo, she perused The Kingfisher Atlas of the Medieval World, mostly staying on the page on European castles in between jumping on my bed shouting our Feudal System chant.

“A Feudal System has four parts! From top to bottom it goes: King, Barons, Knights and Serfs!”  Sadly, I’ve already forgotten the tune to which we were singing/chanting this bit of information, maybe one day it will come to me again, or maybe we’ll find a new tune.  Either way, munchkin was climbing in and out of the laundry basket this morning singing,  “King! Baron! Knight! Serf!” so I win.

magic-tree-house-research-guide-2-knights-castles-mary-osborne-hardcover-cover-artIt was at this point that I decided: in addition to reading through this pairing and prepping kiddo’s future education (when she’s old enough to tackle these projects properly with crafts, writing assignments, and vocabulary tests), I’m going to blog our prepping routines… separate from the Weekly Low Down on Kids Books installments.  I know I will find it handy for when we repeat this reading exercise in a few years, but maybe someone else can find it handy now.

I can’t wait to take the kiddo to Medieval Times. I’ve always enjoyed the place and once she is old enough to go, I think it would be a great way to end an educational adventure.  As she’s only two and today’s reading was somewhat (though not completely) impromptu, I took her to the closet thing to a castle we have readily available.

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The Spring Community Playground, part of Liberty Park looks like a giant, wooden castle to me.  It has several keeps, a palisade, horses to ride, and all sorts of castle/fortress styled fixtures.  According to the park’s website:

This playground was built by the Spring community for the betterment of the Spring community ultimately for the enjoyment by our children with community donations and community volunteer labor. It was built in 5 DAYS from January 29th to February 2nd 2003 with over 900 community volunteers. A large majority of the volunteers were parents, grandparents and friends of students from Hirsch, Smith and Jenkins Elementary Schools. We also had volunteers from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston, Kingwood, Conroe, Laredo, and Mexico.

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Obviously, there’s a huge difference between this and an actual castle! But it’s fun to walk the park and read the engraved pieces of wood that tell who donated what.  I want the kiddo to grow up with a strong sense of community… our neighborhood is our manor, and all that.

When she’s older, we’ll be able to spread the study over the course of a week and add more books and activities. For instance, on day two we could read The Time Warp Trio: The Knights of the Kitchen Table over breakfast.  I like the idea of making a lap book with artwork, tabs, and pop-ups out of a manila filing folder afterward.  (Visit this pin: http://pinterest.com/pin/118923246380148367/)

This unit would also be a great opportunity to spend the week going through one Sir Cumference book a day for the start of math lessons.

For lunch, I’ll take the opportunity to serve “feast foods.”  I found an entire web page dedicated to recipes of the day, and I love to eat to match our educational themes.  Plus, I want my daughter to know her way around the kitchen before she goes off to college, unlike me.  So as she gets older, we’ll be making all our meals in the kitchen together – themed or not.

I would definitely try to work in her first horseback lesson during this week if she hadn’t started them already, after all knights, caballeros, Ritters, and chevaliers, are all just soldiers on horseback, as the MTH Research Guide will tell you.

lapbooking

Click image to visit a lapbooking tutorial website.

For the most part, though, we will spend our days reading, making lap books, journaling what we’ve learned, playing dress up, and gearing all our artistic energy at the topic.  Homeschool Mom and Blogger of My 2 Small Boys has images of her kids’ notebooks on Knights and Castles here: http://my2smallboys.blogspot.com/2012/01/middle-ages-knights-and-castles.html.

When the weekend roles around, if the study lands in the summer, perhaps we will go to the beach and build sandcastles;  If in the fall, maybe we’ll head out to the Texas Ren Fest.

Knights and Castles Library List
Saint George and the Dragon (a great precursor to have on hand for Spenser’s The Faerie Queen, we’ve already read it quite a few times)
Castle Diary by Richard Platt
The Knight at Dawn by Mary Pope Osborne
Knight by Christopher Gravett
Knight ~ A Noble Guide for Young Squires
100 Things You Should Know About Knights and Castles
by Jane Walker
If You Lived in the Days of Knights by Ann McGovern
Castle: Medieval Days and Knights by Kyle Olmon
Knights in Shining Armo by Gail Gibbons
Knights and Castles by Seymour Simon
The Usborne Book of Castles by Lesley Sims and Jane Chisolm
What If You Met a Knight? By Jan Adkins
Imagine You’re a Knight by Meg Clibbon
Take Care, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas
The Knight and the Dragon by Tomie DePaola
In the Castle by Anna Milbourne
The Castle That Jack Built by Lesley Sims
The Tournament by Heather Amery

Some more ideas: http://www.angelfire.com/dc/childsplay/castleunit.htm

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Weekly Low Down on Kids Books – Dinosaurs!

January 18, 2013 at 8:13 pm (Education, JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

dinsaurs before darkI read Magic Tree House #1: Dinosaurs Before Dark to the kiddo today, all the way through this time.  We have started it before, but she wasn’t old enough to listen to it all and grasp the concept yet.  We’ve been practicing our alphabet and started a notebook together, though, and now at age two and three months she knows that ‘D’ is for ‘dogs and dinosaurs’ and can identify their images in illustrations.  So reading Mary Pope Osborn’s first adventure was a little more exciting this time.

We had to stop a few times to draw a rhinoceros onto our ‘R’ page, check out whales and their sizes in relation to dinosaurs in our encyclopedia, and to correct behavior as she climbed in my living room window sill that is about three and half feet off the ground.  We even had a brief whistling lesson after reading how the wind was whistling around the tree house.  Overall, she enjoyed it, so we moved onto the Research Guide.

dinosaurs research guideMary Pope Osborne and her husband Will Osborne joined forces and started writing nonfiction companion books to the fictional Magic Tree House adventures.  When I first discovered this, I started purchasing them in pairs, vowing to use them as fun assignments while home schooling.  I’d like for kiddo to grow up in the habit of reading a nonfiction title that somehow relates to every fiction title that she devours, expanding both her facts and her imagination.  What better way than to start with research guides to her first chapter books?

Why am I reading these to her so early?  Frankly, it’s quite hilarious to watch a two  year old run circles in your living room chanting, “Fossils! Minerals! Dinosaurs!” at the top of her lungs, while her dog (who happens to be the biggest one we own) lays in the center rolling his eyes.

wanna iguanaChapter three of the research guide Dinosaurs talks about iguanas and how Gideon Mantell though the dinosaur teeth he and his wife found were giant iguana teeth.  Of course, we had to stop to re-read I Wanna Iguana by Karen Kaufman Orloff and David Catrow.  It has quickly  become a favorite since we came across it at Half Price Books a few weeks ago, and the tie-in to our dinosaur lesson was flawless.  The banter between mother and son is downright fun and the illustrations are extra spunky.  It gave us a chance to talk about different iguana sizes and different ancient dinosaur sizes again, bigger and smaller is something I think the kiddo is really getting the hang of after our discussions today.

All in all, we had a good ‘school day’ this morning, something we have been working on being more diligent about now that kiddo is two and it has actually managed to get too cold to venture out as much.

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City of Fallen Angels and Lilith Lore

July 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm (Education, JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

Lilith in Atrology, click to read more

*Spoilers*

I sat down with City of Fallen Angels over a week ago, but just finished it this morning.  The first half was hard for me to get into, having the melodrama equivalent of The Twilight Saga’s New Moon, which drove me nuts.  The climax to ending though, of course was amazing.  Finally pieces were coming together and the “we love each other but can’t be together AGAIN” crap had some semblance of purpose.  More importantly, Clare hooked me with the introduction of a character that I’ve already had a long time fascination for (SPOILER ALERT): Lilith.

I have many interests, and though I tend to purchase books sporadically, when reading through my TBR’s I’d like to think that I do it with a little finesse, with purpose.  Years ago, I did a brief research day on Lilith, spawned from a conversation I had with someone completely convinced that Adam from Genesis had two wives.  I was startled that someone would think this and wanted to get to the root of it all, and spent my astonishment reading through websites, encyclopedias, and other reference material.  I have days like this, spent on a particular topic, often.  Mostly I end up purchasing things to read later.  Who would have thought that Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instrumentsseries would have made that long ago ‘later’ into today’s now.

So I plucked The Book of Lilithby Barbara Black Koltuv, Ph.D., off my shelf, and started reading.  Much of the Hebrew mythology surrounding Lilith I was already familiar with from my previous research, but Koltuv has opened to my eyes to an entire history spanning across many cultures with lore about the demon that embodies all things feminine.

The most confusing thing about Lilith (that Koltuv sorts out for the reader well) is all the contradictions embodied in her.  She is supposed to be the first wife of Adam, equal to him being brought up from the dust like him, rather than a submissive form pulled from his bones.  Yet, she is also a she-demon, according to many as powerful as God, equal but opposite.  Some say she is God’s concubine, some say she is Lucifer’s current wife, but still Adam’s ex.  She is often linked or married to the King of the Demons known as Samael.  Sometimes Samael is thought to be equal to Lucifer, and sometimes he is thought to be Lucifer’s version of Adam, his own creation.  All the mythology overlaps making Lilith a strange, cloudy line between humanity and Satan, but always the opposite of Truth, Goodness, and Steadfastness in every way.  These characters are full of secrets and lies, evil, and are ever changing according to the story tellers grasp and manipulation.  One would expect nothing less from those who are supposed to counter balance God.

Lilith in History, click to view a concise but informative website

The most consistent version of Lilith is that she is a succubus for men, and “for women she is the dark shadow of the Self that is married to the devil” (Koltuv).  Like Cassandra Clare’s character in City of Fallen Angels, she is a baby killer and is known as the goddess of dead children, Clare uses this concept as a cult inadvertently kill their offspring via demon blood while trying to please her.

So tied to feminism and the uterus, people also believe that she is ever linked to women in the form of the curse of our menstrual cycle.  Tethered to our raging hormones, sexuality, and PMS.  This line of thinking eventually made possible the transition of Lilith of evil she-demon to a goddess and Feminist icon/idol.  It is amazing that this mythical creature has managed to be so many things (even a screeching night owl and a Leviathan)!  Some of the discrepancies can be attributed to the idea of there being two Liliths: a Grandmother Lilith (married to Samael) and a Maiden Lilith (married to a dark prince of demons, Ashmodai).

I find it all rather fascinating.  Throughout history people have linked Lilith to hundreds of stories, and though I don’t belive any of them as fact (I personally plop her right in there with Zeus, Athena, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer), I find the use of her in fiction pretty riveting.

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84, Charing Cross Road

December 8, 2010 at 1:31 am (JARS, Reviews)

Not since Shakespeare&Co. of Time Was Soft There has a European bookstore touched me so.  This collection of letters between Helen, Frank, and others from Marks&Co. was delightful, beautiful, and oh so sad.  I cannot wait to read its sequel and other work by Helene Hanff.

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Finding Miller’s Fence

December 4, 2010 at 2:56 pm (JARS, Reviews)

Like Darwin himself, Kenneth Miller stands tall on the fence between having any decided thoughts on science and religion as he eloquently expresses that he believes all of it and yet none of it. His language and style is convincing and comfortable throughout his book Finding Darwin’s God, and seems to be quite capable of appeasing the general public with his beautifully written ramblings. Yet, obviously, I remain unsatisfied.

Miller spends half the book defending evolution, half defending God, veiling his arguments in pretty language refusing to completely side with either side very much the way Darwin did in his own writings (for fear of social upset).

During this well structured persuasive essay, he calls Darwin a fence sitter and then wraps the entire book up with two separate statements:

1. “[…] Darwin in his later years tried and failed to find God, at least a God consistent with his theories.”

2. “What kind of God do I believe in? The answer is in those words. I believe in Darwin’s God.”

I respect his effort, and the book was extremely well written and absolutely fascinating.    I just can’t seem to agree with him.

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Ramses Volume 3: The Battle of Kadesh

June 29, 2010 at 3:19 am (JARS, Reviews)

A review on the third volume of the bestselling series by Christian Jacq:

The character development is poor and I’m definitely disappointed with the level of historical accuracy and shallowness of all the well-known figures.  To me, it might be better to write a piece on Ramses from an unknown person’s point of view – character development can go as deep as the imagination, and the writing wouldn’t seem so lacking because what the character sees of Ramses would be based in what we find in museums and history books.  Instead, Jacq uses redundant phrases and paragraphs to describe the relationships between characters – much like Nicholas Sparks whom I despise.  But, it is an entertaining vacation read.

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Ramses Volume 2: The Eternal Temple

June 1, 2010 at 3:15 am (JARS, Reviews)

The further into Ramses story Jacq gets the farther away he gets from history and truth.  I like my historical fiction to be based in a little more fact and so much of the story and so many of the characters are off base.  Its all rather disappointing.

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Ramses: The Son of Light by Christian Jacq

May 27, 2010 at 12:58 pm (JARS, Reviews) (, , , , , , , , , , )

This is a great kick start to the life of Ramses the Great. We are introduced to his throne hungry brother Shaanar, his father Seti, mother Tuya, obnoxious sister Dolora, and his two wives Iset the Fair and Nefartari. Moses is also introduced, which is slightly irksome because the book is written off the old school of thought that Moses was during the time of Ramses the Great due to the mention of the city of Ramses in the scriptures. I believe its highly likely that the name of the city mentioned in the bible was updated by an eager scribe and that the proper date of Moses’ lifespan would place him during the 15th century/18th dynasty about 200 years before Ramses. Generally, I enjoyed the book although I feel much is lost in the translation from the French (Jacq’s writing seems too simplistic and listy), but I am still excited about reading the four remaining books in the series to see how it all plays out from Jacq’s perspective.

Series Available on Amazon

A fabulous article on Moses and his placement in history: http://www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2009/02/27/Moses-and-Hatshepsut.aspx

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Anna Karenina

May 17, 2010 at 3:44 am (JARS, Reviews, The Whim)

I’m reading Anna Karenina right now, its clever and interesting.  There’s a much different feel and mood than Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (which I just finished recently).

I don’t have a formal review as of yet, I am just now starting Part II, but I did find this fantastic article and wanted to point it out:

http://chaosandoldnight.wordpress.com/2007/02/22/tolstoy-happiness-and-objective-meaning/

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