Wednesday, July 23, 2014

WW: Summer Days, Tea Parties, and Books

Tea Party

Nothing like starting a lazy summer day off right with a tea party, methinks…

And then follow it up with a reading marathon, since a good stack of books are due back at the library in two days and we want to get through as many as possible.  (Yes, our eyes are often bigger than our brains when checking those books out for three weeks.)
3rdGradeReadingList

So this is supposed to be Wordless Wednesday and all, but I love reading others’ book lists at this time of year, so I figured we’d give you our summer list so far…
  • Gooney Bird Collection by Lois Lowry.  A four-story audiobook collection that is probably Esmé’s all-time favorite this summer.  Having an out-of-the-mold girl myself, I happen to be a little in love with 2nd-grader Gooney after listening to a couple.  She’s smart and different and stands up for the others when needed.  I want my daughter to have her teacher....
  • The Lemonade Crime by Jacqueline Davies.  This is a follow-up to The Lemonade War, which we had enjoyed on audiobook, so Esmé was quite ready to pick up the book and read on her own.  I wrapped up the last two chapters as a read-aloud so I wouldn’t be left in the dark. I like the series not just for “moral” lessons, but for the explicit vocabulary lessons and the fact that one of the characters has skipped a grade and deals with some of the same issues Esmé has gone through.
  • About Average by Andrew Clements.  Listened to audiobook.  If Mr. Clements wouldn’t write so many books, we would probably get through them all this summer.  They all seem to have extremely relatable kids in an extremely relatable school setting who are a bit outside the “normal” box, even in this book about “average,” and the writing is very engaging.
  • The Report Card by Andrew Clements.  The chapter book currently in Esmé’s paws as I type.  I haven’t read yet, but it’s probably a sure bet due to the author.
  • We the Children (Benjamin Pratt and the Keepers of the School) by Andrew Clements.  I’m encouraging Esmé to pick out one book on her own at the library each week, and this is her latest (and most ambitious) personal pick.  She’s a few chapters into it and won’t let me borrow it to read myself yet. The history/mystery genre is a bit different from his other books, so I’m curious as to whether we’ll like this series.
  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio.  Listened to audiobook.  I can understand why this book seems to be really popular this year, though it is quite long.  I work with people with disabilities, and the emphasis is always on how we are more the same than different, no matter how visible the disability.  This book brings home that understanding to young minds.
  • A Girl Called Tommie by Thelma G. Norman.  We swap-read this chapter book.  It’s a throwback to my childhood that I found while visiting my parents, and I love that Esmé loved the same stories. Lots of little adventures and lessons for young girls…
  • Rush Revere and the First Patriots:  Time Travel Adventures with Exceptional Americans by Rush Limbaugh.  A look into American history from a pro-American viewpoint. I’m enjoying it more than Esmé, so we’re using it as a history-lesson read-aloud.  The illustrations are fabulous and the magical time-traveling horse is downright funny.
  • Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan.   Listened to audiobook.  We’ve done studies on the Great Depression before, and this is a good tie-in from a different perspective.
  • From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.  Listened to audiobook.  I admit this had me concerned from the get-go – would it inspire Miss Esmé to plan a run-away-from-home excursion?  But we stuck it out and mostly enjoyed it, and it fits in nicely with Esmé’s summer art camp adventures. I was amused to see it is on Esmé’s 4th grade curriculum list (one of three novels), so she’ll get to enjoy it a bit more over the next year.
  • Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli.  Listened to audiobook.  To be honest, I swapped several times between not enjoying and enjoying the writing style of this book, but Esmé wanted to listen to the whole thing, so we did.  In addition to being about an amazing kid with remarkable survival skills, it deals with a lot of racial issues.  I do like the ending, so am glad I stuck it out.
  • The Otter, the Spotted Frog & the Great Flood by Gerald Hausman. A read-aloud picture book.  We’d studied how the Flood turns up in ancient tales across civilizations, and this was an interesting illustration in point.  Speaking of illustrations, it was also a good example of interesting Native American art.
  • No Monkeys, No Chocolate by Melissa Stewart and Allen Young.  A read-aloud picture book.  I like the fun storyline with two little bookworms with kid-appealing humor on each page.  And while it is a fun book, it’s even more an educational book about the many creatures who contribute to your chocolate bar, including, yes, the brain-eating coffin fly.
  • Beauty and the Beast by H. Chuku Lee.  A read-aloud picture book. I like books that tell a familiar story or fairy tale from a different cultural perspective, but to be honest, this wasn’t a particularly stand-out one except for the illustrations.
  • The Boy Who Loved Math:  The Improbable Life of Paul Erdos by Deborah Heiligman. A read-aloud picture book.  Let’s face it: Esmé was a crazy math lover as a little thing, but Common Core has sucked it right out of her.  I don’t expect her to be another Paul Erdos, but I’d love to spark that math love again, so I’m looking for books like this that illustrate the fun of it.
  • Simeon’s Gift by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton.  A read-aloud picture book.  A whimsical tale of music and love.
  • Amelia Bedelia Means Business by Herman Parish.  Just a fun early chapter book on Esmé’s book list that’ll make Amelia Bedelia fans smile.
  • Never Girls #1: In a Blink by Kiki Thorpe.  The first in a Disney early chapter book series that fed Esmé’s fairy fetish for a bit.  Esmé read and recommends it, though it probably wouldn’t make my list.
  • Stink and the Freaky Frog Freakout by Megan McDonald.  Another Esmé-recommended popular series book that I didn’t read and probably wouldn’t put on my list.  Though she keeps bringing up amphibian fact tidbits that she supposedly learned from the book.
  • Rainbow Magic Princess Fairies (and more) by Daisy Meadows.  Yes, this would be the year of the fairy series for Miss Esmé.  Thanks to her cousins’ book supplies, she is well stocked with these whenever she needs a quick enjoyable read to meet her reading quota for the day…
  • Imagination Station Books (Adventures in Odyssey series).  To balance things out a bit, I bought a 16-book set of these that also fit into Miss Esmé’s reading lineup this summer.  A bit like the Magic Tree House series with its history lessons, but with Adventures in Odyssey characters and a Christian theme.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Friday Fragment: Update on Beans

Originally posted July 12, 2008

Me: “Do you know what was wrong with Antonio?”

E: “His stomach was like he was pregnant.”

Me: “No, I mean what caused his stomach to be like that?”

E: “Well, he had this dream that he was digging his wife’s grave alongside his brother-in-law. His father-in-law came to him and told him he had a younger daughter and would like Antonio to marry her. And then Antonio woke up and couldn’t move his face.”

Me: “Oh.”

I was way out of my comfort zone on this, so didn’t pursue the conversation further.

[Click here to continue reading]

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Adventures Under the Mango Tree

I had this dream when I was in college that one day, I’d be running an orphanage.

That has been on the back burner for a while.  When we were packing up in Mozambique almost six years ago, we were heading to Zimbabwe to run an orphanage there, but that door slammed in our faces.  So we’ve settled into our cozy, comfortable un-airconditioned home in rural Oregon.  And Sudan’s orphans seem a long way off.

Synopsis of Book

A Wisconsin Couple Steps Out in Faith, Bringing Hope and Change to South Sudan

If you were to ask God how to best be of service in a troubled world and the answer you received was to “Sell all you have and give it to the poor”, could you – would you – do it? Could you really sell everything you own, leave your home and well-established life behind, and travel halfway around the world to live in a country best known for its civil wars and extreme poverty?  Most of us, in all probability, could or would not. But that wasn’t the case for Dennis and Lillian Klepp, a Wisconsin couple who asked the question, received the answer and then stepped out in faith to do exactly what they felt God was asking them to do.

Their massive step of faith began in 1999, after Lillian heard a speaker talk about the plight of orphans and widows in Sudan.  A short two years later, the couple said goodbye to friends and family and headed to the war-torn African nation to devote their lives to serving God.  They have been there ever since, establishing orphanages, schools and health care centers and bringing hope to those who need it most.  In her new book, Adventures Under the Mango Tree: A Story of Hope in War Torn Sudan, (Creative Enterprises Studio, June 2014) Lillian, or, as she is more affectionately known, Mama Lilly, chronicles the couple’s amazing story of faith, sacrifice and obedience as they endeavor to follow Christ­­­­­.

About the Author“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." – James 1:27" SPONSOR A CHILDDonate Now
Lillian Klepp, fondly called “Mama Lilly,” cofounded Harvesters Reaching the Nations in 2001 – a nonprofit, nondenominational, Christ-centered ministry to orphans in what is now South Sudan.  She and her husband, Dennis, with more than 100 local employees, care for nearly 200 orphans, educate more than 500 school children,  provide hospital care for thousands of women and children, and help hundreds more through their local church.  This is their story.

Age Recommendation: Any
Genre:  Christian Ministry/Missions
Physical Description:  Paperback, 6x9, 198 pages
List Price:  $15.99
To Buy: http://hrtn.org/blog/aumt/ OR http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Under-Mango-Story-War-Torn/dp/0989052176/
For More Information: http://hrtn.org/

Mom’s Review
This isn’t a literary work of art.  It is a personal story plainly – matter-of-factly – told.  What stands out is that it is God’s story – at every turn of the page.  And that makes it a fascinating page-turner.

I grew up reading mission stories, and I’ve known a lot of missionaries.  What stands out to me in Lillian’s version of God’s story is the obvious barriers to her mission, the pressing on in spite of barriers, and the miracles that transpired as a result:

  • The age factor.  I’ve just turned forty.  College dreams seem in the distant past.  While God was clearly evident in Lillian’s entire lifetime, her radical call came in her 50s.  It doesn’t matter how settled or entrenched you are, God can pull you out at any time in your life.
  • The health factor.  Lillian’s husband, Dennis, very much a part of the story, has had a battle with cancer for many years.  There were other health issues that cropped up along the way.  It didn’t stop either of them from forging ahead where God called, though it also wasn’t something they could just ignore.
  • The female factor.  Lillian felt the “burning” for Sudan’s cause first.  It only came later for Dennis.  Some might argue this isn’t how God works, but if He can use a donkey, he can surely use a wife. :)
  • The family factor.  Her sons might have been of age to fend for themselves, but family (including parents) was a strong draw to “home.”  She doesn’t sugarcoat the challenge and second-guessing of balancing mission with family.
  • The war factor.  My father was in Bangladesh during their civil war, and I know others who have served in war-torn countries, but I’ve never personally experienced the daily horror of war – Sudanese-style – as Lillian describes.
  • The downside of mission.  One of her first Sudanese babies died early on in her ministry.  When you are wholeheartedly wrapped in a cause and you see the neglect of others, the low value placed on life, and you pray and God doesn’t answer as you hoped, it’s easy to be discouraged, jaded, and walk away.  Once again, this isn’t sugar-coated.
  • The miracles.  Time and again, barriers that seem insurmountable are surmounted in God’s story, in His time.  People’s lives are touched and transformed as Lillian and Dennis allow Him to use them.
  • The children.  The little testimonies of the children who have been given a chance at life – these made the entire book sparkle for me.

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"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to The Barnabas Agency for coordinating this book for review. Opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Art Camp: Where the Wild Things Are

I suppose if one sends one’s child to art camp for a week, one should just assume she will come back with an entire banker box worth of art.  I need to stock up on banker boxes…

Where the Wild Things Are art activities

So I signed Esmé up for last week’s Summer Kids Camp at Umpqua Valley Arts Association, and the week’s theme was Where the Wild Things Are.  Her first day, she came home a bit quiet, and frankly, sort of upset with me for signing her up. “Too much pressure,” she says. I guess doing one scheduled art activity after another for seven straight hours after being on a totally relaxed summer schedule got to her.

But she wanted to give it another shot, and by the end of the week she was raving about it as the best camp ever, superseding all the other summer camps she could participate in.  So I think we’ll try to get her in another few weeks.

Her number one favorite thing – getting to use a hot glue gun for the fairy houses.

Here is a glimpse of some of the stuff she came home with:

Papier Mache Mask

This took several days – the first day was creating the mask frame using a balloon, followed by the additional parts and painting.

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Clay Mask

A last-minute project using air-hardening clay. 

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Creative Creatures

The students created 3D creatures using wood, clay, etc.  Esmé made a “listening” device out of wood (not pictured), as well as clay turtles, a random wild critter, and a “hatched” egg.

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And here is her sweet plaster fox:

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Ink Blob Critters

An ink blob can be the start of all kinds of wild things!  I’m only showing a small sample of Esmé’s portfolio.  You’re welcome.

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Paintings and Drawings

Once again, just a small sampling…

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What would a week of art be without at least one mermaid picture?P1110267

Fairy Houses

The class took some outside field trips to collect nature materials for a variety of fairy (or folklore) houses.  They used small jars, and I believe the one is made by wrapping string around a balloon, using glue or some other hardening agent, and then popping & removing the balloon.  Pretty cool.

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Esmé immediately hung up one of her jars outside to catch a fairy.

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They also brought home a little bag of fairy “dust” (glitter).

This is a picture Esmé drew at home, because you’ve gotta have a fairy to go with a fairy house, right?

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There were also several creative group pictures (draw something, pass it on to the next person to draw the next item as instructed), a paper collage, a matrix of “emotion” drawings, and other stuff I can’t quite figure out.  It’s pretty impressive how much you can do in 4 days…

And she is off to art camp again this week, with Space is the Place.”  I wonder how many aliens she’ll be bringing home…