Wednesday, August 31, 2016

August Titles Read (2016)

*The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried, MD - Listen, peeps, I don't know what to tell you other than I feel like my hormones have been out of whack for a solid few years now. I'm putting in the effort to figure out WHAT all of them are for, HOW they do what they do (in their prime) and WHY I have certain symptoms that won't go away. This is book one by Gottfried, and I'll follow it by her #2, The Hormone Reset Diet.  If you're a woman aged 30-55, this might be a worthwhile side-table read. I know I'm learning a lot.

*50 People Every Christian Should Know by Warren Wiersbe - This book is one I found (amazingly!) at a big thrift store for about $3. I'd wanted to read it since I read it's sister book last year (different author) about 50 Women. I didn't like this one as much because it included too much of each bio to what the person had written in their lifetime, and the author's opinion of those books. I'd much rather have read more short stories or bits of the person's life, not just what they did in their religious vocation. I read one biography per day and learned a lot. Who knew Scotland had so many amazing spiritual men bring people to the Lord in the 1800 and 1900s?! I'd have liked to see more women included, since I believe there were only two within the fifty, but the 50 Women book certainly took care of that.

*Harry Potter and The Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany - This was the long awaited story of Harry and the gang 19 years later. No spoilers here-it's mostly about their kids and an alternate reality. It's intriguing, and because it's written as a play (going strong in London, there are literally 80+THOUSAND people waiting in line when they open ticket sales!), it's hard to get into the flow, but in the  Rowling way, once you do, you breeze through the book. There are a number of spots that get confusing, and it'd be less so on stage, but then there are parts where I thought, "HOW can they possibly make that work on a stage?" Read it in less than 48 hours, in natural Potter fashion.

*Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed - This book was SO interesting. I'm not sure if I was just in the mood to read it, or if it's because of my life-long love for any type of advice columns like Dear Abby that aided my enjoyment of this book. Strayed, or "Sugar" (Dear Sugar), as she is anonymously known, ran an advice column on The for years and this is a collection of some of her most famous responses. The writing is superb, the advice mostly excellent**, and the language salty. The 'chapters' are just broken up by her the letter writer/question-asker, and her response, so you can get through it really quickly, too. Some of her responses bring you to tears, some make you laugh and punch your fist in the air in solidarity, a few I inwardly cringed at. I rarely give 4 stars, but there it is.

*Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World by Kristen Welch - I can't remember where I came across this book first, but I knew I quickly pinned it to my Bookshelf pinterest board because I was intrigued. I read this book in just a few days, and it's filled with personal stories and practical advice, perfect for a 200 page nonfiction parenting book. I often see entitlement creep into one or both of my kids (ahem, one more than the other), and so I need all the help I can get in this department. It's funny because we don't have much compared to the wealth out here in the lowermainland, and still, trying to get out of hard work, complaining, and unrealistic expectations still hit our home. I especially liked the age-appropriate action items at the end of each chapter.

*Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - I was half-way through this book when I had to give it back to the library, and it's an easy read for me because it's part apocalyptic (in the mildest sense, really), and is also filled to the brim with 80s references. So many, in fact, that even I've been stumped by a few (and I thought my 80s pop culture references were pretty good!). Some people have enjoyed the book simply for that, I actually liked the characters, the satirical aspect of the cyberworld OASIS, and the writing.

Read Alouds

*Sophie Mouse Winter's No Time to Sleep! by Poppy Green - This was the 6th in the series we read aloud, and just like the others, they are short, sweet, and with very cute illustrations. In this 'episode', the gang meets a new friend, who is a nocturnal hedgehog. I definitely recommend these to the K-3 crowd. They're especially great for readers who need more confidence with chapter books as the print is large and nearly every other page or two is covered in illustrations.

*Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Rudolf Wyss - This was the abriged, illustrated version of the classic, and the kids loved it. I had never read this book before, but I knew Lukka would enjoy the hilarious adventures the family has, and all the interesting animals and items they found on the island to help them in their new life on a deserted island. After finishing this book, we of course rented the original Disney movie to go with it, as it should be.

*Mathematicians Are People, Too! (Vol. 1) by Luetta Reimer - This was a fun 'school but you don't know it's school' book to read aloud to the kids. It's a book with biographical stories of 15 different mathematicians from all over the world, and from all time periods, told in engaging story format. My kids really enjoyed listening to a chapter or two per night before bed, and although some of the mathematical theories, or discoveries were a bit over their head, I'm of the mind that it's never too soon to start learning about these men and women that will eventually influence them in science and math. I'm looking forward to reading Vol. II!

**Some advice I highly disagree with, but that's to be expected.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

16 in 2016: Take the kids to see "The Secret Life of Pets" in the theater

One of my kid-oriented goals this year was to take my kids to a movie. We never go to the actual theater because it's so expensive (this afternoon matinee was $30!), but it's something fun to do over the summer, and when it's very rare, it's a big treat. I had seen the trailer for The Secret Life of Pets last year and thought it looked really cute.

The kids loved this movie and laughed quite a bit, though to be honest, I was a little disappointed in this movie. It wasn't nearly as funny as the trailer made it look, and the plot was only so-so. I wished I had watched this at home after it came out on DVD from the library, but the kids enjoyed the movie treat, and that's what I cared about. We enjoyed our time together. I'm here to tell you, however, to skip this one in the theaters and wait for a better Pixar or Disney movie, and watch this one at home on the couch with a bucket full of popcorn made in the microwave.  It tastes just as good. 

Monday, August 22, 2016

#GiveYourChildTheWorld -- Beautiful British Columbia!

family shot in Salmon Arm, BC

Our family lives in Ft. Langley, British Columbia. This small village is part of the lowermainland of BC, which encompasses many large cities, farmland, mountain towns, and Vancouver metro that total about 3 million people! We love living right on the Fraser river where The Fort started the province of British Columbia as a famous trading post.  My husband is from this area, and I'm from Nebraska, where our two children were born. We've lived in the Pacific Northwest for almost 4 years (we lived in Blaine, WA, while I finished my immigration work while my husband commuted across the border every day to work in Canada), and in BC for two. 

Here in Langley, we have a fantastic homeschooling community, and my children Lukka, 9, and Ani, 7, spend many of their days riding bikes through town, going to the library, playing with Copper, our dog, or listening to loads of audiobooks. We hike on the weekends all over 'Beautiful BC', hit the beach when it's sunny, and head into Washington state when we need a change (or just some Trader Joe's!), or to pick up our American-bought packages. 

Ani and dad reading 

We love living in BC, and of course, my husband feels he's finally 'home' after 11 years living in the US. We love living in the area because there are so many spots for outdoor recreation. This includes lakes, mountains for hiking, beaches and the coast, islands to ferry to and canoe around, and plenty of camping options on or off the grid. Tourism is a big money-maker for this area because it's simply STUNNING. Imagine farmland landscapes with horses, berry farms and fresh fruit stands everywhere, mountains in the background, and when you're entering the city of Vancouver: bridges crossing over the water channels, snow-capped mountains always looming, beautiful forests, and the ocean always so close on the west side!
It's also such a delightful temperature most of the year-very mild with the majority of the year between 50 and 75 degrees F. Of course, deep winter and deep summer there are a few weeks of colder, but it's pretty moderate.

Canada has English and French as the national languages, and in BC, kids in all schools start learning French from grade 5 on. There are plenty of French Immersion schools, where every single subject is taught in French, and it's the best way to become fluent, but the wait-lists are often 3-5+ years long!

Fresh seafood, sushi, Asian and Indian food is very popular out here. Seafood because we're on the coast, Asian and Indian foods because that is a big part of the population, so great food is easy to come by. My husband enjoys a $3 California roll nearly once a week, though the three of us Midwesterners are a bit more slow to enjoy the seafood.... Another Canadian food is poutine, which is basically the most delicious heart-attack food ever made. If you ever come  here trying it is a must! French fries, gravy, and cheese curds. It sounds bizarre, but just trust me.

Ani with her favorite Paris books

Most kids go to traditional public schools, but there are a few other options including French Immersion, Fine Arts schools, and homeschooling is also very popular up here. A difference we noticed in coming from the midwest is that the kids here only get 2 months of summer (instead of 3) but so many breaks and days off throughout the year. We homeschool, so we live on our own schedule.

Homeschooling is a bit different here than in the States, and we enroll with a long-distance school. When a family enrolls, each child gets a certain amount of funding for things like books, field trips, learning camps, etc. I won't tell you how much, or you might want to move! It's a pretty sweet deal.

You can also register, which means you align yourself with a school, and get a small amount of funding, but you don't have to be accountable to a school and teacher to prove your children are learning x, y, and z. Both options are great-it just depends on what your priorities and needs are! Homeschooling is respected here and it's very common to have people say, "lucky you!" when they find out we homeschool.

There are so many ethnic festivals in this area, and so many fun free things to do in Vancouver alone. In our small village of Ft. Langley (pop. 3,500), a few big ones are the Victoria Day in May where there is an old-fashioned parade, Canada Day in July where there are tons of free and fun things to do, including free admission to the museums, 'birthday cake', a petting zoo, and re-enactments. In October there is the Cranberry Festival with lots of craft vendors, and the like, and plenty of community-based events throughout the year including an Easter egg hunt, Christmas break pancakes, and a food truck festival every summer. It's the place where people from 'the city' come on the weekends to relax and get away!

I have too many favorite books, it's hard to pick just one. There are a lot of First Nations influence throughout the Pacific Northwest, and I love a lot of children's literature that include myths from coastal nations like this gorgeous board book, Learn & Count, Yetsa's Sweater, and  Secret of the Dance,.  For books just about Vancouver, I love My Vancouver Sketchbook, Vancouver Kids, and anything by Canadian author, Munsch is very popular.

Monday, August 15, 2016

16 in 2016: Read the "Little House on the Prairie" (Laura Ingalls Wilder) series to the kids

At the end of June we finished a monumental task- we finished the entire Laura Ingalls Wilder series; nine books where the shortest one was 150 pages, and most were well over 300. It took us a solid 7 months of reading aloud, during school time, bedtimes, bored times, etc. and I am so glad I made this a year-long goal, because quite frankly, it was a doozy.

I had never read the entire series myself, I remember reading at least two of them, but I knew my kids were at the right age to enjoy these books. There are a number of series I have 'planned' to read to them through the next 3 years or so, and these were the books that I thought best to start with, because the kids would enjoy the simple stories of pioneer life, and were considered the 'youngest' of the series.

The last two large books, Little Town on the Prairie, and These Happy Golden Years, were listened aloud on audio with Cherry Jones (thanks for the tip, Jamie Martin!) because I needed a break, and my kids needed someone to still be excited about reading 700 more pages. I finished up the series myself with The First Four Years, refreshed and excited to end on a good note. My kids were 8 and 6 when we started, and when we ended, 9 and 7! If your kids can sit still and enjoy chapter books to be read aloud, our experience was great.

I really hope to take the kids to the Ingalls homestead in De Smet, South Dakota, next time we drive back to Nebraska for a visit, and they're excited, too. I was really glad to enjoy this classic series with my kids and although it was seemingly a long-term effort, I know I'll look back in our homeschool journey and really appreciate that we took the time to read these stories together. Next year, Narnia!