Monday, December 31, 2007

Triple 8 Reading Challenge

Read 8 books from 8 categories in 2008

1. *Let Me Finish by Roger Angell
2. *The Invisible Wall: A Love Story that Broke Barriers by Harry Bernstein
3. *American Shaolin by Matthew Polly
4. *I'll Sleep When I'm Dead by Crystal Zevon
5. *The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson
6. *A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
7. *Foreign Correspondence by Geraldine Brooks
8. *The Radioactive Boy Scout: The True Story of a Boy and His Backyard Nuclear Reactor by Ken Silverstein

1. *Travels with Charley in Search of America by John Steinbeck
2. Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
3. The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain
4. *Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything.. by Elizabeth Gilbert
*American Shaolin by Matthew Polly
6. Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon
7. Men of Salt: Crossing the Sahara on the Caravan of White Gold by Michael Benanev
8. * Majic Bus by Douglas Brinkley

American Novelists
1. * Gentlemen of the Road by Michael Chabon
2. * Breathing Lessons by Anne Tyler
3. *Ten Year Nap by Meg Wolitzer
4. * Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
5. * The Wife by Meg Wolitzer
6. *B
less Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
7. *Pontoon by Garrison Keillor
8. *Gilead by Marilynne Robinson

Foreign Novelists
1. * Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
2. * Waiting by Ha Jin
3. * The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar
4. * The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

5. * People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
6. * Atonement by Ian McEwan
7. * Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi
*Sons and Other Flammable Objects by Porochista Khakpour

Young Adult
1.* Dairy Queen by Catherine Murdock
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
4.* Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis
* Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
6. * Parvana's Journey by Deborah Ellis
7. * An Abundance of Katherines by John Green
8. *
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi

Immigrant Experience
*How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
2. *Sons and Other Flammable Objects by Porochista Khakpour

3. *Madame Secretary by Madeline Albright

4. *Home of the Brave by Katherine Applegate
*The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Dias

Nonfiction that Just Calls My Name
1. *Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin
2. *Empires Lost and Won: The Spanish Heritage in the Southwest by Albert Marrin
3. *The Little Book of Common Sense Investing by John C. Bogle
4. *Madame Secretary by Madeline Albright
5. *Math Phobia by Marilyn Burns
*The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan
7. *Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith by Jon Krakauer
*Outside Lies Magic by John Stilgoe

Local Book Club List
1. * Stones From the River by Ursula Hegi
2. * Atonement by Ian McEwan
3. * The Tattoed Girl by Joyce Carol Oates
4. * Talk Before Sleep by Elizabeth Berg
5. * Ellen Foster by Kaye Gibbons
6. * Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. * The Dive from Clausen's Pier by Ann Packer
8. * The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio by Terry Ryan
9. * The Friday Night Knitting Club by Kate Jacobs

* completed

Possible substitutions
North Toward Home by Willie Morris
Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Children of Jihad by Jared Cohen
Tamar by Mal Peet

Reading Challenge

One of my past pleasures I have tried to reclaim as my children have grown older and more independent is reading. It seems that for years I read very little for my own pleasure. About 2 years ago, I deliberately began to change that. Then during the summer of 2005, my friend, W, and I decided to organize a monthly book club which has been functional since. But I want to read more.

I tried an online book club but that just did not work for me. My natural reticence was very limiting in that setting. In person, I am pretty quiet but I make an effort to speak up. Writing this blog is a way for me to overcome my online self-censorship and reluctance. I feel like the effort is working. I have posted a couple of times to one of my email lists over the last 2 weeks. And I have to fight the feeling that someone's disagreement with me is necessarily a criticism. I KNOW it's not but it feels like criticism.

Well, that was off topic but I am working around to saying that I am going to take on a major reading challenge, the triple 8, 8 books in 8 categories in 2008. I will be posting my list, and a rather long one it is, later today. PRM

Friday, December 28, 2007

Book club and worry

Last night was book club night. We went to the movies as is our December tradition, if you can call a second year plan a tradition. Last year we watched To Kill a Mockingbird at our house. This year we saw P.S I Love You in the theater. We read the book a few months ago and wanted to compare. Always, or nearly so, a mistake. There was little similarity even in the plot, except for the basic setup - young man dies but arranged, before his death, to send his wife letters intermittently to help her move on. In the book, the husband is helping his young and somewhat immature, insecure wife grow up. The letters help her address and overcome certain weaknesses in herself.

The movie HAD to add a bit of pop psychology that I found particularly annoying. The wife's father had left the family when she was 14 and now her husband's left, even if not of his own volition. But, how could she ever trust a man again? Blech!!! In the book, the wife's family is mostly happy and largely normal. She did not like her oldest brother, but during the course of the story, she comes to really know and love him. Actually that plot line was one of the sweetest in the book.

We had dinner after the movie, having gone to the cheaper matinee show. Our dinner was somewhat restrained by the absence of one of our members. She is undergoing a workup for possible breast cancer and had an MRI earlier in the day. They are concerned she may have inflammatory CA. This is worrisome. PRM

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hummus recipe

This is a very tasty but standard recipe from Nikki and David Goldbeck's American Wholefoods Cuisine.

2 c cooked chickpeas
1/4 c bean liquid
1/4 c lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons chopped parsely
2 tablespoons olive oil, optional

Puree chickpeas, adding liquid to achieve a smooth, creamy puree. Beat in lemon juice, garlic and salt; then, gradually add tahini to form a thick, light paste. Let stand for at least 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsely and, if desired, drizzle olive oil over the surface just before serving.

My notes because I haven't followed this recipe religiously or measured anything in years -
1. Go ahead and add the salt. I made it with less salt many times and it just doesn't taste right.
2. I add a dollop of olive oil and blend in when making it. I am expected to bring this to my book club every month and someone would always stir in the olive oil, thinking, I guess, that I had forgotten to do so. So now I just blend it in and, may or may not, pour some on top.
3. I use canned beans but have found that Progresso brand beans are much better than the Harris Teeter or Bush's.

I was surprised to find this cookbook still in print. There is a 2nd edition from 2006 which I must consider getting. JP bought this copy almost 20 years ago and it is food-stained and falling apart a bit, but well-used and well-loved. PRM

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Who knew there were so many

Jews in our little Southern town?

The Chinese buffet was packed tonight. There were people of all persuasions and family structures but I suspect we were the only Jews. And the food was terrible.

After reading A Free Life, my view of the proprietors of Chinese restaurants has changed. Was that cashier a PhD in Sociology from Emory who aspires to be a poet?

Well, this loooooong boring weekend/holiday is almost over. Thank heavens. PRM

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Be careful talking down to kids.

From the NY Times
“Who is your favorite author?” Aleya Deatsch, 7, of West Des Moines asked Mr. Huckabee in one of those posing-like-a-shopping-mall-Santa moments.

Mr. Huckabee paused, then said his favorite author was Dr. Seuss.

In an interview afterward with the news media, Aleya said she was somewhat surprised. She thought the candidate would be reading at a higher level.

“My favorite author is C. S. Lewis,” she said.

Daryl Cobranchi says that Aleya is a home-educated kid. PRM

Friday, December 21, 2007

A little bit of politics

I enjoy politics, read political books, magazines and blogs, but really don't want to blog much about it. It just makes me sad right now.

The Homeschoolers for Huckabee thing irritates me mostly because I don't want the public to think that HSLDA speaks for all of us. I don't know if it speaks for the majority but there are plenty of us out here who do not follow its lead.

With this country in the sad, embarrassing place it is in now, I think there are larger and far more important issues to concern ourselves with than a politician's position on homeschooling. Like war. Poverty. So much. PRM

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It's a miracle

This is a child who, until a week or so ago, had never read a whole book for his own pleasure and, until last night, had never really played with any toys. He preferred video games and TV to both. What has changed? No doubt less access to TV/video has helped some but he could have been on the computer instead of doing this as he was last night. I think his reading and perhaps the K'nex are related to some brain maturation and possibly visual maturity. He is not wearing his glasses here. He should.

This picture is from last night. It is MUCH larger now, after hours of work on it today. I am a happy momma. PRM

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Nearly Wordless Wednesday

35 degrees - a breakfast sandwich and a book by the fire.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Marshmallow making

While we waited for friends to come over this morning, Noach and I made marshmallows. I used the recipe from Farm School, one of my favorite homeschooling blogs. We rolled them in crushed candy canes when we finished. It is about 42 degrees outside and should fall to about 25 tonight. I think that is cold enough for hot chocolate. When our friend arrived, she told us she had made them with peppermint flavoring in them. I think I may try that next. Maybe a little red coloring?

With our friends, we played our new game from Hannukah, Apples to Apples. There were six of us playing and it was really fun. It would be even more fun with even more people. I'm trying to talk Shoshie into having a homeschool teen party here to play music and games. They probably won't let me play but it still sounds like fun. And I can use that event as the impetus to get the rest of the family moving to make the remodeled basement into a usable space. PRM

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Middle Eastern cooking day

I have made Baba Ghanouj, hummus and falafel this afternoon. The house smells like cumin. That's good, I think. My hummus, if I may toot my own horn, is to die for. Smooth and tasty. Mmmm. Now I think I'll make Kasha Varnishkes. I am hoping Shoshie, my vegetarian, will like Kasha so I can make it sometimes. Now no one but me likes it and I don't need it. But if I can recruit another, then I can make it sometimes without so much guilt.

Should have some tasty lunches this week. PRM

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Our 6th Homeschool Band Winter Concert

According to Dr. R, it was the 15th winter concert but, for us, it was the 6th. The winter concert is always a challenge because the Beginner Band has been playing for only 4 months. And often they don't play well together. And sometimes they don't play well alone either. It always reminds me of that scene in The Music Man, when the boys start play discordantly and a mother calls out proudly, "That's my boy on the clarionette." (I know that's not an exact quote.) Last night the Beginner Band sounded pretty good. There were only about 8 members and they stayed together. I remember the first one we went to, when Yakov was playing trumpet and Shoshie squawking the clarinet. The band was awful, just awful. And they were so proud of themselves. And so were we.

Now Yakov plays the bass and Noach percussion in the Advanced Band. Shoshie dropped out this fall after 3 years of oboe playing. The Advanced Band played very well. There are a lot of trumpets and they stayed together. Dr. R told me again what a leader Yakov is, how he has really helped the new bass player improve. I suspect this will be Yakov's last year. He will be 18 next fall. I cannot imagine not going to these concerts. PRM

Friday, December 14, 2007

Editor in chief

I struggle with helping my kids edit their writing. They get so defensive. We have been using IEW this year for N and S. And that has helped quite a bit. But Shoshie has taken the lessons to heart and now starts many of her sentences with phrases, but all too often they are misplaced modifiers. Her PSAT confirmed her need for a grammar program and I have ordered Analytical Grammar for her to start in January. She will hate it, I predict. She has hated every grammar program I have ever tried. Her spoken grammar is largely without grammatical errors but not so her written work.

Noach remains a constipated writer. When he was younger and I transcribed his narrations, he would narrate stories much longer and more elaborate than the originals. Now that I ask him to write his own narrations, he produces short and stunted works. Sometimes when we sit together to edit, I can get him to be creative and use the Synonym Finder to spice up the writing.
He is always allowed to use the keyboard, but perhaps I should man the keyboard when we are editing. I think I will try that next time. PRM


That was a quick week. I am trying to get everyone to a stopping point in their studies so we can take a week or so off then start anew in January.

I have lots of plans for winter break that largely involve cleaning. So these are not fun plans but I think I, at least, will derive some comfort from decluttering. The clutter has taken over the house and I can't stand it. It seemd like everytime I walk through the house, something falls down.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The last night

Pictures from outside and in, on the last night.
Until next year. PRM

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Evolution and Natural Selection labs

We started Monday's lab with the Great Fossil Find. Here the two boys are trying to figure out what creature their fossils come from. The point was to see how biology can be unsure of the answers. You need more info. You need to work together.

We also did Teddy Graham natural selection. Always a tasty lab. After that we went to lunch together.

Tonight is the last night of Hannuka. The potatoes are grated and I am just waiting to start the frying. PRM

Monday, December 10, 2007

Weekend update

Saturday at 11:30, I met my friends for lunch and a birthday party. We sat at Macaroni Grill for about 3 hours, laughing, talking, etc.

Saturday night, we went to the shul for a latke dinner. It was fun to take a hanukiyot for each family member, making our table quite the glowing area. Many people had never actually seen an oil menorah and so were curious to see ours. It is cool, but a bit messy. The food was good and the company as well. The student rabbi was friendly.

Sunday was, as usual, a work day for me. JP and I went to the new Super WalMart to do some grocery shopping. He had never been there and I had only been once before. I really hate WalMart. I know everyone says that. But I have to admit that I have missed the old, messy, disorganized store that was close to us. If Target didn't have what I wanted, I could always say I was forced to go to WalMart. Now I can't - it's too far away.

I spent the afternoon organizing the school week and doing laundry. Then we had Chanuka at home with only Shoshie and Noach. I gave out gifts - games and homeschool T-shirts.

Now I am waiting for biology lab.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Went to shul

earlier tonight. There was a reasonable crowd so I didn't stay. It just felt sad. I still miss that community from the past and, perhaps more sad, is my fear that I'll never find that again. I hate that Noach will not study for his Bar Mitzvah with a small group of regular supporters who are there most Saturdays as was the case when Yakov, and less so, Shoshie were practicing. It's time to move on. PRM

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Worth the overdue fine

I waited 3 weeks on the hold list and began it the day it was due, when I had finally finished reading everything else I had started. I wanted to give it undivided attention, thinking it would be a hard read. It was, instead, fascinating. A nonfiction page-turner. I read late into the night and sat at the kitchen table in the afternoon with my kids yelling my name in increasing volume.

I loved The Nine by Jeffery Toobin. Just enough inside gossip. The legal concepts were explained well for the novice like myself. His thesis is that the court is, and has always been, a political entity. The neutrality of the court system is a long held myth but a myth nonetheless.

To me, O'Connor's retirement and the changes that the court is currently undergoing are scary. I think the expansion of executive privilege is the scariest part. But I suspect that when a Democrat is president, the executive privilege supporters will begin to reconsider. I hope so.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

There's nothing more to say.

First night

Pictures pending.

We had fun. The first dinner was rushed because Yakov had a band practice. While he was gone, we played a rousing game of dreidel. Then we had gifts when he returned. After that, everyone watched old, lousy cartoons.

This week we are limiting screen time to one hour per day. The teens are bitching. It is too late to transform their interests. They do lots of other things and don't need to have computer time limited. Just because Noach should develop more interests, they shouldn't be punished. Etc, etc. I'm not buying it.


You know you're not swimming in the mainstream when

your teen's favorite ipod downloads are Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me and This American Life.

Come on in. The water's fine. PRM

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Tuesday, December 4

Tonight is the first night of that eight day holiday with the varied English spelling. We have much to do today to get ready. We like to light many menorahs so I have to clear out a big space in front of the windows in the schoolroom, a very messy room right now. And I will need some more candles. I will post a photo later but the pictures from later in the holiday are better because of the larger number of lit candles. PRM

Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Free Life by Ha Jin - Book Review

I really enjoyed this book. Sickness the latter part of the week finally gave me time to finish it. I had interrupted my reading to read my book club book, as well as a book I borrowed from the Country Inn and Suites library. That was the second book I have borrowed from the motel library. I like having a book choice in the lobby. Now to my review -

As I said, I liked this book. Nan Wu is a Chinese immigrant who cannot return to China after the Tiananmen Square incident. An intellectual, poet wannabee, he has to adjust to making a living and surviving in America. He also has a wife and son to support. While their lives are difficult, they do not want to return to China where the whole purpose of the government seems to be to annoy and inconvenience you. But they feel, and are, so vulnerable in the US. They have minimal insurance. They have few friends and their relationships with Americans are often hurt by misunderstanding or prejudice.

I have never read anything else by Ha Jin but I wonder if there is not a bit of autobiography about the book. He too immigrated shortly before
Tiananmen. The writing was very sparse. It sounds like what you would expect if Nan Wu had written his own autobiography. I will be looking forward to reading another book by this author soon.

It is interesting to compare A Free Life with The Reluctant Fundamentalist. Both chronicle the adjustments of young male immigrants to the life and culture of America. Both are haunted by unfulfilled romantic entanglements. However, their reactions and choices are different. The never named Pakistani returns home with anger and a desire to destroy. Nan Wu wants to stay and find a way to succeed. He is often ashamed of his desire for financial gain and feels that he has sold out for the never completely attainable American Dream. At the conclusion, Nan has found a compromise, a rather menial job with insurance and a livable wage, where he can finally write his poetry. PRM