Tuesday, July 31, 2018

June & July: Sustain

June went by so fast and then the beginning of July was even faster - so here's two months in one!

 June: I went to a Summer Leadership conference for my sorority that I still volunteer for. It was great connecting with old friends and meeting new people! As a bonus, I stayed with a long-time friend to explore Dallas for a few extra days.
July: I volunteered at Camp Kinawind for Packs, Paddles and Saddles which is a camp for Middle School kids. Again, I connected with life-long friends, met new people, connected with nature and God.

Family: We took our annual end-of school year trip to my sister's in Northern Michigan so we got a ton of family time!   
In July my husband and I have found ourselves childless quite a few times leaving us to see what life may hold for us in the next few years.

Faith: 2 Peter, 1 & 2 John, Jude, Revelations and Matthew. I've started asking myself during my devotions time where I've seen God.

Health: Except while I was at camp hiking, canoeing and horseback riding - I've kept up exercising formally every day. I can also tell how much I've loved eating out during July, but I figure there is time to focus on eating healthier home cooked meals as we approach the Fall.

Intellect: Books I read this month
 Book club - 

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I read this book for book club and it really isn't my genre. It was well written, but more suspenseful than I prefer.

Second Chance by Jane Green. Fun read about friends who become reacquainted after another friend dies. They explore how much they have changed - and how much they are the same, since being in school together.

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick. I actually really liked this book. It took me a while to figure out what was going on, but as the book unfolds in layers we find out that Pat has had a head injury which has resulted in memory loss. He befriends/is befriended by Tiffany who has lost her husband and they begin to form a bond. Throughout the book there are themes of family, friendship, trust, happiness and who you can depend on.

We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen. This was an enjoyable read! I liked the alternating narratives between 13 year old Stewart and 14 year old Ashley as their lives collide when their families blend together. They both learn about each other and themselves as they navigate through the social stratus as school. This book would work best with older middle school ages since it deals with realistic situations of friendship, who to trust, underage drinking, and bullying. By the end of the book Stewart and Ashley have found their own ways to deal with these issues and find that they are stronger together.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart. We just re-read this book 5 years after the original time, what stuck out to me this time was the self-reliance of the children in the book and how they worked together to solve mysteries.
Original review:
Although this book was long it kept mine, and my kid's, attention!
I loved the rich vocabulary of the book and that it was a great mystery without being morbid.
Looking forward to the next one!

The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman.
Wow! This book was so good. I received it as a Goodread giveaway and was expecting a heartwarming tale. However, I was immediately drawn in by the rich story line. Not only does Patience describe midwifery but also life in the small town she occupies in 1929 as Wall Street crashes far away and ripples its effects through Appalachia. As Patience thinks back on her life we see it is filled with varied experiences such as union organizing and protesting for workers rights, a dead lover and husband as well as her baby, losses and gains that keep life circling in an unpredictable pattern.

Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jennine Capo Crucet. This book shows how Lizet straddles two cultures when she attends an elite college in the North after growing up in a low-income Cuban-immigrant neighborhood of Miami. While she learns to navigate a system that everyone else already seems to know, she is concerned for her family back at home as immigration issues rear up when a young boy is rescued from the sea after fleeing Cuba with his mother who died on the journey. Although this book was written to take place in the 1999-2000 school year, so many issues are still pertinent such as support for first generation college students, the inequality of the public school system and the inability of colleges to address that, and, of course, what does asylum mean for immigration and when is it applied?

The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey by Trenton Lee Stewart. Re-read, original review: Love this series for my kids (ages 7 & 11). The text is so descriptive I feel like I'm adding to their vocabulary. The characters are realistic and the danger is never downplayed so the children realize that they are extraordinary and have adults who realize this - but also who are concerned for their safety. If I have any compliant, its just that the books are a little on the long side - but my kids would say that means more to love!

Melissa Explains It All: Tales from My Abnormally Normal Life by Melissa Joan Hart. What caught my interest about this book was that the author and I are the same age, so I could remember much of what she was writing about happening. It was interesting to see the differences in our lives as she pursued an acting career. Although I am not convinced that her life was "abnormally normal."

The Beach House by Jane Green. I really enjoyed this book. It was a quick, relaxing read and yet The Beach House delves into the life of 3 families that end up becoming involved with each other as they spend parts of the summer together in Nantucket.

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. A day in the life of Daniel and Natasha. They start the day off not knowing each other and find that fate conspires so they are thrown together at different curves. One is a first generation child of immigrants, the other is undocumented and being deported. One believes in science, the other in poetry. Do opposites attract? Is there only one person for everyone, as the day continues these two 17 year olds ask themselves these questions and more.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

May: Sustain

Connection: My favorite connection this month was attending a friend's wedding. And the festivities before and after!

Family: For Memorial Day weekend it was just me and the kids. On Sunday we met up with the wedding party for lunch and the Detroit Institute of Arts. Afterwards we went to see the movie RGB about Ruth Bader Ginsburg - which was excellent.

My husband and I got in two date nights this month. Once for a sushi dinner and another time that was just browsing for house items while the kids were at youth group.  

Faith: I read 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, and 1 Peter.

Health: 34 hours of exercise in a 31 day month! I kept up with weights and am starting to add abs on those days.

Intellect: Books I read this month
Book club - The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison. While this book was a very compelling read, I found it hard to put down, it also was a tough read because it dealt with tough topics. We meet Maya in the middle of an investigation that aims to find out why a man known as the "Gardener" has collected a garden full of missing young girls for his own uses.

The Gender Game by Bella Forrest. I found this book fascinating up until the end. I did feel the last chapter was a little rushed and didn't quite go with the rest of the book, but I'm willing to read the next book in the series to find out!
What happens when society has been separated into two kingdoms - one ruled by males and one by females? Violet has found life hard as an orphan and with little options left has agreed to an espionage mission that will take her from the female ruled Matrus to the male ruled Patrius, where she finds that things are not always as they seem.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Detroit Books & Cookies

It's been a while since I've posted about Prime Time Family Reading Time, but I just finished a session with the Detroit Public Library. Below you will find the books we read each week and the snacks to go along with them that I made.

The first week we read The Lion and the Mouse and The Jungle Grapevine. I have to admit that after a busy week I didn't make a snack for these books.

However, the next week I was ready! In addition to Peppe the Lamplighter, we read Tar Beach. In the book, the young girl and her brother take a blanket up to their roof and pretend they are at "Tar Beach" so I made a beach blanket sheet cookie. Click for the recipe for sugar cookie bars and frosting.

The third week brought us Click, Clack, Moo and The Bremen-Town Musicians. In honor of the plethora of animals featured, I made haystack cookies which were very well received!  Recipe here.

King Bidgood's in the Bathtub was paired with Horton Hears a Who. I was really excited to make these Bears-In-A-Bubblebath brownies and they were super yummy! I may make these again just for fun since they were so cute!  Recipe here.

In week 5 we read A Chair for My Mother and Fish is Fish. The goldfish snacks were so easy and surprisingly tasty - but how could I have doubted chocolate and salty pretzels? Recipe here.

The last week was a challenge with the Ox-Cart Man and The Great Kapok Tree. Since the Ox-Cart Man brings peppermints home to his family after a trip to sell their homemade goods, I picked a recipe for peppermint shortbread.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

April: Sustain

For Spring Break my youngest son and I took a trip to Philadelphia and New York City. Not only did we get to connect with each other, but I met up with an old friend from Middle School and we spent more time together than we had in over 20 years!

I started Prime Time Family Reading Time at the Detroit Public Library. I've always loved this program, how it brings families together with books. And in putting my own little twist on it, I love to come up with a dessert to match the books each week.
I went with a friend and her family to see Meadowbrook Hall, a gorgeous 1920's house on the grounds of Oakland University. And also went out with another friend to see Wayne State's theatre production of Sister Act.

And in case that's not enough connection - I did make it to my sorority's alumnae dinner and then went out afterwards with the only other sister who made it who wasn't in her 20's :)

My younger son and I connected on our Spring Break trip!

I realized last month that my older son and I did not get a chance to do anything on our own, so I purposefully made a date to go out with him for dinner. We had to switch days because of rowing practices and he seemed anxious that we still have time together. Although our dinner wasn't the greatest (Chipotle was out of lettuce!) we did spend good time together and he talked me into taking him shopping for summer clothes.

My husband and I even got in a date night to go out to dinner! And one night snuck out for frozen custard without the kids.

Faith: I read Galations, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and  1 & 2 Thessalonians.

Health: With a week long vacation at the beginning of the month and being sick at the end of the month, I'm pretty happy that I got in 26 hours of exercise and 4 days of walking around big cities! I didn't get in weights as much as I wanted - but I'll tackle that again next month!

Intellect: Books I read this month
Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan. This was a fun read as we follow Ashley through her attempts to become a better parent. It is also raw and true as to all the feelings she goes through on a daily basis. 

Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella. This was a re-read for me and a first time for the kids.

14 year old Audrey describes her wacky family and how they are all trying to cope, and help her cope, with a bullying event that led to her eventual breakdown and detachment from society. Through the help of a therapist and a new friend, Audrey comes to terms with the ups and downs life brings everyone and how we can all help each other out. Kinsella does a perfect job of describing the families foibles while also endearing each character to the reader. While I enjoyed this book as an adult, this would be perfect for middle-school aged kids, especially as a conversation starter regarding the tough topics Finding Audrey handles. 

Saturday, March 31, 2018

March: Sustain

 I started the month with a great night out at Alpha Epsilon Phi's Silent Auction to benefit Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation. I had a great time with old friends, new friends and my husband while supporting a great cause!

I got to volunteer at my son's middle school for career day! It was great connecting with an age group I don't always see a lot of. 

After attending a Shabbat dinner, my friend Beth and I went out to Chartreuse and the Detroit Institute of Arts. I also had a great dinner with my co-worker Christie and got to try a new Mediterranean place!

And of course, another great book club this month!

We all took a trip to Kalamazoo to see a friend in a concert performance. We all saw A Wrinkle in Time and Ready Player One together which were books we had listened to.

Faith: I read 1 & 2 Corinthians and purposefully prayed each day.

Health: I exercised 37 1/2 hours in a month with 31 days, yea! I did weights at 3 times a week and moved up to 15lbs.

Intellect: Books I read this month
Michelangelo in Ravensbruck: One Woman's War Against the Nazis by Karolina Lanckoronska. This was a really heavy book, so it took me a while to read. But it was also a very interesting account of one woman's experience resisting the Nazis and subsequent imprisonment. Countess Lanckoronska was a University professor in Poland who's social standing and education often gave her preferential treatment once she was imprisoned. One of her most vivid descriptions happens close to the end of WWII when the city around Ravensbruck was being bombed and yet the concentration camp saw balloons lighting the sky and later found out they served as guides so they wouldn't be touched by the bombing. So much history happened during the 94 years Countess Lanckoronska lived, but the defining era became WWII during which she was in her 40's, not young and not yet old.

The Forgotten Room by I really enjoyed this book and the story of Olive, her daughter and her granddaughter who's lives are intertwined by a room at the top of a mansion that Olive's father designed and who all seem fated to miss their one great loves.
Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby. I really liked this book, it was different from what I usually read and had varying viewpoints. Tucker Crowe has been out of the spotlight for two decades after abruptly leaving behind a successful music career. Duncan has been obsessed with Crowe's music and his girlfriend Annie is not quite sure why. When their relationship ends, Annie begins an email relationship with Tucker Crowe and all of their lives take turns they weren't expecting.

Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. I really liked this book about a boy searching for home and the routes he takes to get there. The backstory has him confronting racism in the town he races to.

The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. What happens when a guest from another country arrives in town and finds her host has died? Sara makes herself part of the community and opens a bookstore in a seemingly dying town. All of the characters in this small town have rich histories that contribute to their growth and changes throughout the book. This is a story about small towns, the love of books and being open to change. 
This is a preview of our upcoming road trip!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Feburary: Sustain

How did I do this month?

Book club is one of my favorite connections! It has it all; friends, discussion, food and books! This month we discussed Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption. Our discussion mostly centered around book-to-movie adaptations.

I attended a training for Prime Time Family Reading Time. I've written a lot about this program in this blog - I absolutely love it! I am excited that I will be involved in a program this spring. Also, I enjoyed meeting up with people I had known in New Orleans at this training!

I also had a night out with my friend Susan!

Youngest son: This month my youngest and I read Who Is Sonia Sotomayor? by
Oldest son: When a friend got sick, I roped my son into going to the theater with me! First we went to a fairly fancy restaurant in Detroit, Grey Ghost and then we went to the Fisher Theatre to see Finding Neverland. He may have enjoyed the candy at the theater most of all!

Husband: We got in a date night now that youth group has re-started at church on Sunday nights.

Extended Family: I got in a visit to my sister in Traverse City and it was a great visit "Up North." I had a really great time visiting and also walking across the frozen Grand Traverse Bay with my oldest nephew.

Faith: I kept up reading 29 chapter this month in Acts and Romans and purposefully prayed each day. I also started a Lent Photo-A-Day challenge on Instagram.

Health: I exercised 30 hours in a month with 28 days, yea! I did weights at least twice a week. I'd like to do weights at least 3 times a week next month and move up from my little 5lbs!

I got to take a tour of the Reuther Library at Wayne State and saw tons of memorabilia as part of Wayne State's 150th Year celebration.

Books I read this month
Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Wow, this book was eye-opening. Trevor Noah tells about his childhood in the 80's & 90's in South Africa as apartheid was ending. His story is also made different from others by his experience of having a black mother and white father. Noah infuses much humor as he tells tales of growing up as well as adding commentary on apartheid, racism and domestic violence. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the audio book which was narrated by Noah himself and I also learned more about the experiences of others that happened in my lifetime but were half a world away.

Hunger Point by

The Ship of the Dead by
Cocoa Beach by Beatriz Williams. I loved this book right up to the last sentence. Williams seamlessly alternates between 1917 WWI France and 1922 bootlegging Florida with a few flashbacks to early 1900's NYC. Virginia became an ambulance driver during the war and fell in love with a man who may not be what he seems. This is further complicated by memories of her early years when she witnessed the murder of her mother. My only complaint is that after things are wrapped up in the end, two characters come to the door needing help and I was confused as to whether I should know how they are. By reading other reviews I can see they are characters from another book which I am now curious to read!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Great Kid's Books

I have a friend who was looking for suggestions for an advanced reader - so here you go! Great kid's books that I've read over the last couple of years with my kids, in no particular order. If they were part of a series, only the first book is listed. All are appropriate for elementary and/or middle school.

The View from Saturday
The Mysterious Benedict Society
by Although this book was long it kept mine, and my kid's, attention! I loved the rich vocabulary of the book and that it was a great mystery without being morbid. Looking forward to the next one! (This book is the first in the series).

Crenshawby This book was a heartfelt tale of a young boy who used an imaginary friend - a giant cat - to deal with his family being homeless, "car camping," when he was younger. After his family has enjoyed some stability, it looks like they may be sliding into the predicament again and Crenshaw the cat comes back. This book is perfect for older elementary and explores truth, trust and imagination.

The Worst Class Trip Everby My kids, grades 4th & 7th, LOVED this action packed (fart jokes included) book. When Wyatt and his 8th grade classmates embark on a class trip to Washington DC they encounter spies, terrorists and a presidential assassination plot. Taking matters into their own hands they hilariously foil evil-doers.

The Island of Dr. Libris
by We enjoyed Grabenstein's last book, Escape from Mr Lemoncello's Library, so much I couldn't wait to read this book. And it did not disappoint! Billy is stuck at a cabin with his mom for the summer, but finds that book characters come alive on Dr Libris' Island. I love how the author weaves classic tales and characters into his books that either remind you of great reads - or make you want to discover the books you haven't read yet! The plot had both my kids wanting to know what would happen next. This book is great for late elementary through middle school ages.

Things Not Seen 
by Read this book out loud to my kids, ages 10 & 6, and it was surprisingly deep for a younger reader novel. Bobby wakes up one morning invisible and in his quest to figure out what happens he learns a lot about life and what kind of life he wants to lead. He and others struggle with what it means to "be seen." Although my kids did not pick up on the complexities of this, they were amused by what it would mean to navigate the world while being invisible and the scientific aspects of invisibility. I highly recommend this book to others and especially the middle school age group. 

by Excellent book. This book takes place in Greenwood, Mississippi in 1964 - Freedom Summer. History intertwines with the lives of 3 youth who are figuring out their town, their families, themselves, and their future. The incident that stands out to me the most is when the front porches in town are peppered with fliers from the KKK, because this also happened in my town this summer. While listening to this book with my children I could see how closely the past and the present are woven together. The present doesn't exist without the past and how we view the present has been shaped by the past. Also poignant is the voter registration drive, when blacks are risking their jobs and sometimes their lives to register to vote. As we embark on a presidential election season the candidates are just as important as the voters. Even without the lens of current events, the story line of this novel brings the past to life while illustrating social events of the 1960s such as The Beatles, integration, the Vietnam War, and divorce through relatable characters.

The World According to Humphrey
by My kids and I both enjoyed this book about a hamster who learns about life by getting to know the kids, and adults, of Room 26.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library 
by This book was GREAT! My 7 year old, 10 year old, and I enjoyed it immensely. It was based around a game-maker who built a library for his hometown since the library was where he got him game-making start. 12 12-year olds win an essay contest to win spending a night in the new library filled with all the latest technology. The next morning they are asked if they would like to continue their time at the library and enter a contest to see who can escape the library without using the only door. Clues are provided, all based on new and classic literature and based on the Dewey decimal system. This book was just an all around fun read. If you like games, puzzles, or literature - you will love this book!

Bedknob and Broomstick 
by My kids, ages 8 & 11, LOVED this book. But then, what's not to love about a witch, time travel and 3 kids!

by My 8 year old & 11 year old LOVED this book. I think what they liked best was the changing narrators, different voices between 5th grade and 9th grade, with changing perspectives. This was a story of friendship, learning, growing, loyalty, bullying, and change.

The Mighty Miss Malone
by There was so much to this book: The Great Depression, how minorities fared, learning what it meant to have things stacked against you from how you looked, perseverance, hope, kindness, family. We listened to this on CD in the car and my kids kept begging to turn it back on as soon as we got in again since they wanted to see what happened next.

by Great book! Especially for exploring the effects of our actions on others.

Emily's Runaway Imagination
by My kids and I thoroughly enjoyed the places Emily's imagination took her when it ran away! It was also interesting to see a slice of life in 1920's Oregon and a few times this book led to discussions about how life was different from then to now. The capers that Emily got herself into had us laughing out loud.

A Long Way from Chicago 
by My entire family loved this book - from ages 9-42! When Joey and Mary Alice are forced to spend the summers with their Grandmother in the country they can't even begin to imagine the tall tale type adventures they are in for! Stories that are funny, engaging and clean cut like this don't come along often!

Walk Two Moons

by This book was really good. As Sal sets off on a cross-country trip with her Grandparents she tells them a story about her friend Phoebe, however Phoebe's story and Sal's own echo each other. A journey across the country also is a journey of grief and discovery. Death, friendship, relationships, secrets and the definition of family are all explored. I loved getting to know the people in Sal & Phoebe's lives as this story unfolded.

Extra Credit
by This book was a little different from previous ones we had read by Clements. I was a little skeptical at first, but really enjoyed the perspectives of children from the US and Afghanistan. It was also interesting to see how their point of views changed throughout the book.

Here Lies the Librarian
by I really enjoyed this book about female auto mechanics and race car drivers in the early 1900's! Add in four Butler University library science majors and this small Indiana town is in for lots of changes! Richard Peck's writing style always has you seeing the characters in vivid detail and of course has hilarious plot details.

No Talking
by I listened to this book in the car with my kids and it started out as a boys against girls contest, but I really liked the underlying themes of civil disobedience, social action and social behavior.

A Week in the Woods
by Another great book from Clements! My kids loved reading how this city kid learned outdoor skills and was able to survive being lost in the woods on a class camping trip.

The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever 

by Love, love, love rereading this book at Christmas with my kids. It ALWAYS makes me reflect on the Christmas story differently, like how Mary & Joseph were refugees, dirty and tired and probably not like the squeaky clean version we tend to think of. And what if the wise men had gone back to Herod? And all these are brought about by a group of kids who were the unlikely suspects for telling the Christmas story.

Home of the Brave
by This short children's book was excellent. Kek describes coming to the US as a refuge who has been separated from his family. He struggles to make sense of his new home and what he experienced. He finds help from his neighbor who lives with her foster mom. When Kek starts to work at a small farm he finds hope and encouragement, but also heartbreak again. This book would be good for upper elementary ages as an introduction to other cultures.

Twenty and Ten
by Great short read on 20 evacuated French school children who hide 10 Jewish children during the Nazi occupation of France.

Al Capone Does My Shirts 
by We re-read this book since we wanted to freshen our memories before we read the most recent in the series. There is great historical detail in this book - from post-Depression living, San Francisco, Alcatraz, and gangster lore all told from the view point of a 12 year old. There is also the great storyline of having a sibling who is "different" especially in the un-diagnosed era of the 1930's.

by LOVED this book! The kids in this book showed a lot of imagination and learned a lot about how to start social movements. The ending was perfect.

Mary Poppins 
by This book was a joy to read aloud to my 8yo & 11yo. I was surprised that both boys kept wanting to hear what would happen next! Sometimes "classics" become a little outdated for "modern" kids, but not this book!

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang 
by My kids, ages 8 & 11, LOVED this book. There is adventure and magic and cars! I was left wishing Ian Fleming had written more children's books! The narrative flowed so smoothly and was interesting for me to read as an adult!

The Wednesday Wars