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The premise of Merlin’s Shadow is that Merlin, his fiancé, a baby Arthur, and a few Druid and Christian tagalongs, are on the run from the evil king Vortigern. Their only escape is to head north into the hands of the blue Picti.
This book is a real page-turner, but at the same time Treskillard weaves an extensive amount of Celtic history into his new interpretation of the Arthurian legends.
But (insert evil laughter), I can take Treskillard’s fascination with obscure history, and up the notch of nerdiness. This past fall I studied Celtic Christianity along with the rest of my local United Methodist church. One of the favorite books I read was Listening for the Heartbeat of God: A Celtic Sprirtuality by J. Philip Newell.
After the Romans left the British Isles, Celtic Christianity developed into it’s own culture, without interference from Rome. Whereas Roman Christians revered Peter and believed infants were inherently evil, Celtic Christians looked towards the apostle John and believed that God’s creation was naturally good, but that free will led to sin.
The famous Celtic Christian Pelagius, is either a heretic or a saint, depending upon whom you talk too. He encouraged women to read scripture and think about spiritual things.
The Iona Abbey in Scotland is still active, and people from all over the world travel there to learn about God and ancient spiritual practices that still have meaning today: praying while you work, blessing your children before they walk out the door, and enjoying nature.
If you take all of that history and put it side by side with Merlin’s Shadow, it becomes even more interesting. Treskillard is writing about a world right after the Romans left, when Celtic Christianity is just getting a foothold. Druids like Caygek, have their own sense of morality that will eventually be enveloped into the Celtic Christian church; the Earth is sacred because it is God’s creation.
I’m looking forward to reading the other two books in the Merlin’s Spiral series.
P.S. I received a free copy of this book from BookLook in exchange for my honest opinions and review.
I was honored to join families from across Washington state today as we gathered in Olympia and advocated for gifted education. Our number one goal? Fully fund basic education, which now includes Highly Capable programs.
I hope people remember that children are not widgets. There is such a push in our country to standardize everything; curriculum, assessment and accreditation, that it’s easy to forget that variety is the norm, not the exception.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that Highly Capable children will do fine “because they are gifted” when that isn’t necessarily true. In many ways Highly Capable is similar to Special Education, it’s just at the other side of the bell curve.
Another great find from Etsy!!!
Over the past few years I’ve blogged about some of my favorite purchases from Etsy: our family rules artwork, our chore chart, my daughter’s apron, and my genius envelope wallet. Now I have a new Etsy discovery to share with you– Just by Jaime!
Shop owner Jaime Saunders Archer also happens to be a college friend from Stanford, my sorority sister, and a former third grade teacher. She knows a ton about art history and is a gifted nature photographer.
Jaime’s also very crafty. She has a line of hair accessories that I absolutely love.
Do remember scrunchies? In retrospect they were ridiculous, but the nice thing about scrunchies is that they were fancier than a plain rubber band. Well, Jaime’s hair bands are a modern perfection. Then look really polished and don’t slip off. She also makes headbands and clips.
Are you interested? If so, great news because we’re doing a giveaway! Enter the raffle for your chance to win.
Edited: 3/6/14 (Sorry, the raffle is now closed.)
In our neighborhood, full-day Kindergarten costs $3,600. Half-day Kindergarten is free, but is only two hours and 40 minutes. All of the research I’ve read says that full-day Kindergarten makes a difference. I have an “I Brake for Moms” column coming out next Sunday, explaining the issue.
If you’d like to take a look at the research yourself, here you go:
In our neighborhood, if you take out all of the minutes from lunch and recess, full-day Kindergarten means 5 hours and 15 minutes of instructional time per day. Half-day Kindergarten is 2 hours and 25 minutes. (Please note, I don’t mean to be dismissive of the importance of recess. Children learn a lot on the playground.)
So if we were to chose half-day Kindergarten, could I somehow Afterschool enough to get in the extra 2 hours and 50 minutes a day? Yes; definitely! Here’s how:
An Afterschooling Plan for Half-Day Kindergarten
Language Arts Block, 60 minutes
- 5 minutes parent read aloud
- 5 minutes Bob Books or equivalent
- 5 minutes parent read aloud
- 5 minutes Bob Books or equivalent
- 5 minutes parent read aloud
- 5 minutes Bob Books or equivalent
- 10 minutes All About Spelling
- 10 minutes Handwriting Without Tears
- 10 minutes independent reading in cozy corner
Choice Time, 30 minutes
- Full-day kinders would likely be getting this at school. This thirty minute block would be a chance for my child (and I) to unwind while I got the next activities set up.
Math, 30 minutes
Specials, 30 minutes
- Monday = cooking, Cooking Is Cool: Heat-Free Recipes for Kids to Cook
- Tuesday = Art, 123 I Can Paint! (Starting Art)
- Wednesday = Go to the library with a big basket!
- Thursdays = Science Kits or Magic School Bus videos
- Fridays = Logic games or perhaps the Highlights Travel Kits.
Homework (from school), 20 minutes
TOTAL TIME = 2 hours and 50 minutes!
The cost of this Afterschooling plan would be about $350, including the uber-expensive science kits. I could splurge and get the Highlights kits too, and still come in way under $600. Or I could go the other way, and do the whole plan for practically nothing. I’d just swap about the math section for this page of free activities here.
What’s half-day Kindergarten like in your state? Are you stressing out about registering your child for Kindergarten too?
I just ordered another round of Critical Thinking Company books through the Homeschool Buyers Co-op.
These books are hard to recreate through hands-on activities. I’ve tried, but it’s a lot of work. Here’s an example of the skills covered:
So yes, I’ve opted to go for the workbooks. A couple of pages a week while waiting for a sibling to do [fill in the blank]: guitar, ballet, swimming lessons, Cub Scouts, etc., can’t hurt. I keep the books in the car and use them to fill dead time with something meaningful.
This time for Jenna(4.5) I ordered the following:
|Mind Benders Verbal Item # 01302BBP||$9.99||1||$9.99|
|Mind Benders Book 2 Item # 01330BBP||$9.99||1||$9.99|
|Math Analogies Beginning Item # 08501BBP||$11.99||1||$11.99|
Those should last Jenna the rest of the year. Hopefully they’ll also provide some practice for when she takes the CogAT in winter, a test our district uses to screen for the Highly Capable program.
But if workbooks aren’t your thing, you can always be creative! Here’s another one, just for fun:
Full confession: I was going to give All Things Hidden by Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse a 5 on Amazon because it is everything a historical fiction book should be. But then I read the true story of Kimberley’s experience as a mom, fighting to help her daughter Kayla battle a rare illness, and now I wish I could give this book at 10. Holy Toledo! How does Kimberley Woodhouse find time to write? Wow. I am seriously impressed.
Don’t let the cover fool you; All Things Hidden is not necessarily a historical romance. It’s told from multiple points of view including a mix of genders. It’s also a “clean read”, meaning I’ll be saving it for my own teenage daughter someday. I’d have to destroy the cover to get my son to read it. 😉
It’s not just the quality writing that makes All Things Hidden a good book. There is an exceptional amount of historical detail in the pages too. Peterson and Woodhouse tell the story of Gwyn Hillerman and her father Harold who are (at first) the only medical personnel in the Matanuska Valley, Alaska Territory, circa 1935. The Hillermans are fictional characters in a real life adventure story. As part of the New Deal, FDR sent 200 families to homestead the valley. The families got 40 acres, a house, a $300 loan, and a commitment to live in Alaska for 30 years. (More information here.)
What I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about All Things Hidden, is that the authors clearly spell out which characters in the book are historical, and which are fictional. They also share links to find more information about the Matanuska Colonization project. I felt like I learned a lot while I was being entertained.
P.S. I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinions and review.
Today my Crock-Pot almost caught my hair on fire. I woke up early this morning, chopped up a nice beef stew, and plugged it in to cook. I didn’t notice that the cord was frayed–until sparks shot out past my hair, the wall sizzled, and the fuse blew.
I stood there a few moments panicking, frantically feeling my hair and checking the counter to make sure nothing was on fire. (Oh, and there might have been some loud shrieking.) 😉
I am still very rattled. I use my slow cooker all the time.
So today I’m ordering a Wonderbag Portable Slow Cooker with Recipe Cookbook.
Have you ever heard of a Wonderbag? They are like the Toms Shoes of slow cookers. American women buy one for their homes, and somewhere far away, an African woman gets one too. Wonderbags are just starting to break into the American market. I first heard about them from a friend from England.
The Wonderbag goal is to help women, save fuel and save the planet.
Check out the Wonderbag website to be inspired. I’ll be posting about my new purchase in the future, so you can follow along to see how well it works.
In the meantime, please check the cord on your Crock-Pot!
A while back I posted a review of the book The Daniel Cure: The Daniel Fast Way to Vibrant Health. Well, I finally gave the whole 21-day-vegan-challenge thing a try and wrote about my experience in today’s “I Brake for Moms” column for The Everett Herald: http://www.heraldnet.com/article/20140126/BLOG5205/140129427/Wealth-of-food-makes-it-easy-to-forget-how-rich-we-are
The biggest learning point for me after doing the Daniel Fast was how much I now appreciate water. Clean drinking water isn’t something to take for granted. Head over to Water1st International to find out why.
I seriously have got chills. I just finished reading Prepared for a Purpose: The Inspiring True Story of How One Woman Saved an Atlanta School Under Siege. I read it start to finish in one day. That’s how good it was.
This book is by Antoinette Tuff with Alex Tresniowski. It tells the true story of how Antoinette interacted with a mentally disabled gunman at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Atlanta, Georgia, and talked him out of going on a shooting rampage.
I used to be a public school teacher and I send my son to public schools every day. So believe me, when I was reading this book, I paid attention.
But the story of the tragedy averted is only one half of this book. The other is the autobiography of Antoinette herself; how she grew up in the home of a single parent, spent time being homeless, lived on food stamps, had a baby out of wedlock, got married, suffered divorce, and raised two of the darn finest kids you’ll ever meet.
That second half of the book is equally as inspiring as the first.
Prepared for a Purpose is published by Bethany House and has a strong Christian frame. I liked that about it, but was also a little bit sad because it means the book would be unsuitable for school districts to pass around for their employees to read. I think anyone who worked in a school would benefit from reading Antoinette’s story of cool thinking during lock down.
A final point is this book was also written by Alex Tresniowski. This is a guess, I’m assuming it was Tresniowski’s decision to structure the book the way he did. The mix of McNair and biography is brilliant, fast passed, and kept me turning pages as fast as possible. Nicely done!
P.S. I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinions and review.
For the past couple of weeks my daughter Jenna(4.5) has been experiencing Bookboard, an eBooks service that is like Netflix for books. (I received a free subscription, btw, in exchange for my honest opinion and review.)
The way Bookboard works is that your child gets an instant, small library of books to read. After reading two or three books, new books get “unlocked” which adds to the collection and provides motivation to read more. Bookboard has over 400 books to choose from.
The unlocking idea is highly addictive. (If Netflix was like that I would never get off the couch.) Thankfully, this is books we’re dealing with. It’s okay to addict your kids to reading, which is good because my preschooler is really committed to unlocking new books.
Bookboard’s got a positive reinforcement system that works!
So far Jenna has spent 4 hours and 13 minutes reading 97 books, which is the same as 8 television shows. That’s equivalent to $644 worth of books from the store, or 9 family trips to the library.
Another thing I appreciate about Bookboard is that many of the books are on audio. I can click an icon, and have everything on Jenna’s shelf be audio-only books that will read to her. Then, I can go cook dinner.
It’s as close as I’ll ever get to being a Cylon Mom.
“Snuggle up with my clone while she reads to you. I’ve got stir fry in the wok.”
(Okay, I’ve officially watched too much Battlestar Galactica.)
Unfortunately, the Berenstain Bears books are not on audio. Those are Jenna’s favorites, and she often calls me over from the stove to read them aloud.
Another drawback is that Bookboard is not available on Kindle…yet. Jenna and I have been reading on our desktop. But I could see how if you did have an iPad, Bookboard would be even more impressive. It would be a portable library on the go.
My final thoughts? I really like it! Bookboard is a nice compliment to Starfall.com.
For more information about Bookboard, check out their website.
Trying to stay warm? Add another log to the fire and indulge in a bit of armchair travel curtsey of Kendra Thornton, fulltime mom of three and former Orbitz Director of Corporate Communications.
Kendra is currently collaborating with bloggers to highlight hometowns around the country. She suggested we share our favorite things about her hometown and mine.
Stay tuned at the end of this post for my favorite things about Edmonds.
But first, here is Kendra’s introduction to Chicago:
The Local Experience For Your Visit to Chicago, by Kendra Thornton
Chicago is home to some of the world’s most famous landmarks, sports teams and chefs, but if you ask people what they like most about this city, you’ll probably get “how nice everyone is.” Chicagoans have a lot of time to bond during the harsh winter seasons and enjoyable summers, but it’s also because this Midwestern metropolis has some incredible arts and culture, restaurants, architectural wonders and luxurious hotels for pretty affordable prices. In fact, many of the sights are free to enjoy. Here are some of the best places to check out when you’re visiting Chicago and want a genuine local experience.
Ah, That Bascule Bridge in Downtown
The Michigan Avenue Bridge is a rather famous landmark for Chicago being that another one of its names is the “City of Bridges.” However, the Michigan Avenue Bridge is arguably the most famous one. It was finished in 1920 and features impressive sculptures on four pylons that recall major Chicago events like the Fort Dearborn Massacre of 1812. The bridge goes across the Chicago River in downtown. It’s a great place to walk for an afternoon or at least take a ride to get to connecting parts of downtown.
Restoring the Beauty in Chicago
It was once a wasteland, but in 1997, Mayor Richard Daley decided to change something about downtown Chicago that had been forgotten about. He took an area that had been abandoned and gave it a purpose. Now it’s known as Millennium Park. This public park is now the heart of the city. It features modern architectural pieces, sculptures, landscape design and all kinds of art. There are also a few different free cultural programs to enjoy every week. If you want an afternoon to explore and take photos, Millennium Park is one of the best places to do it in Chicago.
A Place for Chefs
Chicago is well known for its food. No one can deny the goodness of a Chicago-style deep-dish pizza, but when you’re looking for variety, there’s no end to the type of restaurants that you’ll find across Chicago. The South Water Kitchen is one of the most ideal places to catch breakfast, lunch or dinner, and it’s located right in the Loop. The chef is a native Chicagoan, so the menu is mostly American classic fare. However, you’ll find something for every kind of eater in your party, particularly if you have some children traveling with you. The restaurant is open for early breakfast at 6 AM as well, and it has pretty fair prices for the amount of food.
The Chicago Skyline at Night and Where to Stay
If you’re going to visit Chicago, you’ll be upset if you miss the chance to see the Chicago skyline. There are a few hotels in downtown that can provide you with this incredible view. The Drake Hotel is a historic spot to stay that is also quite luxurious, but if you want to compare all of the different luxury hotels and check out ratings, you can use a site like Gogobot.com to find the right hotel. It’s easy-to-use and has all of the different Chicago neighborhoods to select from so you find the ideal place to stay.
Now here’s a little bit about my hometown, Edmonds, WA:
Welcome to Edmonds, by Jennifer Bardsley
Everyone has heard of Seattle, but do you know about Edmonds, the quaint little town in Washington State that’s thirty minutes north of the Space Needle? With a population of about 40,000 people, Edmonds is hometown to such notable figures as Rick Steves, Rosalynn Sumners and Anna Farris. Edmonds boasts mountain views, art galleries and beaches. Parking is plentiful, and there are activities for every price point and age level.
A walk down Main Street is a great place to start. Here are some family favorites:
Nama’s Candy Store on 5th Avenue is an old time candy store that smells good as soon as you open the door. They sell bags of taffy for as little as a dollar, plus they have old fashioned candy sticks for ten cents each. So no matter what your allowance, there is fun to be had.
Also on 5th Avenue is Baicha Tearoom. Four dollars will get you a huge pot of tea to share with your whole family. Another four dollars will buy my daughter’s favorite lunch of all time: a sandwich, grapes, and her own personal pot of hot chocolate.
If you are in the mood for a healthy treat, try out Revelations Yogurt on Main Street. My kids love Revelations because they get to taste all of the different frozen yogurts available, and then serve themselves. There is also an extensive topping bar full of candy and fresh fruit. You pay by the ounce at Revelations, and the prices are comparable with Dairy Queen.
Down the street from Revelations Yogurt is Teri’s Toybox, an Edmond’s icon. You won’t find any junky toys in Teri’s Toybox, just classic toys and cool things from Europe. But FYI! Don’t take kids into Teri’s Toybox unless they each have ten dollars to spend. Otherwise you’re setting yourself up for drama.
Glazed & Amazed is also on Main Street, and is a really fun place to go with kids of all ages. It’s a paint-your-own-pottery store that also offers the opportunity to do fused glass. My kids know that a trip to Glazed & Amazed is a really big treat because it costs about fifteen to twenty dollars a kid. (There are less expensive options to paint, but the piggy banks are hard to say no to.) Another fun thing about Glazed & Amazed is keeping an eye out for the store cat.
If there is a particular place on this list that you really want to see, be sure to check the store hours before you visit. At the time of this blog post, Nama’s Candy Store is closed on Mondays and Baicha Tearoom is closed on Sundays. Revelations Yogurt usually isn’t open until noon on most weekdays in the winter.
But guess what’s open every day of the week? Brackett’s Landing. This is one of my favorite Puget Sound beaches and it is right by the Edmonds ferry dock. Even when it is pouring down rain, it is fun to park the car and watch the ferry come and go. If you’re lucky, you might even see a train go by.
I really wanted to love Goldie Blox and The Spinning Machine, but I don’t.
When it comes to teaching girls about STEM, I’m 110% on board. I’m also a Stanford graduate, just like the CEO of GlodieBlox. So if anyone should be writing a rave revue about GoldieBlox, the engineering toy for girls, it should be me.
But it isn’t.
The truth is that I don’t find Goldie Blox that different from classic toys like Gears Go Round.
In terms of learning and skills, it’s on-par with the LEGO Friends series for girls.
Honestly, after reading all of the hype, I thought GoldieBlox was going to be something mind blowing, like Snap Circuits.
Also, the pieces have a really hard time sticking together. See those little animals in the picture? My daughter had a lot of trouble putting them on. They don’t “click” like Legos or Snap Circuits. This is big problem!
Another issue I have is the YouTube controversy. Like a lot of moms, I watched the GoldieBlox promo video featuring a rewritten song by the Beastie Boys. I thought this video was inspiring and immediately whipped out my credit card.
As a writer, this really bothers me because I’ve had my own work stolen.
And hello? Engineers follow rules about not stealing or misappropriating people’s patents too. What type of lesson is this for girls?
So sorry Debbie Sterling. This will be the only GoldieBlox product I buy.
- GoldieBlox? No thanks. (braintofingers.wordpress.com)
- Goldie Blox – an innovative toy for girls? (aotw3000.wordpress.com)
- Beastie Boys Vs. GoldieBlox In Fair Use Dispute: ‘Girls’ Parody Underscores Murky Copyright Laws (cyberlaw.stanford.edu)
- Girl Toys and Girly Play (naomikritzer.wordpress.com)
- GoldieBlox is Making Toys to Turn Girls Into Engineers (blogher.com)
Merry Christmas! Tomorrow afternoon my kids are officially on winter break and I’d like to spend as much time with them as possible. We also have twenty people coming to our house for Christmas dinner and our house is, ahem, not as clean as it could be.
So I thought it was high time for a blogging holiday. I’ll be back in two weeks with new posts.
In the meantime, I’m going to experiment (starting tomorrow) with putting up a static page. I’m still debating if I should go with Where to Start, or Afterschooling. If you have a strong opinion on the subject, please feel free to leave your two cents!
See you in 2014!!!
If you’ve been following the news recently, you might have seen the story about United Methodist Pastor Frank Schaefer who was suspended for 30 days for performing the marriage service for his gay son. I am part of a large segment of the United Methodist Church who support Pastor Frank, and who believe that God made people exactly how God wanted them to be made.
Our church motto is “Open Hearts. Open Minds. Open Doors”. That means a lot.
I base my faith on scripture. But I also look to church tradition, reason, and my own experience. (This is called The Wesleyan quadrilateral.) Thinking, feeling people know that sometimes church traditions need to change.
Here is more about my faith as a United Methodist woman. I keep this statement as a permanent page on my blog.
I’ve been a Christian since the first time I read the Bible in its entirety in the sixth grade and asked God to be my pilot. I’ve read the Bible many, many, many times since. I believe in the transforming power of Christ.
I believe that the Bible is God’s living word, but that it is not literal history. The two differing time-lines and two different creation stories in the first few chapters of Genesis convince me of this.
I do not believe that the Earth is “young”. I do not believe that humans and dinosaurs lived on Earth at the same time.
I also don’t believe that God is “male”. I believe that God is bigger than we can define Him (or Her).
You can’t put God in a box. God is bigger than a box. You can’t define God. God is bigger than definition.
I believe that women should be allowed to be ministers. I believe Mary Magdalene was an important member of Jesus’s crew.
I also believe that Phoebe was a deacon. My understanding is that Paul used the word “diakonos” thirty four times and that it always gets translated as “minister” or “deacon” except the one time he uses it in reference to a woman. In reference to Phoebe, the word diakonos is often translated as “servant”. (Romans 16:1) That does not seem fair!
I also would side with a large portion of the Methodist church that believes that God made gay people exactly how God wanted them to be made, and that homosexuality is not a sin.
I believe that Steve Camp and Mary Lambert can both teach us about God.
I believe in caring for the Earth and God’s creation. I can’t understand how some people think it’s okay to trash the environment and then say that is God’s plan. God created us. God created the Earth. Let’s care for everything.
I do not believe that God cares about politics. I do not believe God has sanctioned Republicans, Democrats, or Libertarians as the “true” party. But if I was going to talk about politics I’d mention that George Bush and Hilary Clinton are both Methodists!
I believe Jesus would want everybody to have health care.
I do not believe that God agrees with anything Ayn Rand stood for.
I don’t know if Jesus would like the way some Christian financial gurus talk to people. I don’t think Jesus would care if you paid with a debit versus a credit card, so long as money wasn’t controlling you.
I reject the practice that a lot of Christians engage in these days, that makes family almost a cult. (I’m thinking of the Duggars on TV.) I disagree with homeschooling your children for the primary purpose of “being closer as a family”. Homeschooling your kids so they can have a great education is wonderful. Homeschooling your kids so they will become your clones is wrong.
I believe you can send your children to public school and still be a good Christian.
I believe in teaching children to think, not just memorize.
I don’t think you can force a child to believe how you believe. I believe in giving children free choice about their faith, and educating them about religions outside of Christianity.
I strongly disagree with isolating children from other points of view.
I believe in thinking about God, not just believing hook, line and sinker what somebody from a pulpit tells me to.
I believe in living my life in a way that I believe Jesus would live it. I am far from perfect! But I believe that service, not valuing possessions, and giving to others in need is really important.
I believe that the purpose of my life is to form relationships in three important ways: a relationship with God, relationships with each other, and a relationship with God’s creation.
I do not believe in arguing about any of this.
(There is a story behind that thinking, but a blog is not the place to explain why.)
My witness is how I live my life, which is far from perfect, but full of love.