Friday, December 5, 2008

Edith Wharton

I think I'll have to read Ethan Frome again, now that I'm more of a realist than I was in high school. In the meantime, I ordered Glimpes of the Moon of paperback swap so I hope to read that shortly.

Right now I'm reading The Christ Commission. Seemed fitting for Christmastime I guess. It's about a mystery author who tries to prove that Jesus' death & resurrection were a hoax.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Edith Wharton

In case you missed my comment: I LOVED Ethan Frome. That's just me. Anything depressing, sad, and unhappy tends to be my favorite. It's fairly typical Edith Wharton, except it doesn't have hardly any social commentary at all. Most of her other novels I've read (and no I haven't read them all--I space them out to savor them longer) focus on the social structures as one of their main themes. If you want the one and only Edith Wharton I've read with a fairly happy ending, read The Glimpses of the Moon.

Need Suggestions

Hey, I'm looking for a good classic Christmas read that is third or fourth grade level for John to read this month. Any suggestions?

Monday, December 1, 2008

Other B Girl response

Have you seen the movie with Natalie Portman? (I think that's who it is.) Anyway, I thought it was actually a very fabulous movie, myself. After reading the book though, I'm sure you won't find it nearly as fascinating. :-)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Other Boleyn Girl

My sister Megan gave this to me to read forever ago, and I finally did. And I stayed up WAY too late two nights in a row. That is just tempting fate with Miriam and Cowen still in the same room and the general state of sleep deprivation in the house. However, it was a hard one to put down.

Good points: the story was extremely well-researched (a major factor in historical fiction) and extremely well-written. The characters very much came alive. The only thing I knew about Ann Boleyn came from watching the movie "Ann of a Thousand Days" which made me cry at the end watching little Elizabeth walking in the gardens while her mother was beheaded. However, the book made everything much more realistically complex and there was no "good guy" or "bad guy." Although if there was a bad guy--I'd say it was Ann. Maybe. Like I said, the author did a great job of putting in shades and gray areas and complexities--just like real life. Very believable writing.

Bad points: it was very, very bawdy. Lots of references to sex, without actual graphic sex like you find in Harlequin Desires. For example, the one sister who had had a four or five year affair with Henry spends a few paragraphs giving her sister tips on what pleases the king in bed. The author doesn't romanticize it, so it seems very bald and in your face. Also, and this is what I liked least, the Boleyn brother was homosexual. While it never went into details of any sort--I still really hate that.

Overall--I would be careful picking up that author again but I am definitely going to read the ones my sister Megan recommended that she said were much cleaner.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Elizabeth Enright

I heard about this author fairly recently.
I read "Thimble Summer" to the girls and we all enjoyed it.
Then I heard about a series that she wrote about the Melendy family. We're about 4 chapters into the first book, "The Saturdays", and it's very popular with the girls (not so much with my 5 year old son). If you like books along the lines of Anne of Green Gables, the Betsy-Tacy series, and All-of-a-kind Family, then you'd probably enjoy this author.

On my own I'm reading a book about Libertarianism that is actually not too dry. I wanted to learn more about this political viewpoint. I'm slowly working through it. I only read it at night and I usually start falling asleep because I waited too late to get started.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Custom of the Country

Loved it. I can't rave about Edith Wharton enough. After reading such terrible writing as Stephenie Myer and some other YA fiction that I've picked up lately (The Magician's and Mrs. Quent, and Wings: A Fairy Tale AVOID AT ALL COSTS), it was refreshing to drench myself in incredibly beautiful writing. She is just plain gifted.

I hated Undine--the main character. I strongly, strongly disliked Ralph--Undine's second husband. I can't BELIEVE HOW IT ENDED. But, of course, it was the perfect ending because it was true to the time and the characters.

Can't say enough good things about this one. If you haven't read a Wharton--please, please, please pick one up. I also loved The Age of Innocence and as Wharton is Kami's favorite author she's read them all. She'd probably know which other Wharton's to recommend.

Saturday, November 22, 2008


I'm halfway through Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton and am LOVING it. She's fabulous. If you haven't read anything by her--you really should.

Also, I'm reading Just How Stupid Are We: Facing the Truth About the American Voter by Rick Shenkman in a few days (when I'm done with Custom). A friend at church recommended it and asked if I'd read it and compare notes with her. Since she's a crazy, liberal democrat, I thought it would be fun. If you want to join in on the discussion--feel free. I'll be posting about what I think.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

My Two Latest Favorites

WOW! Just read the best two books in awhile.

The Book Theif by Marcus Zusack (or something like that)
BEAUTIFUL book! It was about WWII and how this one young girl found joy and power in written words and book stealing. It was one of the best WWII books I've ever read. Sad. And there is some language to get past (but most of it is in German anyway!). :-) It's just a beautiful book.

The Alchemist by Paulo Cohelo
Another beautiful book. I want to read all of his others. This is about a boys search for his Personal Legend. A great philosophical read. I would not agree with the back cover's praise "as good as The Little Prince" because is was 100x better!!! :-)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Grand Idea!

I for one, think that's a brilliant idea. As you can see from my post before, I like to write my thoughts out on books sometimes and this is a good outlet. I'm all for picking up the list again next summer. Fabulous.

Thursday, October 30, 2008


I must admit I have been doing a lot of reading but mostly in regards to what I am teaching my children at the present moment, the RS book group books, and my own pleasure "need to escape from reality" reading. I do have a couple of books I would LOVE to discuss on this blog though, if we do ever get around the reading together once again.

The Book Theif -M. Zusack ??


The Gospel According to Larry - Janet somebody

(Sorry, I'm never good at remembering authors)

Hey, I have a suggestion . .. how 'bout for awhile we just kind of give our opinions or ideas on books we've currently read or are reading. At least right now while we're all busy? Then maybe next summer we can get started on our list again? Just a thought. OR we could totally ignore this blog and pretend it doesnt exist for awhile.

With that said, I just read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (not the Civil War North and South). It was a very beautiful book, I thought. Very Jane Austen-esque.

Okay, that's all I have to say. Happy Reading!


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Hey, not sure why that came here. So I deleted it. :-)


I had the Screwtape Letters from the library and never even started it. Sorry. I have a hard time reading books over. I remember liking it though. Especially after the guy was married and the devil was starting to focus on pride. Good lesson there. The Colombia book I also had from the library and wasn't able to finish it in time. I do plan on reading that and will be checking it out again. Maybe after Christmas. Lo siento.

I'm swamped

Don't count on my reading anything for the next . . . ever really. Kami, I did find a book today in my house about kids in Columbia who started a peace movement. I'll read over (it's not long) and see if it would be something good for Ana.

Any one?

Are any of you still reading? I have the next two books. I'll be honest and say that the book about Columbia is not looking like a nail-biter, but I could be pleasantly surprised. I'm willing to give it a try. Are we on hold for now? Too busy?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hey Strangers

Okay, so I have a bit of time on my hands - - just enough to post a message here. :-) It looks like we've all "taken a break" which makes me feel oh so much better about "dropping out" for a minute. Update of where I stand on this: I just got the Thief Lord in the mail and will be reading it sometime. I'm still slightly interested in reading the Columbia book, but maybe best to catch me for that one in the summer months. And one final note on our list: I will say that I'm not so sure The House of Seven Gables is worth reading. Seriously! BUT, if you still want to read it, I will join in on the discussion when the time comes.

That is all from me. Right now I'm enjoying my own reading. Hope you're all well!


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Fnished with Screwtape Letters

Well, I finished last night. I wrote down a few thoughts in my notebook - things that seem pertinent to me right now. I have actually never read this all the way through before. Now I can say I have!

I read a little essay written by C.S. Lewis about his experience writing this book, and what led to the writing of "Screwtape Proposes a Toast". I don't know if this essay is included in all copies. Mine is a compilation of several of C.S. Lewis's works. I can imagine that putting yourself in the place of thinking like the devil would be a really strange, odd experience. One that you would not be in a hurry to repeat.

There's definitely a reason that C.S. Lewis is so quoted by General Authorities. He has a very logical understanding of God that is not marred by common religious misconceptions. I enjoy reading him.

I don't have any brilliant thoughts to post. I think we've all gotten kind of bogged down in our various lives and have put our book club on hold. Personally, I'm looking forward to reading "Carry On, Mr. Bowditch" as I love that book and know little about the two listed before it.

Hope you're all doing well. Happy reading!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Response to Kami--without having read the book

Kami, sounds interesting. Thanks for recapping so I don't have to read it. I thought the quote about her deep feelings for Poland (although mixed and confusing) were genius. That is why I stood to take the stupid "loyalty" oath to become a citizen with so much anger and resentment. It had NOTHING to do with the States--I love America, I study America, I teach my children to love America--but there are ties that bind you to your original country no matter how dismal your life was there or how short your time there and for Americans in their grand arrogance to ignore that and pretend that it will go away with an oath, are not realists.

I liked your sentiments about identity--I find it hard to believe in "identity crises." What does that even mean??? You figure out who you are from your family/religion/politics/what you read--and those go with you.

I think a lot of the hippie movement was "let-down" from the past. Their parents, WWII veterans, all--even the women--did incredible/amazing things, and then the Cold War that always seemed about to blaze into something never did. So they grew up in luxury and fear, and when they hit college age they decided the fear was ludicrous and since they had nothing "great" to do--they covered their desire for greatness under excuses for poor behavior. I exclude some Civil Rights activists from that general analysis.

Anyway, just my thoughts.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Lost in Translation: A Life in a New Language

Yes, I know this isn't one of our books, but I've become so used to writing about the books I read on here that I just couldn't help myself, and this book has so many interesting points. To give you some background, this is the memoirs of Eva Hoffman who emmigrated to the U.S. when she was thirteen from Poland in 1959. Her family was Jewish and her parents had barely survived WWII (the tidbits she tells about them are the most gut-wrenching parts). The whole book is her reflections on what it is like to adopt a new culture and language. Very good for the most part, but completely pretentious at other times. She ended up going to Rice University, then Yale, and then Harvard and became an editor at the New York Times.

Mostly though I just wanted to record some of my favorite quotes. Read if you wish...

"Once in New York, I met a Russian artist who tried to explain to me why his compatriots are so despondent when they get to America. Like most self-respecting Russian artists who end up emigrating, he was a pretty active dissident. And yet, he told me, his eyes filling with revealing fire, he felt convinced that Russia was the greatest--really, the only--country in the world. "We defeated the Germans in the war, we had the greatest literature in the world, we had the greatest culture. It was such a pride," he said intently. I looked back intently, trying to understand. National pride? It seems, for our globe, a terribly old-fashioned sentiment. I hardly know what it means.
No, I'm no patriot, nor was I ever allowed to be. And yet, the country of my childhood lives withing me with a primacy that is a form of love. It lives within me despite my knowledge of our marginality, and its primitive, unpretty emotions...All it has given me is the world, but that is enough. It has fed me language, perceptions, sounds, the human kind. It has given me the colors and furrows of reality, my first loves. The absoluteness of those loves can never be recaptured: no geometry of the landscape, no haze in the air, will live in us as intensely as the landscapes that we saw as the first, and to which we gave ourselves wholly, without reservations."

I loved this description, it so accurately describes how I feel for Canada. I think since I left so young I've romanticized it immensely, but still what I remember is so vivid and remains the most beautiful and inviting place to be. Perhaps because I only associate it with good times, vacations and visits and relaxing.

"Immigrant energy, admirable name though it has gained for itself, does not seem a wholly joyful phenomenon to me. I understand the desperado drive that fuels it. But I also understand how it happens that so many immigrant Horatio Algers overshoot themselves so unexpectedly as they move on their sped-up trajectories through several strata of society all the way to the top. From the perspective outside, everything inside looks equally impenetrable, from below everything above equally forbidding. It takes the same bullish will to gain a foothold in some modest spot as to insist on entering some sacred inner sanctum, and that insistence, and ignorance, and obliviousness of the rules and social distinctions--not to speak of "your own place"--can land you anywhere at all. As a radically marginal person, you have two choices: to be intimidated by every situation, every social stratum, or to confront all them with the same leveling vision, the same brash and stubborn spunk. I too am goaded on by the forked whip of ambition and fear, and I derive strength--a ferocity, a puissance--from the sense of my responsibility, the sense that survival is in my own hands."

While I agree with her in some of this--mainly that the sense of fear probably goads a lot of immigrants to work hard, in discussing it with Leo he disagreed to the main point. He thinks (as an immigrant himself) that the different social strata are very apparent and that only someone completely unaware of social context could fail to see the varying levels of society and the increased difficulties in entering a higher level vs a lower level.

"Nobody gives you your identity here, you have to reinvent yourself every day. He is right, I suspect, but I can't figure out how this done. You just say what you are and everyone believes you? That seems like a confidence trick to me, and not one I think I can pull off. Still, somehow, invent myself I must. But how do I choose from identity options available all around me? I feel, once again, as I did when facing those ten brands of toothpaste--faint from excess, paralyzed by choice."

This is what bothers me the most about the author, one of the themes of her book is finding her identity in a new plane of existence. She imagines all the time of what her life in Poland would have been and can't seem to bring her reality around to the fact that what she grew up believing her life would be is now no longer possible. I think she's a bit absurd and pretentious. To me, instead of some immigrant angst, it seems she just doesn't know what she wants, which could happen to anyone. How could she be so lacking in identity, you are what you are. Even if I moved to another culture in say, Poland, I would still now my goals, values, principles... self. Blah. She gets annoying.

(After her childhood best friend commits suicide as an adult--he had immigrated to Israel as a teenager, just FYI.)
"But sometimes, I think of him and Zofia and myself, and others like us I know, as part of the same story--the story of children who came from the war, and who couldn't make sufficient sense of the several worlds they grew up in, and didn't know by what lights to act. I think, sometimes, that we were children too overshadowed by our parents' stories, and without enough sympathy for ourselves, for the serious dilemmas of our lives, and who thereby couldn't live up to our parents' desire--amazing in its strength--to create a new life and to bestow on us a new world."

I found her parents' stories the most poignant part (her dad carrying her mother on his back for miles and miles to a new hide out because she was to weak to walk after having a miscarriage; her father's sister being betrayed by another Jew and paying off the soldiers to stay alive, but not soon enough to save her son; of hiding for years in a bunker and then in an attic; of the author's own amazement as a child of one of her friend's grandparents still being alive--the only live grandparents she'd ever heard of) and perhaps because of this, her description above rang true to me. I can understand how her parents lives might have cast a long shadow over her own life. Interesting, anyway.

"Over there, you wouldn't even think about getting divorced. You'd be staying married, happily or unhappily, it wouldn't matter much.
Oh, wouldn't it? Think hard. Wouldn't your unhappiness be just the same as here?
No, it wouldn't. It would exist within the claustrophobia of no choice, rather than the agoraphobia of open options. It would have different dimensions, different weight.
But surely an incompatible marriage is unacceptable.
An American notion.
A universal notion...
If you were in Poland, you'd be making a sensible accommodation to your situation. You've seen people live perfectly happily within their less than perfect unions. They just have affairs, they don't go around blowing their lives apart."

This is one of my favorite of her comparisons between American culture and Polish culture. I think "It would have different dimensions, different weight," brilliantly describes what constitutes a culture. That's just my opinion though.

"You used to be able to emigrate to America," a Polish friend, who has been here several years, quips. "Now where do you emigrate to?" For her, the world is too small to sustain the fabulous America of people's dreams; there is no America any longer, no place the mind can turn to for fantastic hope. But for Maria, who nurtures no fantastic hopes, it's still America you emigrate to--this all-too-real America."

I love this description too. I think many people would agree that the America that is imagined by many people far surpasses the reality of being here, however in the case of her Brazilian maid the reality is still extremely better than her circumstances before, hence her desire to be here, without complaints or criticisms.

"A culture talks most about what most bothers it: the Poles talk compulsively about the Russians and the most minute shifts of political strategy. Americans worry about who they are. Each conversation breeds its excesses of overinterpretation and stupidity, and its compensatory wisdom. Each, of courses, is delicious comedy to the other--the comedy from which so much expatriate writing is made."

Hmmm....Americans obsessed with themselves...sounds a bit familiar.

"What's this thing Americans have about their mothers?" my Polish friends ask. "Why do they talk about their mothers all the time?"
Indeed, my American friends talk about their mothers a lot. The oppressive mother, or the distant mother, or the overloving mother, is an accepted conversational trope, like the weather or the stock market or the latest Mideast crisis. My American friends pay their mothers the indirect tribute of incessant and highly subtle scrutiny. They measure the exact weight the mother exercises upon their psyche, and they practice careful equilibrating acts between letting the mother too much in and keeping her too much out. In their accounts, the mother comes out both extremely close and remote, as if she were both a vampiric incubus and a puzzling stranger.
For my Polish friends, this is grist for cross-cultural satire. Only Americans can make so much fuss about something so...well, normal. A mother, for heaven's sake, is a mother. In Poland itself, you usually live with her until you get married, or sometimes until much later. After you move out, she comes over to help out in the kitchen or with the kids... Things sometimes get uncomfortable in a small kitchen, and the mother and daughter, or son, quarrel. But basically, the mother is as familiar as the slippers in which she shuffles around the apartment, and getting along with her is not a matter for lengthy discussion. The air around her isn't charged with gothic menace."

I found this cultural comparison also amusing. I know my sisters and I discuss our mother a lot. And depending on the sister, she was either a demon or angel. Ah, funny the outside view looking in. The author thinks it's because of the space (size of house, having our own bedrooms etc) growing up and then the distance that children sometimes move from their parents once grown that keeps Americans at odds with their mothers. I don't know that I exactly agree, but it's an interesting theory.

Anyway, I had fun writing this. Feel free to comment, or not. Goodnight.

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Okay, Girls.

Now that school is starting I'm not sure how much I will be contributing to this group for the time being. If we read really slowly I might be able to keep up, but other than that I'm just going to be fully immersed in what we're learning here at home and doing some of my own pleasure reading (including Andrea & Kaylie's book!). I will do my best, but that's where I stand as of today. Just FYI.


Thursday, August 28, 2008

Moving on

Andrea's not reading Young Fu so let's move on to The Screwtape Letters. Really I'm just excited to get to the book about Colombia and since I've already read the Screwtape Letters, I'm not so motivated to read it again. Maybe if you guys posted brilliant thoughts I will be more motivated. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Guess What!

Hey guys....
I wanted to join your ranks (well, not you, Ju). I hate being left out of things!!!
So.....I'm expecting my fifth baby! Pretty sweet. Pretty un-planned. Just thought I'd let you know. I'm due in March. I will have three children with birthdays in a 30 day time period. Pretty wild.

Ju's Young Fu

Okay, so I read this a long time ago but totally remember loving it. I think what I loved about it mostly were the wise sayings from his teacher friend and the Chinese proverbs written throughout the text. I do agree that there was no real climax in the story. However, I think Young Fu's "luck factor" was also symbolic of those the Chinese deem to be worthy or of value. I think even in our culture we can look at the lives of some great leaders and say they were "lucky" when in reality they were being preserved and saved for a greater mission. We don't know the extent of Young Fu's life after the book ends, but we know that he will continue to do great things (in the fictional world at least). I also thought this book would be a great introduction to Chinese history for when my children are older. It may not have the full content of the history, but it does give a great prelude to further studies and inspired me in such a way to want to learn more about that particular culture.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Young Fu

I have to agree with Kami's comments. There was no climax and Fu was too lucky. I think the most interesting part of the book was the section after the story that talked about China then and now - the changes that have occurred. My book had an introduction and a foreword by two very well-known authors. One of them promised that if you like Tolkien (and someone else who's name escapes me), then you will love this book. I did not think this novel was on par with Tolkien at ALL! In reading more about the two authors who wrote the intro and foreword, they both have a history in China during that time period, so I think their comments were based more on nostalgia than true scholarship. Which is disappointing!

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

American Revolution/Colonial Times

You might try Paul Revere's Ride
Also the d'Aulaire books on George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
There's a magic tree house book on the subject.
Felicity, from the American Girl series grows up in Colonial Times. :-)
There's a Diane Stanley book (she's so awesome) called Joining the Boston Tea Party

"The Courage of Sarah Noble" is a good one for younger kids.

I have a bunch of ideas from the Sonlight Curriculum. I usually just use what I can pull from the library and I haven't checked on that yet. But here's what Sonlight uses for American History:

American Adventures 1 - Greenberg SL3 (many topics 1770-1870)
The Story of the USA: A Young Nation Solves Its Problems - Escher SL3

Pocahontas and the Strangers - Bulla SL3
Squanto, Friend of Pilgrims - Bulla SL3

What's the Big Idea, Ben Franklin? - Fritz SL3
Ben Franklin of Old Philadelphia - Cousins SL3
Mr. Revere and I - Lawson SL3
And then What Happened, Paul Revere? - Fritz SL3
Can't You Make Them Behave, King George - Fritz SL3
Johnny Tremain - Forbes SL3 (American Revolution)
Toliver's Secret - Brady SL3 (American Revolution)
Phoebe the Spy - Griffin SL3 (American Revolution)
Martha Washington (Childhood of Famous Americans) SL3
Meet George Washington - Heilbroner SL3
George Washington (Childhood of Famous Americans) SL3
Winter at Valley Forge - Knight SL3 (1777)
If You Were There When They Signed the Constitution - Levy SL3

Meet Thomas Jefferson - Barrett SL3

Diary of an Early American Boy - Sloane SL4 (1805 pioneer life)
Johnny Appleseed - Kellogg SLK

Ben and Me - Lawson SL2 (Ben Franklin)

I'm sorry if those aren't helpful for a five year old. These are mainly for my eight year old daughter. The SL3 means it's Sonlight's level 3.

A long time ago I read a fabulous book called "The Signers: the 56 Stories behind the Declaration of Independence". It's not a read aloud for young kids but it was FABULOUS and I told the kids the stories in my own words. Many of the stories moved me to tears as I told my children about the courage of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sign of the Beaver

I just skimmed Sign of the Beaver to see if I could read it to Miriam this year as it pertains to pioneer/pilgrimy people. Such a great book, but it might be a little slow for a five year old.

For all of my vast knowledge of literature, I'm having a hard time coming up with many fiction titles that deal directly with colonial America. Pre-revolution and during the revolution specifically. Johnny Tremain is the classic. Witch of Blackbird Pond another classic--too old for Miriam though. Why aren't there more books about puritan girls? About Jamestown lasses?

If you can think of any, let me know. Of course, I'm not reading just colonial books to her (boring for a whole year) but I am surprised at how shallow the lit is for this time period. Obviously, I'm missing something.
I requested the book from the library and I think I didn't get in there to pick it up soon enough. So now I either re-request it or skip it altogether. But based on Kami's less-than-enthusiastic review, I might just skip it. Anyone care? :-)

Young Fu of the Upper Yangtze

I'm completely wimping out on this. But if Andrea can get by on that pathetic post about Fermat, then I don't feel so bad. I did read Young Fu. It was interesting but nothing spectacular I thought. The most interesting part to me was the clash of the old traditions in China with the new influences coming in (ie the priests healing vs. the foreigners healing). Also, seeing the seeds of communism in China start growing even as the National Government was consolidating. All in all, it was an interesting to read about the culture but I wish it had more information and more history of the major events of the time. Granted, this is aimed at a young audience, so really for it's audience, it's quite good. His master, Tang, was my favorite character. His short adages and proverbs were always good. Young Fu seemed too much a golden child to be realistic to me. I think the main thing lacking in this book was a climax though. It didn't really have one at all, hence I was never really drawn into the story very much. Those are my thoughts, sorry it's so short--I'm trying to finish a major sewing project so I don't have time for much else.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


First, isn't it cheating to hold an impromptu discussion on a book that I haven't read in awhile? JULIA????? You could have warned me!!! :-)

So this is one of my all-time favorite books. It's inspiring, it's informational, and it's hopeful.
That's all I have to say. It's one the those books I plan to re-read, at least partially, on a regular basis to keep me motivated and focused.

And that's all I have to say because it's been far too long since I've read it and I don't want to get it confused with "There Are No Shortcuts" - also by Rafe.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Ju--practicing multiple choice tests

Julia, I loved that Rafe went into detail about how to teach your students to be excellent test-takers--mostly because homeschoolers are shooting their kids in the foot if they neglect test-taking skills. Besides, it made me feel good because that is exactly what I did with my students. I was no Rafe--but I did a few things right!

Standardized tests

Education used to be based around a personal understanding of each student and each student's progress, and students used to not pass grades if they couldn't do the work. We don't hold students back anymore because that might mess with their self-esteem (whatever), and we don't have enough teachers anymore to really get a personal understanding of each student (who could with over 30 students in a classroom), so instead of figuring out ways to really help our students in a less-than-ideal situation (too many kids per class from less than ideal homes with bitter, overworked teachers), the FEDERAL government stepped in (that's where things went really wrong), and started mandating testing before they would give out funds to school districts.

First, education is a state level issue so whenever the federal government gets involved things go downhill fast--because what backwoods Alabama kids need is not the same as what inner-city ESL kids need. Education is best handled at a local level.

Second, taking funding away from struggling schools has got to be the number one stupidest thing anyone has ever thought of. It was supposed to "encourage" teachers to improve test scores, which resulted in the things Rafe was talking about--panicked teachers who help the kids cheat, or yell/scream/pull their hair out, over the tests. The teachers care about getting the funding because they care about their kids and their jobs. When funding gets cut, teachers get fired, class sizes get bigger, and students suffer.

If you've ever heard of teachers talking with great bitterness about No Child Left Behind--that's why. More high-stakes testing with threats of funding loss and worse, your district getting taken over by businessmen. Nothing worse than that really, because education cannot be run like a business no matter how good it sounds when a politician is talking about it.

So--we have an incredible number of tests that take up and incredible amount of a teacher's time, and because there are so many of the lame things, our kids have stopped worrying about them. I thought it was interesting that his kids thought they meant something. In Utah, there are so many tests that the kids often fill in blanks to make pretty pictures, or fall asleep, or most often--skip school that day. It is impossible to convince students that the school's funding is worth them showing up to take a test that doesn't affect their grade because we don't get the results in time to even tell the kids how they did. The whole thing is LAME.

I'm not against testing--but the system is seriously sick in the testing area. And what makes it worse is that parents who have no idea what the tests are even designed to demonstrate, read about test scores and get all up in arms about the teachers not doing their job. Give me a break.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Firey Teaching

Okay, I should NOT be responding because I really need to pack for our trip, BUT I'm so tired of cleaning, packing, and organizing I really just want to respond to this email. I may give stuff away from the 2nd half of the book, Ans, but I must. AND, I have to say Kelly is the first to recommend it to me, so she gets to comment as well!

Using Trust rather than Fear
"Never use fear as a shortcut for education." p 6
I thought the same thing as you with my own children and how they have learned to "fear" me more than to "trust" me (in some areas of their lives - - i.e. cleaning their bedrooms - - okay, so, maybe fear doesn't work there either! hee-hee)

Quote from Measure for Measure, Shakespeare:
"Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win
By fearing to attempt."

Moral Levels of Development
LOVED this as well. And if you read Ron Clark's 55 Rules, it adds upon this whole concept of raising strong, intelligent, independent and confident children.

Why do we settle? I would agree that there aren't necessarily "bad" teachers out there, but there are many who settle for mediocrity. Who want to make it easier for themselves and their students. BUT can you blame them? After seeing the HOURS Esquith put into his teaching I realized why more teachers are not like him.

You mentioned, also how the teachers would step in to fix the problems of their students. Parents do this ALL THE TIME!! The kids come to them with any problem, big or small, and the parents give an answer: "You should...." "Go do...." Instead, we need to help our kids become problem solvers, thinkers! When my kids have come to me with problems (sometimes in hysterics), I've started to ask them a question, "What are our solutions." I remember Brooklynn freaking out about a lost something and I asked the question. She said, "There are no solutions!" (enter: the tears!) I just stayed calm (one trait I constantly need to work on when my girls go into needless hysterics) and said, "Well, go think about it and come back with a list of solutions." Well, she stomped out of the room (still crying) only to come back a few more minutes with the "something" found. I just think it's so easy to tell our kids how to behave, how to feel, how to think - - and then we get frsutrated as they get older and don't know how to make wise decisions. Duh! (read pp 147-148: How to solve a problem)

p. 141 "To help young people become remarkable, we need to challenge them with lessons theywill use for the rest of their lives."

This is so key, I agree. And it's something I've not been so strong at teaching. Writing came so easily for me, I don't even remember learning how, I just alwasy seemed to KNOW. Therefore, I just assumed my kids would know how to write. Ha! We've worked on it and come a long way, but this year we are mostly focussing on writing. EVERYTHING will involve writing (especially for John). I am so excited about it!

Esquith also made me realize that TV/Movies are actually good learning tools if used properly! (maybe you haven't gotten there yet, Ans). . . Before reading his book I would use "educational movies" as babysitters for my kids. They were still learning, right?! Well, let me just tell you how my whole perspective has changed and we are watching some really sweet movies! I've never seen a Shirley Temple movie until last night. It was great and the kids loved it. Anyway, I put Esquith's idea to a challenge. John wanted to watch Fetch with Ruff Ruffman (PBS kids show). Well, I told him he could only watch it if he wrote 5 sentences afterwards telling me what he had learned. He watched it and then couldn't come up wiht 5 sentences. I told him he still needed to do it. Well, he let it rest. Then, the next morning he woke up and said, "Mom, can I watch Fw/RR again and finish my sentences?' Well, he did and he wrote some great sentences. We sat down with the sentences and did all the correcting then and there - - grammar, spelling, penmanship! Then, he had to rewrite it with the corrections and in his best handwriting. John LOVED it! He didn't fight me on it one bit because I had taken one of his passions and turned it into a learning experience. LOVE writing!!

Standardized Testing
"Despite the fact taht standardized testing was conceived to help our children, in practice it has only contributed to their failure." p 75

"We adults must work hard to help the kids navigate the ridiculous hoops through which they are asked to jump." p 80

"In an era wehn 'You are your test score' has become accepted . . . we adults must work hard to make sure kids know that their test scores are actually a very small part of who they are." p 83

p. 174 "I believe that many of today's . . . schools are making a . . . significant mistake in how thye think about college. They place so much emphasis on getting into college that they lose sight of the larger issue of finishing college."

Andrea - explain this more to me (because I'm a critic) -- what is up with these tests? Washington's is HORRIBLE. AND, why are the teachers so limited on their cirriculum choices. I know, its' better to have a guideline, but does it need to be so set in stone and according to what administrators think? How do parents change this, or can they? I know there's a cirriculum board & all. Anyway, this is just one part of the book that frustrated me about the public school system (though I'm generally NOT anti-public school nor am I critical of the teachers themselves - - just to clarify!).

Final Note
p. 108 "Teachers and parents must remember that our children should be the performers, even if they are not perfect. That's the beauty of art - - we strive for perfection but never reach it. The journey is everything."

Enough Said!


P.S. I won't comment on Young Fu until I get back from Utah. I read it awhile back, but may need to refresh. LOL

First Installment of Teach Like Your Hair's On Fire

Okay, okay, I know this isn't the assigned book, but since I picked it up I can't put it down so Young Fu is just going to have to wait a few days.  Kami finished it, by the by, so I expect some comments on it will be posted by early next week.  I plan on finishing it Sunday at the latest.  Too bad I wasn't reading it when I stayed up until 4:30 am the other morning, but that is another story.

So, Julia told me to read this book and I am halfway through and thoroughly enjoying it.  A few comments.

First of all, I don't know how I missed Lawrence Kohlberg's 6 levels of moral development, but I am looking the man up to read more.  What a lovely way to teach your kids about the ultimate goal--and there are so MANY excellent examples to use to demonstrate the highest level (I have a personal code  of behavior and I follow it).  Loved that he uses Atticus Finch as the ultimate example--it is a great one, even if I was surprised that he was reading To Kill a Mockingbird with his fifth graders.  I guess preserving innocence isn't a factor when you teach in inner-city LA.  

I really loved this idea of the moral levels.  I plan on making Timothy make a really great, permanent, display of some sort of all the levels and for the rest of their lives my children will be thinking about what level different people are at as we evaluate behavior in every setting.  Louis L'Amour books would be excellent for this.  As would people like Emmeline B. Wells.  (Kammers--call me, I decided what I was going to do with that and it is BRILLIANT.  So . .  . call me.)  

So that was great right off the bat, although I want to read what Mr. Kohlberg has to say on the subject as he's the man who developed the idea.

--Next, I really liked what Esquith (the author) had to say about discipline shouldn't be based on fear, but trust.  I believe whole-heartedly that it is true.  I hate it when Miriam looks scared of me (of all the kids, she's the one most justified in looking that way), but man it is harder to control your temper than anything else in the world.  At least, for me.  

pg 31 had a great quote:  "Powerful forces of mediocrity have combined to prevent perfectly competent children from learning to love reading.  These forces include television, video games, poor teaching, poverty, the breakup of the family, and a general lack of adult guidance."  He missed a few, but great summary of all that's wrong with education that has almost nothing to do with teachers.  He mentioned some really horrible teachers in his book--which is strange, because overall, I only had two teachers that I thought were really despicable.  Most were totally okay with mediocrity, however, and that is a problem.

pg. 41: "Most parents and teachers agree that when a skill is being taught, there needs to be an assessment to see if proficiency has been achieved.  Discussion is never enough."  Esquith is referring to teaching reading here, and I wholeheartedly disagree.  Comprehension questions never help students comprehend what they have read better.  Comp questions determine whether or not kids know how to take tests.  If the students know the answers for the test, they knew them before the test or they were able to eliminate the worst answers.  

Discussing what you have read is the second best way to increase comprehension and "test" comprehension.  Writing about what you have read is the best way to fine-tune what you think about what you read.  As he mentions later--writing requires a precision that discussion does not.  However, I cannot agree that students need anything besides discussion and writing for learning to comprehend reading.  We need to give our students multiple choice comprehension tests so they can practice their test-taking skills, not their comprehension.

pgs.  45-48 about how the teaching of grammar and writing has gone downhill over the years was brilliant and hilarious--my fav part so far.  Example: 2000 (as in the year): Our school adopts a new basal reading series.  We are assigned two literacy coaches to help the teachers.  One of the many jobs of the literacy coaches is to remove the grammar books from classrooms.  Teachers are told they may teach grammar only from the new materials.  Instructors complain that while the new series does indeed address parts of speech and sentence structure, the older grammar books do a far better job.  Teachers are told they must surrender the grammar books anyway.  We ask if we can compromise and use the grammar books as a supplement to the official school texts.  This is not allowed.  Frightened younger teachers turn in their books.  Some clever older instructors hide the books or share one series among themselves and teach their children good grammar secretly.

AHAHHAHAHHHA.  Okay, maybe I laughed so hard because that happened at my school.  All the English teachers, except the ones on the adoption committee for the new texts, hid at least three of the old books before giving up the rest reluctantly.  All of our meetings for the rest of the year were about whether or not we were ONLY USING THE NEW BOOKS.  Whatever--I thought the new books had a few cool things, but my kids wrote.  They didn't do lame-o questions in a textbook.  I was frequently in trouble.  In fact, one of the teachers was annoyed with me because she was a special literacy coach for those who needed extra help in reading and she got tired of my students saying, "Mrs. Young already taught me that."  Apparently, I was stepping on her toes by teaching comprehension skills.  Love that Esquith describes staff meetings as worse than chemotherapy--too true.

pg. 50: "In room 56, rather than receive poor grades, my students are told they must get at least 90% or better on grammar assignments or do them again.   The Dreaded Rewrite makes kids understand that Room 56 is a serious place and they might as well listen, try hard, ask questions, and get things right the first time."  Very similar to my teaching philosophy of quality over quantity, and TJEd's only accept quality.  A VERY important teaching principle.

pg. 74: "It is ironic that the people most obsessed with testing children do such a poor job of creating conditions in which the kids will perform well."  Amen and amen.

The whole section on science and letting kids make mistakes and figuring out what they did wrong and fixing the mistakes themselves is pretty critical.  I remember way too many times I feigned complete inability in order to get a teacher to do my work for me.  As a teacher, it is always easier to do the work than listen to a student whine.  I want my kids to be better academic problem solvers than me.

That's all for now.  I'm about halfway through and enjoying it.  One thing I've noticed, it's pretty obvious, is that exceptional teachers don't have lives.  I would never be willing to be the kind of teacher he is as a wife and mother because there isn't enough balance.  Our education system combined with our dismal expectations combine to make it almost impossible for teachers to achieve exceptional levels with their students in a normal school day because the kids are going home to imperfect situations.  

Kammers-you would like this book.  I just realized how choppy, disorganized, and poorly written this whole post is.  Forgive me--as I am just a product of a broken-down education system, the technological age of informal writing such as text messaging and email, and I am lazy to boot.  :)

Sunday, August 3, 2008


“If Fermat did not have Wiles' proof, then what did he have?” (284). Wouldn't it be fascinating to find out if Fermat really did have the proof or not? The great thing about this theorem is that even after being “solved”, it's still an enigma because we know that if Fermat solved it, he must have used a different method. When I got to this part of the book, right at the end, I heard dramatic music playing in my head. The problem is still there – how did Fermat reach his conclusion?

I completely forgot I wanted to comment on that too. Doesn't that just drive you a little crazy?? I want to know how Fermat solved it. Errrrr....

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Loved this book. I don't have much to say about it because there wasn't anything to really agree or disagree but I will say that I loved how hilarious some parts of it were, and I loved the parts about the women mathematicians. Amazing. Overall, it was very well-written, engaging history and even the math parts didn't bore me! Excellent writing.

The Proof is in the Pudding

I love math books! Real math books, anyway. Books about mathematicians and the math that they discover. I've read books about Descartes, Blaine Pascal, and other mathematicians. I've also read books about code-makers and -breakers from WWII. They all fascinate me. Which I find odd, really, because I don't understand math very easily.

I was hooked on this one right from the start.

There was so much information packed into this one book. I can hardly wrap my mind around it. I don't even know what to focus my essay on!

I read several sections of Fermat's Enigma to Josh, always finishing with: “if that's not a testimony of God, then I don't know what is!” I think one of the reasons I like math is that it's so orderly. My favorite “testimony” parts include the mathematics found in music, the pi ratio of rivers, the perfect number 6, and the friendly numbers. People have drawn such interesting comparisons between math and God. I thought the argument that St. Augustine made in “The City of God” about 6 being a perfect number and the earth being created in six days just fascinating.

One of the things that was new to me was the camaraderie within the mathematic community. I didn't realize that they tend to work so closely together, bouncing ideas off each other.

As much as this book is about a math problem, it's also definitely about the passion that envelops people and the tightness to which they can hold to an idea or a dream. It seems true that those who rise to the top of a field (any field) are the ones who are most passionate about it; who pursue their dream unceasingly. This book was chalk full of stories about people who followed their passion. What great examples they set for us.

Regarding mathematics: the intense concentration involved; the difficulty behind it all, astounds me. At one point, describing Wiles' lecture course on a portion of his proof, Nick Katz says, “There was no way in the world that anyone could have guessed what it was really about. It was done in such a way that unless you knew what this was for, then the calculations would just seem incredibly technical and tedious. And when you don't know what the mathematics is for, it's impossible to follow it. It's pretty hard to follow it even when you do know what it's for” (242-243). This quote, coupled with Nick Katz's explanation of the work required to check the proof (256) shows the huge amount of difficulty behind the math involved. It's just crazy to me that the best minds in the world found it difficult to check his proof!

“If Fermat did not have Wiles' proof, then what did he have?” (284). Wouldn't it be fascinating to find out if Fermat really did have the proof or not? The great thing about this theorem is that even after being “solved”, it's still an enigma because we know that if Fermat solved it, he must have used a different method. When I got to this part of the book, right at the end, I heard dramatic music playing in my head. The problem is still there – how did Fermat reach his conclusion?

I think the concept of hard work and perseverance is demonstrated repeatedly by the many mathematicians who devote whole segments of their lives to one problem. Hard work won't necessarily always be rewarded with success, but when it comes, success is all the more sweet because of the effort taken to get it. Sacrifice and discipline make good work partners. It's a lesson worth learning well.

I want to finish by quoting what I thought was probably the funniest moment in the entire book (and I liked Euler's proof of God, also): “When asked for his reaction to the proof, Shimura gently smiled and in a restrained and dignified manner simply said, 'I told you so.'”(280). I just loved that answer. Finally, to be justified after so many years! It must have felt good.

Fermat's Enigma

My copy is overdue at the library, and since I plan on making a trip there this afternoon, I figured I'd better write this. Anyway, I really enjoyed this book too! I thought it was fascinating, although it completely lost me towards the end when it started talking about modular equations.

One of the main reasons I liked it so much, is that it made me appreciate how amazingly intelligent humans can be and the potential we have. Does anyone remember in Anne of Green Gables when Anne is talking to Diana about whether she would be infinitely good, stunningly beautiful, or astoundingly intelligent? (I paraphrased that.) Well, I always--even as a kid--would have chosen the intelligent one, although I felt rather guilty because I thought I should chose the good one. Anyway, this book made me wish that again. The genius of the people involved is really humbling to me. It kind of puts me in awe of the human race again, since generally speaking I don't have a high opinion of the average joe.

I had no idea of the complexities of mathematics in the theoretical realm and how many applications that has. For instance, how all the rivers can be calculated to have a ratio of pi between the actual length and direct distance. Also, to me, the author is right that mathematics has an appeal because "Mathematical theorems rely on this logical process and once proven true are true until the end of time." vs. "...the hypothesis becomes accepted as a scientific theory. However, the scientific theory can never be proven to the same absolute level of a mathematical theorem: It is merely considered highly likely based on the evidence available." pg. 21

The development in mathematics and the logic involved is incredible to me too. I loved how the author explained parts of this, "The solution for Bombelli was to create a new number, i, called an imaginary number... This might seem like a cowardly solution to the problem, but it was no different to the way in which negative numbers were introduced." pg. 84 To me, imaginary numbers are so completely odd and hard to comprehend (yes, I'm not that great in math). It makes i seem more normal to read "It should be noted that mathematicians consider imaginary numbers to be no more abstract than a negative number or any counting number. Furthermore, physicists discovered that imaginary numbers provide the best language for describing some real-world phenomena." pg 86

I also loved, "I am a liar!" pg. 141 and "This statement does not have a proof." pg 142, it's so fun to try to wrap your mental abilities around those. Hee. Hee. Also another fun logical "proof," was Pascal's "religion was a game of infinite excitement and one worth playing, because multiplying an infinite prize by a finite probability results in infinity."pg. 21 Although not logical at all, and certainly no proof, was Euler's "Sir, a+b nth power/n=x, hence God exists; reply!" pg. 76--I was laughing out loud when I read that anecdote.

I'll end with that since I have to go get me crying baby. Chau.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


Okay, this was a totally amazing book. I was thrilled to read it. The thing about this book for me was how it made me totally appreciate what J. does as an occupation - - statistics, playing with numbers, making code, etc...etc... Let me just say, for the first time in four years I was actually having math conversations with my husband. Amazing!

Unfortunately, I had to return the book TODAY (or pay a late fee, which I was not willing to sacrifice) and so my thoughts might be a bit choppy because I'm going on shorthanded notes here. This won't be so much an essay as it is a bunch of my favorite stuff all globbed together.

My FAVORITE quote from the ENTIRE book:

"There is no place in the world for ugly math." (p.171)
I thought it was hilarious at the beginning of the book where it says it was a "high risk decision to work in isolation" because it made me think "How high risk can a math profession really be?" But then in reading the amazing history linked to this one problem just made that riskiness come alive. I was totally nervous for Wiles when that other guy wrote in that there was no truth to Fermat's Therom while Wiles was in the process of trying to solve the one error in his original proof. Crazy!
It was also profound to me how we take numbers for granted. Numbers are just a normal part of life, but in reading this book you come to realize that everything had to be discovered. I mean, it's pretty simple that there is ONE of something and if you add ONE more something to that something then you get TWO somethings. But, someone had to figure that all out and then discover that there is an infinite amount of numbers.
J. and I also got a laugh at the story of Gombaud and his gambling game where he asked Pascal to use probability to figure out who got the money (since the game had to end abruptly or something). Ha! J. and I have lots of discussions about probability (have you played Settler's of Catan??). :-)
I was intrigued with the history of the first library and then the burning of books at the descent of the Dark Ages. Reading that made me reflect on a couple of things. First of all, the idea that all books that were not Christian were to be destroyed led me to think about all the good books out there and how we've been asked to seek the "best" books for knowledge and study. Second, I was reminded of the descent of the apostasy as well which I believe occurred all around the same time (historians, correct me if I'm wrong!).
"Fermat didn't know very much. . . I tried tof ind his lost solution by using the kind of methods he might have used." (p71) TJED? Go straight to the source! Learn from how the great philosophers, musicians, scientists, etc... learned.
Another favorite:
"The art of number theory is so abstract that it is frighteningly easy to wander off the path of logic and be completely unaware that one has strayed into absurdity." (p131)
I was also impressed with the support Wiles received and felt from his wife and children. "Whenever the pressure became too great he would turn to his family. . . 'The only wya I could relax was when I was with my children.'" (p237) Despite his passion and obsession with this therom, his marriage and family stayed strong. It's interesting that I just recently watched the movie Amadeus. Again, I looked at the family life and watched the polar opposite happen to Mozart than that which occurred with Wiles. I don't think it's an easy task to be the wife of a genius such as Mozart or Wiles or Einstein. I mean, Wiles knew from the age of TEN, "I knew I had to solve it." (p6) A passion like that must put some strain on the family. Which I think is why his wife (Nada?) was excited to receive his final proof on her birthday! What a joy it must be to know your husband #1 fullfilled his dream, and #2 would now be free of the thing that attracted most of his attention! I would not be such a patient wife. :-)
I can also understand his "mixed feelings" at finally solving the problem for all the same reasons. To be so familiar and involved in an obsession for that long, it would be very hard to let go and let the rest of the world "have at it."
Overall, I thought this book was just fantastic. So much history. So much knowledge gleaned. So much excitement in discovering how numbers really are cool! :-) I was impressed with the thoughts on curiosity (p. 147) and it made me wonder what I'm curious about? What are my children curious about? Am I fostering that curiosity or squelching it? What did the mothers of these genius chidren do to keep that curiosity alive? (Read Linda Eyre's Teaching Children Joy) Wiles later says, "I was just curious," and look at all he accomplished by just being curious!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Little Prince

I for one agree with the rest of you that I didn't like this book so much. I'm so glad it was followed by one that I enjoyed immensely. This time though, I have an excellent excuse for not having much to write: I finished the book while recovering from the dilaudid PCA that had made me hallucinate a little bit. I never want to be on dilaudid again. Anyway, here's a few quotes I did like.

"Are there hunters on that planet?"
"Ah, that is interesting! Are there chickens?"
"Nothing is perfect," sighed the fox.

I thought it was ironic with the fox's philosphy on being tamed and having friends, that he should still wish for the easy life. Just like in the train chapter about the humans who didn't know what they wanted, we perphaps all want the easy life with all chickens and no hunters, but as stated here: Nothing is perfect. All of us have our trials and our rewards.

This was a merchant who sold pills that had been invented to quench thirst. You need only swallow one pill a week, and you would feel no need of anything to drink.
"Why are you selling those?" asked the little prince.
"Because they save a tremendous amount of time," said the merchant. "Computations have been made by the experts. With these pills, you save fifty-three minutes in every week."
"And what do I do with those fifty-three minutes?"
"Anything you like . . ."
"As for me," said the little prince to himself, "if I had fifty-three minutes spend as I liked, I should walk at my leisure toward a spring of fresh water."

This was brilliantly put, I thought. There's so much in our world that we can choose to do or buy that replaces the original concept or activity that is so much nicer and/or better for us. For instance, playing videogames of soccer or other sport instead of going outside and actually playing the sport. Or all the premade meals and stuff. I love being able to put a homecooked meal in front of my family with homemade bread. It's so satisfying to be able to take care of some of their basic needs and know that it's wholesome and frankly tastes better than most stuff you buy at the store anyway (at least on the level of our budget.) It's kind of like the idea of "quality time" vs. "quantity time" with your children too.

Well, I thought I had more to say, but that was all I had marked. Again, I'm blaming it all on the dilaudid. Yucky stuff.

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Kami and I were laughing at ourselves that we found Fermat's to be such a "page-turner." We both stayed up too late reading it (although me not as late as she). It was fantastically interesting history.

Fermat's Enigma

Oh, No! You're done already, Ans?!?! Well, I'm still halfway through. I've gotten pretty distracted with other fascinating books (i.e. Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire!!!!) Anyway, I'll get back on it shortly!

And, thanks for your comments on Prince, Kelly. Still didn't like the book, but the Christ comparison would be something interested to explore further!


The Little Prince - brief thoughts

I am not going to write a full-on review here. I've been sick and just working up the energy to read this book has been difficult. Fermat's E. is waiting for me at the library (again) so I will probably just move right on. However, I think I understand why I did not enjoy this book as a 5th grader. I would not consider it solely a children's book. It has too much depth to it.

I agree with what you all have written already so I'm not going to re-type it. :-) I have very little to add.

I thought it was interesting that the author wrote this during WWII. I was thinking about why he wrote this and what sort of influence the war had on his writing choice.

One thought that occurred to me is that you could look at the little Prince character as a Christ archetype. One example to support that is that the Prince leads the pilot to a uniquely refreshing source of water. He is certainly a teacher.

In essence, the book is about the healing power of love which makes all things unique, and how the pain of saying goodbye is worth it if it changes how we look at the world.

And there we have it!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Fermat's E.

This book was fabulous. Loved it! Good choice, Kami Sue.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I have not finished Little Prince yet. I forgot to take it with me on vacation. I'll get to it!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


FYI: I did finish the Little Prince while I was at the hospital and I do plan on commenting. It may just take a little while. I also checked out Fermat's Enigma. I'm all for taking that one slow. :)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Fermat's On Hold

Congratulations Kami! Very, very fun!

I'm halfway through Fermat's Enigma (loving it by the way!!). Kelly is still out of town (won't be back until Sat.). I'm kind of thinking that FE is a book that may take awhile to read. So, we could just "take a break" for a minute, not read anything, damper along in FE if we want to until Kami is back in action. Due to being in the RS book group and this, I'm kind of getting book grouped out for a minute so I would like to just read for my pleasure! PLUS we will be on vacation most of August and this month is crazy. LONG story short - - why don't we still plan on FE but take our time and not feel rushed to read it and maybe discuss it when Kami is ready. Just my opinion (which I'm always willing to share).

P.S. I would like to hear some more comments on The Little Prince (if Kelly and Kami still want to read it?).


Sunday, July 6, 2008

Kami had her baby

Kami had her baby--hence the lack of posts and whatnot from her. She says to go ahead and read Fermat's Enigma, but considering her baby is in the NICU for an undetermined length of time and she is recovering from a c-section, and Fermat's was her top pick for the blog--I am saying we are not reading that for right now.

Instead, we are reading A Day No Pigs Would Die by Peck. That way, we can give her a little time to get back on her feet.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

In response to Kelly

Kelly, just send Julia the email address and she will email it to me (with your friend's name) and I will send her an author invite.

Oh Andrea or whoever knows

I took the liberty of asking if a friend of mine would like to join the blog. She loves to read, wants to be a writer, and is very much someone that I think we would enjoy hearing from. She and her husband are some of our favorite people to read and discuss things with.

How can we go about inviting her? I don't want to post her email address here, but I can send it (I don't think I have anyone's except Julia's, though).


Friday, June 27, 2008

Matters of Consequence

I thought this was a good discussion topic (from the site listed earlier):

Chapter VII
If the pilot doesn't fix his plane, he might die. The little prince thinks the war between the sheep and the flowers is more serious.

**Which do you think is more serious? Why?

The pilot drops his tools and consoles the little prince. He thinks taking care of his friend is more serious than his own life.

**Would you have taken care of your friend or fixed your plane?

**Is it ever OK to think your friend's problems are more serious than your own?

**When is it OK to think your own problems are more serious?

What to Say - Prince Comments

Well, I'm sorry, but there's not going to be much "argument" in this string of posts because I agreed and loved most of Andrea's comments. Shall we stick with the same format?

Rearing children: I wasn't looking at this from the child's point of view of "Mommy doesn't ever play with me." This point I made was entirely from MY view as the parent. However, that does not mean I think I need to spend every waking minute entertaining and playing with my children (I've seen the house of a woman who thought that!). Anyway, what I meant by these "matters of consequences" was that we, as adults, have the choice: let these matters bog us down OR get done what needs to get done productively with our children in tow; complain about our matters of consequence (even internally) OR push them aside while we take care of our children's matters of consequences. For example, the cool leggo ship John built (that's important), the mean thing Brooklynn heard on the playground (that's important), playing Skipbo with Addie and Joel (that's important). I think making our children feel that we have the time for them is a vital part in raising confident kids and it's letting go of our own "matters of consequence" during that time our children need us that can make a difference.

Friends: I am learning a valuable lesson here about friends. Everywhere I've lived (almost), I've been able to find that one special somebody with whom I can just let down my guard. Unfortunately, that somebody hasn't been found here in R. I feel I'm open with everyone and no one all at the same time and it's rather frustrating. Like you said, Andrea, if we had to be vulnerable and build that special bond of friendship with everyone we wouldn't have anything left. I think that sums up how I'm feeling right now in the friendship department. I feel I have to be everyone's friend. Being social in nature, I thrive on friendship and yet I'm finding to to be a tad bit taxing for me these days. This could also be due to the fact that my kids are getting older, I'm not sure. (sorry - conversation turned personal!)

Beauty: LOVED your beauty comments, Ans. I do agree that there is so much beauty to SEE. However, I really and truly do not know many people who honestly open thier eyes to SEE and that is the sad part of it all. Also, I think this can go along with what you said about being tamed and having that deeper friendship (i.e. letting go of what's hidden and becomign vulnerable strengthens the relationship and makes it a beautiful thing).

Taming: When reading the book I totally didn't "get" the point you brought out about being tamed and thought your comments were awesome & totally agree (though, I still do like my whole gospel tie-in!). :-)

Satisfaction: This is a tough one for me because the boundary is so thin. Yes, you need to be happy with who you are - - but not to the point of arrogance. Yes, you need to work and improve upon your talents - - but not to the point of living a stressed out life and seeking perfection. Yes - - you need to be happy where you are - - but not to the point of forgetting how you need to improve. There are so many fine lines that define how far you are leaning one direction or the other, that I think it can all get a bit muddled together.

The End
(for now)

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Little Prince--Andrea

Julia, thank you, thank you for giving us a starting point on this book. As a preface to my comments organized exactly like yours, sorry if you didn't want me to steal, I'd just like to state that I felt the author glorified children unrealistically and bashed adults unrealistically. There are some serious negatives to children that we saw amply demonstrated in Milkweed. A lack of maturity and understanding to allow them to navigate the world successfully, a deep mean streak (maybe not Ju's kids, they are abnormally kind but if you remember elementary recesses. . .), and selfishness amongst others, and most importantly an inability to understand consequences. It is why adults are around to teach them. Granted, adults have many of those same problems but not in the same way as children and even if you do something just to seem unselfish at least you can reason enough to understand the consequence if you make the other choice.

Rearing Children (I really am copying Ju): I definitely agree with Julia that adults tend to get bogged down in things that need to get done and sometimes forget to pause for things that our children need us for but don't seem important to us. That is one of the biggest challenges of parenthood. However, the author gave the impression that adults are always in the wrong in being busy attending matters of consequence. That is foolish child-thinking. If moms didn't tend to the matter of consequence of dinner, kids wouldn't eat. Although the children would enjoy the extra 30 minutes spent playing with mom, in the long run, they wouldn't be happy to not have dinner. A similar example would be dads going to work. We all like having somewhere to live, but children don't understand that without dad working every day the house would not be a possibility. Therefore, although adults often and repeatedly get too wrapped up in adult affairs--adult affairs are matters of great consequence and although I know this book is a philosophy primer for children, I still think it should have presented more balance. Obviously, you could have these discussions with your child as they read the book, but I still find how the author wrote incredibly irritating.

Friendship: I agree with Julia's friend--most people have lots of acquaintances and few friends but that isn't a bad thing. For the author to say that adults have no friends because they are too busy to make any is ridiculous. Adults and children both have few friends because to develop that type of relationship requires a lot of time, effort, and selfless giving. If we tried to maintain that type of friendship that Julia described with more than our families (esp when our families are large) and a handful of people--we wouldn't emotionally be able to sustain the friendships. So to have the type of relationships the author was encouraging through all his talk of "taming" you of necessity have to limit their number.

Satisfaction: I agree with Julia that the author was making the point that many adults have a "grass is always greener" complex. I also definitely agree with Julia that children remember to enjoy the simple/smaller pleasures of life that adults take for granted. Although, on the other hand, adults have a great capacity to enjoy sitting on the back porch sipping lemonade while children are more prone to say they are bored--but overall, I definitely think children know how to enjoy life more than adults.

That being said, I am still bugged by the idea that not being satisfied with your life is inherently wrong. Since when did we walk around going--well, I could probably learn more and be a better mother/wife/sister/friend, and I could probably read more scriptures more often and enlarge a talent--but that would be wrong. It is better to just be satisfied with who and what I am. Also--wanting more money isn't necessarily wrong either. Wanting to better yourself and your situation is healthy and admirable. I certainly never want to reach a point where I think--wow, you know, I'm great just the way I am and I don't need to improve any more. I think stagnation is not the same as satisfaction.

Beauty: this is one of the ideas that bothered me most. He kept talking about things that were hidden being beautiful. Usually, the things that are most obvious are the most beautiful. Seeing an older couple walking down the street holding hands is beautiful because of what is seen--not because of what is hidden. A kiss from a baby is beautiful because of what is seen, not what is hidden. Children are GREAT in that way because they are so bad at hiding things. I think the author complicated the idea of beauty unnecessarily.

Tamed: I agree with what Julia said with the caveat that Julia chose to think about it in a way entirely unintended by the author. I think the author meant that every person craves being involved in a really meaningful relationship but when we find ourselves in the position to create that kind of relationship, we often find it hard to allow ourselves to be vulnerable. To really open up to another person. It was the only concept in the book that I really agreed with--I think all of us, to different degrees, present a front even in our closest relationships with humans. It is one of the reasons we need a God/human relationship.

That's it for now. I am curious to see what others have to say (and what Julia has to say back).

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Little Prince - Julia

One site online gives a great synopsis of the book and gave me greater insite into this book. I now see that this book is purely to indtroduce children to philosophy. So, I guess you can say it's a childrens verson of Thoreau. :-) Check it out...

I agree with Andrea - the theme against the adults was a bit bothersome. BUT it did make me think about how I am as an adult with regards to my children. For instance, I checked myself on the part about how when kids make new friends the adults only want to know how much $$$ the dad makes. :-) I laughed at that, relieved that my first question is NOT about $$. My first question is, "What's his name?" (a seemingly important part of considering someone a friend). Ha! However, as I began to write this "essay" I realized that I did find some great gems to discuss. So, without further ado. . .

On Rearing Children
"Children should always show great forbearance toward grown-up people." (17) There is some truth in this statement I believe. There is a lack of this "forbearance," I believe, in our society today. Children don't show enough of this "forbearance" toward adults. However, I also believe there needs to be as much respect given to the children as well. Unlike the king (chapter 10) who commanded that everyone obey him "because I am the king," parents and adults can use their authority with a little more understanding. I think of the many times I say "no" to my children and then check myself wondering why I said no in the first place. Sometimes it is an unnecessary and too-quick response. Again, though, we do need to use our authority and help our children recognize that authority is something to be respected. I also wonder if I'm not like the protagonist who responded to the little prince with, "Don't you see - I am very busy with matters of consequence." (28) How many times have I been preoccupied with adult "matters of consequence" so much that I can't sooth my child when crying, or admire their latest art project (thought it may be the 100th one of the day), or listen to my child talk about their play date, or read them a story without having my mind caught up in mental distractions. I do believe, as I write this, that there is a valid point to be made than too many parents (adults) are absent with regards to really seeing and feeling their children around them.

On friendship
"To forget a friend is sad. Not everyone has had a friend." (18) We can continue in our discussion from our last book here if we'd like, but I'd also like to pose another question (from the site above). How do you describe a friend? I like to think of a friend the way Anne Shirley describes them: kindred spirits. A friend is someone whose relationship you know will stand the tests of time (lame wording, sorry!). No, seriously. A friend is someone you can talk to about anything. You can cry with without feeling stupid. You can share the joys of your life without a feeling of competition. A friend is someone you miss. A friend is someone who you may not see in a long time but you can pick up again just as though you'd seen her the day before. And even more, a friend is someone who even if you have a misunderstanding can forgive and be forgiven. Those are my thoughts on what a friend is. I have one friend who said, "I don't have a lot of friends - - many aquaintances, yes, but not very many friends." I think that is true. Later in The Little Prince we read, "Men have nor more time to understand anything. They buy things all ready made at the shops. But there is no shop anywhere where one can buy friendship, and so men have no friends anymore." (83-84) Such a sad statement. Is it true?

On Satisfaction
I actually loved chapter 22! I wish I could quote it all. In there it talks about the railway switchman who is sending travelers out by bundles of thousands, people who are going other places but not knowing what they are searching for. The prince then asks, "Were they not satisfied where they were?" The switchman responds, "No one is ever satisfied where he is." This may not be entirely true for everyone, but I do believe that the majority of people in this life are not satisfied with where they are. There is always something they can have or do better, somewhere better to be. And yet, nobody knows where that better place is; or once they reach that place something will happen to again make them dissatisfied. The idiom, "The grass is always greener on the other side" proves to be true time and time again. Unfortunately, the author also brings up the children vs. adult view of life again. "Only the children know what theya re looking for...They are lucky." This statement I also agree with in that as adults we do forget to look at where we are going and enjoying what we are seeing along the way. Children find joy in the little things we adults sometimes forget to enjoy ourselves!

On Beauty
The little prince believed the stars to be beautiful "because of a flower that cannot be seen" and the desert he saw as beautiful because "somewhere it hides a well ." The protagonist then remembers an old home in which he'd lived as a boy. A dilapidated home that had no value or meaning until he was told there was a buried treasure buried there. Suddenly his house was enchanted, "My home was hiding a secret in the depths of its heart....Yes...The house, the stars, the desert - - what gives them their beauty is something that is invisible." (pp. 92-93) This led me to think about what makes a home beautiful? What makes MY home beautiful? The answer is in the memories. The little things that we do as a family and the traditions that we create. Also, what makes a home beautiful is how people, particularly our children (and husbands) feel within the home. Those feelings are huge secrets that sometimes take years and years to come out of hiding into a reality.

One Final Thought
I'm going to end this long post with one final quote. "One runs the risk of weeping a little, if one lets himself be tamed.. . . " (99) This had a lot of gospel significance to me in the principle of submitting our will to the Father, in becoming truly humble, and in going through our mortal refining. We need to recognize that if we truly want to be tamed, "become as a little child, submissive, meek, humble..." we do run the risk of shedding some tears (temporally and spiritually). It is up to us to decide if we are going to plead as the fox so humbly did, "Please - - tame me!" (83)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Haven't even started yet

I just got around to requesting "The Little Prince" from the library. Hopefully I'll get it before I go out of town. I better request the next book while I'm at it.
I read this book AGES ago when I was in about 5th grade. All I remember is that I did NOT like it. I was hoping the second time around with my more mature mind (ha, ha) would make it a more enjoyable read. We shall see!

The Little Prince

I thought the Little Prince was lame, lame, lame. It was sort of like the Alchemist in that it was pretentious in its own moralizing, but without the interest of the Alchemist. Maybe I am missing the grand picture--but I am presuming the point was that humans get distracted from the really important things in life (relationships and simple pleasures) by things of little or no worth. I didn't like how the author kept pointing out how idiotic adults are, and basically found the whole thing a little annoying.

But . . . now I can say I read it. :)

Welcome Kayli!

Actually, with that WONDERFUL post, I am expecting and anxiously awaiting more posts from you!!! Thank you! Thank you! I'm on "your side" with Bees and I'm glad to know that "all Rasumssens don't think alike!" :-) Keep writing!! :-)

P.S. to everyone - - I read Little Prince already, waiting for the right time to post an essay. AND, I've started Fermat's Enigma - - which I'm hoping you all will take a long time reading, because it probably will take me awhile. I have enjoyed the first five pages though! :-) I just have a HUGE stack of books on the side of my bed, and I want to read them ALL right NOW! Unfortunately, it seems summertime sucks away all my time to read! Anyway, long story short.... Happy Reading!!


Monday, June 23, 2008

New Blog Author...a dud

I know you all are so excited that I'm joining up and writing something here, but let me warn you, DO NOT GET YOUR HOPES UP.

I've read/skimmed over several of the comments about the Bees book, and I just read it on Sunday, and I didn't like it. It was way too emotional for my tastes. You know the part where Lily's riding in the truck with Zach and first she's kinda crabby and then she starts laughing hysterically and at the end she weeps on his shoulder? And she says that Zach probably feels done with female emotions? That's what the whole book made me feel like. I kept thinking that maybe the very end might make it all worth it, but it didn't.

I don't like sisterhood books...ya-ya sisterhood made me gag. Too many women without a good dose of maleness gets to be too much. There should have been a cool old black guy in the book.

Sorry folks (and my sisters Andrea and Amy who love this book). I guess you will not be looking forward to more posts from me. But have a good night anyway. :)

p.s. Okay, I had posted this, but decided to come back and write at least one thing that was a bit more specific. A few people have mentioned some things that they thought seemed improbable, and one thing I thought was improbable was June and Lily reconciling --or whatever you call what they did. It seemed highly unlikely to me that June would all of the sudden be over it, just because they fought over the sprinkler. I think, that sort of thing might work for men--punch each other in the face and then have a drink together--but that's not how women traditionally operate. I didn't even really get the character of June at all. Why did she have such a chip on her shoulder in the first place (I mean, I know that August told why, but I just didn't think it really explained it), and what was her character there for anyway?

The Little Prince

FYI-- Andrea and I have been reading the Katherine Woods translation, it's not the latest translation, but Andrea read that it's the closest to the French version as rated by French speakers. It doesn't really matter what version you read though.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More people

Kami, go to bed you crazy lunatic!!! I'm going to take my own advice here in a minute, but it is too hot to sleep here.

I invited two people to join the blog who I think would bring a great wealth of disagreements to the table. Yeah!! Hopefully they will join.


I am glad Kami finally got around to writing about the sisterhood aspect of this novel--which really drew me in. Julia, I also appreciated your comments on the issue.

Like I mentioned before, I didn't realize how much women needed women growing up. That came partly because my mom didn't have many female friends (I didn't realize until much later all the factors that played into that and how that must have added to her stress level as a woman/wife/and mother), and partly because I grew up listening to my parents ridicule the idea of "girls night out" or a "scrapbooking night" or "lunch with the girls" or ANYTHING that involved a woman choosing to spend time with other women over choosing to be with her husband. For my parents, that was pretty much a no-go.

So, in my normal fashion of assuming everything my parents said was true I assumed that I would never need anyone outside of my family, and certainly once I was married I would never need anyone outside of my spouse. How untrue!

I started to get a glimmer of just how untrue when I left home for the first time and realized that I was a ship completely without anchor without my mom. I spent my whole life following her around like a puppy (still do, actually) and between her and my best high school friend Pepe, and my brother Derek, I really had everything I needed as a GIRL. Homesick doesn't even really describe how I felt--lost is more the word I would use. I don't know how much Julia remembers of this from our first semester at BYU.

I had some really great friends at BYU (Julia mostly that first year), but it wasn't until I lived with the Conley women and was adopted into their crazy sisterhood that I understood the idea of sisterhood. The support, the involvement, the friendship of a GROUP of women is so different from a friendship with one woman who doesn't know any of the other people that you know. I was so happy with them. It was the golden time of my BYU experience, and I needed it so desperately after Ju and Cindy had gone off and gotten married and Timothy (my now husband) had left for his mission.

When I went to Utah State and the Conley women scattered to pursue their own lives I felt adrift in a way I never had before. What made it worse was I was expecting to have an instantaneous sisterhood with my own two younger sisters who were freshman at Utah State the year I started there (that would be Kami and Kayli for those poor souls who try and keep us straight). But we hadn't lived together in four years. I didn't even know them in a meaningful way anymore. We could play together, but we couldn't SUPPORT each other.

Like Kami said, with Kayli's and my marriage our relationship changed drastically and deepened into the kind of relationship WOMEN need as wives and mothers, and when Kami was married she slipped so easily into our circle. Not that I think you have to be married to be part of a supportive group of women, but you definitely need some life experience, and marriage instantly ages and matures people--at least, it should.

So when I read about sisterhood, about the kind of support that Lily was receiving (notice, she thought of them as mother figures. She wasn't yet ready to be part of their sisterhood on a woman level, but she could savor their support at an adopted daughter level), and I feel so tender to those women who can really and truly be there for each other. I certainly have not been as lucky as Ju. I haven't really found that kind of support anywhere that I have lived since I married, outside of my sisters. That's okay, because I have my sisters, but I often think of women in our relief societies who don't have six million siblings and don't find the support they need from other women in church. How lonely for them. How desperate they must feel sometimes.

When our old relief society presidency talked about "watchcare" being different than just visiting each other in relation to visiting teaching, I think they are talking about the kind of sisterhood that the Daughters had in Life of Bees.

Sorry that was so long and tedious, but I really did find the women's relationship in the book incredibly touching and beautiful.


I was just wondering if anyone had anyone else they wanted to invite to our book club. I love the discussion that has been going on too and I think with a few more people, we might have more of discussion with every book (you know, more people to disagree with). Hee. Hee. Anyway, any thoughts on the matter? Anyone?

A brief edit

I just wanted to say as an adendum to my previous post, that not only do I enjoy the support my female friends give me, but that I feel fulfilled when I am able to give that support back to them in return. It's nice to know your helping cheer up someone's day or that your the first person to be told (besides the hubby) that she's pregnant. :) Maybe when I feel that way about everyone, not just my closest friends and sisters, I'll have the beginnings of charity. Random thought-just posting/thinking out loud.
This has been fabulously interesting. I like reading all the thoughts and responses. We've had a busy blog the last few days!

Anyway, I just want to say that I won't be on for the rest of the week as I will be out of town. I'm sure we'll have moved on by the time I get back.

It is interesting to me to read and reflect on how our personal experiences have really shaped how we react to things. I can tell you that I lived a sheltered life. I also grew up in a home with a strong dominant female. Those things shape my understanding of the world and my perception of how other people see the world. I love hearing all our views and thinking about them!!