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Thursday, August 1, 2019

Read Aloud Favorites...and Not So Favorites

Much to my children's chagrin, I still like to have read aloud as part of our school day.  Every year they assure me that are all way too old for such nonsense.

But, like the good mom I am, sometimes I have to completely ignore their opinions!

I am going to list a few of our favorite read aloud books/series here in case any of you would like to torture your children the same way I do.  If I was more of a Pinterest mom, I would have a beautiful graphic labeled Top Ten Read Alouds...or something, but, since I, you get a willy-nilly list that you will have to slog through if you are interested in my thoughts.


The Magic Treehouse Series  by Mary Pope Osborne

I liked these ones because they pack a lot into their skinny little binders.  Action.  Adventure.  Intrigue.  You don't necessarily have to stretch these ones out and can finish them in just 1 or 2 read aloud sessions.  These are a good choice if you have someone under your roof that doesn't have a huge attention span.

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls

This is the first real book that I can remember being read aloud to me my Mrs. Toll in 4th grade.  When I was in K through 3rd, my two favorite parts of the day were going to the milk cooler and counting out the little milk cartons for our class and going to the library and sitting at the librarians feet while she to read us reading upside down.  But, when I moved on to the next school level, as a big kid, I was surprised when our teacher made part of our day read aloud time - and it was a big chapter book.  It was also the first time I can remember wanting so hard to sob, but knowing that I would be mercilessly be teased (I am looking at you Mike O.) that I had to swallow it back and pretend that I was completed unaffected by the story.  The beauty of homeschool is that all the other students have already seen everyone cry numerous times so it isn't that big of a deal.

Anne of Green Gables Lucy Maud Montgomery

This is still one of my favorites and I read this one just as much for me as I do for the kids.  I have not made it through the whole series with my kids, but I feel as though their education would be lacking if they didn't know what a "bosom friend" is or that "tomorrow is a new day without any mistakes in it yet".

The Impossible Quest by Kate Forsyth

This us a book series that I got at a friends Usborne Books party.  I personally enjoy fantasy and science fiction, so I am fine with those types of books even for my kids.  This was a fun little series that has 4 kids as the heroes and lots of adventure, bad guys trying to get them and the need to work together and appreciate the gifts and talents that other people have to be just as important and useful as your own gifts and talents.  There are some dark magic type moments, but there are those in the old Disney classics too.

I am also a big fan of mysteries, so the kids and I have done a few of those as read alouds too.  These we just randomly picked up at the library.  These are also skinny books, so they don't take too long to get through the whole book.

Cam Jansen
Encyclopedia Brown
Jigsaw Jones

We have read a few of the Boxcar Children books.  There are a ton of them, so I don't have an exact one to recommend.

Not So Favorites:

We have tried to Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys books - but my kids don't love them as much as I would like.  I am not sure if they are too old fashioned, but not as old fashioned as say, Anne of Green Gables.

The Little House on the Prairie Books have had mixed reviews from my kids - which I find amazing - because I remember being entranced by the stories.  I still love these books and I would say my kids "like" them well enough.

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis

This series is great!  However, I don't consider them great read aloud option because there are a lot of wordy description sections that make the kids eyes glaze over.  I have found these are better read by yourself, because it is easy to skim those parts and move along.  I did the same thing when I read The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - great books - just not great read alouds - at least for my kids.

One other quirky thing about me is I have a rule that if I know there is a movie about a book - you HAVE to read the book first.  No exceptions.  (I will admit sometimes one will sneak by me that I have no idea was based on a book though!)

Yes, when you see the movie you are almost always disappointed because they left out so much detail or cast a completely wrong person in the role you connected with the most, but, I think it is better to have the true full picture/intent of the book before you see it on the screen.

This rule was where I got my reluctant readers to really read though and it was all because of....Harry Potter!

Now, I will say that I actually read the books first because I had heard a lot of talk when they first came out, from the Christian community, that they were horrible books.  After reading them, I understand their concerns, but I found a lot of good in them.  So, instead of banning the books, I had the kids read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti first.  Then we talked about how there really is evil in the world at work behind the scenes and talked about why some Christians were choosing to stay away from Harry Potter.  I think this approach worked really well and we have enjoyed the Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling series with no guilt.

Honestly, my list really could go on and on.  I LOVE to read.  I am hoping to instill a little of that into my kids.  One of my favorite memories of my dad was the time I realized that he liked to read as much as I did.  When I was a kid, I remember him reading the newspaper every day and I remember him reading the Bible, but not really much other stuff.  Looking back now, I am thinking it was just because he was too busy working, taking care of the house/yard/cars that he didn't have time to read for fun.  I get it.  There were many years in the middle of this parenting thing where I just couldn't read....or would start a book, full of hope that I would have time to finish it, and there it would sit on my bedside table - slowing accruing library fines -  because I was too tired at the end of the day to read.

Back in 2001, Rainman had a long term work assignment in The Netherlands.  We only had D-man and A-girl then, so we packed up and moved to the apartment his company had rented over there.  At the end of his work assignment he took 2 weeks of vacation so we could tour Europe and asked his mom and my parents to fly over and meet us.   It was so much fun being able to see the world with them.  Back to the reason I started this story...when we were in Italy, I needed to run to the store (probably for diapers) and my dad said he would go with because he needed a few books.  As he and I were perusing the books we could find printed in English we chatted a bit.  I told him that I panicked a bit if I was almost done with a book and didn't have one waiting in the wings (even if my time to read was slim - I still needed one waiting for me as an option!).  He chuckled and did his little sideways smirky-grin and said he was the same way.  He explained that he was almost done with his Tom Clancy book and didn't want to be in the middle of nowhere in Europe and not have his next book ready to go because he wouldn't be able to relax without knowing he had a book..  I remember my mouth dropping open because I had no idea that he and I had that in common (since every one, including him, used to tell me that I was exactly like my mom).

Now that my kids are older, I have a lot more time to read.  I have also stopped watching t.v., so most of my free time is spent with a book in my hands.  I am hoping that all of my kids will follow my example and become readers.  D-man has definitely become a reader, but he is following in Rainman's footsteps and seems to enjoy non-fiction more than fiction.  But, least he is reading in his spare time and not doing all the other things a 21 year college guy could be doing, right?!?

We are getting reading to start our new school year next week and I only have 2 students still at home.  Crazy!  I have already started to gather my read aloud pile for the year....and they have started the moaning and groaning, like usual.  It actually makes me smile a bit to hear them complain about this particular thing, because I know that at least one of the books I have chosen will get inside their heads and mean something to them or inspire them to go dig up information on ancient Egypt, or the depression, or even Norwegian recipes.  I know it.

This is what homeschooling is all about....tackling favorites and the not so favorites - whether it is books, chores, school, or life... together.

big of a deal.

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Miscellaneous May

Apirl and May have felt particularly crazy this year.  It just seems like it is a never ending list of birthdays, awards ceremonies, banquets, end of season games followed by end of season parties, plus trying to finish our school year strong.

I am just ready to relax a bit.  Think that may be possible?

Here are some highlights:

S-girl's birthday.

College girl, A-girl, was feeling kind of lonely and truly bummed that now as a grown up she wouldn't be home for her birthday for the first time ever.  We surprised her the day before and spent the day together.

L-girl had prom....

Then on her birthday, she got student of the month....

We had Easter Dinner with some "extras".

A-man helped the Easter Bunny out with some of his duties

We sold our big van.  It is very strange not to see it parked outside of our house.  We also no longer own a vehicle that all 8 of us can travel in.  I have a new to me station wagon/SUV thing that is marvelous satellite radio, great a/c....but, I am having a heck of a time parking it because it is so small!  LOL
Did a last minute trip to Minnesota to see Mamna Mia with my mom and sisters.

On a side note:  Delta is a great airline.  I ended up flying home on Mother's Day.  As we sat in the gate area....this is what came along....

They gave out free ice cream treats for Mother's Day!  It was awesome.

Two of my Mother's Day gifts....a cup hand made by S-girl for me.  

The box of cereal is especially meaningful because Rainman, after 22 years of marriage finally knows what my favorite cereal is!  LOL

A-girl made Dean's List both semesters of her freshman year AND got a larger scholarship for next year.

L-Girl was named the MVP for her tennis team and was nominated for Athlete of the Year for our County.  

A-man made the All-Star Baseball team.

D-man got a summer internship close to home.

(He wouldn't smile for his mommy on his first day on the job!)

Seriously, I am getting more and more tired just typing all of this stuff.   My swing band took a brief hiatus during this time, which turned out to be quite helpful to my schedule and sanity.  I had to take a hiatus from the soul band because I can't be two places on the same night, much less three - which is how many of our rehearsal nights were turning out.  

Things are tapering off as the school year winds up, so I should be heading back to rehearsals soon.  Hoping I can breathe a bit and just sit.    

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Ready to Chat a Bit

I have had lots of stuff going on lately, but I think I am finally ready to chat a bit about it.

I guess I will just be random because life doesn't really happen in any particular order, does it?

I have been working a lot.  That has mostly been good.  We have had to restructure and change our routines around home, but my kids are fantastic and just go with the flow.  Man, they are helpful (most of the time).   Rainman has really stepped up and is handling a lot more of the teaching responsibilities (which is a relief and also sort of hurts my feelings....LOL.  Women!  Right?  As my dad always used to say....women are inscrutable.)

I used to make fun of this other homeschool mom I knew that had her kids call her by her first name, Betsy...not mom.  When I asked her about it, she said that when she became a mom, she didn't want to lose her "Betsy-ness", so that is what they did.  She was this fantastic fun homeschool mom that was adventurous, nurturing, and not afraid to get messy with the kids.  There was a piece me of that wished I was more like her and not so structured in our homeschooling.  But, I just could not wrap my head around her wanting her kids not to call her mom.  It was weird.

However, I sort of get it now.  Sort of.  Now that I am working and doing a few things just for me again, I am getting a bit more of my "Kayla-ness" I get that aspect of it.  But, the most important part of me is still being mom to my 6 kids. So, they had better still call me mom.  (Hear that, A-girl?)

I have had two true close friends since moving to Georgia.  I do have other friends...but Debbie and Sherri were, in the words of Anne of Green Gables, my "bosom friends".

Debbie was on her way to meet me last July and was hit by someone who ran a stop sign. After a long hard battle, she finally succumbed to her injuries in December.  It was and is heartbreaking.  I still find myself wanting to pick up the phone and chat before I remember that I can't.  I miss her.  In the words of Forest Gump....that is all I have to say about that.....

Sherri got a fantastic job offer in....Ohio.  She and I can still chat on the phone and text, but I know I will miss our occasional 3 hour face-to-face chats when one of us just needed to vent and process something out loud.  I miss her.

So, I am bosom friend-less here.  I have a lot of kind, nice people in my circle, but those were the two that knew most everything about me and loved me anyway.  The two that I could really be my true, authentic, weird self with.  It has been hard.  I don't really want to go out and try to make new bosom friends.  Ugg.  I can remember when we moved down  here when I realized that I actually had to put some work in and be more up front and bold and actually pursue friendships....just like in elementary school.  I don't want to.  LOL

The other big thing I have been doing is working on losing weight.  I am down 50 pounds, so far.....still a bunch to go....but, man it feels good to start to see the old me coming out from behind the bulk.  It is good to try on clothes and not completely hate how I look (not completely....).  I wear make-up more often.  I were jewelry.  I even spritz on a little perfume every now and then.  Crazy stuff, I tell you.

I have also been singing.  I joined a 60s soul band back in October and last month, I auditioned for a swing band as a lead vocalist and got it.  I am in heaven.  Those of you who have known me for more than a few years, know that singing used to be my life.  I even tried to sing as a career once upon a time (before I realized just how many other great singers there are in the world).  I sent out a lot of demo tapes, did a lot of weddings and funerals, but that was pretty much the extent of my "musical career".  Then I met Rainman, had a bunch of babies....and had little people that would literally tell me to stop singing when I would burst into song around them.  LOL  True story.

A few years ago, I did start singing in the contemporary praise band at my church where I would once in a while be assigned a song that really let me shine a bit and made me feel like I was a real singer again, but mostly it was just singing on key and blending in with the group.

I have to admit that I am super excited about the swing band.  I have been listening to big band music since way before it was cool.  I have loved artists like Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, and Peggy Lee since I was in my 20s.  Rainman came with me to my audition (strange date night, but it is what you do when you have a bunch of kids).  My audition was literally to sing 3 songs (Summertime, Orange Colored Sky, and Sentimental Journey) during their concert set (cold turkey - without ever rehearsing with them)  at an assisted living home.  There were maybe 15-20 or so people there, which was about the same number as there were in the band....give or take....people would wheel themselves in at out occasionally.  Somehow, I wasn't super nervous....even though I have never practiced with these guys.  I just hoped and prayed that I could still remember how to count and came in at the proper entrances.

I did good.

We practiced a few songs at a rehearsal after the concert and I messed up a few times....nothing major....but mistakes.  The band was kind....even though they really know their stuff.  I am rusty, with a capital R.  One time, one of the trombone players, who is a former band/choir director was shouting at me from his spot....that I was 2 bars off....and telling me....come in here.  Embarrassing, but true.  LOL

The cutest thing may have been Rainman's reaction to the whole thing.  He was so excited for me.  So sweet and complimentary.  He sat there with a huge smile on his face the whole concert.  Afterwards, he said he was so wrapped up in how good we were that he forgot to film.  He also talked about ways to make my involvement in the band easier with the kids and everything.  He even realized that I would need some new clothes for performances and told me not to worry about money.  He this is big people.....offered to take the day off...for our first gig in March.  That is almost an unheard of offer from him.  Really.

Even though I my 50s now....there is a piece of me that feels like I am back in my 20s....kind of figuring out the trajectory of my life again.  The feeling is both exhilarating and terrifying.  Oh well.  It is life.