Sunday, October 17, 2010

American West Book List

I love books and I love lists, so I like book lists! I like to forage through Amazon lists to get ideas for new reads. I love those memes where you have lists of books you've read. You get the idea. Right now I'm reading Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. I've heard about Zane Grey for ages and ages and have never gotten around to reading anything by him until now. The book is good though the whole premise is based on the evil Mormons. What was it with Mormons? Were they really that bad? Another book I've read, The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, also depicted Mormons as ruthless, greedy, twisted people. However, if you can get over this premise, Grey's writing is top notch. Very realistic, lean, builds tension right away.

This got me thinking about the many books this East Coast girl has enjoyed about America's West. And last night as I was falling asleep I started to make a list, starting from the books I read as a child:

1. Old Yeller by Fred Gipson - set in Texas, boy and his dog story. Classic.

2. By The Great Horn Spoon by Sid Fleischman - funny account of a boy's adventure during the California Gold Rush.

3. Lotta Crabtree; Gold Rush Girl by Marian T. Place - this book is one of the Childhood of Famous Americans books. I think this one is out of print now. I actually remember being sick and home from school in fourth grade and being completely entranced by this book. I recently found it at a used book store and bought it again for my kids! It's about a girl who took to the stage during the California Gold Rush.

4. The Red Pony by John Steinbeck - When I was little this book was in my bookcase in my bedroom. It was a hand-me-down so I think it was an edition printed in the 1940's. I loved the illustrations. I loved the story. I read it over and over again. This was set in the California mountains maybe in the 1920's or thereabouts?

5. Brighty of the Grand Canyon - Marguerite Henry - I went through a M. Henry phase where I read pretty much everything she wrote. I've never been to the Grand Canyon but this book sure made me feel like I had.

6. Mustang, Wild Spirit of the West by Marguerite Henry - another horse book. A great read!

7. The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald - I know I read some of these as a child, because when I picked them up at the library to read aloud to my oldest kids when they were little, they rang a bell, though I didn't remember much. We read the whole series and enjoyed them immensely. These books are very affectionate towards Mormons!. A good antidote to some other books listed here!

8. The Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder - I read and reread these books every year for years.

9. My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead and The Green Hills of Wyoming by Mary O'Hara - My Friend, Flicka has gotten short shrift at the movies. All these books really could be considered adult books. Thunderhead portrays with poignant detail a marriage going through a hard time. The Green Hills of Wyoming are about Ken moving into adulthood. They all paint a vivid picture of Wyoming and ranching. So well written. I reread these many times too.

10. Shane by Jack Schaefer - I also remember reading this book. I was in high school, it was a Sunday and I was lying on the living room couch, all curled up and completely absorbed in this book.

11. True Grit by Charles Portis - I think I might have read this book about the same time as Shane. Gripping! The whole snake pit was horrifying! The kind of book that haunts you for days afterward. They are making a new movie about this! Can they top John Wayne???

12. My Antonia by Willa Cather - about Bohemian settlers in Nebraska. Searingly beautiful and sad. I've read it several times again since that first encounter back in high school.

13. A Lantern in Her Hand by Bess Streeter Aldrich - I just remember reading this at the insistence of a friend. I remember thinking it wasn't as good as The Little House books. That's all I can remember! Maybe I'll have to reread it.

14. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - this isn't really about how the West was won but since it was about a family's odyssey from Oklahoma to California, it felt very western to me.

15. Giants of the Earth by Ole Rolvaag - I read this on Christmas break during my 2nd year of college, if I am remembering correctly. Finished reading it and then immediately started it over again. I tried to read the sequel but found it too depressing. About Norwegian settlers in Minnesota. It was originally written in Norwegian by an immigrant. It was a best seller in Norway before it was translated into English and sold here in the U.S.

16. The Travels of Jaimie McPheeters by Robert Lewis Taylor - I don't know why this book isn't more popular (except for the prejudice against Mormons) but it is a rip-roaring tale of a boy and his father as they travel across America to get to the Gold Rush in California. It's got some hair-raising scenes. Rollicking would be a good adjective for this book!

17. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry - a classic. So well written, the characters are like real people. And they made an excellent mini-series out of it, but the book is still better.

18. Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather - another searingly beautiful and moving novel (based on a true person). I love the sparse, evocative writing style. This one is set in New Mexico in the 1800s.

19. Papa Married a Mormon by John D. Fitzgerald - this is by the same author who wrote The Great Brain and it is very similar except it is written for adults (it is very clean, just he was aiming at a different audience!)and is about his own family. Very enjoyable. What is remarkable about it is how much affection he has for the Mormons even though he followed his father's faith and became Catholic.

20. Little Britches series by Ralph Moody - I didn't learn about this series until I had children. I've only read the first book. I've always intended to read more of these.

21. The Virginian by Owen Wister - I just read this classic this past summer. Such great, complex characters and a noble American sense of virtue made this thoroughly enjoyable.

One thing I notice as I list these books is the lack of stories told about or from the Native American points of view. I did go through a period when I was interested in Native Americans. My family went to see the Cherokee Indian Reservation in the Smoky Mountains one summer when I was young. We learned about the Trail of Tears and Andrew Jackson. I know I read Scott O'Dell books and various biographies about American Indians. I remember in particular reading a book about Chief Joseph which inspired me to recite his famous surrender speech in 8th grade when we were required to memorize and recite something in front of the class. I remember reading A Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter, though that isn't set in the West. Maybe I should try to read up some history and literature written from the Native American perspective to balance out my reading.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It's Been a Quiet Week Here. . . .

at St. John Bosco Academy. I stole that opening line that from Garrison Keillor!

It was a very unschoolish week with lots of learning going on. Well, it was unschoolish for the youngest two. Josh kept plodding along through his high school subjects. Unfortunately, I left the little memory card in my laptop and not in my camera and so I don't have many pictures.

The weekend was busy: Saturday, Sean and Becky helped sell baked goods at the 4H booth at the town Fall Festival. The money went to two charities: one to rescue lost pets and the other to the children's wing of the local hospital. Josh went to an overnight retreat on Friday and came back Sat. evening.

Sunday was more 4H with our first Dog Obedience project meeting. Our Sheltie, Tillie, is rather reserved and she did not like the vulgar and overly excited hound/lab mixes two of the other kids had. She was totally freaked out. She is very sensitive. We'll have to gradually break her in. We also went to our parish's first Youth Mass of the year which was at 6 pm. Following the Mass they always have some kind of service project. Since October is Respect Life month it was an activity to raise money for a local crisis pregnancy center.

Monday, being Columbus Day, was kind of a pseudo-holiday though Rick went to work. I got lots of errands done. Josh had to work on Latin and Biology and he read more of Augustine's Confessions. Becky and I went on a hike with American Heritage Girls troop. Will had a phone call with his College Plus coach. Poor Sean went over to his friend's house but came home feeling really lousy.

Tuesday I was afraid I would have to cajole Becky and Sean to attend the art class but, miracle of miracles, they've decided to stick with it! However, Sean woke up with a chest cold so only Becky went. Josh went to Latin early to retake his test. Got 1oo%. Then he was off to a Biology field study on primitive plants. He enjoyed it greatly! Becky played in the muddy Potomac and saw a huge eel!

Wed - I got 2.5 hours sleep! Was I draaaggggiiiinnnngggg! Got Josh up @ 6 to get him to the PSAT by 7. Read aloud to Becky about St. Elizabeth of Hungary. Sean was still under the weather as was Will. Becky and I went to our homeschool group's 1st monthly meeting, something I am coordinating. We had a good first meeting. I'm excited about it. Took Becky to VT, then home again. Made spaghetti carbonara for dinner. Rick was home all day working, yippee, love it when he's home because he is so infrequently! Will had picked Josh up from PSAT. Josh thought he did okay. Will skipped his music lesson. Josh did a lesson in math and then went to his teen group at church. Becky was really into showing her dad everything about Webkinz which she's has been very into lately. She says she's learning a lot of math that way!

Thursday was our only formal studies day and what a good learning day! Surprisingly, Becky and Sean worked quite diligently without any complaint. They actually seemed to be enjoying themselves! Can it be???? Becky and I decided to try to do a lapbook for St. Elizabeth that she could show off at the All Saints Party. She and Sean worked in cursive, Latin and math. Becky read me some comics from Sunday's newspaper (still floating around the house due to my sloppy housekeeping). Sean wrote a letter to his friend, addressed it and mailed it off. I did an impromtu spelling lesson the kids actually enjoyed. Josh worked on history a lot. He didn't go to his math tutor as she has sick kiddos. W canceled his piano lesson but did lots of CLEP prep. It was rainy all day. I had been fishing around for a good movie set in the middle ages because we are kind of going down that rabbit trail with the St. Elizabeth book. Someone suggested The Secret of Kells so we watched that. Excellent movie! Wonderful animation and the story is interesting. I thought scenes went so fast, I felt I was missing things. I think we'll watch it again.

Friday - well Becky woke up with the sore throat/fatigue/congestion thing that seems to be moving through the house. Sean had an appointment with the eye doctor/vision therapist. He's been complaining so much of his eyes hurting. He had those dilation drops so even if he were recovered enough from his cold, he wasn't up to tennis lessons. Josh made it to both his Biology class and tennis which was good. It's a beautiful fall day but 3 out of the 4 children living here aren't feeling great enough to go out. What a shame. Then I discovered that my kitchen sink was leaking and dripping into the basement! So between sick kids and waiting for the plumber I doubt very much that I'll get to the opera with Rick tonight. We were supposed to see Salome. This happened once before though and they let us switch our tickets for another night. Ah well, we'll see.

To end on a lighter note! Here's a picture of Rick flying his birthday present to himself. He bought some new-fangled, computerized remote control hovercraft to play with.
See that thing in the middle of the picture? That's this weird noisy fan like thing that you can move around the room using a remote.

I don't get it, either.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Before & After Clutter - 1 hour challenge

I've always loved those before and after pictures that people post on their blogs where they shoot a picture of a perfectly horrible closet or desk, clean it out, and then take another picture of the very satisfying result! A nice clean, organized desk/closet.

Clutter is my enemy. And it has nearly won the battle! I, like Pigpen with his cloud of dust, generate clutter where ever I go. I do it. The Mom. My children have taken after me. And my husband, well, unfortunately we are very similar in this respect. So I feel like I am always swimming upstream when it comes to clutter.

One of my favorite shows is Clean House.

Often on Saturday mornings I come down to a completely ruined kitchen/family room. And often on Saturday mornings I set the timer to one hour and I declutter and tidy as much as I can in those 60 minutes. It really only touches the surface but it does make the main living area look fairly nice for maybe half a day. It gets untidy at a very rapid pace. Yesterday morning, I thought, now I can put photos on my blog! I, too, can show those nifty before and after pictures!

So here goes. I give you the kitchen table.

Even worse is the kitchen island.
I also took a picture of our 'jacket chair' where all the jackets and other sundry stuff gets dumped (the red sweater is mine!).

So here are the after pictures. The kitchen island:

You can see that after an hour, I've cleaned lots of the surface but there is still a stack of mail and a little pile of odds and ends, mostly little toys. Ideally, there should only be the three glass canisters of flour and sugar. And then there is the box of pink tissues. . . But still it looks better than before! You can see more surface!

Here's my desk before:
And here it is after:

I have this long kitchen counter under my windows which is a terrible clutter trap. Here it is before:

After:Alas, the jacket chair became the stuffed animal chair, though it still looks a little neater than before.

I forgot to take an after picture for the kitchen table. Oh well.

I decluttered other areas too, like the corner by the stove and the top of the old fashioned ice box, but I am running out of time so I'll just finish with our mantle. Usually there is not line up of crosses on the mantle, but we put them up there for the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross, and I kind of like them, so I'm not ready to put them away yet.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Week in Review 10/4/10-10/8/10

Monday, Will and I participated in 40 Days for Life by praying for an hour in front of an abortion clinic. This is the 3rd time we've done this together.

Here's the academic stuff we accomplished this week:

Sean - Discovering music - unit 5 or 6? how the church and the Reformation effected development of music history. Very interesting.
Becky - I'm reading her Elizabeth and the Three Crowns - about St. Eliz of Hungary. We looked up Wartburg Castle and Thuringia. She's decided to be St. Elizabeth at our All Saints Party 11/1.
Josh -we are now meeting with another teen to study Church History together. Josh just completed 1/3 of Ch. 1

Sean is up to Lesson 17 in Saxon 7/6
Becky - Lesson 11 in Saxon 5/4
Josh - Lesson 93 and test 23 in Saxon Algebra II

Becky just learned about plurals in the first declension
Sean started Lesson 24 in LfCa; more vocab and future tense of esse
Josh and I are learning the passive tense for 4th conjugation

Becky and Sean are both working on cursive; Becky finished Week 11 in WWE. She's complaining it isn't challenging enough. I think she's right! We might bump her up.
Sean did little creative writing this week, :(
Josh wrote a short essay in history; also little creative writing :(
However, Sean, Josh and Will all decided to participate in NaNoWriMo next month.
I also did some informal spelling with Sean and Becky this week.

Nada for Becky and Sean - yikes, it is falling through the cracks again as it always does!!!!! Gotta get on the ball!
Josh did Bio. homework, attended both Biology classes and took a Biology test this week.

Josh is reading St. Augustine's Confessions - we did the study questions through book 3.
Sean is reading a Series of Unfortunate Events and he just started reading St. Patrick's Summer Catechism.
Becky is still working on her chapter book. I continue to read aloud Little Men with Sean occasionally listening in.

Sean and Becky attended their art class and enjoyed it, but they still don't seem to be clicking with the teacher. So I don't know if I am going to continue paying for something that I have to cajole them into attending. This has become a point of dismay and frustration with my dearly beloved children!

Sean's is the top painting. You can see Becky's signature on hers.

Sean's back to playing a lot of piano this week. He sort of had lost interest for a few months there. He's also taken to playing the ocarina. He played happy birthday to Rick on it, but it doesn't have quite the octave range he needed!
Will attended both his sight reading, etc class and his piano lesson. He's coming along wonderfully. Very hard working. He's been practicing a lovely Bach piece this week.

The kids put on a show for Rick (except Josh who was off doing math). His birthday was Tuesday. Unfortunately, the camera chose that time to run out of batteries so I don't have any pics! Here's Becky icing his cake.She insisted on putting 48 candles on the cake as well as the numerals. I thought it looked very Seussian!

Josh had lots of varying experiences with tests this week. He took a preliminary drivers ed test on line and passed. He got 74%. He was kind of tickled since he hasn't studied anything at all. On Tuesday he got back the test he took in Latin last week and got an F. He was pretty shocked. The teacher pulled a fast one on us! She said that from now on she is counting macrons. Before she'd say, try to remember where the macrons go, but only take of 1/10 or 1/4th of a point. Now you get a full point off! So the stakes are higher! Hopefully, he'll retake the test next week. Then Josh took a Biology test on Tuesday. The teacher graded it very quickly, except for the essay and said he'd gotten a 91 but he wouldn't know his final score til she'd read the essay. Well, he got his test back and he'd really gotten an 83%. Turns out she had miscalculated before and he didn't do very well on his essay. So that was a bit of a bummer. But he did do very well on his Algebra II test. The tutor didn't grade it but she said he got everything right except for one little aspect of something. She said he had done very well.

We don't do tests at all in the lower grades, except for the California Achievement Tests and it is always a long, hard learning curve when the kids get up into high school level and start having to deal with testing. Here's a photo of Josh's 10th grade school books.

Friday was unschooling. Will slept in (he'd had a nasty headache the night before), Josh went to Biology in the a.m., Sean read A Series of Unfortunate Events and Becky helped me bake stuff for the 4H Bake Sale this weekend. Then we had tennis in the afternoon.

With all the baking this week, it was a terrible time to start Weight Watchers. I do believe I will weigh more than I did last week. It will be humilitating to get on the scale! I just can't have baked goods sitting around my house if I'm going to lose weight! Absolutely no will power, whatsoever! Next week, no sweets in the house, at all!