book · reviews

The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel

I just completed reading my next book. This book was a SLOWWW read. I’m not sure if it was because of the book or because I was reading it at the beginning of the school year or a combination of both, but I felt like it took me forever to finish the book this time.

The Atomic Weight of Love: A Novel by Elizabeth J Church begins during WWII when Meridian Wallace is a 17 year old college student studying ornithology at the University of Chicago. There the innocent Meridian meets 2 men who are as opposite as opposite can be. In the end, she falls for Alden, a physics professor. Alden sweeps Meridian off her feet by opening her eyes to the world of words and knowledge.

Meridian is hesitant to give up her schooling, but wants to be with Alden who is now working for the government in Los Alamos, NM. Life in Los Alamos is very different from the world Meridian knows in Chicago , but she find that even in Los Alamos she can follow and learn more about her precious crows.

It is in her studying of her crows that Meridian’s life takes another turn. Here she meets Clay. Clay offers Meridian the type of relationship she no longer has, or actually never had with her husband.

Meridian spends life wishing she has more. Wishing she was more. But, in the end she is who she is, and that can never change.

Read about life in the US changes from the 1940s to the 1970s. Live life with Meridian and think about what choices you would have made in her shoes. Would you give up your dreams for Alden. Would you leave Alden for Clay? Follow Meridian as she negotiates the changing rolls of women in the country.

I did like this book. I mean I finished the whole thing. There was a lot to think about and a lot of incite into how different life was in that time. How much life changed in a few decades and the views of love, life and respect changed over time. I guess it would be a 3.5 out of 5 star book for me. I won’t tell you “run our right now and get this book” but I would tell you that it is a good read. I think you have to go into it looking for an impression of life in that time and you will enjoy the book more.

 

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book · reviews

The Bette Davis Club– book review

I know it has been forever since I wrote a book review. At the end of the summer, I was plowing through a book series that I was picking up from the library.

After we dropped off our last set of books to the library, I dove back into my kindle reading list. The book I choose to read was The Bette Davis Club, by Jane Lotter.

The Bette Davis Club

Margo Just traveled to CA for her niece’s wedding. She didn’t really want to go, but since her half-sister Charlotte was footing the bill, Margo decided to consider it a vacation. When Georgia, Margo’s niece, runs away on her wedding day everything begins to take a very interesting turn of events. Charlotte offers to pay Margo to go find Georgia and a “few things” that Georgia took from the house as well. Here’s the kicker, Charlotte will allow Margo to take their father’s 55 MG, but the would be groom has to drive.

Margo and Tully, the would be groom, travel from CA in search of Georgia and manage to meet a variety of unique characters along the way.

Through the story the author weaves in a multitude of Margo’s back story. How she moved to England, the relationship between herself and her father, her one love (or so she thought) Finn, and so much more that makes Margo…. Margo.

Will they find Georgia? Will anyone find happiness? Can Charlotte and Margo mend the fences that came about in their youth? Will Margo learn to love and come to some type of peace with her past?

 

I did enjoy this book and found it a good read. It wasn’t super deep and while there were a few twists and turns it was not a “OMG I can’t put this book down” type of book in any way shape or form. The relationships were a bit weak, but worth reading about. I am glad I read the book, if only to have read the touching forward written by the author’s daughter. You see this book was actually published after Jane Lotter passed away. She never saw her dream of publishing come to completion, but it was. We can only hope that she is able to rest in peace knowing that many readers are picking up and reading “The Bette Davis Club.”

book · reviews

Beautiful Exiles

I know it has been forever since I did a book review! I have been reading a lot of Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen Series. I am also almost done reading young adult series, by Kiera Cass, which started with Selection.

Last week I finished my library books early so I had a lot of time to devote to a story I’ve been reading on my Kindle, Beautiful Exiles by Meg Write Clayton.

Beautiful Exiles tells the story of Martha Gellhorn who is a headstrong, independent, journalist in a time where most people felt that women needed to be in the house not on the battlefield.

In 1936, Martha along with her mother and brother go to Key West for the holidays. There they meet Ernest Hemmingway. Martha is awestruck as she views Hemmingway as a journalist to model herself after.

Hemmingway, married at the time to his second wife, finds the company of Martha quite enjoyable. He woos her with his words and the prospect of travels to war torn places. Hemmingway states that the best love stories are written against the fury of war.

Both Hemmingway and Gellhorn travel to Spain to cover the beginning steps of World War II. There Gellhorn falls deeper in love with both Hemmingway and the nature of being a war journalist.

The book follows them through their relationship right up until Hemmingway’s death. They have a very turbulent relationship in all aspects. While the book tells about their relationship it is far from a love story. This book touches on all aspects of life… the good, the bad and the ugly. It is told from the perspective of Gellhorn and is a great way to show how even when it is enough, it isn’t enough. She was a strong female who stood up for what she believed in. She struggled to find balance between her dreams and goals and being the wife the Hemmingway expected her to be.

This is one of those books that I wouldn’t read again. It’s not a book that I’m going to say… go out and get this book now! But, I didn’t put it down either. I didn’t delete it. It was a good book. It was informative. It told a lot about life in the world during the pre-WWII era.

I will admit that I’ve never read anything written by Hemmingway. I never heard of Gellhorn before reading this book. But I did find them both to be intriguing.

 

book · family · food · reviews · through my camera lens

P B & J sandwich cookies

cookies

If you follow my blog on Facebook, or follow me on Instagram (@teacherturnedmommy), then you know I baked cookies yesterday!

I have been reading the Hanna Swensen Mystery series by Joanne Fluke. AJ at A Petite Slice of Life, mentioned that she not only had read these books, but made many of the recipes in the books. That was incentive enough to test one out myself.

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I just finished reading Blueberry Muffin Murder and one of the recipes in that book was  Peanut Butter Melts. One of the suggestions she made was turning them into peanut butter jelly sandwich cookies. Well…. as it turns out Richard, Colby and I had just talked about pb & J cookies this past week. When we were in Amish country we purchased 4 jars of jelly. Colby has been working on polishing off the strawberry jelly and loving it with peanut butter.

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Sooooo the baker in me decided to use another jar of jelly to make pb & j cookies.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich Cookies -adapted from Peanut Butter melts by Joanne Fluke

  • 1 cup melted butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1.5 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 2.5 cups flour
  • jar of jelly (I used raspberry)
  1. Preheat oven to  375
  2. Melt butter in microwave add both sugars and vanilla mix well
  3. Add baking soda, baking powder and salt. mix until incorporated
  4. Add peanut butter to the mixture
  5. Add in eggs one at a time
  6. Add flour and mix until all ingredients are fully incorporated
  7. Use small cookie scoop to dish out the dough, put onto cookie sheet leaving space between balls. press balls flatter with the tines of a fork in a crisscross pattern
  8. Bake at 375 for 6-8 min (if making bigger cookies bake 8-10 min) cookies should just start to golden on the bottoms.
  9. cool 2 min on sheet and then move to cooling rack
  10. when fully cooled spread jelly on the bottom of one pb cookie, top with another cookie to make sandwiches.
  11. I then put all the cookie sandwiches in the fridge to finish cooling and let the jelly set up

P1000282Colby loved these cookies. He had one last night and then quickly packed another to have at camp today for snack. He really wanted to pack 2 cookies but since he was having a PB&J sandwich for lunch I didn’t think he needed two cookies. I”m sure he will have one as a snack when he gets back from camp today.

Richard said they had a really good peanut butter flavor and liked them. He took a tin of them into work today to share with his co-workers.

I would tell you my opinion, but I haven’t had any yet. I’m using my will power! As I’ve mentioned I’m trying to eat healthier, working out and following a specific program. I do get a cheat day and plan on having that this weekend, so trust me I’ll have one then!

 

book · Education · family · life · reviews

Grit Part 2- parents and educators

I wrote a few week ago about reading the book Grit, by Angela Duckworth. You can read that post here. I still haven’t finished the book, sorry it is going so slowly but it is deep and I feel like I need to read some and then digest it before reading more.

As the title of my blog states, going from being a teacher to being a mother is not always as easy as it sounds. When I read the section on teachers and helping children develop grit and such, I was like… that’s me… that’s how I run my class. I’m not sure I have provided my sons the grit they need, but that too is addressed in the book.

Angela Duckworth addresses parenting and the development of grit. She discussed two different types of parents. One being the parents of quarterback Steve Young. They pushed Steve to excel. They wouldn’t let him quit. Steve Young stated that he became a stronger player because his father pushed him to go beyond the basics. He was never satisfied with ok, he needed to be the best. It didn’t matter what he did, he had to do it to the best of his ability. One could state the Steve Young’s parents believed in the philosophy of tough love, they were there for their children, but the children had to step up and do beyond their best.

The second set of parents were the parents of Francesca Martinez, who is now a comedian in Britain. Francesca was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two. Her parents did not push her in any direction. They allowed her to figure out life on her own. The supported her and the decisions that she made. They allowed her to leave her formal education at 16 and focus on following her dreams of acting on tv. Her brother also dropped out of school to become a portrait painter. Her parents state that they didn’t over indulge the children nor did they spoil them, they believed in “no-nonsense parenting”, “follow your dreams parenting”.

While these parents may seem on opposite ends of the spectrum they have a few things in common. Both parents were child-centered in the aspect of putting their children’s interest first. They were not trying to relive their own dreams through their children. They supported their children and helped them, in very different ways, realize their true potential.

She encourages parents to develop a warm, supportive and respectful relationship with their children. There is a need for rules and high expectations to foster the grit needed for success. Children need to view you being gritty if you want them to become gritty. When children understand that everyone works hard in what they do and love to do they will understand that they too need to work hard.

We as parents need to look at effort, work ethics in their children. They need to show the same passion and perseverance in their own life. We need to model that the effort is just as important if not more important than skill/talent. We need to stop praising children for each step, but instead point out what they could do to make things better. Not being super criticizing, just letting them know you know they can do more.

In the classroom you will often see teachers tell their student that they know they can do more/better than they are doing now. I often could be heard telling my stuggling readers that I know they can read, that I need them to realize they can read. That I need them to do x,y,z to become stronger at whatever topic/subject we are working on at the time. An outstanding teacher sets the bar higher than each child can achieve and pushes the individuals to reach and exceed the bar.

The challenge with parenting is so often you are just excited to see the littler steps in your children. You find yourself cheering the children on for each step instead of pushing them to see where they can grow. As parents we often forget to set the bar high enough so the children have a place to grow towards. Do we show our children what we are working towards? Do they see that even adults need grit? That each step of the process is a step towards a long term goal? She states that we need to create an environment that acknowledges the rule “If you work hard, you’ll be rewarded. If you don’t, you won’t”. Parents need to stop making life easy for their kids and start helping their children see that hard work pays off.

Angela Duckworth discusses that with her own children she talks about them each having a ” A Hard Thing” to work on. The children have to pick their own hard task, and they had to stick with it for the whole season/session/ whatever you paid for. She has one daughter who found her hard thing in playing the piano as her hard thing. Whereas her other daughter has bounced around trying a variety of different things, finally landing on the viola. She also explained to her children that her work and her husband’s work were their hard thing and that they worked hard at the things needed to be successful in  their careers. The parents also have a physical activity that they consider their hard thing.

Duckworth discovered that colleges and universities look for students who stick with activities. They also discovered through research that students who stick with a given activity for at least two years in high school are more likely to be successful in the college years. This shows an additional level of grit.

How can we help? Stop focusing on and praising the steps. Show how they can improve and get better going forward. Give children specific tasks to work on and improve. Model grit and the understanding that hard work pays off. Provide opportunities for children to choose their hard thing and then have the stick with it. Let them interact with others (teachers, coaches, etc…) who can push them to excel and see their own potential. Recognize that finding the right thing is hard, but it is necessary. When you have passion for something you have the drive to work hard. You want to succeed and move forward in the learning of the activity.

I promise at least one more post on grit once I finish the book!

book · reviews

The Patchwork Bride- book review

This week when I was at the library I quickly picked up on book and then couldn’t decide what to get for my second book. I wanted a few different books, but they were not available.

I was looking through the “to be restocked” carts for a book that Colby wanted and happened upon The Patchwork Bride, by Sandra Dallas. I’m not sure what caught my attention, the cover is pretty plain and I had no clue what the story would be about from the title, but I picked it up anyway.

When we got home, I decided to dive into this book first. I just finished reading it.

Ellen is working hard on finishing up the bridal quilt she is making for her granddaughter June, when June shows up on her doorstep. June has run-away. She left her fiance. She left her family who was planning the wedding. She ran to the comfort of her grandparent’s farm. When June was a child she loved spending summers at this farm, and felt this was the place to go and seek comfort.

Ellen decides to tell June the story of a girl, Nell, who ran away from not one but three weddings.

Nell lived with her grandparents on their farm in Kansas. She did not see any ideal options for men to marry in the town she lived in, so she left Kansas and went to live with her aunt Lucy in the New Mexico Territory. She lived and worked on the Rockin’ A as a hired girl. She learned to live the life on the ranch and handler not only her chores but working side by side with the hired hands. There Nell meets “Buddy” who she plans to marry, but Buddy breaks her heart and she runs away home to Kansas.

She then decides to travel to again. Twice more she meets men who ask for her hand in marriage. Twice again she realizes that this isn’t meant to be.

Will Nell ever find the man of her dreams. Will she find a man to marry her so she doesn’t have to become an “old spinster” living in someone else’s house? Will this story help June with her crisis of heart?

I encourage you to read this realistic historical fiction book. It is set back in the 1890s when life was very different for women and the country. It was an easy read, and very romantic at time (not smut at all just good old fashion romance). I would not call this story a romance novel, but more of a real life story.

I didn’t want to put it down when I got to the end of the book. I was happy with the ending even if I had already picked up on the direction it was taking. It is a good read and I would encourage you to read it too!

book · reviews

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder– book review

Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder (Hannah Swensen series Book 1)I guess I’ve been in the food + mystery = good read thinking at the library lately. I posted about two food related mysteries here and here. I love reading book series and was looking for the book Peach Pies and Alibis which is the one after Pies and Prejudice, but they didn’t have it on the shelf in the library. Sooooo I picked up the first in a different food mystery series. Chocolate Chip Cookie Murder, by Joanne Fluke.  This book became a Hallmark Mysteries movie, I guess I’ll have to find that although I doubt it will be as good as the book. Plus the main character in the story had curly red hair and they have Alison Sweeny on the cover with blonde hair… ummm something is a miss there people.

Hannah moved back to her home town after her father passed away. Her sister was struggling to help their mother while trying to raise her daughter. Hannah left a life of school and academia and ended up opening her own cookie store “The Cookie Jar”. One morning before she opened her store for business she stumbled upon a murder! The milkman was late delivering her shipment and Hannah went out back to see if he was there, only to find him dead in his milk truck. Hannah’s brother-in-law, Bill, just passed his detective test and is ready to solve his first murder. Can Hannah help Bill solve the mystery?

This wasn’t a really deep book, but still a good read. I picked up another book in this series at the library yesterday. I couldn’t get the second one… what’s up with the second book in the mysteries all being MIA?

book · reviews

Palisades Park- Book review

Palisades ParkI began reading Palisades Park by Alan Brennert before we left for Hershey and finished it up on the trip. It worked out to be the perfect story to read right before traveling to a theme park. While I am way too young to have ever experienced Palisades Park, and I didn’t grow up in NJ, I at least had heard of Palisades Park before reading this story.

Palisades Park begins by telling you the back story of how Eddie and Adele met and fell in love at Palisades Park in the 1930s. Eddie had left home as a teenager and started off by jumping from carnival to carnival. He would take any carnival job he could get and then hop on the nearest train and find another carnival to join and make a bit of money.  He then decided to get off the train back in NJ and go to Palisades Park, the place he remembers from his youth with a smile. Adele began her life working for her father as an actor, but when the movie industry moved to CA, her father stayed in NJ. Adele got a job working at a root beer stand at Palisades Park.

Eddie and Adele get married when she gets pregnant.  They decide to purchase a French Fry stand in Palisades Park and work it together. They have a beautiful daughter which they named Antoinette. Antoinette, who decides to refer to herself as Toni, much to her mother’s chagrin. She enjoys playing with her brother Jack and the rest of the boys in the neighborhood. She spends her days at Palisades where she meets Bunty Hill who teaches her to swim and later dive right in the pool at Palisades.

Toni’s family has to learn to deal with the Great Depression, Eddie enlisting in World War II, the Palisades Park fires, discrimination and so much more. Can the family survive the changes and growing up and growing apart that takes place in life? Will Toni figure out how to reach her own goals in a world that sees her as just a girl? Can Jack find his place in the world? Will Eddie find a way to keep his head above water after the war? Will Adele ever find a way to accomplish her dream of being a movie star?

This was a great historical fiction. I enjoyed this story and felt it was an easy read. There were things that were predictable, but it didn’t make the story feel predictable. You will find yourself wanting to read what happens next. The story begins with Eddie as a boy himself and ends after Palisades Park closes in 1971. I enjoyed the fact that Toni was given a backbone and stood up for what she believed in during a time when it was frowned upon. I also enjoyed reading more about the life of the people who worked in Palisades. It gives you enjoy of a glimpse into the backstage life of the workers and their relationships. Being at Hershey while reading this I noticed many of the rides mentioned in this book as well it gave me an appreciation for the people who choose to work in the parks.

I encourage you to pick up Palisades Park by Alan Brennert, I know I will be looking at other books written by him.

book · Education · family · life · reviews

Grit- part 1 — seeing grit in yourself and children

Grit BookI have been reading the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I haven’t finished reading it just yet, but I wanted to share some of my insights to this point.

Grit is a term that was starting to be tossed around in education before I left teaching. Grit is the stick-to-it-ness of people. This book dives into how grit comes about and how it effects each person in their lives.

I have always felt that I am rather gritty in life. I know that I am in my career path. I am a make a goal, stick to the goal type of person. I know that life isn’t perfect. I know that I am not perfect. I also know that I need to stick to the things that I want to accomplish and that both the successes and failures will assist me in growing in my career. I look at each academic year, each new class of children, as an opportunity to grow and develop as a teacher.

I have over the years seen the difference between a child who has grit and those who do not. So much of education and assumed to be based on ability. While having a high ability often makes school easier, it is not the only factor in a child’s success in school. Over the years the children who have made the biggest impact on me are the ones who work hard and overcome the deficits they come to me with. The kindergartners who did not go to preK and hardly know how to write their name and leave writing sentences. The children who come into the classroom not speaking English and leave as fluent readers and writers. The children who do not recognize their numbers and leave understanding addition and subtraction.

But it isn’t only the students who go from below grade level to on grade level who have grit. Some of the children who I worked with that had the most grit were my special needs children. The ones who fight through the pain, both physical and educational pains. The children who struggle to speak in complete sentences who want nothing more than for you to listen to their story.

What I have seen, in my own sons, as well as many gifted children, is that the gifted children often develop grit later than others. Children who learning come easy to do not have to push themselves to gain academic knowledge. They do not have to work to learn, it just happens. So what do we do for these students? How do we help them gain the passion and perseverance to grow in life? How do we help them learn to overcome adversity and move on with life? This in itself is a form of learned helplessness. They feel that they can do anything so when things do not go smoothly they do not know what to do next.

For Blake, he hit this struggle this year. In math this year he actually had to work. He needed to practice the skills worked on in class. He struggled to complete homework assignments and needed to learn to ask for help. He needed to see that even if he got things wrong the first time he could go back and try again. He is learning that life isn’t simple. That all learning isn’t just a matter of showing up and then knowing how to do everything. One of the big things that Richard and I did was let him struggle. He needed to fail. He needed to see that even after he failed he could do it.

As parents we want our children to be successful. We want our children to feel pride. But, are we giving them true pride by using empty praise? When we do things for our children what are we telling them? What happens when you praise a child for their ability and not their practice? What happens when everything easy? How do we push children without hurting them? Is it bad for them to feel hurt from time to time, or will that actually encourage them to step up and try again harder next time?

How do you find that fine line between helping and hurting. If you do too much you are inviting a feeling of learned helplessness. If you do not help enough at certain times are you also bringing on those same feelings? Where is that fine line? Do gritty parents raise gritty kids? Can you increase your level of grittiness in yourself? In your child? The answer is yes, but is isn’t easy and there are many things that must fall into place. Finding something that you are passionate about and finding the perseverance to stick to the thing you are passionate about no matter what is thrown in your way… that is grit.

 

 

book · life · reviews · Uncategorized

Star Girl and Mockingbird book reviews

This summer the boys and I got library cards. We have been going to the library every week. Each week Blake gets 7-9 books and Colby gets 5-7 books. I have been picking up 2 books each week. I am always shocked to see that we have plowed through the books and are ready to return them the next week.

The last two weeks Colby has been choosing books off a list we found of books for children who liked the Wonder series. He asked me to read one last week and one this week.

Book - Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliLast week he had me read Star Girl, by Jerry Spinneli. Star Girl is written about how a school deals with “The new girl” who starts school for the first time. Leo tells the story of how Star Girl changes Mica High from the first day she arrived. Star Girl did not look, act or even think like anyone else in the school. Is it good to be THAT different? Can the positive energy and unique desire to be happy all the time, that is Star Girl, bring about a change in the culture of a whole school, or at least a few of the students there?

I really enjoyed this story and so did Colby. I believe in some ways he could relate to Star Girl. He was just the new kid and he too is very emotional, passionate and always wants people to be happy. Now don’t get me wrong he doesn’t dress crazy, or call himself a unique name, or go out of his way to feel that different, but he knows his personality draws people in and makes them happy.  This is a YA book and one that is a good read for teen and tweens. The story is written from the voice of Leo and how he reacts to Star Girl. Both male and female readers can relate to this story.Book - Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Colby and I both plowed through the book Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine yesterday. It’s not that the book was super short, it was just that good. Caitlin is in the fifth grade. She is bight, a gifted reader and a talented artist. Caitlin also has Asperger’s syndrome. Before, her brother Devon helped her negotiate how to fit into a world that makes little to no sense to her. But, then the unspeakable happened. Devon was killed in a school shooting. Her father doesn’t no know to deal with his own emotions never mind those of his daughter. The school counselor tries to help Caitlin see that with a little guidance she can understand empathy and then understand how to help herself and so many other people in her life that are hurting after this tragedy.

This book is a good ready for anyone! It was an interesting look into the thought process of a child with Asperger’s. I have taught children with this and I could relate. I have know children with his and see how they just don’t fit in even when they don’t realize they don’t fit in. They see the world through their own set of eyes. This book did an excellent job of showing how important it is to see each person for their strengths and that if you just step back and look at the person for their strengths and not the aspects of why they don’t fit in you may see you have more in common than you realize.

The theme of school shooting plays a back plot in this book. It is not discussed in great details, but more deals with how this effects those left behind. The purpose seemed to be to connect a variety of characters to the same tragedy. This is something that is being addressed in schools on a regular basis, and helping children see how the shooting effects more than just the victims themselves may help children see this act in a new light as well.  (this is also a YA story)