Worth a Re-Read or Listen

I have cringed watching Michael Scott kiss Oscar at least a dozen times. I can quote Steel Magnolias verbatim starting with “scene opens with young girl, shaded by oaks, walking down sunny, residential Louisiana street”. I will watch, with pleasure, my favorite stories and characters over and over. DVD, VHS, Streaming, doesn’t matter. I love experiencing them again. And yet, there are few physical books I pick up again to read — even if I liked the story. I suppose it is because of how much more effort it takes to read a book than watch a show or movie.

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I have a hard time convincing myself to go through the effort of reading each page again when I already know how it ends. I love me some Cormoran Strike, but each book is like 500 pages. I happily devour each book as soon as it comes out, but coming back for a second course? That’s a heavy book to have to carry around twice. There are plenty of books I’ve read, got credit for, and left without looking back *coughBrothersKaramazovcough*. But a great many are left, fragmented, or even completely forgotten in my cerebral sieve. There are two exceptions and their names are Rebecca and Evangeline.

I love re-reading Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier because, even though it has become so familiar, I still get chills. I look forward to it even; I know what Ms. Danvers is going to do and, damnit, I can’t wait.  Evangeline by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow I come back to year after year in part and in whole. I can pick up any part of it and immediately I’m back laughing, praying or crying right beside Evangeline; it is a comfort and a catharsis.

It is a shame I’ve gone so long not re-reading books. While there is something exclusive about experiencing a story for the first time, unaware of its twists, turns, and final destination, a good story has more to offer than can be obtained in one reading.

That’s why I’m so glad I’ve begun to embrace audiobooks.  They have become, among other things, a great avenue to re-read, or listen, to a book again while tricking my brain into thinking it isn’t working hard. Now I can re-live Lisbeth Salander’s sweet sweet revenge with ease. I don’t even have to listen to the whole book, just hearing Archie Goodwin throwing around some flapper slang is worth downloading a Nero Wolfe book to fill an afternoon. Each time Robin and Cormoran get a case in I pick up new clues and forshadowings. And if I hadn’t read Goblet of Fire again, I would have gone on thinking Cederic Digory was just a pompous meathead and not a strong, clever hero and a damn fine Hufflepuff.

I’m glad I’ve found a way to overcome my first world problem of not wanting to hold a book longer than I have to. Now, by listening to the series again, I can get the timelines of comings and goings in The Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I can soak in all the nuance and detail Rowling includes in the Harry Potter universe. I swear that woman tried to out-Tolkien Tolkien with all the folklore and history she included in that series.  Reading a book for a second (or third or forth) time will never be like when I discovered it for the first time. But a good book always has more to offer with each new read.

Do you re-read books? What’s a book you come back to over and over?

New School Year Interviews

The time has come, the time is near. School is going to happen again. While we won’t officially start until after Labor Day, I like to “interview” each kid before the year starts to see how they are feeling and what they are hoping to learn about. I’m not saying that I don’t have the year planned out and I need this info to help fill in our curriculum … I’m just saying it’s nice to hear from the kids… ahem.

Evangeline, my third grader, is 8 going on 40. She is the definition of a book worm and her world is only getting bigger. She has become interested in green initiatives and changed her career ambition to becoming a scientist who finds new was to make cars less damaging to the environment. I felt proud of my budding scientist until I asked what’s something she’d like to do this year: “experiments on the human body”

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So that’s going keep me awake at night.

After that, I turned my attentions to sweet, innocent Felicity. She was cutting out coupons so, naturally, it was hard to keep her focus. She told me her favorite subject is math;  I asked what she wants to learn about she said she wants to focus on her times 4 facts. I think I can handle that much. In addition to a single row of the multiplication table, Felicity wants to spend more time at the Bluebonnet Swamp, learn to how machines work and be able to read even longer chapter books, particularly about Amelia Earhart (although she may have just said that to butter me up). That should keep us busy for at least a few lessons.

The oldest girls have mixed feelings about coming back to homeschool after a year in public school. They are both going to miss their teachers (trying not to take that personal), but both are glad to be able to stay home. As social as she is, Felicity is a homebody;  being around people all day every day had her drained by Christmas. Evangeline is glad not to have to deal with “so many annoying kids”. She admits that yes, the “younger kids,” i.e. her siblings, are annoying, but at least there aren’t as many of them than were in her class. She’s so magnanimous. We’ve spent the summer working through their emotions about school, I’m glad we are approaching the beginning of the year with optimistic attitudes.

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20190815_132417Reuben, my first grader, was eager to be interviewed and told me over and over “I can’t wait to start homeschool!” He’s one of those mythical kids who loves a good workbook, as such he’s mostly looking forward to doing handwriting.*shrug* I asked him to think of ways he’s changed since the beginning of last year. He has become much more independent, stepped up as a big brother helping the younger ones and has become a walking insect-encyclopedia. He is proudest, though, of his ability to read the same primer, Hot Dog, over and over and over “allllll ddaaaaaayyyy looooonnnggg”

and he does.

 

20190815_201841The older kids were adamant that Genna’s Pre-Kindergartner work was not sufficiently “real”, but there’s no diminishing her Kindergartner status now. She will work on phonics and handwriting, history and a bit of science. She’s mostly excited to join her big sisters in Little Flowers and American Heritage Girls. Little Flowers is a part of our homeschool group where the girls learn about different female saints and do crafts. American Heritage is a great scouting group the older girls joined last year. They have a entry Brownie-type level for the little girls who earn beads on a necklace instead of patches on a vest. I’m convinced Genna just wants the necklace.

We have a lot of changes going on — recommitting to homeschool, adding a toddler to the mix and hopefully moving houses. We haven’t really found a way yet to have a calm, quiet year, so in many ways it feels just right to jump into homeschool amid all the chaos. Can we take a moment to ooh and aw over how cute our homeschool area looked before I started packing it up?

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Have your kids started back yet? Are they excited about their new year?

Usborne & More Book Review: LIFESIZE

I got my consultant’s kit in the mail! To join Usborne & More, like other direct sales type gigs, you purchase a start up-kit. There are two options; I went with the smaller (cheaper!) one. In addition to administrative stuff, the kit includes a sampling of the books. In my kit I got 10 books which included baby board books, story books, non-fiction picture and chapter books and a painting book. The books are mine to keep. I can just hand them over to the kids to be destroyed loved or hang on to them to use in selling other books.  As any good parent starting a new venture would do, I tried the books out on my kids (but was careful not to let them touch them without clean hands and adult supervision).

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We had a blast reading Lifesize by Sophy Henn . The book itself is bigger than most picture books: it is a one square foot hard back book. Like other animal books, it gives interesting facts about animals from different habitats. But what this book does differently is show lifesize animals and animal parts. The first page, for instance includes an illustration of a bee hummingbird which is smaller than the length of my finger. I know that because it’s an illustration drawn to scale and I put my finger next to it.

The real fun came with the big animals. I have to admit, some made me jump back like when I turned the page and all of a sudden there was a huge polar bear staring at me with it’s paws raised! Here’s a glimpse into all the fun we had:

 

Felicity tried on a Tucan beak, Evie tested out the ears of a hare and Genna put on her best roar face. We found out that the eye of a great squid is about the size of Reuben’s head and Theodore could fit in the open mouth of a Bengal tiger.

We read the book, passed it around flipping around all the pages, lifting it above our heads, slapping our hands on it AND NOTHING RIPPED! If you know my children, you will know what a huge endorsement this is. Most books don’t survive their first reading in tact at our house. The kids keep asking to read it again. I’m starting to think this may be one we just keep for ourselves.

If you’d like to order your own copy, you can follow this link. If you’re feeling especially brave, you might check out the Lifesize Dinosaurs book too 😉

The Start of Something New

One month ago we decided list our house to sell. Last week, we did. It’s a long, involved story but the gist of it is this — we have the opportunity to buy a much bigger and slightly newer house in the same area from our friends and we are jumping on it.

When we bought this house 7 years ago, we had hopes of being here for the long haul. Then we added three more babies and now we’ve begun to doubt the sanity of that plan. A future with 5 teenagers, two adults and two dogs in 1600 square feet may sound noble, but it makes me feel all panicky.  So we are trying larger, greener pastures.

As many of you know our house flooded in 2016 and has since been rebuilt and updated throughout. As painful as that experience was and as loath I am to repeat it, it has put us in a good position to sell the house now. Our house went on the market a week ago and now we just sit and wait, twiddling our thumbs and keeping our bathrooms clean.

I found the pictures from the original listing when we bought the house in 2012 and I thought it would be fun to show just how much this house has changed.

house front

house front new

 

LIVING ROOM

House LIving room

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KITCHEN

Houe Kitchen

house kitchen new

 

DINING ROOM — TURNED DINING ROOM AND STUDY

House Dining Room

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HALL BATH

House Hall Bath

house hall bath new

 

GIRLS ROOM

House Girls room

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BOYS ROOM

House Boy's Room

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MASTER BEDROOM AND BATH

House Master BEdroom

house master bed new

House MAster bath

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Not bad eh? I love all the upgrades we’ve been able to make and its going to be so difficult to walk away from that kitchen! But we think our family will be much happier for much longer in the new house. Know anyone looking for a great home in Baton Rouge?

 

Now Read This: August Pick

I enjoyed participating in the book club Now Read This last month. I can’t say it put me in the way of a book I wouldn’t have otherwise read because, ironically, when they announced House of Broken Angels for July, I had another book by the same author already on my nightstand. That was an affirmation for me which gave me the confidence to join the group: I really am an adult reader interested in books other adults are, I belong in a group of reading adults.

The book was a nice addition to my growing knowledge of Latin American literature and I’m grateful for that. I think what I enjoyed more, however, was the facebook page with running discussion about the book and other bookish things. I am looking forward to another month’s participation.

30852For August, Now Read This has chosen The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston, a 1970’s memior from a Chinese-American author. From the PBS website:

The memoir, which blends autobiography and folktale, dips back and forth in time between the past of Kingston’s ancestors in pre-Mao China, to her growing up Chinese-American in modern-day California, to the fantasy of an imagined life as a female avenger.

So it sounds like it’s got a little bit of everything. The Chinese books I’ve read thus far are pretty scattered: modern novel Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo, contemporary memoir Battle Hymn of a Tiger Mother by Amy Chua and historical fictions The Good Earth and Imperial Woman both by Pearl S Buck. I’m excited to learn more about China and Chinese literature as well as see the differences and similarities of the immigrant experience in House of Broken Angels.

It’s What Our Mothers Taught Us

Tupperware, Pampered Chef,  Avon, it’s just a thing. Your friend signs up to sell, you buy a little something. She has a party? You go and play the games and spend your $15 and go home. It’s what our mothers taught us. Along the way, you find some junk, yes, but also some really great products. I know mine isn’t the only family with heirloom tupperware.

I went 8 years, 10 months, 20 days and 7 hours as a stay-at-home mom before signing up for a direct sales “job”. I feel I have taken my place in the line of honored stay-at homes who have come before me with my aspirations of personal discounts and making extra money without having to pay for child care.

My friend joined Usborne Books, I went to her party (although they are online these days, the principle is the same). I bought a book and a catalog and went along my merry way. Flipping through all the stuff, however, I discovered that I really liked a lot of their books. I love giving and getting books and a lot of their things are right up my homeschool alley. Not to mention the 5 book worms I’m raising.

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So here I am, one week later, an official Usborne Books & More consultant. I do like the products and I’ll have fun with that discount. I’m not very bubbly or sales-person-y so we’ll see how the second career thing goes.

Have you ever joined a direct-sales company? Did you make a success of it? Can I interest you an any of Usborne’s cool books for children?

 

 

 

House of Broken Angels

Now Read This is a monthly book club from PBS Newshour and The New York Times. For fun, I decided to join along in their July pick which I originally thought was titled House-Broken Angels. When I realized the title is actually  The House of Broken Angels I had to take a beat and adjust my expectations.

Side Note: For what its worth to any aspiring writers out there, House-Broken Angels is a hella intriguing title. I just ask 3% royalties from whomever writes that book.

House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea is a story of a modern-day Mexican family living in America. The book centers around the eldest sibling of the family, Big Angel, who is dying and the large party he’s throwing to celebrate what he knows to be his last birthday. The day before, however, his family gathers to bury his mother. Throughout the story we learn the history of this family, beginning in Tijuana and migrating in the 1970’s to San Diego.

This book was new for me in a few ways. Immigrant stories I’ve read before showed the struggle of immigration and assimilation: desperate, fearful treks to safety leave the characters in bittersweet relief in new countries who do not want them. This family, however, weren’t desperate or scared, they simply wanted what they thought would be a life with more opportunities in America. Many characters admit to preferring their lives in Tijuana, one of Big Angel’s sons even resents being brought illegally to America where he now has to live on guard all the time.

I also haven’t read many, if any? books about contemporary Latina culture. The book shows the stark difference between the original immigrants and the next generations who are more assimilated. Specifically, the younger generations have embraced the gang and drug scene in America, while the older members of the family abhor it. I wish the author would have gone more into what draws the young Mexican generation, coming from honest, upstanding families to want to imitate the gang culture.

More than anything, this is a book about family and the struggles and celebrations they share. While my family is not that recently emigrated, I could still relate to some of the themes therein. The scene where the long absent Little Angel shows up to the party expecting awesome, authentic Mexican food and is met with disappointing tubs of fried chicken and potato salad, struck me particularly deep.

joe-mazza-brave-lux-chicago-ne-3281786820-o-682x1024_0_oThroughout the month, the book club posts discussion questions to their facebook page for public participation. All 12 of the questions can be found here, I’m just going to answer a few of them in this post. At the end of the month, they take some of the comments and questions brought up in the group and sit down to an interview with the author. This is the link to the PBS Newshour interview with Luis Alberto Urrea.

 

Many characters wander through this book. Which one did you identify with most?

I identified with Minnie the most. She is Big Angel’s youngest and a great example the dutiful daughter. She has her boys who tag along with her and her husband\boyfriend she’s always wanting to get back to, but her days are spent in the trenches with her mom helping with her ailing father. This character’s life is her family, the two cannot be separated. At every age, her role in the family grew with her. Little Angel even predicts that it will be she that becomes the matriarch in her time.  These are the aspects I most related to.

Where do Big Angel’s insecurities come from? Where do Little Angel’s?

“His shoulders were wider than his father’s had been. And the long coat reached only two inches above his knees.

‘I thought he was a giant.’
Big Angel wheezed slightly. ‘So did I.’

Understanding what makes a man is an enduring theme in this book. Both Angels, as different as they are, were both heavily influenced by their father. In their own ways, they both took his example. For Big Angel, he became the undisputed head of the family, a strong presence in the lives of everyone connected to him. Little Angel, however, was given the example of a father who abandons family, who insists on his own heritage, but remains separate from those he shares it with.

 

While I didn’t think the book was mind blowing or ground breaking, it was beautifully written with characters who felt both bigger than life and completely relatable. I immensely enjoyed being a part of a group of people who weren’t angry or grinding an ax — just a group of adults talkin’ books. Mmm, lovely.

I do plan on reading the next book too, The Woman Warrior but even if I didn’t there’s still bookish discussion going on outside the book of the month. I’m having fun stepping out of my comfort zone a bit (even if it just online) and engaging in a wider world.

Have you ever been a part of a book club? What’s your favorite part of a club?