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Friday, August 25, 2017

A few highlights of our trip to RI

     Both boys played summer baseball this year and it was a short summer. School begins Monday for me, which left us just a few days to go on vacation. We took a trip to Rhode Island, the smallest US state, from Sunday- Wednesday. We only live 1.5 hours away from where we stayed, but I've never really spent any time in Rhode Island before.  Here are some highlights:

     On our first night there, we went exploring and stumbled by a really nice park called Goddard Memorial State Park. It is right on the ocean and has lots of places you can picnic. There are also trails through the woods, a boat ramp, a stable, and other things I'm sure we didn't even see. We explored the bay area, took a quick walk in the woods and just enjoyed being outside. The boys found lots of mud crabs.

     The next day we spent (getting roasted by the sun at the zoo) at the Roger Williams Park & Zoo. Here are a few of my favorite moments:
The wildest animals at the zoo.. lol
David fed a giraffe. Look at that smile. He loves giraffes so this was a high point of the whole vacation. See his uneven spots? He's a Masai giraffe. His name is Jaffa and, if I remember correctly, he's 6 years old.
We pet an armadillo- which surprised us all by taking a bath in that water. Did you know that (this type) armadillos can jump 4 feet straight up into the air and run at 25 miles per hour when they are frightened?
This red panda is smiling at me. He wants me to bring him home, right?
This is a kookaburra. One of the park security guys was chatting with us and mentioned that he often plays an app that makes bird sounds and these birds start reacting by answering the calls. Before long, all 4 kookaburra birds were loudly "chirping" their "koo-koo-koo-ka-ka-ka." Tim said he loved it and they made him feel happy. I ruled out the chance of ever living where these birds are. So loud!
     One of the workers at the zoo said that the solar eclipse we had on that day was also making the animals act a little differently than normal.
      If you have never been to this zoo and you have the opportunity to, go. There was also a beautiful park with many nice areas that we didn't even explore. There's a carousel, swan boats, etc. They're also making some sort of a zip line type ride that will open later this year.

     The next day we explored the Beavertail Lighthouse in Jamestown, RI and then traveled to Newport to explore The Breakers, a giant mansion built by the Vanderbilt family.
 Beavertail Lighthouse
 Boys exploring the rocky New England coastline. They followed that path down to the rocks.

 The flat surface here is the foundation of a lighthouse that was built in 1749. In 1753 it was destroyed by a fire. It was rebuilt. In 1856, the new lighthouse was built to replace the deteriorating one and in 1938 a hurricane exposed this foundation? I think I got it all. Lol. We accidentally discovered this regatta of some sort. We never found out what it was but there were people at that spot to watch it.

 An artist was painting this next to us. So cool.

 These 4 pictures above were taken by Tim. I love seeing through his eyes and knowing what he thinks is beautiful or deserves attention. He's pretty good! The building above is named The Breakers.
 Dining room. Quite lavish, but I'll take it.
 My favorite part of the building was this half of the music room. If I had a room like this, I would never leave it.
 And part of the library! I totally wanted to bust in there and read what books were on the shelves. #nerdproblems
 Matt took this picture. He works as a candymaker and I think those copper pots and pans were super appealing to him!
 The back of The Breakers. Can you find David and I?

2 more Tim pics.

     All in all, it was a nice trip. I would've liked it to be a bit longer but maybe we'll come back another time. I can't wait for our next adventure away. Oh! I never told some of you, we're getting our passports so we're going to aim for at least 1 international trip within the next year. (If we take 2, 1 will be to Canada, which is pretty close compared to everywhere else.) We'll be talking soon about where to go. Feel free to leave suggestions!

     In other news, school starts Monday. I'm not ready. My "to reply" pile of mail is currently EMPTY! Feel free to send me surprise mail! (or even "not surprise" mail.) I've gotten some nice postcards this week. I'd like to show those off in a post and write about the last book I read too.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Jack-The True story of Jack & the Beanstalk

     My reading is slowing down as I get closer to school starting!!! AH! On a good note, I've been writing more and only have a few letters in my reply pile. My goal is to completely finish my reply pile before school. (And have my house clean, school work prepared, kids ready for school, on and on and on) 

Jack: The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk  
      Last year, there was a book called Rump on the Massachusetts Childrens Book Awards list. I was really interested in it; Tim, not so much. Well, it turns out that the author, Liesl Shurtliff has written a similar book, but about Jack & the Beanstalk. 

Here is David's review:
Jack, The True Story of Jack and the Beanstalk” is a great story. It's an adventurous tale about Jack and his family. He has a mother, a father and a little sister, Anabella. One day giants come down from the sky and steal their village. They steal their houses, a bakery, farms, food and even people. The giants stole all of these things because there was a famine in their land so they needed food. They stole the people to work with the smaller food and animals. Jack's Papa and their cow, Milky White, were stolen by the giants and that's where the adventure begins.
One character I liked was Sir Blueberys. He was a knight who rode an old donkey. He was always giving people advice on how to defeat the giants but he wasn't a person who could save the village, so he wasn't really a good knight.
I would give this book 4.5/5 because although this was a long book, it was a fun one. I read this book out loud with my mom. Some of the things we liked were: the characters, the plot and the different creatures in the story, like pixies and animals.

     I also enjoyed this book. It had a lot of nice lessons for kids. Jack grows up knowing that he has been names after his great-great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather, slayer of giants. He expects to grow up "great," but often feels like maybe he doesn't have it in him to live up to (his own ) expectations. It has some good messages about family and not placing too much importance in "stuff" and riches. 
       The MCBA site lists this as an early 4th grade reading level. David struggled a bit through this one. I don't know if it was that we were reading aloud or if it was just long for him. (He also has some speech issues, which adds a level of complication.)  If you've read this with your kids, I'm curious to hear your thoughts. He really enjoyed the story, but I think I may have liked it more. Maybe he needs more exposure to the original Jack & the Beanstalk story? My older son also came in a few nights to read with us because he could tell it was a fun story. I think I might still try to read Rump.  

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

My Brilliant Idea (and How it Caused my Downfall)

My Brilliant Idea (And How It Caused My Downfall) 

     This is another book that has been on my TBR shelf for too long. I'm reading it for my Mount TBR challenge as well as my Keyword Reading Challenge (My).  I actually felt badly when I picked it up to read because I saw that Goodreads had sent it to me as an advanced reader copy, but the book was published June 2016. So, I apologize for the delay.    This book is about a boy named Jack Dawson, nicknamed Jackdaw, who comes up with an idea to create an app that would prevent you from getting in trouble for daydreaming at school. The only problem is that he doesn't know how to program an app, and the only person who knows at his school is a strange girl named Elsie. In order to get what he wants, Jackdaw makes a series of deals and comes up with schemes to get each deal to work. Unfortunately, many of his plans are hindered by outside forces and don't go exactly how he planned. 
      I gave this book 3/5 stars on Goodreads. This book is geared towards teens but I could tell right away that it was not written by an American author, so I'm not sure if teens here would immediately connect with the book. I think if my son read this book, he wouldn't know what some of the slang meant.  Also, one of the ideas that Jack has is to trick a boy into getting naked in front of a girl, which isn't the most edifying thing for me to pass on to my kids. It fits in with Elsie's weirdness, but wasn't an idea I liked in a book younger kids might be reading. There were some sections that were pretty humorous. As a person who works with teens, I liked Jackdaw's convictions that his "good ideas" are brilliant and his sense of humor.

Happy anniversary

       I am not a girl who "needs" flowers, but every once in a while, it's nice to receive them. Today is my 19th wedding anniversary and I wanted to show off the beautiful flowers my husband sent me.
Image may contain: flower and natureVery sweet! Marriage can be a lot of work sometimes. These were a really nice surprise after taking the boys out to swim at a local river. Thanks, Matt!