Thursday, June 9, 2011

Braving the Snow

So Tuesday, we had a big snow storm. More than 200 local schools were called off, including mine! It was a nice day of relaxation. By Wednesday, the roads were mostly clear enough for school to be back in session, but the snow did not let up all day! We ended up having to do an early dismissal. The busses were called in and the kids went home 15 minutes early. All of the teachers followed suit, exchanging horror stories of what they envisioned the roads to be like. What was I doing? Putting on my running clothes! Everyone thought I was crazy! I braved the blustery snow and went for a cold, but beautiful 3 mile run. By the end, my shoe laces and the bottoms of my pants were coated in ice, but I felt great! I almost wanted to take a pictures of my frozen laces and pants as a record of my perseverance towards reaching my running goals, but alas, by the time I got home I was all thawed out. Oh well. At least I'll have this blog post as a record of my insanity...I mean, committment!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Book Review: Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life

My school's PTO offered to purchase a book from our book fair for each of our students with the premise that we would use the book in our classrooms. I chose Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass. Here is the synopsis found on the back of the book:

In one month Jeremy Fink will turn thirteen. But does he have what it takes to be a teenager? He collects mutant candy, he won't go more than four blocks from home if possible, and he definitely doesn't like surprises. On the other hand, his best friend, Lizzy, isn't afraid of anything, even if that means trouble now and then.
Jeremy's summer takes an unexpected turn when a mysterious box arrives. According to the writing on the box, it holds the meaning of life! Jeremy is supposed to open it on his birthday, but the keys are missing, and only the keys can open the box without destroying what's inside. Jeremy and Lizzy set off to find the keys, but when one of their efforts goes very wrong, Jeremy starts to think he'll never be able to open the box. But what he doesn't know is that there just might be other ways to find out the meaning of life.
Lively characters, surprising twists, and thought-provoking ideas make Wendy Mass's latest novel an unforgettable read.

I am only halfway through the book so far, but this book is hilarious! Wendy Mass has done a brilliant job in creating quirky, down-to-earth characters that simply make me laugh out loud with their off-the-wall comments. Here are a few of my fave excerpts from the story:

This takes place when Lizzy and Jeremy are confronted by a police officer for breaking into an office in search for the keys:

"You swore we wouldn't get arrested!" I whisper back.
"We're not getting arrested!" she says, forgetting to whisper. Then in a smaller voice she asks, "Are we?"
Officer Polansky gives us a long look. We try to appear as innocent and wide-eyed as possible. Mom told me once in times of trouble to try to project sunny thoughts: butterflies, babies laughing, hot dogs in a ballpark on a sunny day. So I think of babies laughing in a ballpark surrounded by butterflies eating hot dogs. Very small, tiny hot dogs."

Can you picture that?! Too funny!
In this scene, Lizzy gets an Email from Jeremy's aunt inviting them to the state fair. She wants them to enter a talent competition and suggests a certain act:

"This is a nightmare. We can't perform that routine in front of hundreds of strangers!"
Lizzy's face is getting redder by the second. "She isn't talking about that thing we used to do where you though me a football while I'm hula hooping and I throw it back? And then I eat a banana?"
I nod miserably. "That's the one..."

Again. Hilarious visual!

Mass continues with hilarious scenarios and lively characterizations that make the journey towards finding the meaning of life all the more enjoyable. I personally can't wait to find out what's in that box!

While I started this book as a necessary read for my 6th graders, this is surely a book I think any adult could enjoy too! More comments to come later!

***UPDATE (Spoilers Inside!)***
Well, I finished the book and overall, it was wonderful! I would basically divide the book into thirds. In the first third of the book, you are meeting the characters and learning about the mysterious box and its missing keys. (I enjoyed that part greatly because as I said, the characters are so funny!) The kids break into an office in search for the keys but instead get caught. They are sentenced to work for a pawn dealer. In this next third section of the book, the pawn dealer has the kids deliver items to people that they tried to pawn many years ago. With each item returned, the students meet people from all walks of life and learn a little something about the meaning of life along the way. (This section is okay. It's not nearly as funny since most of the dialogue is actually from the new characters who are trying to impart their wisdom onto Jeremy and Lizzy. Some of it is a little preachy, but I wouldn't consider it over the top.) After their final delivery, the pawn broker gives the kids a gift (Jeremy receives a suitcase full of keys) and that starts the final third section of the book. From then on, Jeremy tries all of the keys in his mysterious box and finds three that fit. He is devastated to not have the fourth and final key. Eventually, Jeremy's 13th birthday arrives and just when he is about to give up, he does receive the final key. The box is opened up and reveals what Jeremy least suspects. At first he is confused, but as he looks more closely at the contents, he realizes that they are perfect. He indeed does learn the meaning of life from his father. Just when you think the story is over though, there is quite a twist. Jeremy's father leaves something for Lizzy in the box that leads Jeremy to be a bit suspicious. Jeremy goes to see an old friend about his suspicions and learns a lot more than he had prepared for! I was completed shocked by it as well! Jeremy's final lesson realized is one that I think encompasses his entire journey and is one that nearly brought tears to my eyes as I thought about all that he went through: "...I realized that love is stronger than death and that people you barely know can amaze you."

The first section of the book, I LOVED. The second section was kind of fun because I was curious as to what lessons Jeremy and Lizzy were going to learn as they met each person. After awhile though, that kind of dragged and I was starting to worry that I had not chosen a good book for my students. Then when I got towards the end, the story started picking up again and once Jeremy opened the box, I realized what a true GEM this book is. I loved it and think it will speak to a lot of my students, especially those who have lost a loved one. If you get a chance, I would definitely suggest picking up this book!

Funky Flashback: Power Ballads from the Big Hair Bands

Today, I present a few of the best "power ballads" of the 80's. Go ahead everyone, go get your lighters......Okay, here we go. First up, Skid Row's "I Remember You".

Next, Guns n Roses "Sweet Child of Mine".

And finally, who could say it better than Def Leppard with "Love Bites"?

Friday, June 3, 2011

My Little World -- The Setting

Here are pics of most of the "setting" for My Little World!

Here is out little abode in its Summer Splendor...

...and now, as a Winter Wonderland!