Monthly Archives: June 2011

www Wednesdays – June 29, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

Today is my birthday (if you’re curious to know how old I am, I suggest you read last year’s post on Turning 40 and do the quick math) and I’m planning to bake my own birthday cake as part of my 101 in 1001 challenge, so I’ll make this post quick. Sorry but a chocolate cake should always take priority!

The Remains of the Day by Kasuo Ishiguro

The Remains of the Day by Kasuo Ishiguro

My bookshelf

– What I’m currently reading
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro (a Japanese British writer). I’ve never seen the movie inspired by this book and I’m struggling with main character’s spoken style and tone (the book uses the first-person narrative). But I know it’s meant to be that way. A “perfect” English butler, oblivious to the life going on around him, emotionless, uptight, borderline asocial. I keep wondering, how does someone grow up to become this type of person? Will he ever turn around and see the light, smell the roses? And that’s why I keep reading the book, because I’m a hopeful person.

– What I recently finished reading
Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson. This is the diary of a mother for her new baby, with a tragic twist, intertwined with another story about a woman and her lover. I hate to admit the story is predictible, but you can’t help but feel the same joy and pain as the characters as they go through life. As a mother, I found some parts quite heartbreaking, making me think of what I really want my children to remember from me, and making sure I tell my kids every night that I love them.

Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata (a Japanese American writer). I’m so glad I stumbled upon this book at the library – this is a great story! In the early 1950s, a Japanese family is forced to move from Iowa to the Deep South of Georgia, with only 32 Japanese out of 4000 residents – the ultimate minority. Younger sister Katie narrates this story about her mother, father and older sister Lynn. Unfortunately Lynn gets sick and the whole family is hurt emotionally, physically and financially. Even though this book is considered “youth literature”, I recommend it to anyone looking to read a lovely, touching story about growing up.

– What I think I’ll read next
Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom. I feel everybody else in the world has read this book except me, so it’s now waiting for me on my bookshelf.

My kids’ bookshelf

Can I play, too? by Mo Willems - Elephant and Piggie series

Can I play, too? by Mo Willems - Elephant and Piggie series

– What they’re currently reading
Lots and lots of Mo Willems!!! We’re big fans of Mo Willems and got the opportunity to see him in person almost a year ago. We haven’t read Mo for a while so I got a whole bunch of his books at the library, since they are so entertaining, often hilarious and great for early readers. Our favorites of the Elephant & Piggie book series are:
I Will Surprise My Friend (this has to be one of the funniest children’s books ever!)
Can I Play, Too? (this one is a close second – BOINK!)
There Is a Bird on Your Head
I Am Invited to a Party!

– What they recently finished reading
Mr Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans, Mr Putter & Tabby Spin the Yarn, and Mr Putter & Tabby See the Stars, by Cynthia Rylant. Wonderful, funny, touching books both preschoolers and their parents will enjoy reading. And if you’ve ever wondered how many bean recipes you can come up with, Mr Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans has the answer for you.

– What I think they’ll read next
I’ve got lots of books requested at the library but they don’t seem to be moving very fast, so I’m not sure which books I’ll replenish our stock with yet.

What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share? Feel free to share below. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a birthday cake to bake.

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Enjoying the mountain fresh air – Idyllwild, California

Idyllwild Park, California

Idyllwild Park, California

Our family spent most of last week on vacation in the mountains of Southern California. I have no shame admitting camping is not on my list of enjoyable vacation activities. Sorry but if I go away from home, I require at the minimum: a shower with hot running water, a comfortable bed and a fridge. Add a microwave, a stove, a tea kettle and internet connection (scroll below), and I’m really happy. So we rented a wood cabin a mile away from the lovely small town of Idyllwild, CA for six days, 5000 feet up and away from most civilization larger cities. The best part? Idyllwild is just a little over two hours away from San Diego, where we live.

It’s the first time my kids have spent a significant amount of time up in the mountains and I think the fresh air did them some good. Well, that’s if you take away the billions of particles of yellow tree pollen that fell around the house, on my car and everywhere else every day. Not sure what it was, but it made me sneeze the whole time! The kids seemed to adapt so well to the altitude and the fresh air, they skipped their naps on most days. “We’re too excited to sleep”, they would say. Hmm, thanks, I could have used a few naps myself…

Spending our vacation in the mountains was my choice. Mountains are the only places in Southern California displaying greenery all year round. Don’t misunderstand me, you’ll never see me up these mountains in the dead of winter. I can’t stand the white stuff, the ice and the cold that go with it. But for June, it was the perfect place to be.

We took the kids hiking along trails through beautiful pine-smelling forests (gosh, I LOVE the smell):

Hiking in Idyllwild Park, California

Hiking in Idyllwild Park, California

I had plenty of opportunities to take beautiful pictures of our surroundings, including of the Strawberry Creek that runs through the town:

Strawberry Creek in Idyllwild, CA

Strawberry Creek in Idyllwild, CA

The kids even had the opportunity to dress up as coyotes at the Idyllwild Nature Center. Yes, it’s a real coyote pelt…

Coyote pelt at Idyllwild Nature Center

Coyote pelt at Idyllwild Nature Center

We got to try new restaurants, some of them featuring delicious food, others we’ll never go back to. We endured paying $4.50 a gallon for milk, and $6.00 for 1.5 quart of ice cream. At that price, it all tasted wonderful! Since our cabin came with a fully-equipped kitchen, we catered to our frugality by cooking many of our meals at home. Both kids and parents even caught up on some movies, available for free at the rental office. Can you believe we all saw Pixar’s Cars for the first time? Yes, I’m talking about Cars 1…

The only drawback to our trip (besides the overwhelming tree pollen)? Technology, or rather the lack of. My Virgin Mobile phone displayed no service most of the time. That meant no phone calls, no texting and no data available. Argh!!! And the cabin didn’t even offer WiFi, even though the website told us it did. Fortunately my husband managed to use his full-bar-displaying Verizon phone (not fair!) as a WiFi hotspot so I could still check email and blog while away from home. I told you I don’t do camping. For this, I’ll be forever grateful to Verizon my husband.

Overall we had a great time there and got to try new things. Sometimes you don’t have to go far away from home to enjoy a well-deserved break.

Are you planning to go away on vacation this summer? Or are you planning a staycation instead?

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WWW Wednesdays – June 22, 2011

WWW Wednesdays

Welcome back to WWW Wednesdays! The kids have been doing a lot more reading than me this week and we’ve discovered a few great books to share.

My bookshelf

Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson– What I’m currently reading
I just started reading Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas by James Patterson last night. I was very tired and needed the sleep but it was hard to put it down. I can’t wait to find out how this story turns out.

– What I recently finished reading
Earlier this week I finished Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. Although it was easy to read, entertaining and informative, it seems that Pollan spends more time telling us what not to eat, rather than what to eat. Probably because nobody really knows what the “perfect” diet really is, since food and its thousands of nutrients are so complicated to understand. What did I get out of it? Eat a reasonable amount of foods, go for variety and simple ingredients, and make sure to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Voila!

I also read Vol de Nuit (Night Flight) by Antoine de Saint Exupery in a couple of sittings. As a French native, the only other St Exupery book I’ve read so far is Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince), one of my very favorite books, so it was great to read more of this wonderful, poet-in-prose author. This book gives great insight on what it was like to work for the airline mail courier L’Aeropostale in the late 1920s, as St Exupery did himself, including flying at night to compete with mail services by ship and train. A very chilling story about bravery and humanity.

What I think I’ll read next
Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata. I grabbed this book off the youth literature shelf at the library simply because I liked the cover but I have no idea if it’s any good. It won the Newbery medal, so it can’t be too bad! The inside jacket describes it as the story of two Japanese sisters who move to the Deep South, in Georgia, with their parents, so the premise looks interesting.

Flotsam by David Wiesner

Flotsam by David Wiesner

My kids’ bookshelf

What they’re currently reading
We’re been reading a lot of new books but they do have a few favorites, including Flotsam by David Wiesner. We’re big fans of Wiesner and this book doesn’t disappoint. This illustrator makes you understand why sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand words. By the way, if you haven’t read The Three Pigs with your kids, you’re missing out – it’s pure genius. Other new favorites include Chicken Butt and Chicken Butt’s Back by Erica S. Perl. What kid doesn’t like stories mentioning the word “butt” a dozen times? Very, very funny.

– What they recently finished reading
Skippyjon Jones and the Big Bones, and Skippyjon Jones in the Doghouse. We have the audiobook versions and it’s great to have Judy Schachner read her own stories to the kids. Especially because my tongue can never read a Skippyjon Jones book without messing up a few lines, and Schachner’s voice is so fun and entertaining. Holy frijoles!

What I think they’ll read next
Mr Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans, and Mr Putter & Tabby Spin the Yarn by Cynthia Rylant. We do have the books but the kids have been too busy with others to take serious interest in these two so far.

What about you? Any books you or your kids are reading you’d like to share?

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Jigsaw puzzles and genetics: nature versus nurture

Children and jisaw puzzles

Children and jisaw puzzles

I’ve been pondering this question for a while, so if you have children, I’d love you to share your input. Do you think most of our talents are inherited through our parents’ genes, or are they acquired through nurturing and practice?

Here’s a perfect example of this issue at our house:

– I (the mother) have always loved doing jigsaw puzzles since I was a little kid. If I had lots of time to do anything I want, I could spend several hours a day working on a giant puzzle. The largest puzzle I’ve ever made was 2000 pieces but I’m sure I could go for larger.

– My husband (the father) is far from a puzzle master. He clearly doesn’t like doing puzzles, and when he helps out the kids, I’m actually not sure who’s helping who the most.

– My oldest, who’s almost five, is a little like his dad. He enjoys doing puzzles more than him but sometimes struggles and his frustration can make him abandon his project before completion. With a little encouragement, he can usually get the puzzle done (we’re talking about 48 pieces here).

– My youngest, who’s just over three, is a puzzle wizard. Give him a 48-piece puzzle, provide a little assistance, and he’s done within 5 to 10 minutes. After he’s done the same puzzle a few times, he can do it all by himself and won’t even look at the original image to put it together. He clearly has great visual memory and well-developed spatial intelligence.

Because of my husband’s puzzle-making limited abilities, I’ve always been the one encouraging the kids to do puzzles, guiding them through the building process. I don’t believe I’ve spent more time with my youngest than my oldest doing puzzles. If anything, it’s been the opposite since my oldest is the one who struggles.

So why is it that my youngest can complete a puzzle faster than his older brother? Shouldn’t it be the opposite because of the age difference? Did I pass on the full “puzzle gene” to one kid, but only half of it to the other? Nature versus nurture is the age-old question, even when it comes down to jigsaw puzzles. Well, not just puzzles, since the question can extend to music, art, sports, etc.

Do you think you have passed on some talent genes to your kids and they have developed specific affinities because of their genetic predisposition? Or do you think they’re just good at something because they get to spend a lot of time practicing?

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