Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New month, new home ... new blog!

We have started a new month ... and a new chapter to our lives ... and a new blog, Hilltop Farm.

Altho our new home isn't really a farm, we are living in a wonderful spot in a rural county in Virginia and we are loving being away from the noise, the traffic and the lights of the big city!

We so want to live a simpler life ... a life of embracing nature ... going on walks ... getting back to the basics ... instilling in our children a sense of wonder at God's creation and the gift of hospitality to all who venture to visit. We want to grow more of our own food ... make more of our own things ... rely more on ourselves and God for what we have and do and see.

Please join us here ... let us know how you live a simpler, more faith-filled life as we share our journey toward a more basic existence while we love and learn and live, seeking God's will in our daily choices and lives.

P.S. We'll leave this blog in place in case there are previous posts or information that you might find of use. If you can't find something, just let me know and I'll track it down for you.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Where should we go today? The Weekend Edition!

Saturday, June 20th:

Well, we didn't go anywhere (unless you count the trip to Valvoline to get the oil changed -- a few thousand miles late, but better late than never, yes?; a trip to Lowes for moving boxes and shrink wrap on a roll -- I love that stuff; and 45min waiting in line at the bank to deposit checks that we had to make sure went in on time ... dh did all that while I lolled on the couch and the kids "free explored" on the computer!). Once dh got home, Saturday was spent in a whirlwind of packing books (who bought all these anyway!), dishes and other parts of the kitchen we won't need for the next week, and taking apart beds to get them ready to be moved. Dh declard "Sunday" at 4p.m. and we rested the rest of the weekend -- ya gotta love this guy, eh?

Sunday, June 21st -- the longest day of the year!

On Sunday dh did get us up bright and early so he could open his Father's Day gift ... no, he actually got us up early (6:00 a.m. for me and 6:30 for the kiddoes) to head to the 7:30 a.m. Mass so we could get a jump on the day. At 9 a.m. a starving crew in a silver minivan barely made it to Panera to consume mass quantities of bagels and cream cheese before heading south on a trip of exploration: destination ... Lake Anna State Park.

Wow, this place is gorgeous ...

with a lovely beach ...

warm lake water ...

concession stand ...

and a place for dh and I to relax as we watched the kids frolic and called FIL to wish him a happy Father's Day! And we've decided we're going to try out as many Virginia State Parks as we can over the next few years or so ... the couple we've been to so far are AMAZING!

Home by 3:30 (VERY little traffic both ways which was a gift from God for dh) and peaceful dinner, a few episodes of the old Waltons ... and voila ... Father's Day 2009 was a success!

Happy Father's Day to my dear husband who makes me so much more than I was before ... I love you, handsome!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Resources: books and videos for American History

As I mentioned in a previous post, we do alot of real books and videos to supplement our learning, particularly with American History.

I just finished updating our resource list for things we used this year and thought I'd post in case anyone else could benefit from what we found and what we thought about what we found. I'll be updating this listing as we continue American history next Fall ...

Books and Resources for American History 2008-09

Spines/resources used throughout:

Catholic Schools Textbook Project – From Sea to Shining Sea: The Story of America – this text is pretty good but I forgot how dry “textbooks” can be! Lots of supplementing needed when using this book
Home School in the Woods – History Study Time Travelers: New World Explorers – excellent cd-rom with great activities, games, lapbook ideas and overviews that make learning fun
Home School in the Woods – History Study Time Travelers: Colonial Life – excellent cd-rom with great activities, games, lapbook ideas and overviews that make learning fun

Prehistory to Columbus

Maestro, Betsy & Giulio – The Discovery of the Americas: From prehistory through the age of Columbus (this long picture book includes discussion of Cabot, Balboa and Magellan).
St. Brendan (circa 550)
Fritz, Jean -- Brendan the Navigator: A History Mystery about the Discovery of America (great discussion in this long picture book about the legend of Brendan and the realities that make the legend probably true)
Leif Erickson (circa 1000)
D’Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar Parin – Leif the Lucky (long picture book about Leif Erickson, his infamous father and Leif”s discovery and attempted colonization of Vinland – now believed to be Newfoundland
Mason, Antony – If You Were There: Viking Times (great pictorial non-fiction about the Vikings, including a great section on the Viking’s attempts to colonize the New World 500 years before Columbus).
Christopher Columbus (1492)
Conrad, Pam – Pedro’s Journal: A Voyage with Christopher Columbus August 3, 1492 – February 14, 1493 (chapter book, historical fiction)
D’Aulaire, Ingri and Edgar Parin – Columbus (beautiful illustrations and story-like text make this a classic overview of Columbus’ life.
Foster, Genevieve – 1492: Year of Columbus (this is a book that sets the background for the era of Columbus – great thinkers, scientists, artists born and active during Columbus’ time)
Maestro, Betsy & Giulio – Exploration and Conquest: The Americas after Columbus: 1500-1620 (a great overview of the other explorers and conquest folks – but a tad pc about the poor native folks who were dislodged with very little credence given to why some of the practices of the natives were not right [human sacrifices, etc])
Sis, Peter – Follow the Dream: the Story of Christopher Columbus (a beautiful telling of Columbus’ life from a writer/illustrator who left the Iron Curtain to come to the “new world”)

Magnificent Voyage of Christopher Columbus (DVD from WGBH – PBS: excellent with lots of great detail while also showing a recreation of the first voyage)

Early Colonization (Spanish, French and Dutch) – (1500-1599):

Baker, Robert J. (Bishop) – Cacique: A Novel of Florida’s Heroic Mission History – a fabulous historical fiction novel about the Franciscan missionaries in northern Florida and why it took so long to find a trace of their work. This is written by a Catholic Bishop, Bishop Baker of Birmingham, who was a high school history teacher and was there in the late 1980s when the first traces of the Spanish missions throughout northern Florida were unearthed.

National Treasure 2 (Disney movie) – using the same “treasure hunters” from National Treasure, this one s a search for the Cibola, one of the Seven Cities of Gold of early-American legend. This was the city the Spanish tried to find in their explorations into America. Interesting story and good background information.

Colonization (1600-1776)

American Girls Collection – Welcome to Felicity’s World: 1774 Growing Up in Colonial America (beautifully done book with lots of facts, pictures and information covering the 1770s in the colonies, with a special focus on Williamsburg).
Bulla, Clyde Robert – Squanto, Friend of the Pilgrims (a short chapter-book – we read it in one sitting – a fictionalized telling of the story of a Patuxet Indian youth who befriends the first British explorers, goes to England on the big sail boat and learns English while living in London, comes back to the Patuxets only to be kidnapped for the Spanish slave market but eventually gets back. GREAT story that really had mine listening and engaged!)
Bulla, Clyde Robert – John Billington: Friend of Squanto (a short chapter book – we read it in one sitting – telling the story of John Billington, a young passenger aboard the Mayflower who is always getting into trouble; he befriends Squanto once the Pilgrims begin setting up the community in Plymouth).
Chorao, Kay – D is for Drums: A Colonial Williamsburg ABC (a beautifully drawn picture book that gives colonial terms/words for each letter; the pictures are fun to look at and try to determine what is what).
Fritz, Jean – The Double Life of Pocahontas (chapter book, historical fiction but drags and is not as exciting or interesting as the Pocahontas video described below)
Fritz, Jean – Who’s That Stepping on Plymouth Rock? (long picture book about the truth behind Plymouth Rock and the need to make it a symbol of independence during the American revolution. Very good story and readable in about 20 minutes).
Goor, Ron and Nancy – Williamsburg: Cradle of the Revolution ( chapter book of the history of Williamsburg, it’s part in the Revolution, and what it looks like now as “Colonial Williamsburg”).
Harness, Cheryl – Our Colonial Year (cute picture book about normal colonial kids and what they would do each month of the year. The folk-art illustrations are fun to delve into deeper while the short verses for each month are succinct, yet explain volumes about life in early America.)
Jackson, Shirley – The Witchcraft of Salem Village (chapter book, fictionalized account based on the Salem Witch trials where girls in the small Puritan village blame three women in town of witchcraft)
Karwoski, Gail – Surviving Jamestown: The Adventures of Young Sam Collier (chapter book, historical fiction of John Smith’s page between 1606-1609 when the colonies were just starting out)
Lawrence, Isabelle – A Spy in Williamsburg (chapter book, fictionalized account of life in Williamsburg just prior to the revolution; Patrick Henry, Peyton Randolph and Thomas Jefferson are figures woven into the story).
Maestro, Betsy & Giulio – The Americans: Colonial Times (1620-1689) – great overview of who was establishing colonies and where. Includes the rising tensions between the Native Americans and the various Europeans coming to settle: Spanish in the south, English on the Atlantic seaboard, Dutch and Swedish in the Mid-Atlantic, French in the North and West. Also discusses WHY the colonists were coming – religious freedom, land, agriculture, fur trade. Briefly mentions the impact of the Catholic missionaries in finding and mapping the west (from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast).
Maestro, Besty & Giulio – Struggle for a Continent: The French and Indian Wars (1689-1763) – great (if a bit boring) overview of the myriad of battles and wars fought between the French and the British as each country pushes others out in the colonization effort; also, book points out that often wars “at home” encouraged fighting in outlying colonies/settlements to beleaguer the enemy that much more. This is an important 70 years or so that is often glossed over; as is the fact that France was controlling the New World areas to ensure uninterrupted fur trade, while England was sending “troublemakers” to settle, live and prosper in the New World.
Speare, Elizabeth George – The Witch of Blackbird Pond (chapter book, historical fiction of life in 1687-88 Connecticut with the strict Puritans)
Waters, Kate (photographs by Russ Kendall) – Mary Geddy’s Day: A Colonial Girl in Williamsburg (long picture book about “a day in the life” of a little girl; excellent photos that show how different things were).

Felicity: An American Girl Adventure American Girls Collection (dvd compilation of the American Girl “Felicity” books; good overview of Williamsburg and life for an upper middle class family on the brink of revolution).
Pocahontas Revealed: Science Examines an American Legend (Nova dvd) – archaelogical evidence, scientific research and tribal lore mix to retell the true story about Powhatan’s favorite daughter and John Smith savior, Pocahontas.

American Revolution (1776-1783)

Allen, Thomas B. -- George Washington, Spymaster: How the Americans Outspied the British and Won the Revolutionary War is a great chapter book (or read-aloud) that talks about all the covert activities (on both sides) developed or honed during the American Revolution. Very cool and lots of great rabbit trails for code-making, invisible ink and other fun topics.
Forbes, Esther – Johnny Tremain: A Story of Boston in Revolt is a wonderful glimpse at colonial life just before and during the revolution. Johnny is a silversmith apprentice who gets involved with helping the revolution along.
Fritz, Jean – And then what happened, Paul Revere? (a great short read-aloud about the life of Paul Revere, his famous ride and his last years)
Fritz, Jean – What’s the Big Idea Ben Franklin? (overview of Ben’s life with lots of details about his experiments, eccentricities and environment)
Fritz, Jean – Will You Sign Here, John Hancock? (interesting biography of the most noticeable name on the Declaration of Independence; Hancock is portrayed as being amazingly self-centered and always seeking vainglory)
Fritz, Jean – Can’t You Make Them Behave, King George? (a great short read-aloud about King George III’s life and why he was so tenacious about the colonies)
Fritz, Jean – George Washington’s Breakfast (an inquisitive little boy named after the first President wonders what GW ate for breakfast – interesting linking of facts about GW and the how and why to seek information)
Fritz, Jean – Where was Patrick Henry on the 29th of May? (biography of Patrick Henry’s life and what was happening on his birthday throughout American history – very readable and enjoyable)
Fritz, Jean – Why Don’t You Get a Horse, Sam Adams? (biography of Sam Adams who never rode a horse so he could harangue people he met about the Brits and how America needed to stand up to England; very interesting twist for why he finally deigns to ride a horse)
Fritz, Jean – Shhh! We’re Writing the Constitution (drier than most Fritz books, this one covers the in-fighting and arguments leading up to the writing of the Constitution; goes into which states ratified and which didn’t
Harness, Cheryl – George Washington (longer picture book that tells great and interesting facts about the 1st president; lots of great information and details that include his great love for Martha and his duty and honor.)
Harness, Cheryl – The Revolutionary John Adams (longer picture book that tells great and interesting facts about this 2nd president of the United States. Excellent illustrations, information and fun to read!).
Harness, Cheryl – Thomas Jefferson (longer picture book that tells the background of Jefferson’s life from birth to death. Very interesting with great pictures and fun facts on this 3rd president of the United States.
Maestro, Betsy & Giulio – Liberty or Death: The American Revolution 1763-1783 (longer than a picture book, this is a great overview of the skirmishes and battles that added up to the American Revolution … from the “shot heard round the world” to the surrender at Yorktown. This is a great overview with lots of detailed maps and information about all the players in this pivotal world-event.)
Ransom, Candice – Time Spies: Secret in the Tower is a third or fourth grade reading level chapter book that tells the story of three siblings who go back in time to help deliver an important message to George Washington at the Battle of Yorktown. This is a cute story that reads well and gives some great information. At the end of the book, the author encourages the reader to try out invisible ink and code writing. Very fun story!
Schanzer, Rosalyn – George vs George: The American Revolution as seen from both sides (longer-than-a-picture book explanation of the war, and what led up to it and what happened after, from both the British view and the American view. The taxes don’t seem so unreasonable when explained from the British side!)

Benedict Arnold: A Question of Honor (A&E original dvd) – points out the problem Arnold had with pride (and a bit of a chip on his shoulder) as the reason for his switching sides during the Revolution. Kelsey Grammer does a great job as George Washington … once Arnold’s mentor then his enemy.
Founding Brothers: Vol 1 and Vol 2 (History Channel dvd) – the wheelings and dealings and personalities of America’s founding fathers featuring Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Hamilton and others. Excellent series!
John & Abigail Adams (PBS dvd) – part movie, part documentary, this DVD does a great job of showing the public and private side of the Adamses … from pre-Revolution through the early years of the new Country. Excellent!
Johnny Tremain (Disney) – although not as good as the book, this movie does a good job of showing just what the Sons of Liberty did to help encourage our nation’s independence. This is a classic when Disney was still trying to stay pretty close to the original story. A favorite around here although the “Liberty Tree” song will be on your lips for many weeks after watching!
Liberty Kids (PBS dvd) – series of animated adventures with three kids and a free-Black man who all work for Ben Franklin’s newspaper; they report on all the events leading up to and thru the revolution. Very well done with some amazing voices (incl Walter Cronkite as Franklin and Dustin Hoffman as Benedict Arnold).
National Treasure (Disney dvd) – a fictionalized account using the legend that many of the Nation’s founders were Masons and thus privy to the hiding of the amassed treasure; a great, Indiana Jones-type movie (without the sex and not too much violence) that tells a great story, linking bits of American history of the late 1700s.
Rebels and Redcoats: How Britain Lost America (PBS dvd) – a British military historian (Richard Holmes) gives a very different view of the American Revolution – that from the British view. Many of the “sacred cows” of the Revolution (George Washington, especially) get short shrift during this interesting four-part mini-series. Definitely something to watch to encourage discussion and to debate some of the realities of the Revolution.
Saving the National Treasures (NOVA dvd) – great documentary about the restoration/preserving processes needed to keep the Declaration of Independence, Constitution and the Bill of Rights viewable but safe for centuries. Lots of great historical details of why, how and when these were written.

A New Nation Begins (1783-1860s)

Aliki – The Story of Johnny Appleseed is a long picture book that is steeped in the legends of Johnny Appleseed. This makes a great read with the Swain book described below.
American Girls Collection – Welcome to Josefina’s World, 1824: Growing Up on America’s Southwest Frontier is a great resource for understanding the establishment of the Southwest. This book covers Spanish, Mexican and American governance of the area in and around current Santa Fe, New Mexico. Also discussion of the Santa Fe Trail. Great overview of customs, traditions, ways of life, etc. Really fun!
Blumberg, Rhoda – What’s the Deal? Jefferson, Napoleon, and the Louisiana Purchase – chapter book that covers the many sides of how America bought the center of the country from the French. Goes into great detail about the European influences, Jefferson’s desire to push West at all costs, and information about the other important players. Very well illustrated too.
Broyles, Anne – Priscillia and the Hollyhocks (1830s) – a beautiful picture book that tells the true story a young girl who is sold from slavery on a white man’s plantation, to slavery on a Cherokee indian’s plantation, walks with the Cherokee family on the Trail of Tears, and is adopted by a white family in Illinois who bring her home to join the other 15 kids adopted by this childless couple. A wonderful, uplifting story with the recurring theme of planting hollyhocks wherever Priscilla goes.
Buckey, Sarah Masters – The Smuggler’s Treasure (American Girl History Mysteries) – this is a great read-aloud (for both boys and girls) about life in 1814’s New Orleans with pirates and British impacting the lives of the multicultural citizenry. This gives a great view of life back then. At the end of the book, there is a four-page synopsis of society of the early 1800s. Great story!
Coatsworth, Elizabeth – The Sally series (1790s Maine) – this is a delightful read-aloud series (five books in all) that explain the life of a spunky orphan, her three aunts and two uncles and their travels from Massachusetts to the “wilds” of Maine, on to France and the Barbary Coast, and then back to Maine. The series spans about 6-8 years, with great adventure, wonderful rabbit trails (French Revolution, vendues, pirates and sultans, Muslim faith, etc), and a great family story. Wonderful background to this little-taught time.
  1. Away Goes Sally
  2. Five Bushel Farm
  3. The Fair American
  4. The White Horse
  5. The Wonderful Day
Cornelissen, Cornelia – Soft Rain: A story of the Cherokee Trail of Tears (1838) – this is a wonderful chapter book that tells the story of Soft Rain and her family as they leave their home in North Carolina and travel all the way to Oklahoma. It’s a well-told story that follows Soft Rain through sadness, hunger, sickness, terror and help from some whites. The author’s great-grandfather walked the “trail” when he was 10!
Fischer, Laura – Life on the Trail of Tears (1838) – good overview of the Cherokee nation and their forced emigration from the Southeastern states to Oklahoma. A bit hard on the government and the whites, but still a good overview, I just had to say “well, I’m sure there were some in the government who thought this was a good idea” and “some of the settlers probably helped the Cherokees” …
Harness, Cheryl – The Amazing Impossible Erie Canal is a wonderful picture book about the politics, engineering and economics behind the building of the Canal. This canal, at the time, was the longest, built in the shortest amount of time, with the least amount of money in the World! In less than 60 years, the revenues from the canal were three times the cost of building ($7 million+).
Krensky, Stephen – Sisters of Scituate Light tells the story (and is beautifully illustrated by Stacey Schuett) of the daughters of the lighthouse keeper who in September 1814 trick the British into believing that an American military force is camped on Scituate Island. Very fun book!
Lunn, Janet – Laura Secord: A Story of Courage – this is a great short chapter book that tells the story of a brave Canadian woman who goes to great lengths to warn a British officer of a surprise attack from the Americans. This is an interesting story as you get the War of 1812 from the Canadian viewpoint. The pictures are beautifully drawn by Maxwell Newhouse.
Maestro, Betsy & Giulio – A More Perfect Union: The Story of Our Constitution – longer picture book detailing the process of why we needed a constitution and how it came about. Disappointing as there weren’t as many facts interwoven through the text as with other Maestro books, but good overview.
McCully, Emily Arnold – The Battle for St. Michaels – cute “I can read” chapter book about the legendary pirate trick a small town in Maryland plays on the British soldiers who come to burn their town in the first year of the War of 1812. Includes mention of the raid on Parrott’s Point, MD when hundreds of British soldiers landed and fled from the cannon protecting St. Michaels.
Meader, Stepher – Who Rides in the Dark? – a chapter book, historical fiction about the 1830s “stagecoach days” in New Hampshire. This book follows a young man who ends up working at a tavern along the stage route in post-Revolutionary New Hampshire. Wonderfully full of action and adventure and a bit of suspense.
Mitchell, Barbara – Cornstalks and Cannonballs – a slightly long picture book that tells the historic tale of how a small town in Delaware (Lewes) fooled the British very early in the War of 1812. A great story, with gorgeous blue-ink sketches to illustrate (by Karen Ritz) that made the kids proud to be Americans!
Quackenbush, Robert – James Madison & Dolley Madison and Their Times – quick read-aloud overview of the Madisons and their many contributions to the new United States.
Quackenbush, Robert – Who Let Muddy Boots into the White House? A Story of Andrew Jackson is a great quick read-aloud about the 7th president of the United States – the first born in a log cabin, unrefined and soldier. Well done!
Ransom, Candice – Time Spies: Flames in the City (A Tale of the War of 1812) – a great read-aloud story that has a three modern siblings who travel back in time to help Dolley and James Madison during the burning of Washington in August 1814. These are fun to read chapter-books that give great information about this era.
Rubel, David – The United States in the 19th Century is a great resource that shows the development of politics, society, arts & entertainment and science & technology during the amazing 1800s. With a brand-new country at the beginning and an established world-power by the end, the 19th century is really a fascinating 100 years! This breaks into snippets the events … great for rabbit trails or “strewing”.
Smith-Baranzini, Marlene – Brown Paper School USKids History: Book of the New American Nation. We used this as our spine for the time between the revolution and doing an expansion/pioneer unit. This book is full of lots of information, based on diaries, letters and other contemporaneous information. Additionally, has great ideas for activities and games to help the kids “own” the history!
Stein, R. Conrad – The Story of the Burning of Washington (Cornerstones of Freedom) – a long picture book that tells of the folly of the Americans and the professionalism of the British. Ends on an upbeat note with the battle at Fort McHenry and Francis Scott Key’s writing of the National Anthem.
Stromberg, Joan – Kat Finds a Friend: A St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Story – great chapter book story about the Walters family (related to the author) that befriends the newly established Sisters of Charity in Emmitsburg, MD. Wonderful story and background on this wonderful American saint and her work.
Swain, Gwenyth – Johnny Appleseed – a great easy chapter book that gives mostly facts (and just a hint of legendary tales) about John Chapman and his spreading of apple trees and the Bible. This is great for clearing up some of the folk tales about this real American who lived from 1774-1845.
Venezia, Mike – James Monroe: Fifth President – quick overview of Monroe’s life; not much on his early life but good overview of his military life with Washington and then his political life later.
Weintraub, Aileen – Jean Lafitte: Pirate-Hero of the War of 1812 – short chapter book (with large type and illustratons) that tells the story of Jean Lafitte and how he helped the Americans during the War of 1812 (including during the Battle of New Orleans). My boys REALLY liked this one!

Adams Chronicles (DVD) – a PBS mini-series from the 70s, this does a great job of giving the story of the Adams family – from John Adams (2nd president), to John Quincy Adams (6th president), and the other generations who went on to politics, academia and industrialization. What a family!
Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil and the Presidency (PBS Home Video) – excellent overview of Old Hickory’s life before, during and after the presidency.
Santa Fe Trail (DVD) – classic B/W movie (starring Erroll Flynn, Ronald Reagan, Ward Bond, Ray Milland and others) that covers from 1854 (and the results of the Kansas-Nebraska Act) thru to John Brown’s actions and his ultimate capture and hanging. Really great story showing just how many of the famous generals (on both sides) in the Civil War were good friends and allies during this turbulent time just before Civil War!

Expansion/Pioneer Days (1865-1900):

MacLachlan, Patricia -- Sarah, Plain and Tall tells the story of mail-order bride Sarah's trip from Maine to Kansas to marry widower Jacob and help raise his two children, Anna and Caleb. Narrated by Anna, this is a wonderful story of love and family.
MacLachlan, Patricia -- Skylark tells the story of drought-ridden Kansas and Sarah's trip back to Maine with Anna and Caleb to meet the "aunts". Narrated by Anna, this is a wonderful story of loyalty and staying together through any calamity.
MacLachlan, Patricia -- Caleb's Story tells the story the expansion of the Witting family with the arrival of a long-lost relative. Told through the eyes of Caleb, this is the longest of the books and has the most depth (I think, anyway!).
MacLachlan, Patricia -- More Perfect than the Moon tells the story of a new arrival, "more perfect than the moon" and Cassie's fear of the whole event! Told through the eyes of eight-year-old Cassie, this is a wonderful story about fear (from a child's viewpoint) of adding a baby to a family that is perfectly happy without the "terrible baby".
MacLachlan, Patricia -- Grandfather's Dance tells the story of family reunions and life and death as the Wittings celebrate Anna's wedding and Grandfather's dying. Again, told through Cassie's eyes, this is a beautiful story of life going on, of the importance of family and of the naturalness of death.
Wilder, Laura Ingalls – Farmer Boy tells the story of Almanzo Wilder’s upbringing in post-Civil War New York on a farm. Excellent descriptions of life for 10 year old boys during this period.

WWI (1915-1919)
North, Sterling – Rascal is an excellent chapter book fictionalized account of North’s 11th and 12th years in a small-town in southern Wisconsin. He finds a raccoon kit and names him Rascal. This is a great real book on life in the United States during WWI, including a brother off fighting in the “war to end all wars”, deprivations brought about by the war, and life in pre-Depression America.

Depression (1929-1940)
Kit Kittredge: An American Girl – a wonderful movie showing a family heavily impacted by the Depression. Good coverage of the hoboes and their code, belt-tightening and families in disarray. Abigail Breslin does a great job as Kit – not too sweet and not to acerbic!
The Waltons (DVD, television show) – wonderful show detailing the lives of a family living in the Shenandoah mountains of Virginia during the depths of the Depression. Great view of coping with the tightness of monies, the need to take jobs away from home, paying for college, the FDR government programs, sitting around listening to the radio, and more. We love this series and watch them every summer! A great way to supplement study of this era in American History as well as show a part of very rural life.

  1. The Homecoming: A Christmas Story – the series “pilot”; Patricia Neal plays the mom and Edgar Bergen plays “grandpa”.
  2. The Complete First Season
  3. The Complete Second Season
  4. The Complete Third Season
  5. The Complete Fourth Season
  6. The Complete Fifth Season – war is looming as the Waltons head off their mountain and into the big cities.
World War 2 (1940-1945)

I’ll Remember April – great “boy movie” about life on the homefront with a twist. Life in a Southern California town is disrupted by reports of Japanese invasions, interment of Japanese-American citizens and sons injured in war. The boys really like this one (although so do the girls).
Molly: An American Girl on the Home Front – overview of the war and its impact on a family in middle America. How a 10-year-old copes with the deprivations of war from lack of ice cream to her dad being lost in action.

Modern Times (1945-present)

Apollo 13 (DVD) – this is an excellent dramatization of the events leading up to and including the ill-fated Apollo 13 voyage of 1970. This is an amazingly tense and dramatic movie and well-worth the time to see. There is one scene early on that is a bit inappropriate (one of the astronauts is a bachelor and has “a girl in every port”) but otherwise it is just tense drama. The DVD has very interesting “bonus” material.

Review:Death of a Pope

... is a Re-birth of the Classic Suspense Thriller!

The Death of a Pope, the latest novel by Piers Paul Read, is a thriller of the first water, that is, of the finest quality. This book reminds me of the thrillers my dad and I used to read back in the “cold war” days: the books with the tightly interwoven plots, filled with suspense and double-dealing and double-talking; the kind of book that relies on great writing rather than cheap tricks or overt and graphic sex. The kind of books written by authors like LeCarre and McGinnis who were over-taken in popularity by sensationalist authors like Follett or Grisham.

Yes, The Death of a Pope is similar in quality and style to a LeCarre classic, using real events with just a soupcon of fiction to create a suspenseful “what if” scenario with catastrophic results. The book, just published by Ignatius Press, places the reader back five years ago with Pope John Paul II nearing death. The political intrigue spins around the expected conclave, getting the “right” candidate onto the papal throne, and changing the balance from an overly conservative pontiff to one more amenable to the changing times. But this is a sub-plot, incidental to the real action and message of the 215-page taut prose.

First, we have a Basque, ex-Jesuit priest, mission worker who stands trial in London for attempting to obtain a poisonous gas, a potential “weapon of mass destruction”. Juan Uriarte is an intelligent, passionate aid-worker. Add an idealistic young journalist from wealthy parents who wants to “do good” (isn’t there a saying about “the road to hell being paved by good intentions”?), a junior security agent who with terrier-like style won’t let the former priest alone and is sure he is “up to something”, and a host of other characters who are equally well-drawn by Read’s pen. My favorite character is the journalist’s uncle, Fr. Luke Scott, a priest reminiscent of Alec Guiness’ role in the film version of Chesterton’s classic character, Fr. Brown. These characters stalk through the book, linked by events which unfold slowly but surely to the ultimate cataclysmic climax.

This book is truly a thriller – a book where something may happen and the hero has to stop the devastation before it’s too late. The details of life in an African mission, of life in Rome, of life for the liberals versus the conservatives, of human life versus human death are well-described and the reader gets a real sense of “being there”. The book doesn’t bog down or pontificate or proselytize but rather teaches through the characters’ actions and words; the double-speak of one who believes he has the “truth” is mesmerizing to the characters and the reader.

There is a bit of sexual promiscuity in the book, but nothing graphic and it pertains to the story. In fact, the promiscuity is used as an illustration of the characters’ understanding (or lack thereof) of the dignity of human life, the immutability of God’s goodness, and the rightness of the teachings of the Catholic Church.

I strongly recommend this book to any adult (or mature teen) who is interested in current events, the Catholic teachings, and loves thrillers. I’m hoping The Death of a Pope will be the re-birth of the true thriller – yes, it is that good!

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This review was written as part of the Catholic book Reviewer program from The Catholic Company. Visit The Catholic Company to find more information on The Death of a Pope and to purchase your own copy of this soon-to-be thriller classic.

Read, Piers Paul -- Death of a Pope – Ignatius Press (San Francisco, CA); 2009. Hardcover, 215 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58617-295-4

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Novena: please pray one last time ...

... we hope!

A week from tomorrow, on the Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist, we are scheduled to close on our house in Virginia. Yes, we will have a home again -- God willing! We have started a novena to the good saint and cousin of our Lord ... and ask that all our family and friends join with us [see prayers below] ... hopefully for the last time on housing issues (for a while anyway!).
Thank you for all your prayers and good wishes ... we have felt them throughout this Year of Job and Lamentations!

Novena to St. John the Baptist (feast day June 24th) …

O Martyr invincible, who, for the honor of God and the salvation of souls, didst with firmness and constancy withstand the impiety of Herod even at the cost of thine own life, and didst rebuke him openly for his wicked and dissolute life; by thy prayers obtain for us a heart, brave and generous, in order that we may overcome all human respect and openly profess our faith in loyal obedience to the teachings of Jesus Christ, His Vicar, and His Church.

Say an Our Father, Hail Mary, and Glory Be.

Pray for us, St. John the Baptist, that we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ (add your personal intention -- for the successful close on our new home here in Virginia if it be God's will).

Let us pray.

O God, who hast made this day to be honorable in our eyes by the Nativity or commemoration of Blessed John, grant unto Thy people the grace of spiritual joy, and direct the minds of all Thy faithful into the way of everlasting salvation. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Kids: Summer-do!



She loves it ... and for humidity, it can't be beat! What do YOU think?

Monday, June 15, 2009

Where should we go today?

Well, yesterday, really!

It was one of those gorgeous late-Spring days here in Virginia ... beautiful sunny skies, low humidity and a full day of relaxation (the benefit of going to 8:30 a.m. Mass!) spread before us. Since it was the Feast of Corpus Christi, we really wanted to do it right.

We decided to stop by Wegmans (our very FAVORITE grocery/cafe place in all of NoVA) to pick up lunch and then head out to Fountainhead Regional Park to revel in God's creation and the beauty of the day. We played multiple rounds of putt-putt golf (with all three littles and Kotch scoring at least one hole in one!) and then walked about down by the Marina and dreamed of the day when we'll have a boat on a lovely lake, too!

After a few hours at Fountainhead we headed toward Dulles to hook up with Kotch's grandma, aunt and cousin ... the four of them are heading to Ireland (as a graduation present from said grandma) today and we all went out to dinner to celebrate the reunion, graduations and birthdays (Kotch will actually turn 18 while touring the Emerald Isle). A great time was had by all (especially the waiter who got a kick out of the littles -- hmmm, imagine that!) and we headed home after wishing the travelers a safe and joy-filled trip.

What a day it was! We even had NO TRAFFIC coming home on toll road 267 and interstates 495 and 95 -- a minor miracle in itself.

How was your weekend?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

In His Image: available at last!

It's here , making its debut at IHM-National ... and looks wonderful .... and some of the folks who have perused it are very pleased! Let me know what you think!

[BTW, if you pre-ordered from Margot, she'll be shipping them out on Monday when she gets back from IHM.]

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

In His Image: it's almost here!

Margot emailed to let me know she'll be picking up the first run of In His Image! She'll be debuting them at IHM on Friday ... and I just can't wait!

Thanks to all for the good words ... I so want this to be for the greater glory of God ... let me know what you think!