Book Review: Spaceman by Mike Massimino

In his autobiography “Spaceman: An Astronaut’s Unlikely Journey to Unlock the Secrets of the Universe” Mike Massimino, a NASA astronaut and Columbia University professor describes his journey from a childhood dream of being an astronaut to actual walking in space (of which he and his team set records). As soon as I started reading this book, I was absolutely captivated by Mike’s tale.

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His manner of writing is very frank and straightforward. He just tells his story like it is, and it’s impossible to put down. His journey wasn’t always smooth, neither was it always aimed for the space. I admired his determination when he made a decision to get into space program. How he overcame stumbling blocks on his path, his personal ethics – everything is admirable. His story is full of the most important lessons in life -the value of education, the value of public service, deep desire to be a better person, true friendship.

Overall impression: Loved this book to pieces. My 11 y.o. son is reading it now, and I am sure it will make a difference in his world perception, and no doubt will inspire him . Absolute must read.

 

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

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A Holiday Read: A Boy Called Christmas by Matt Haig

I am always on a lookout for good holiday-time reads as my family has a tradition of reading special holiday stories every December. The newest addition to our “Book Advent” library is “A Boy Called Christmas” by Matt Haig. We opted for an audiobook this time, read by Stephen Fry.

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The book is a take on a story of Santa Claus, who he was and where he lived before he became, well, what he is now. It is a story of a small boy Nikolas, nicknamed Christmas for being born on Christmas Day. He lives in Finland with his father, until his father goesaway in search of evidence of an elf village. Nikolas heads in search of his father and goes through plenty of trouble before he reaches elf village. He has to deal with his awful aunt Carlotta, help a stray wounded reindeer and fight a murderous troll and a crazy elf. There are cute sidekicks such as tame mouse, a kidnapped elf-child and little Nush (another elf) and her grandpa. The story was exciting and kind, there were moments that almost brought my kids to tears, and those that made them roar with laughter (i.e. a reindeer getting a sweet revenge on a dreadful aunt).

Overall impression in my son’s words: “I enjoyed the story, except the part with Aunt Carlotta. It taught me that people are not what they seem and that things that you believe can actually be real.” My daughter says: ” I loved this book because it was full of wonderful adventures.” They are listening to it again as I type it, so it’s definitely a favorite for this holiday season.

I received this book via Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.

Goodbye October+ First Week of November

October is over, whaaat?

That was one crazy month. Even though we didn’t have a particularly heavy schedule life seemed busy.

What have we been up to in October:

-We had guests: D’s godfather and his wife came to visit and spent nearly a week with us. We were so happy to see them and their visit gave us the longed-for opportunity to take a small break in our studies.

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-I received kids’ MAPS test scores and was pleasantly surprised to see how well kids did, especially C. who tested as a third grader (to have her sip the grade was a spontaneous decision and I am still questioning it from time to time),  D. did wonderfully, but he almost always does, good job to both of them.

-Studies at home went well for the most part. We hardly had time for much besides core subjects for some reason, I am glad kids take science and history at co-op, this way at least  there they got their electives covered. They did lots of art on their own. But that would be my major goal to get beyond core in November.

-C. had her choir camp, D. was working very hard in Concert Choir and helped his friends there learn a song in Russian. They sound really good, can’t wait to hear them at the concert as well.

-We all got through a stomach bug, that makes it two times we got sick this school year. Something needs to be done.

-The weather was gorgeous, we got to see some amazing colors. The trees are getting bare now and we are ready (well, almost ready) for winter.

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First week of November was loaded with things to do and thoughts to process:

-C. is heading to her first karate tournament next week, so she’s working very hard on learning her forms and practicing sparring. D. is going too, but it’s his 10th, so he’s more relaxed this time around.

-We went to Denver Art Museumimg_20161102_114234

-Just a handful of practices remains for choir before the big concert. Looking forward to that a lot.

I finally opened my Etsy store, YAAAAY! I have put a few cards out already, so come and check it out.

 

What my kids read in October:

C. read “The Invention of Hugo Cabret” by Brian Selznick and it took her all month to get through the book, but she loved it

D. read

The Archer’s Goon by Diana Wynne Jones,

Call of the Wild by Jack London, and

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg

There were also tons of re-reads, which I didn’t keep track of.

Mama read:

Across the Universe Trilogy by Beth Revis. I read quite a bit of Young Adult novels this year, not just because they’re fun, but also to add to D’s “to be read” pile, this trilogy, although it was fast-paced and interesting read will have to wait for a couple of years.

 

Plans for November:

We have A LOT going on outside of home. I will need to try and balance it out so our school at home doesn’t suffer. But personally, I hope to reach the level of calm that will support me throughout the winter months.The past weeks were anything but calm, there was anxiety, there were struggles with children and general uneasiness about certain matters. Health wasn’t the best either, especially for kids. I crave the sense of calm and simplicity, so I will work on that this month.  I am already preparing for our December celebrations and hopefully will make an advent calendar slowly instead of at the last minute like past years.

 

 

September Round Up + First Week of October

September flew by and first week of October is also gone.

What was our September like?

-We were quite busy with school and extracurricular activities. After we settled in the routine our tempo picked up a little bit. Both kids had their MAPS testing, still awaiting the results, but  I am confident they did well. Both kids had their camps at choir. D. also participated in Songs of Holocaust event with his choir. Both got through the first bad cold (I got it too, ugh).  There were a couple of outings- we went to the Ice Core Lab and learned about Antarctic Ice and the process of getting it, it was very interesting, we got to go to the lab itself, the temperature was very low, kids got to learn first hand what it must be like to do a work of getting the ice from Antarctica.

We also went to Denver Botanic Gardens, which we try to do every year around the same time (many thanks to our friends for taking us along). The flowers and trees were absolutely beautiful and all of us got to sketch a little right there in the gardens.

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Fall is truly here now, especially comparing the the first week of September with it’s “still summer” warmth.

-First week of October was very special for us as we had dear friends visiting. It also coincided with our first break this school year.  We went to the mountains and saw some first snowflakes and to Colorado Springs to the Garden of the Gods. It was absolutely lovely to have them over and we are truly thankful they came to visit.

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-I am working more and more on my art, I had some good things happen in September and I hope October is even better. Etsy shop is coming soon too.

 

What were my kids reading:

This list runs from beginning of school and through the month of September. I only count new books, something they haven’t read before. But as usual there were tons of re-reads.

D. read:

Fiction: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt, King Arthur and His Knights by Howard Pye, Matilda by Roald Dahl

Non Fiction: How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by Bryan Mealer and William Kamkwamba

Russian: Скифы в Остроконечных Шапках С. Фингарет, Каштанка и другие рассказы А.П. Чехов, М. Горбовцев “Мишкино Детство”

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C. read:

Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce, The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl, Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, A Nest for Celeste by Henry Cole, The Fantastic Flying Journey by Gerald Durrell

In Russian:Сельма Лагерлёф “Путешествие Нильса с дикими гусями”,  “В Лесу” М.С. Соколов-Микитов

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Overall, the month of September was good to us, let’s hope October will be even better.

 

 

 

WEEKLY ROUND UP: 10% of school year is done :D

Well, I was away from the blog again. With the school year in full swing days fly by very very fast. The weather cooled down at last and we have our comforters out. Even though the sun can still be quite brutal, we can safely say that summer moved on. Truly thankful for that.

 

What have we been up to:

School at home goes well,  mostly routine, we are settled into our daily rhythm and overall it is good. 10 % of the school year is done, hehehe. Kids had their testing this past Wednesday and seemed to have done ok, even though little C. forgot a lot of her math over the summer. D. gets lots of new information in math now, algebraic equations, exponents,  it is all very exciting. C. is ready to start multiplications in earnest. Both read and write a lot. C’s spelling has improved tremendously.

Outside of home: extracurriculars progress nicely, D. is getting ready for a sleepover with his choir next week, C. had a couple of choir practices and seems to be loving it so far. Karate goes great for both as well. I am surprised how much C. loves it considering she wouldn’t even hear of trying  a couple of months ago. Now she’s fully focused on her practice and tries her hardest to keep up with more experienced kids. She’s an only girl in her Saturday class but it doesn’t bother her at all.  We had a lovely outing with friends in one of the local parks, it used to be my “pregnancy promenade” when I was expecting C. but then we moved away and I never returned there. I forgot how pretty it was with all the water and birds, the grand time was had by all of us.

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-The House: we have interrupted our kitchen repairs. Interrupted is the right word here, I guess, since the repairs are truly never-ending. There are still minor things that need to be finished- some paint touch ups here and there, new curtains need to be put up. Downstairs bathroom needs to be done asap…But our kitchen is cleaner now and looks completely different. We went from yellow/ black to green/white/light furniture combination.

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Cooking: the highlight of the week is

Breakfast Pasta Bake

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-cooked pasta (we had elbows)

-5 eggs plus 1/2 c of milk

-thinly sliced baby zicchini

-shredded cheese

-salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F

Put boiled elbow pasta into a greased oven-proof dish, pout egg and milk mixture over, bake for about 20 minutes, sprinkle extra cheese on top and bake for another 3-5 minutes.

Enjoy!

 

-What are we reading:

D. read “How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming” by Mike Brown, he was absolutely fascinated by the process of discovering a new planet and wants to learn more about space now

C. reads Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce

Together they are reading Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky and Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey and Birute Galdikas

I read The Light Between Oceans by M.L.Stedman . I enjoyed this book, such a very sad story, but the descriptions of a life at the lighthouse were beautiful and fascinating. I am not sure whether I will see the movie, but I might.

Plans for the next week:

We have quite a schedule- doctor for D, a field trip, choir camp for D. I had to cancel one of the clubs kids were looking forward to, it was getting too crazy …Overall life is good.

Hope next week is fun and pleasant for everyone.

Women in Science by Rachel Ignotofsky

Both of my children want to be scientists when they grow up. We often talk about great scientists and their contributions. It’s true that most scientists we are coming across in books are men. But it’s changing and women’s role in science is being acknowledged more and more often. The book Women in Science, written and illustrated by Rachel Ignotofsky addresses exactly that.

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The book allows a spread per scientist and covers about 50 brilliant women that contributed to the scientific discovery throughout the centuries, starting with ancient times and up to our days. Each spread features facts from a scientist’s life, her contributions and an awesome portrait illustration with additional facts surrounding her. The book is very fun to leaf through and even more fun to read. Many of these scientists I am learning about for the for the first time and some are like old friends. My daughter was delighted to see her favorite Jane Goodall featured here, and Valentina Tereshkova, first woman in space. Most of the scientists covered in this book are Americans, although there are a few Europeans featured, as well as Asians. I wish there were more representatives from around the world, but we can’t have everything. There are more women mentioned in the end of the book, they didn’t get a spread, but they are there.

Overall impression: My children and I enjoy this book and found information straightforward and easy to understand. The illustrations add to the amazement of fantastic discoveries these women scientists brought to the world. This book is a valuable addition to our home library.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for a fair an unbiased review.

 

 

 

First week of the new school year (8.15-8.21.2016)

We are back to school at home 🙂 Kids had their fill of summer and were begging to start school since pretty much the end of July and since our co-op was due to start on the 19th, we decided to get a head start and begin our school at home on the 15th.

The beginning of the school year for us coincided with the house project that extended well beyond our initial timeline.

First day at home was idyllic, we sat at our new table next to our new bookcase and got everything done. The rest of the week required more flexibility. We still managed to finish most of the things that were planned, but had to improvise a lot too.

Tuesday was our “Anything can happen” day, I am hoping to have at least a couple of those each month to shake up the routine, take our learning outside and delight the kids who made the most of our first Anything can happen Tuesday. We went to Denver Museum of Nature and Science and although there are no special exhibits at the moment, kids paid a lot of attention in the regular ones, they took notes, talked to docents and discussed their findings afterward.

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Friday was first day at co-op and kids had tons of fun there (and mom got a much needed break), D. also had bootcamp with his choir on Friday and Saturday. The choir is even more serious business for him this year, because it’s the concert choir at last and the workload and responsibility has increased. On Friday D. turned 11, it was a very emotional day for me, because he was just a newborn and BOOM! I have a pre-teen on my hands. Reminded me once again how fast the time goes by really, and how tall kids grow when we’re not looking.

Sunday was my birthday, seventeen times two is no joke, although I think I’ve changed so much since I was seventeen that it didn’t quite feel like a blink of an eye. But still, years went by rather fast, seventeen times three might see me a grandma. We went for a hike in our beloved Roxborough State Park (which we haven’t visited since spring, so hot it was this summer). It is gorgeous as always and full of colors- yellow and purple of flowers, reds and greens of berries and leaves…

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Kids read : D. – Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt and Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table book which he got for his birthday. C. reads “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate, she loves animals and it’s a perfect book for her.

Overall it was a good week, and I believe we can call our first week of school a success. I feel I am better prepared this time around, mainly because kids’ activities fell into place nicely (I finally have both kids doing the same thing at the same place on the same day, YAY!), and I make rest a priority this year. (Another lovely article on rhythm helped me cement this decision) D. is  often tired and dizzy, which I am told is normal because his body is getting ready for changes, he grows fast now too. I was very tired last year, I couldn’t have a conversation without complaining about being tired and sick all the time. I am determined not to let it happen this year.District’s schedule is rather cruel- an odd day off here and there and no big breaks until Thanksgiving, we followed it last year and got promptly burned out. So this year I am hoping to take a longer break  every three or four weeks if kids feel like it or a full week off in the beginning-middle of October. We’ll see how it goes. In the meantime, the temperature goes down (especially at night), yellow leaves are starting to appear and we are mentally ready for the fall.

Hope the rest of August is kind for everyone and happy learning to those that are back to school (or starting soon)!