Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Christmas at the Capitol

As you are aware, Operation Military Kids has a tree up at the Capitol Building this year. This Saturday was decorating day. I can't thank enough all the people that came out to help- I'm just sorry I don't remember everyone's name! For anyone that decorates a Capitol tree in the future, let me tell you that you really don't need a lot of people. In fact, you have room for maybe four or five to fit comfortably. There just isn't a lot of room- especially with other people trying to decorate at the same time.

With all the people, it really didn't take long at all to decorate- we were there for maybe 90 minutes. I even helped out with the lights (very little help) after I had sworn I wasn't going to. It wasn't as hard as I thought it would be- for some reason it always looked like doing the lights was the most complicated part of tree decorating. Of course, having three people to do it, may have helped.

I think the tree came out very well. I've posted pictures to my flickr stream. You'll notice that we are right next to the Governor's office. I really like the decorations- a special shout out goes to the Sioux Falls MEPS, Mrs. Benz's class at JFK Elementary, and the Rapid City FRG. You guys rock!!! There were more people that made ornaments- but those happen to be the groups that I personally know about. I'd also like to thank the Pierre American Legion- they donated ornaments, the tree skirt, AND helped decorate!

Tonight is the grand tree lighting. I might go, might not. I have a feeling that I might enjoy the trees more without the crowds and speeches. But on the other hand, I would be able to tell my family that I've finally seen the Governor!

All in all, this was a good experience. Definitely something to try for again next year.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Shelf Discovery Challenge

The Shelf Discovery Challenge will run for six months (November 1, 2009 - April 30, 2010). To join me in this challenge, all you need to do is grab a copy of SHELF DISCOVERY and pick out what six books you want to read (of course, you can read more than six!) Then, after you read a book, just write a "book report" to share your thoughts with others!

I found this challenge on Booking Mama. It gives me the perfect excuse to find and re-read old favorites! (I was going to do this anyway, but the challenge makes it more purposeful.)

One of the reasons I want to do this: when I was reading some of the essays, Lizzie mentioned details and plot points that I just don't remember!

Anyway, my six books will be:

Caroline by Willo Davis Roberts
The Cat Ate My Gymsuit by Paula Danziger
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg
Daughters of Eve by Lois Duncan
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Green

I've read all but the last two before. I was half-way tempted to put down Jacob Have I Loved or Bridge to Terebithia, but they came with cry warnings.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Weekend Reading

I'm so excited! In the last two weekends I finished two books! I haven't been able to read like that in forever.

The best was Shelf Discovery: The Teen Classics that We Never Stopped Reading by Lizzie Skurnick. I can't say that I had read every one of the books mentioned, but I will admit to a good portion.

Some of the books included were no-brainers. If you're going to write about young adult literature of the '70s- to late 80's time period, you're going to include Judy Blume, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Madeline L'Engle. However, there were some books mentioned that I was sure I was the only one that had ever read them. Caroline, The Great Brain, The Ghost Belonged to Me, and All of a Kind Family just to name a few.

There were other books that I felt could have been mentioned too. Anything by Gordon Korman, anything by Betty Miles, and Sport by Louise Fitzhugh (my favorite of all the Harriet the Spy books).

While not all of the essays were all that substantial, they did whet my appetite for more. Now that I've read this book, I'm going back to my youth. I've already got Caroline on interlibrary loan, and I'll be checking out The Cat Ate My Gymsuit shortly- along with every other Paula Danziger.

This is definitely the book to read- especially if you want to add about ten more titles to you list. Not only do I have to revisit old favorites, now I have to check out all the ones I missed the first time around!

The other book I read was Kindred in Death by J.D. Robb (Nora Roberts). Yet another in the long line of In Death books. It was definitely entertaining, and I did enjoy it. This book seemed to focus on Eve and Rourke- to some extent Peabody as well. I didn't notice as much interaction with the established secondary characters this time around. Not that that's a bad thing- in real life you don't see your best friend every day after all. I will admit to expecting more character development, and soon. I'm expecting that the next book will take us more into Eve's past- at some point we're going to have to learn more about her mother. I think the set up for that was in this book.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day and Capitol Christmas Trees

I'm a part of South Dakota's Operation Military Kids team. OMK is a group affiliated with the U.S. Army, dedicated to supporting children and youth affected by deployment. This year the OMK team has gotten a Christmas tree at the Capitol building. The project head will be in Surinam (very jealous, I love travel- especially international travel) during the decorating portion of this project. As one of the few team members in Pierre, I've agreed to coordinate the decorating.

This is pretty ambitious for someone that has gone YEARS without decorating for the holidays. Seriously, I have a Charlie Brown tree and I've never dealt with Christmas lights. Now, you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with Veteran's Day.

Because the tree needs to be decorated on November 21 and 22, we are working hard to gather enough ornaments. Based on the size of our tree, we'll need at least 200.

As a way of gathering more ornaments, OMK had a table at the recent Veteran's Day Family Fun Fair at Riggs High School. The ornament themes for our tree is patriotic/stars. Since I didn't see anyone else planning any craft projects, I went ahead and decided to do God's Eyes with the kids. This project was chosen on the basis that the supplies were fairly cheap and easy to get, construction doesn't take more than 15-20 minutes, and there's no paint, glue, or glitter- things that would make the results messy and hard to transport. (Things that would make clean-up harder than it needed to be too.)

There were a few lessons learned from this activity

  • Don't believe the organizers when they predict 300 people. I brought far too many supplies.
  • Don't get caught up in the details. The kids are there to have fun, not make a perfect project for the tree. I had to work hard at letting things go.
  • God's Eyes are definitely a project for the 4th grade and over set. Younger kids don't have the patience or the manual dexterity.
  • Let the kids take the project home if they want to. I may want to display it, but they worked hard on something and they want to keep it.

All in all, I probably netted about fifteen of the things. I truly appreciate the adults that sat with their kids, and created with them.