Monthly Archives: June 2013

The Fault in Our Stars: Review

The Fault in Our StarsThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

How do you deal with death when you have barely begun to live? That is the question that John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars tackles as readers experience a small glimpse into the life a teenage cancer patient. The book is the story of a girl battling terminal cancer and her daily struggles and joys. Readers grow fond of Hazel Grace as she meets her true love (another teenage cancer patient) and attempts to come to terms with death and the lives of those left behind.

While some may narrowly view this work as a Young Adult “cancer kid” book, I believe it offers something for older readers as well. The themes of life (and a life well lived) as well as death (its impact on us as well as our loved ones) are issues that are not unique to “cancer kids”. They are the universal issue of being human. How do we make peace with the universe? How do we define ourselves in our space in the universe? Addressing these issues from the POV of a teenage girl with cancer makes the reader pay more attention and offers a more intense emotion connection (both b/c of the “unfairness” of a short life and the emotional vibrancy of the teenage years and first love). Still, as I read (or rather listened) to The Fault in Our Stars I found myself relating Hazel Grace and caring about where her journey would end.

Hazel Grace’s voice is masterfully written by Green. But he also crafts fully realistic character’s with their own emotional challenges to surround her: Her friend Isaac– who looses his sight but keeps his life: Her mother– who “think” is defined by the cancer and her role as caregiver; and of course, Augustus–the boyfriend who is dealing with his own cancer issues.

Green weaves these characters together around the center, Hazel, without making it all about Hazel. He also uses literature and symbolism and dialog that are very engaging.

I would recommend this to old and young alike.

PS. As a mom, I am not s big fan of teenage sex in books for teens. But, I get it in this case.

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Lecture Review: The Modern Scholar–Celts and Germans

The Modern Scholar: Celts and Germans: The Enduring Heritage of the European NorthlandsThe Modern Scholar: Celts and Germans: The Enduring Heritage of the European Northlands by Timothy B. Shutt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another lecture in the modern scholar series. I enjoyed Professor Shutt’s previous lectures so I decided to give this one a try.

He mainly uses literary texts to explore the cultures and as such doesn’t address the Druids very much. (The Druids transmitted all their information orally and so much of it is lost.) He discusses many of the Norse texts such as the Prose Edda or the Saga of the Volsungs. Shutt then moves on to a discussion of Beowulf and finally the troubadour culture of southern France.

I enjoyed it and would recommend it to others. Plus it’s only 4 disks so its a quick listen.

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Dan Brown’s Inferno: A Review

Inferno (Robert Langdon, #4)Inferno by Dan Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In Inferno we are treated to the latest installment of the Robert Langdon series. Langdon finds himself in an Italian hospital with what he thinks is a gun shoot wound and missing memories of the last few days. Over the next several hundred pages we follow Langdon and his female sidesick, Siena Brooks, on whirlwind adventure featuring the woks of Dante’s Inferno. The two are set out to figure out just what Langdon was doing in Italy and start tracking a life-altering plague.

In the “PULP FiCTION” category I give this book four stars! But, it is certainly not a book that is going to stand the test of time.

I think this my favorite of Dan Brown’s books. After all it has so many of my favorite things, Venice, Constantinople, literature and plagues, what could be better? (Maybe a vamp or two, but let’s not get CRAZY!)

All and all, it was typical Dan Brown lots of running around Europe with twists and turns–nothing is as it seems. You know the drill. I must say the twists and turns got to be a little much me around chapter 80. But, by that time I was committed to finishing it.

One thing, wouldn’t Langdon get sick of this? Or at some point wonder why its always him? Or is he just too jaded to care any more. How many top secret adventures can a mild manner professor really have???

I also have to admit I have never read Dante and now I think I really must! So thats going to be a project in and of itself.

Anyway, its a good summer read, so go for it.

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Mom Camp Day 11: Pooh Part Two

We started out with a kinda cool cloud art project.  It is at the Techy Teacher if you want to give it a go on your own!


You take equal parts shaving cream and glue, mix it up and start painting your clouds.

Cinco and The Princess LOVE IT!  When the pictures finally dried (and mind you, this takes a little while) they had a lovely texture–somewhere b/t silky and velvety.  I couldn’t stop feeling the pictures.

But, beware it gets messy fast especially with a four-year old and a seven-year old.  Cinco even got it on his nose! They got the cloud mix all over their hands and started making hand prints instead of clouds.  Cute and why not, right?  The mix washes off easily so its really no big deal.

I wanted them to add some food coloring to the mix to start making rain clouds or a sunset, but they were having too much fun.  Still, I think you could add some food coloring in yellow and red to made different shades and see if you could create a sunset picture!

Clouds by The Princess

Clouds by The Princess

Clouds by Cinco

Clouds by Cinco








So next it was on to some weird science!  On the net, I found a number of blogs suggesting you nuke Ivory soap.  Really?  Nuke it? I was a bit worried that this was going to set my microwave on fire–and we just bought a bought a new one less than four months go–.  You can see why I was a tad nervous, right?  But, I am sucker for a Mom Camp project and it fit so nicely with the cloud theme and if it worked it promised to be really cool.  I got out a paper plate and we did it!

IMG_1997It was really cool.  All of a sudden the Ivory soap started growing and morphing into this thing that really truly looked like a cloud.  Even The Captain was impressed– AND THAT TAKES ALOT.  He even suggested the kids smoosh up the soap in a glob and try it a second time.  It did work the second time and even a third with the same bar of soap.  Although, the subsequent attempts were less impressive.

I assume it works with Ivory soap because of the same reason it floats– the soap has air in it!  In the microwave the air heats up and expands and then pushes the soap apart.  Clumping it back together doesn’t really do anything to make it happen again.  It is simply expanding any air left in the soap that was not freed during the first or second attempts to nuke the soap. Or at least, that’s what my middle school science knowledge is telling me.  I could be 100% wrong and I welcome ANYONE to correct me.

Next it was on to this cute Winnie-the-pooh activity pack from our friends at Disney Family!  The pack was actually a good combination of activities for Cinco and The Princess.  The Princess did the dot-to-dot beehive and color page.  Cinco worked on the word search and crossword puzzle.  Both worked together on the Pooh Mad Libs (with a little help from mom).

Then off for swimming lessons and some play time at the pool.


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Mom Camp Day 10: The Wonderful World of Winnie the Pooh

Keeping up with the Mom Camp blog, Cinco and The Princess, as well as the house work has been a challenge this summer! It turns out that I have over planed activities for some of the Mom Camp theme days, so we may have some spill over onto other days. Mom Camp Day 10 was dedicated to non-other than the adorable characters create by A.A. Milne in his Winnie the Pooh books. The Princess is a huge Winnie fan and listens to the stories all the time so she requested a Mom Camp Day for the little bear and his pals.

Hundred Acre Wood

Hundred Acre Wood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I found a map of the Hundred Acre Woods online and printed out a copy. We pretended each room in the house was a different place on the map and did an activity in the room.

  • Pooh Bear’s House was the kitchen and we started by baking multigrain biscuits and smothering them with honey.
  • Kanga’s House was the family island where we keep the computer. We did some online coloring pages and mazes.
  • The Bee Tree became our kitchen table and we made our own bee trees out of paper towel rolls. We cut out a small oval in IMG_1984each ‘tree’ and covered the rolls in green paper leaves. We also added a few green sparkle leaves for a little flair.

IMG_1983A little more flair was added when we made lady bugs with google eyes and pasted them to the tree as well.

IMG_1981Of course, what would a bee tree be without a bee? We also created our own bees out of pipe cleaners and added google eyes to the bees. We mounted the bees on pipe cleans and hung them from the trees. The kids then made the kids buzz in and out of the tree’s whole. We added a cut out and colored Winnie-the-Pooh complete with a red balloon. Pooh was mounted on a pipe cleaner as well and they kids chased him with the bee.

  • Owl’s House was the library and we completed a Winnie-the-Pooh puzzle I purchased at the Dollar Store.
  • Where the Woozle Wasn’t  was a dance party around the family island.  We played Winnie-the-pooh music and went round and round in a dancing/marching circle to look for a Woozle.
  • Robin’s House  was my bedroom. We cuddled up and read some stories.
  • Rabbit’s House was back in the kitchen for a little lunch of carrots and peanut butter and honey sandwiches on whole wheat.
  • Piglet’s House 
    was back in the family room where we watched a movie.

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Mom Camp Day 9: Monster Mayhem

We are finally done with the fairies and the summer solstice. It was certain,y fun, but I am really ready for a new theme today. In honor of Monster’s University it is Monster Day!

IMG_1976We made monster puppets out of Popsicle sticks and some online print outs. Then the kids did a little play/variety show with the monster puppets–there was a lot of crazy monster singing.

Next up, we made play dough monster people (not the most exotic thing in the world but it kept the kiddos occupied).

We also did the monster drawing game provided at Basically, you roll the dice. The number you roll indicates the monster body part you draw. After four roles you have a creepy monster drawing. Cinco enjoyed and made several monsters. Then he made a backdrop for them and cut out the monsters and pasted them on it. Very creative.IMG_1977

There are a number of good free monster themed worksheets. We used The Not So Scary Monster Pack. It is free at Teacher’s Notebook, but you do have to register and create a password.


Alien headbands inspired by  Cinco decided he did not want to use the google eyes, so he crafted his own out of glitter paper.  Hey, why not?

Off to the movies to see Monsters University–which entertained both kids and was actually sorts cute.  It is a prequel to Monsters, Inc. It tells the story of how Sullivan and Mike met in college.  The Monsters University website is also very clever.

Then it was books, books, books!

Of course we have been reading this book for years! But it seemed like a nice choice for Monster Day.

Cinco read this for his reading book of the day and it was okay, but a little too simple for him.

This one was not so great. The pictures did not really match the layout of the equations and that made it difficult for young readers to follow. I wouldn’t recommend this one to others.

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Mom Camp Day 7: Summer Solstice Continues…

Mom Camp is only 7 days in and the kids have turned in to demanding little stinkers.  Before I could even grab a cup coffee this morning, Cinco was asking what craft, project or experiment was next.  Oh heaven kids, give mamma a chance to at least get the sleep out of her eyes.  I will say in Cinco’s defense, he let me sleep until 7am…. Fairies, Sun and Shakespeare keep rolling. We added the finishing touches to the fairy house in preparation for tomorrow night when we plan to catch the fairies! IMG_1907 The bow and arrow is finished!  We got the idea from twelve gadgets.   Although, we added a few modifications.  You basically take a popsicle stick and make two notches near the top and two near the bottom.  Then soak the stick in water to soften it up for an hour — (you can cut down the time if you put it in a bowl of water in the microwave for a minute.  The hot water will help it become pliable faster. Let it soak about 15 minutes in the hot water and you should be ready to go.)  Then you shape it into a crescent and string some dental floss around the two ends at the notches you made.   I glue gunned some ribbon to our bow so that it would reinforce the shape of the popsicle stick and prevent any splinters from the stick getting into someone’s finger!  We also used an old Sharpie pen cap for a quiver.  We glued some string to the cap, added a little glitter at the bottom for decoration and placed our q-tip arrows in it.

We also completed our treasure chest for the throne room.  It was just a simple, free printable from  We did add a few pirate coins and some plastic ice-cube gems we bought at Target. IMG_1909

Next up, we made flower fairies with items I bought from the Dollar Store and of course, my handy glue gun! Our supplies were some styrofoam balls, cheap fake flowers, glitter, q-tips, string, markers and feathers.  Simple easy fun for a 4 and 7 year old! Additionally, once the fairies were done the kids spent about an hour playing with them!  At least this gave me bit of time to do some laundry.

Sun projects continued with sun paper pictures. IMG_1905IMG_1902You can get the paper on Amazon for about $6.  I buy this one even though its sold as a “re-fill” pack.  It comes with everything you need and why pay more afull kit that really isn’t that much better? Basically you find some objects (natural or otherwise) and place them on the paper in the sunlight.  After a few minutes you remove the objects and wash off the paper.  You will see the images of your objects appear.   We did several in the morning.  We even placed a feather on the paper.  At first, the feather did not show up on the page and Cinco was pretty disappointed.  About ten minutes later  a few wisps of an image started to materialize and he loved watching it “appear” on the sun paper. Oddly enough, some of the “blue” washed off on my leg and despite a scrubbing it hasn’t come off…hmmmmmm…

For books, we continued our Midsummer Night’sDream for kids. They really loved that one of the character’s is named Nick Bottom. I tried to make the connection for them that Bottom was turned into an “ass”  but I am not really sure they understood where I was going with that “joke”.

Then it was off to an afternoon at the pool and more swimming lessons!

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Mom Camp Day 6: Let the Sunshine, Let the Sunshine in…

It’s another day of Summer Solstice activities and fun for Cinco and The Princess. Today we finished off some fairy projects but also started working on the sun aspect of the solstice.

We bought this solar power kit (I got it for $4 new @ Goodwill– go figure) The kit was not quite as easy as they suggested it would be on the box.  We had to use the glue gun to make sure all the parts stuck together, especially the Eiffel Tower–which would NEVER have stayed together without the glue gun!

Then we had a slight issue with our solar panel. One of the wires connecting the panel to the charger was loose.  Luckily, I managed to re-attach it using some packing tape.  This provided us the chance to talk about how the energy circuit had to be a closed loop for the machines to work properly.  So, it all worked out and we even had a little extra lesson.

We got everything up and running and then decided to do an “experiment” to see how long a full charge could keep the windmill turning.  Seems the answer is 10 minutes 59 seconds. Cinco was excited by this because his guess had been 12 minutes so he was pretty close.  Tomorrow Cinco plans to see how long a full charge will power the waterwheel and Eiffel Tower.

Math practice was also sun themed with a worksheet from  It’s an addition worksheet that has the student color in un as they do the math problems.

Work on Fairy Manner continued.  We got the garden/outdoor feature settled.  We have a river w/ boats and oars, a bridge (Thanks again, Disney), trees and a picket fence (mini popsicle sticks $1 @ goodwill).IMG_1900_2

IMG_1899We also made a wand for the fairy princess!  But sadly, we did not have the time to make the bow and arrow.  I guess that has to wait until tomorrow!

 Even mom campers have to eat, so we went to Trader Joe’s. We didn’t let that car ride go to waste.We listened to Shakespeare for Children by Jim Weiss. It’s a children’s version of two of Shakespeare’s plays on the disk narrated by Jim Weiss. I love his CD’s and now you can you can get audio downloads of his work on Amazon, which is new and great! We listened to Midsummer Night’s Dream on the car ride. The story is a little confusing with so many changes in the love triangles.

I think reading the book with the kids and listening to another version of it will help them to figure out what is happening in the story.

Oh and we ended with baseball practice and swimming lessons again!


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Mom Camp Day 5: Fairy Fantasy!

Today we started summer solstice week at Mom Camp. Our activities, projects, experiments and crafts are all related to the longest day of sunlight.

As part of our mid-summer celebration we built fairy houses today! On Friday (the solstice) we are going to leave them outside in hopes of catching a fairy!

The Princess designed her house to catch a princess fairy. Cinco wants to capture a “protector” fairy. I believe this to be his version of a knight. I am rather amazed that he’s going along with the fairy theme and is even enthusiastic about it. I was also required to build a fairy home and decided to go for a book fairy.

The Princess is certain she is going to catch a fairy. Cinco on the other-hand WANTS to believe he will catch one but is developing that sense of reality that its unlikely. Oh childhood–don’t leave so fast.

We made a bed for each fairy inspired by the mint tin bed craft from Disney.  We made ours from gum packs instead of mint tins. As you can see, we made one from the Disney model and then branched out to a bunk bed and princess style four-poster bed.



We made a table and chairs as well.


The table top was recycled from the Rainbow Day CD crafts. The chairs are wooden nickels and wine corks. The kids added clay fruit to the table and The Princess let the fairies borrow the tray from her doll house tea set.


Of course we needed fairy dust jars so we glued a few beads together.



We also added a wire champagne chair made by The Captain.

Cinco also took two mini mint tins and made the lounge chair.20130618-171417.jpg

Cinco’s Protector fairy also needed a weapons cache, complete with a weapons cabinet.



Shield, a lance, spear, three swords

We are also planning to add a bow and arrow to the collection tomorrow. After all, you can only build so many weapons in a day– I am not Volcan. We also plan to create a fairy wand tomorrow as well.

These are pictures of our finished rooms:





I also owe Jillian and my mom a thank you for collecting materials!

After all this hard work, it was time for a break– well for mom at least!  So I turned to my TV babysitter so I could take a shower!  And the kids watched

For our reading, we are working on all week. At little each night….

Plus, . This book fit so perfectly with our activities today!

Oh and then it was time for swimming lessons!


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Mom Camp Day 4: Circus Day

Despite the ticket mix-up, we ended up going to the circus yesterday. The Captain actually had to leave on a business trip on Sunday afternoon, so I used the extra ticket for a friend of mine, Jillian.

Today, we followed up our trip to the circus with CIRCUS DAY! Now, I must confess, I do sometimes repeat mom camp theme days from previous years. Last year, the circus came to town in the summer and we went to the show and then had a mom camp circus day. When I told Cinco we were doing Circus Day again this year he was less than excited. He reminded me that last year for Circus Day I had the kids do circus acts. Cinco’s was the animal trainer. To be fair, I should have bought a hulahoop at the dollar store to have the “animals” jump through, but I didn’t. Instead, Cinco took some stuffed animals and threw them into a box. Yes, it was a little lame… This year, I am trying to make Circus Day a little better.

After breakfast, we started out easy with a collection of circus themed coloring pages. The kids got to pick the pages from a google search online and after the pages were colored in we put them together to make a circus book. A few of the best color pages were:

Next, it was time for a little work–not much–just a little. I found a cute set of circus themed math worksheets at February Circus Themed Printables 2013

It is geared toward kids in 2nd-4th grade and Cinco (who just finished first grade) was able to do them without any problems. (hahah get it? problems– math problems?)

We also had to do some circus themed reading.
Cinco read The Circus Ship by Chris von Dusen. We read this last year for Circus Day as well. I simply adore it. It has beautiful illustrations and the story is written in rhyme which helps with children who need to improve their fluency. The story is a delightful tale about some circus animals who are shipwrecked and end up joining a small community living on an island in Maine. The author even provides an interesting historical note about his insperation for the story. Additionally, the author uses some great vocabulary words (bedraggled for example) that you can discuss with your kids to improve their own language acquisition.

For fun we also read Big Top Scooby Doo by Sonia Sander. It’s a pretty simple book and somewhat beneath Cinco’s reading level, but everyone loves Scooby Doo, right? The book is based on a cartoon movie by the same name– which we have already seen. It follows the typical Scooby Doo/Mystery Inc format.


Ellie the Elephant eats cotton candy while watching Dumbo!

After all this excitement and fun, it was time for a movie. I decided on the disney classic, Dumbo!

Last, but not least, we did a circus craft. As for a craft, Cinco came up with his own! The Princess LOVES cotton candy (personally, I cannot stand the stuff). So Cinco decided to make his own “cotton candy” for her. It is pretty simple:


  1. Tissue Paper (Cinco insisted on pink, blue and yellow. Those are the color’s of last night’s cotton candy)
  2. Toilet Paper Rolls


  1. Lay out the tissue paper.
  2. Fold the four corners into the center of the paper


  1. Stuff the four corners into the end of the toilet paper roll.
  2. Enjoy fake cotton candy


We ended our Circus Day with a popcorn snack before heading off to swimming lessons.


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