I Teach Kindergarten, What’s Your Superpower?

Kindergarten logoIt all happened so fast…

Sunday I was talking to a couple from our church who know a lady that just opened a new K-7 private school in Airdrie who was looking for a teacher. I sent my resume on Monday morning and by Monday afternoon was invited for an interview for this morning. I just got home from that interview and am now a full time Kindergarten teacher starting on Monday – EEK! I’m not just sure I’m in my right mind…

I can’t give details of the school just yet, but am thrilled with the philosophy of the school, the brand new facility, and the compensation package. The Father has provided again!

If I have ever needed prayer, now’s the time. I will have 48 little souls in my care and will be teaching music to the other 48 kindergarten students as well. Yeah, I think I’ve lost my mind…

This will either help me feel young again or send me to an early grave – only time will tell.

Stay tuned!

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Book Review: Janitors Secrets of New Forest Academy

Janitors Book 2 Book Cover

Now more than ever, Spencer, Daisy, and even Dez must fight to save schools everywhere. Toxites, the small creatures that love to feed on the brain waves of students, are just the beginning of their troubles.

The Bureau of Educational Maintenance (BEM) is after Spencer, and the Rebels hope to sneak him to safety within the walls of an elite private school. But danger follows Spencer and his friends, testing their loyalty and trust as well as their Toxite-fighting skills. Can they hold out long enough to discover the true secret of New Forest Academy and what it means to the future of education?

This review is long, but please try and stick it out to the end…

Janitors: Secrets of New Forest Academy is book two in the Janitors series by Tyler Whitesides and I must say that he is starting to really find his writing groove. While book one was good, the plot, characters and back story in book two were more developed and kept me more engaged. I particularly enjoyed how clues were left lying around for readers to begin to piece together plot and character puzzles. If readers are careful, they can begin to anticipate plot twists in advance, encouraging more reading at a deeper level – a challenge for many students in grades 3 and 4.

I do have one minor thing that annoyed me about Secrets of New Forest Academy and one major issue. I found myself frustrated that Daisy is still so gullible even after all she had gone through in the last book. Daisy seems to have the innocence and gullibility of a grade two student. By grade six, students typically learn more from experiencing different situations and are not as easily fooled the next time around. I hope Daisy begins to develop and grow in the next book instead of continuing to add a bit of comic relief…

The one big issue I have is how one character is introduced and then referred to in the rest of the book. A group of students are introduced to readers like this: “There were one or two fourth graders, but most of the kids looked twelve or thirteen years old. One of the boys was tall with reddish hair. Another was thin, with prominent Asian features.” In the same scene, it says “The Asian boy at Spencer’s side…My name is Min Lee.” On several other occasions, Min is referred to as “the Asian boy”. Until this point, the author has never mentioned skin colour or ethnicity. Why does it matter now? I can infer from the character’s name that he has an Asian heritage and that should be enough. The director of New Forest Academy is named Mr. Garcia. He is not ever referred to as “the Spanish director”, nor should he be.

If I were to read this book to students, I would either omit the Asian references or have a discussion about why the author would have made such references and if they were necessary or appropriate. I am greatly disappointed that these are in the book and must give the book a lower rating than I would have otherwise.

Setting this aside, I did enjoy book two even more than book one and look forward to reading book three. Let’s hope Mr. Whietsides has set the ethnic references aside and readers can concentrate on another rip-roaring story of slime and adventure.

I give this book 3 stars out of 5.

I received this book free from Shadow Mountain Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Book Review: Janitors

Janitors Book 1 Book Cover

No one takes Spencer Zumbro seriously when he tried to warn his classmates about the mysterious things prowling the halls and classrooms of Welcher Elementary School. But when he sees Marv, the janitor, going after one of the creatures with a vacuum, he knows he’s not the only one who can see them.

With the help of his new friend, Daisy, Spencer has to find out what the janitors know. The children’s search uncovers the magic taking place behind the scenes of their seemingly ordinary school, where a battle is being waged for the minds of the students. Who can be trusted – and can Spencer and Daisy protect their school and possibly the world?

I cannot WAIT to introduce this book to grade 3 – 5 students. The very idea that there are creatures at school feeding off brain waves so they cannot learn will intrigue and delight – as well as provide a number of new excuses as to why they are not paying attention or getting work done!

As a teacher I am on the lookout for novels to read to my students that have a lot of educational bang for my buck – there need to be cross curricular connections that can enhance other subjects the students are learning. While Janitors does not easily connect to social studies or math, it does contain many valuable lessons regarding character education that are of great value to students. The questions contained in the reading guide provide excellent conversation starters to engage children in conversations about bullies, internet safety, how to know when what someone is asking you to do is wrong, what kind of things to talk to parents about, why it is important to have hope, and more.

The main characters are a bit under developed for my liking, but the book was not written for me. Children will not notice and will easily relate to both Spencer and Daisy. I enjoyed how you were never sure which characters you could trust. Spencer and Daisy learned valuable lessons about listening to the warning voice in their heads and knowing when to ask for help from a trusted adult. I love the messages Janitors teaches children while keeping the story fun, fast-paced and safe. There were a few times where I thought the actions of some of the characters were a bit much and, at times, unwise. There would need to be extra (but brief) discussion with children around these actions. I am thrilled there are more books in the series – stayed tuned for reviews of books two and three!

I give this book 4 stars out of 5.

I want to especially thank Cheryl and Michelle at Shadow Mountain for all of the juggling they did to get the books to me during my move across the country. Their patience and extra effort was unexpected and greatly appreciated!

I received this book free from Shadow Mountain Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Another New Member of the Family

Wanda’s dream vehicle

P1070628 (Medium)

The deal had always been that if we got a second vehicle, we could get a minivan. My mom has always had a Dodge Caravan and I’ve loved how it drove, it’s reliability, etc. Once Stow and Go seats were introduced, I knew that I wanted nothing else. We got a great connection to a dealership and salesman through the place that inspected the Nissan and we are now owners of TWO vehicles. We haven’t owned two vehicles since our first year of marriage and now I really have to get a job to pay for it! I’ll miss driving a standard, but I get my van – I’m one happy mama!

And They’re Off…

It was a strange experience taking the kids to the bus this morning…a new routine and a new way of life for them…

I am thankful that they are going to an arts-centred school and will be able to express their learning in more creative ways. The gifted program was good for them and kept school from being boring, but not having an outlet for their creativity has been tough. The electives look amazing and my prayer is that this year is going to blow their minds. I pray they make friends easily and find that their classmates are just as artsy-fartsy and “weird” (as Laurenne would say) as they are. Now let me be clear – I do not think my kids are weird! They are artistic, creative and extremely smart – and have a hard time relating to over-the-top academic peers who have no life outside of school, tutoring and after school lessons.

We had scones for breakfast (quickly becoming the traditional back to school breakfast) took the first day of school pictures and were out the door by 7:50. In Toronto, Andrew wasn’t out of bed until 7:45! The school days from Monday to Thursday are long, but they are off by 1:00 on Fridays – which is also Derwyn’s day off. Here’s to extra family time!

Tonight starts youth group and the rest of the week is filled with fall baseball for Andrew, bell choir and takewondo for Laurenne and meetings for Derwyn. I am the taxi driver – but also get to be in a bell choir with Laurenne – yippee! Once my criminal record check comes in I will start volunteering at various schools in different school boards. Hopefully this leads to a job and I can actually begin my teaching career in earnest…

Happy first day of school to all!

The Tradition Continues

Every year it’s the same thing – the night before school starts we have DQ Blizzards for supper to celebrate the end of summer and sugar up before the first day of school. This year we had Calgary blizzards and spent a couple of hours together picking beans and potatoes from a dear parishioner’s garden and exploring Canada Olympic Park. Now we’re home and it’s time to load up the backpacks and get things ready for the very early departure to catch the bus for school. It’s a new adventure and we are praying the kids thrive at their new school.

Stay tuned for the first day of school pictures tomorrow…

Book Review: Rules of Murder

Rules of Murder Book CoverDrew Farthering loves a good mystery, although he generally expects to find it in the pages of a novel, not on the grounds of his country estate. When a weekend party at Farthering Place is ruined by murder and the police seem flummoxed, Drew decides to look into the crime himself. With the help of his best friend, Nick Dennison, an avid mystery reader, and Madeline Parker, a beautiful and whip-smart American debutante staying as a guest, the three try to solve the mystery as a lark, using the methods from their favorite novels.

Soon, financial irregularities at Drew’s stepfather’s company come to light and it’s clear that all who remain at Farthering Place could be in danger. Trying hard to remain one step ahead of the killer–and trying harder to impress Madeline–Drew must decide how far to take this game.

I love mysteries – especially a good murder! I grew up on Nancy Drew and could not get enough of Miss Marple books and then the TV movies when Geraldine McEwan was the star. I find great pleasure in figuring out “who dun it” before an author reveals it, and have stopped reading some mysteries, flipping to the end to discover that the clues left by the author were much too simple and I had solved the mystery too early on to keep reading. What’s the point if it’s not complex and there is at least one cleverly disguised red herring thrown in to keep me on my toes?

I say all of that to say that I was almost ready to flip to the back of the book by the end of chapter three of Rules of Murder. It seemed that this was going to be another one of the mysteries that was too simple and the focus was more on characters than being clever. I was disappointed, but kept reading because I had requested the book for review. I am so glad I didn’t flip to the back of the book!

Rules of Murder is a smart, clever and delightfully enticing read. Just when I thought I was back on the right track, Deering would place another clue at just the right moment to throw my deductions into doubt. I was frustrated and thrilled – finally I had found a murder that kept me on my toes! The characters were delightful, the setting provided a wonderful escape and the pace was such that I was up until two in the morning because I couldn’t put it down.

There is a quote on the front cover: “An enthralling mystery that will satisfy the most ardent Agatha Christie fan.” At the end of chapter three I was scoffing. At the end of the book I was saying AMEN! Rules of Murder is a must read for any murder mystery fan –  especially those who fancy themselves armchair detectives.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Happy 21st Anniversary

I know I’m two weeks late with this post, but settling takes time and motivation has it’s ups and downs…

Derwyn and I enjoyed a lovely dinner at Earls and a stroll in downtown Calgary for our anniversary. Calgary is an arts town and if I took pictures and posted the various sculptures/paintings, etc., we’d be here for a while. Here are the highlights from our walk.

A New Member of the Family

Derwyn’s new baby is home!

Elated!Calgary is a commuter city and we were planning on buying a new car. Derwyn would drive our beloved Nissan Sentra and I would drive our new Chevrolet Cruize. Our beloved Nissan Sentra did not pass provincial inspection and now we have to get two vehicles. The deal had always been that if we got a second vehicle, I could get a minivan. Well, now I will finally get a vehicle that can haul my kids and their large amounts of sports equipment AND their friends, too! I won’t get a new van, but a used one that will last the kids through high school. Derwyn is VERY happy with the new car and all it’s bells and whistles. It drives like a dream (a turbo dream) and there is more leg room for the kids and a lot more trunk space. Thankfully the Nissan will live on… Derwyn’s brother is taking it up to the Yukon where the standards are not as strict and he can drive it into the ground. I’m glad he has mechanic friends to fix it up!

Book Review: The Hero’s Lot

Hero's Lot Book CoverWhen Sarin Valon, the corrupt secondus of the conclave, flees Erinon and the kingdom, Errol Stone believes his troubles have at last ended. But other forces bent on the destruction of the kingdom remain and conspire to accuse Errol and his friends of a conspiracy to usurp the throne.

In a bid to keep the three of them from the axe, Archbenefice Canon sends Martin and Luis to Errol’s home village, Callowford, to discover what makes him so important to the kingdom. But Errol is also accused of consorting with spirits. Convicted, his punishment is a journey to the enemy kingdom of Merakh, where he must find Sarin Valon, and kill him. To enforce their sentence, Errol is placed under a compulsion, and he is driven to accomplish his task or die resisting.

(The Hero’s Lot is book two in The Staff & the Sword series by Patrick W. Carr. The review for book one, A Cast of Stones in the series can be found here. For the greatest enjoyment of The Hero’s Lot, I highly recommend reading A Cast of Stones first.)

The Hero’s Lot picks up shortly after A Cast of Stones ends. The characters are still reeling from recent events and trying to heal their bodies and hearts. There is little time before the action begins again and readers are taken on a wild adventure to try and save the kingdom.

Unlike other series, this sequel does not lag in pace nor suffer from poor plot quality. The pace is fast-moving and does not slow enough for readers to catch their breath. Thankfully the author follows different characters on their journey and the story divides into different perspectives and separate adventures that allow readers to slow their heart rate for a moment at least.

Several characters were more deeply developed and some of their past experiences were revealed. This satisfied some of the curiosity I had about many of the characters that seemed puzzling and far too mysterious for my liking. One such character is Martin the priest. His life parallels many of our own – doing our best to live the way God wants and to do what is right and expected. The struggles he and we face as we come to realize the Holy Spirit has other plans than what we, with best intentions, have laid out, are refreshing. Martin is not some hyper-spiritual character, but one that is relatable and can teach us a thing or two about surrendering to God’s will.

The Hero’s Lot is well worth a read. The escape to another world in another time provides breath-taking adventures that leave you wanting more. Thankfully, the last book in the series, A Draw of Kings, will be released in February – I need time to reread the first two again before saying goodbye to these captivating characters.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group.