Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Was able to get a last minute airfare deal and flew up to Green Bay Saturday a.m. and came home yesterday afternoon. Blame the photographer (me) for the blurriness of this pic. Actually none of the kids sat or stood still long enough for me to take a decent picture of them! They were whirling dervishes all weekend. This is 6-month McKinley getting a smack from her mom, my "baby girl" Mary. No matter how old she gets she will always be my "baby"!
It was only minutes after my arrival that McKinley reached out her little arms to me and she had my heart at hello! She has the most wonderful disposition and is always looking around with interest or is laughing at the antics of her older brothers. She and I were making faces at each other and she started giggling - it was the most wonderful laugh I have heard since my own were babies. Let's just say she was in my arm a lot of the time. :-)
I didn't even get a pic of 18 month old Kegan - he never slowed down! He also decided Gramma was a good elbow and knee cushion and climbed on and off of me at will! He has the most infectious smile and would eat from the moment he got up until bedtime if he could. One never gets a whole piece of anything with him around. I had a great time pushing him in his swing and playing pat-a-cake. Gramma is a new word in his vocabulary that he used regularly. He has got the cutest toddler swagger - he is going to be a heart breaker with that smile.
Five year old Michael wore me out playing hide-n-seek around the huge maple and oak trees on our evening walk on Saturday. I had forgotten how beautiful the old neighborhood trees are in the Midwest. They are just starting to turn colors and the houses were decorated for Halloween - what a delightful reminder of autumns as a child. He is still into Thomas the Train so a trip to Toys R Us was in order - of course! He now has a new bridge and was not too happy when he couldn't take it to school Monday morning.
It was hard to walk away from day care Monday a.m. when we dropped them off before Mary took me to the airport but a part of me was also happy to be going home to my own quiet house. I had forgotten how loud a house full of kids is and I admit I was glad when bedtime came Sunday night and we had a few moment of silence before the adults crashed too.
I did a little reading on the plane and chuckled my way through How to Raise Your Parents: A Teen Survival Guide by Sarah O'Leary Burningham. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/How-to-Raise-Your-Parents/Sarah-OLeary-Burningham/e/9780811856966/?itm=1 Although intended for teen readers, this is the perfect book to give to friends and relatives whose children have turned into the dreaded teenager - angst and all! O'Leary shares a few of her own adolescent stunts and subsequent consequences as well as incidents that teens shared with her online. Mostly certainly a chick book, but teenage guys could learn a thing or two about raising their parents from reading this as well. The line drawings by Bella Pilar supplement the low-key text well and even cause a smile or two. This over sized paperback will be popular with the younger teenage girls as they learn how to maneuver the minefield of being a teen in a household with parents who just "don't get it"!

Monday, September 22, 2008

We actually stood on the Grand Ole Opry stage on Saturday. :-) The backstage tour was very interesting, especially about the circle on the stage that was cut out from the old Wyman Theater and added to the new stage in Opry House. The house seats about 4400 and we were in the nose-bleed section but with the big screens there isn't a bad seat in the house. Was interesting to watch the stage hands doing their thing between acts as this is live radio show. Lots or Pro Bass Shop commercials! Although I am a very big Alan Jackson fan and he was wonderful, my favorite act was Darius Rucker. You may know him from his Hootie and the Blowfish days. This guy can sing and his "Don't Think I Don't Think About It" is such a cool, but sad song. I am going to buy his CD Learn to Live: http://music.barnesandnoble.com/Learn-to-Live/Darius-Rucker/e/094638550624/?itm=1 We also got to listen to Charlie Daniels and he can still play that fiddle to beat the devil as his song states, even though his beard and hair are as white as snow.

Saturday was our "Opry Day" and we wandered through the Gaylord Opryland Hotel - talk about huge and easy to get lost in. The other pic above is of a what I would call a Green Woman, based on the Green Man myth. I have always been fascinated with this mythical creature who stands for nature in its most wild and natural form. The woman's face was painted green and she had stilts attached to her legs and arms making her a long supple green bough. I stood as mesmerized watching her as the little kids. Thank goodness Steve had the camera to take a pic of her. There is a really great YA collection of short stories and poetry about the Green Man called The Green Man: Tales from the Mythic Forest edited by Ellen Datlow: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbninquiry.asp?EAN=9780142400296&x=19152209 I need to order a new copy. Mine went missing when I let students borrow from me so who knows where my previous copy is. Hopefully in some teen's hand who is as enamoured with this myth as I am.

Sunday was our Texans' day and then got creamed by the Titans. We were up in the nose-bleed section and the sun was merciless. I have a farmer's tan neckline and very red face today. But, it was worth it, even though they lost. First time I have seen them play in person since we moved from the Houston area. Nashvillians from around us in the stadium were asking about Houston and were a great group, putting up with both my screams of delight and moans of despair. All it all it was a wonderful weekend away from home for both of us. Steve didn't even take his laptop. I admit I did take mine and checked email both mornings and answered a few students' emails before I felt comfortable to just enjoy the time off. To my students who are reading this - thanks for keeping my inbox relatively bare this weekend and for the "have fun in Nashville" emails. :-)

Since I already wrote about a YA title, my children's book for today is a hilarious picture book about how lazy babies are - from the viewpoint of the primary school aged older sister. Susan Orlean's Lazy Little Loafers is an absolute hoot. G. Brian Karas caught the frustration of the older sister and the sassiness of the diaper set beautifully. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Lazy-Little-Loafers/Susan-Orlean/e/9780810970274/?itm=1 I can't wait to read this one to my grandsons in relation to their infant age little sister. I thought of all the pics of the movie stars' babies when the older sister spouts - "And as far as model superbabies go, I'm not sure they're real - after all, you can just about do anything with digital photography." After watching several babies studiously not working, older sister decides as she arrives at school, "...I figured out the answer to my question. You want to know why babies don't work?" You turn to the last page where the baby, in stroller, turns his head and sticks out his tongue at her. "She deadpans in defeat, "They're too smart." This is the perfect shower or baby gift for anyone you know who is having a second, third, fourth..... baby. Also, a must have in any preschool or primary age library collection. The tongue in cheek humor makes this a superb read aloud.

That's it for today.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Now I really feel guilty when I see how long it has been since I posted an entry! And, I am very glad I included a weekly posting in my 2008-09 academic year goals. I am one of those people who is easily controlled by email - I could spend my whole day responding to email as I get so many of them work and listserv wise. It is almost noon and I have been responding to emails all morning. Granted, some of the responses require me to create documents beyond the actual body of the email answer, which takes more time, but still - email eats up tons of time. Sometimes I long for the time we communicated via phone or snail mail. No one expected an immediate response back then.

Funny how this is on my mind since I just sent in the manuscript of the cell phone article. I love to write, but I am not sure how well I'd do at 140 characters at a time and have to integrate the immediate feedback from readers who respond to the text as it is posted to the web site. Could I write a cell phone novel? I am seriously thinking about, but not until I get some other things off my plate. I admit, time management is my big downfall. I get bogged down in the daily duties, like email, and don't get to the part of my profession I like best - writing about youth literature.

I spent last week in Greenville so I had 18 hours of novel listening with the round trip. I listened to James Patterson and Howard Roughan's Honeymoon. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Honeymoon/James-Patterson/e/9781586217273. I could certainly fantasize about having so much money that I had to choose between driving my Porsche or Bentley, but I wouldn't want to be Nora Sinclair, the main character in this murder mystery. You know from the start that she is killing off her rich husbands after she cleans out their Swiss bank accounts, but she is still a fascinating character. Nora is a beautiful woman and she uses her looks and her amoral intellect to get what she wants, even in the bedroom. This doesn't get too steamy but there were a few times I was glad I was in a car zipping down the highway with the windows closed! The Feds are on to her, but the agent they send to trip her up gets caught in her mouse trap instead. Lots of plot twists and turns and good "road read" for the trip.

Finished listening to The Accidental by Ali Smith. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Accidental/Ali-Smith/e/9781598870138. I really didn't like this book, but I kept listening as it is grossly fascinating in its own way. You feel like you are caught in the closet watching all the things a family wants to keep hidden. There are multiple narrators, from the acerbic tongued 12-year-old Astrid, her suicidal teenage brother, her aging sleazy professorial stepfather, and her mother who is a writer. Into their summer home walks barefoot, 30-something Amber who enthralls the whole family in her own way. She seduces the son, befriends the daughter, frustrates the mother, and ignores the seduction techniques of the father. No one really addresses who invited her - actually no one did - but in the time she is there she changes each of them, whether in a good or bad way - that's the reader's decision. It is beautifully written, no doubt about that, but I may have been better off reading this one as the seduction scenes with the teenage boy, in the little village church, creeped me out as I listened to them.

Haven't had much time to read, but I did have fun picture reading a Kids Can Press title - Robots from Everyday to Out of This World by the editors of YES Mag. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Robots/Yes-Magazine-Editors/e/9781554532032/?itm=1It will be out at the end of the month and is a gotta have in every elementary level library. It "had me at hello" as on the first page there is a robot, Albert Hubo, that has the face of Albert Einstein on a white robotic body. He was never that "buff" in real life! A very basic time line of robot history is included - from da Vinc's mechanical lion to Stanford's robot called Shakey. I am going to sound sexist here when I state that the boys are going to love this, but they are. And, there are some girls who will get into it as well. The color pictures are superb, match well with a quick and easy to read text. The short text and side bars give just enough information for a good subject over view that might entice readers to seek out in depth information on specific robotic subjects, such as Kevin Warwick who considers himself a cyborg! The creepiest tidbit of robotic trivia - in Japan, researchers have replaced cockroach's antennae with electrodes, adding little backpacks and cameras. Theory is - the roaches can be used to search through the rubble of collapsed buildings. Oh yeah - and as sneaky creepy spies. Think about that the next time you turn and see a cockroach - your scream might be heard and seen by someone else!

Sorry - no YA title today. I haven't had time to actually read a book with my eyes these days.

Okay - on to the next task on my to-do today list. This was a fun one.