Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The pic isn't as clear as I'd like it to be, but don't they just look cute? Thank goodness my grandkids love books! Wish they lived closer to help me review books as there is nothing that works better than the look on a child's face as to whether or not a book is working.

I've had new car envy all afternoon. Keep looking at the 2009 Santa Fe online as there are big incentives going on right now but basically they don't look any different than the 2007 model I already have. And, I'd just be adding more debt we don't need. So, I've opted to refinance mine at a lower rate with our KY credit union and get it paid off faster. We are waiting to see what is going to happen with Saab since GM isn't going to keep them in production and that's what Steve drives. I guess some small Swedish company made GM and offer that they turned down.

The sun has finally come out after days of dreary weather but it has pretty much melted all of our snow. The forecast is for possible snow on Christmas day. We are having a quiet Christmas at home this year. We didn't even put up the big tree, the lighted village, or any of my many other Holiday decorations. I just don't have the energy to do it all and Steve just isn’t into it. I found a cute little holographic tree that doesn't even need ornaments and it looks very cute in front of the fireplace. We did get the wreaths out, including the beautiful one Monica made for me a few years ago. It goes on the laundry room door so I can see it, rather than outside. Steve put the lighted garland on the mantle and I put out the Spode table cloth and napkins in the dining room. Also have carpets and dishtowels for the kitchen and we are set. I hope someday the grandkids will all be here for Christmas and I can decorate big time, but for now I'm good with what we have out.

I spent most of the day answering Christmas cards and finding the top of my desk, including a few books I wanted to blog. I have Nelson Mandela Long Walk to Freedom that is noted as "The Official Picture Book of His Bestselling Autobiography" abridged by Chris Van Wyk and illustrated by Paddy Bouma in front of me. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Nelson-Mandela/Chris-van-Wyk/e/9781596435667/?itm=2&USRI=nelson+mandela+long+walk+to+freedom . Both author and illustrator were born in South Africa. Van Wyk shares incidents in Mandela’s life that children can relate to, such as wanting so much to be like his father than he rubbed ashes in his hair to make it gray. Short, easy to read sentences and lovely illustrations rich in soft blues and browns bring Mandela’s maturation from a village child, to a college student, to a demonstrator, to a political prisoner, to his election as the President of South Africa beautifully to life for even the youngest reader. As I read this book I could hear Mandela’s lilting soft voice in my head and I smiled. I’ve not seen the new movie, Invictus, http://www.filmofilia.com/2009/06/09/morgan-freeman-as-nelson-mandela-in-invictus-first-look/ with Morgan Freeman as Mandela, but if anyone can portray Mandela well it would be Freeman. He is one of my all time favorite actors as he feels like part of the family from his time on Sesame Street and The Electric Company when my kids were young and these shows were daily regulars.

Speaking of kids – Mary just called and I’m still teary eyed. We didn’t realize today’s Scholastic book delivery by UPS was actually from her and it was sitting next to my desk waiting for me to open it. She called as she knew it had been delivered so I found it and sure enough – it had her handwriting on the address. Inside were two folksy Santa figures (I collect Santas) – the wooden one is now on the mantle and the small tin ornament is hanging from the kitchen light.  What brought me to tears is the framed collage of pictures she created. Some have the kids with I and, oh my goodness, but do we all have “that Finn look” to us. I especially love the pic of Mary and I standing with our arms around each other as it is so evident how much taller she is than I. Pretty soon my grandkids will be affectionately calling me “Shrimp” as Mic did with my mom who he towered over at well over a foot taller than her.

In yesterday’s blog I mentioned Leo the Late Bloomer by Robert Kraus. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Leo-the-Late-Bloomer/Robert-Kraus/e/9781435109919/?itm=1&USRI=leo+the+late+bloomer . I immediately thought of this book while reading Bartleby Speaks! by Robin Cruise and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes – the other picture book sitting on my desk impatiently waiting to be blogged. http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Bartleby-Speaks/Robin-Cruise/e/9780374305147/?itm=1&usri=bartleby+speaks . Bartleby, like Leo (but not a tiger cub), is a quiet, happy child. At age three he still had not said a single word but it is no wonder as the rest of the clan is so busy trying to get him to talk he can’t get a word in edgewise! And then Grampy came to visit for his birthday and instead of blowing out his candles when Bartleby drew in a breath, he said – “Listen!” And, they all did. For a change, Bartleby’s family is quiet enough to listen to all the wonderful sounds they’ve been missing. Finally, Grampy whispers a query to Bartleby, asking if he has anything else to say and he does! With a huge smile on his chocolate covered face, Bartleby says – “Good cake!” I adore this book as Mic was a quiet child while Mary was verbal from the moment she was born. So when Mic spoke I paid attention, and if I hadn’t, I would have missed his amazing comments in the clamor of a busy household had I not known he didn’t speak unless he truly had something to say. Mic would sit back with a calm smile on his face and listen and watch. If my son had lived to become a father I suspect his son would have also been a quiet soul like his father. My greatest wish, which can never come true, is to watch my children’s children play together, but God had another role in mind for Mic and with time I have come to accept that, not like it, but accept it.

Initially I picked up Bartleby Speaks! because I saw Kevin Hawkes name – he is one of my favorite picture book illustrators. Check out the many books he’s illustrated: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/results.asp?WRD=kevin+hawkes&box=kevin%20hawkes&pos=-1 . Library Lion comes up first and that is no surprise, but take a look at Chicken Cheeks http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Chicken-Cheeks/Michael-Ian-Black/e/9781416948643/?itm=3&usri=kevin+hawkes. If this book of animal bottoms by Michael Ian Black doesn’t have you chuckling aloud, nothing will!

That’s it for today. I hear Steve playing an Indiana Jones game on the Wii so I can sneak into the bedroom and wrap a few of his presents when he isn’t paying attention!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter has come to Lexington with colder temperatures than normal for this time of year, but it certainly looks like Christmas! This pic was taken from our back door looking up the green space between the houses. Sophie is not too keen on the snow. Our not so little "piglet kitty" looks quite silly trying to tippy-toe across the deck. We can't complain too loudly though as Eastern KY got slammed with a lot of snow and power outages. We are just far enough south and west that we don't get as much snow. I am praying we don’t get another ice storm like last winter.

Fall semester officially came to a close this past weekend. I don't know where the semester went. I never did get caught up from the extremely busy 2009 summer session. I didn't even have the Fall 2009 grades posted before my Spring 2010 YA materials course students were asking me for the syllabus so they could do some of the reading between semesters. Before I know it the semester break will be over and it will back to the normal hectic schedule.

But, I am hoping to find the floor of my office before then. I have review books spread out far and wide that I have read, want to read, and to blog about. I didn't get to this blog anywhere near as much as I wanted to this semester - I need to just schedule it into my week and once in awhile ignore the darn emails that keep popping in. One could spend all of their time answering emails or deleting the junk that comes in. I’ve had a couple of friends ask about my Facebook account and I just laughed – I can’t keep up with the blog, so another online site to keep up with is out of the question. And, I don’t Twitter either. And, if you have emailed me at my Yahoo email, I have not had time to check it in many weeks. Try clarkr@ecu.edu instead.

Since there are not enough hours in the day to keep up with what I want to read, my spending more time online just isn’t an option. Even with all the hours I’ve spent sitting in doctor's offices, which I am still doing a lot of again, I don’t get as much reading done as I’d like. The medical problems are never ending - I am now having issues with my heart rate. Went through all of the cardiac tests and my heart appears to be healthy, which was a relief as both parents had strokes. But my resting heart rate averaged 100 with spikes of 140 during the 24 hours I wore a heart monitor. All I can say it is very tiring and my chest just stays sore - like Sophie is sitting on it! The cardiologist thinks it may be a reaction to the Savella, which is the new fibromyalgia medication I started taking in April. So I am weaning myself off of it to see if that helps. I'm not happy about it as the Savella is helping with the fibro pain and stiffness. If my heart rate goes back down I'll have to consider some of the other fibro medications, which I haven't tried due to their lactose content - it is used as a filler in a lot of medications.

And, who knew a fall down a set of steps could have such long term consequences? January 2009 Midwinter in Denver seems like eons ago, but it is a conference I will never forget because of that tumble. I am waiting for the go ahead from Worker's Comp. to have a MRI on my knee as the orthopedic surgeon thinks I will need another surgery to complete the repair on my left knee. So I'm hobbling around on it, never sure when it is going to give out. And, waiting for an approved head trauma doc's appointment to figure out why the headache around my left eye, where I landed, is still banging away. Guess my head isn’t as hard as I thought it was – it lost the battle with the marble steps!

While sitting in the cardiologist's office I chuckled my way through Marlene Perez's Dead Is So Last Year http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Dead-Is-So-Last-Year/Marlene-Perez/e/9780152062163/?itm=1&USRI=dead+is+so+last+year This is part of the Dead Is Series, along with Dead is the New Black http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Dead-Is-the-New-Black/Marlene-Perez/e/9780152064082/?pwb=1& and Dead is a State of Mind http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Dead-Is-a-State-of-Mind/Marlene-Perez/e/9780152062101/?pwb=1& . I remember one of the YALSA pre-conferences when the presenters were talking about zombies being the next “big thing” in young adult novels and I thought of that while reading about the zombie like Doppelgangers of the local residents in small-town Nightshade, CA. At first no one is too alarmed as this is a town where werewolves, witches, psychics, and invisible restaurant owners are the norm. But when one of the sugar-crazed clones appears to be the long missing Mr. Giordino, Daisy and her sisters are out to find out if this is really their father or a clone out to ruin his reputation as a loving father and family man. Add a band of young out of control werewolves, one of whom just happens to be Daisy’s football playing boyfriend, and the mysterious happenings take the reader on a boisterous supernatural romp. The addition of tongue-in-cheek humor makes this a good recommendation for middle school through high school age teens looking for a fun, fast read as well as lovers of supernatural novels.

As readers of my blog know, I am a big fan of Orca Soundings titles for resistant teen readers as well as anyone else who wants a quick, satisfying read. In the Woods by Robin Stevenson http://search.barnesandnoble.com/In-the-Woods/Robin-Stevenson/e/9781554692002/?itm=1&usri=in+the+wood+stevenson is a must have for high school libraries. Cameron and his twin sister are as not alike as twins can be. Katie is driven to succeed in both her school work and on the swim team. Cameron struggles to complete his school work and is back riding his bike because of an accident with his mother’s car. He’s home alone with Katie calls and begs him to ride to the park. Katie won’t tell him why, but Cameron responds to the insistence in her voice and sets out in the icy rain. He has just about given up on finding out why his sister made the frantic call when he hears a baby crying. Someone has left a newborn in the park. Everyone – parents, social workers, and the police – are questioning Cameron as to why/how he knew to go to the park at just the right time to find the baby. And soon questions are being asked of Katie as well. Although only 124 pages long, Stevenson develops teenage characters the reader responds to as well as addresses the self preservation/denial stage a teen can go through when unable to face the truth of a pregnancy.

If you are looking for a last minute Christmas gift for the children’s literature lover in your life, consider giving them a copy of Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children’s Book: Life Lessons from Notable People from All Walks of Life edited by Anita Silvey http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Everything-I-Need-to-Know-I-Learned-from-a-Childrens-Book/Anita-Silvey/e/9781596433953/?itm=1&usri=everything+I+need+to+know+I+learned+from+a+children+s+book+silvey Silvey asked a variety of folks, from children’s authors such as Judy Blume, Marc Brown, and Betsy Byars, to the heart surgeon William C. Devries, to the actor Kirk Douglas, to the physics professor Ronald Mallett, to the football player Tiki Barber, as well as many more leaders – “What children’s book changed the way you see the world?” The delight for the reader of this compilation of essays is revisiting well known children’s books such as Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Where-the-Wild-Things-Are/Maurice-Sendak/e/9780060254926/?itm=1&usri=where+the+wild+things+are to meeting characters in books you may not have read such as Liza Lou and the Yeller Belly Swamp by Mercer Mayer http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Liza-Lou-and-the-Yeller-Belly-Swamp/Mercer-Mayer/e/9780606115728/?itm=1&usri=liza+lous+swamp+monster This is the perfect book for a lazy evening with a cup of tea or glass of wine and a leisurely literary walk down memory lane. And, a perusal of the list of books addressed in the essays will have you asking yourself how many of them you don’t recognize and when was the last time you read a particular book whose title you do recognize. Hmmm – I wonder where my copy of Robert Kraus’s Leo the Late Bloomer http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Leo-the-Late-Bloomer/Robert-Kraus/e/9781435109919/?itm=1&usri=robert+kraus is. Sadly, his name is misspelled in the “Recommended Booklist”. It is Ruth Krauss, the author of the classic The Carrot Seed http://search.barnesandnoble.com/The-Carrot-Seed/Ruth-Krauss/e/9780694004928/?itm=1&usri=ruth+krauss whose last name is spelled with 2 s’s. What you may not know, the illustrator of this classic, Crockett Johnson, was Krauss’s husband. Most of Krauss’s 30 books have been reissued, if they ever went out of print. Her ability to connect with the inner child makes her books timeless.

And, that is it for me today. I may not blog often, but when I do – I tend to be wordy!