Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Reality Check And A Shout Out

If I were to be honest with myself, I could say that reality checks don't often happen for me. Not that I am avoiding reality, but quite the opposite. I feel I am living reality so intently every single day that there's nothing to check or better said, smack me blatantly and painfully in the face. I'm living it so it just melds into my daily routine.
Nine years ago when we opened a College Savings account for my daughter, 17 years later seemed so far away that it wasn't, to borrow some intelligent person's wording, looking at me blatantly in the face. Nine years and one Fourth Grade Farewell ceremony later, here I am being smacked blatantly and painfully in the face. If time continues moving in the same direction, forward, and at the same pace, 24 hours in a day, college will be here some time around, oh, Saturday. Oooops.
I remember working hard in the summers during college and thinking I was all set to start the semester. Then, I went to the bookstore to buy my books. 90% of what I had saved was gone. What about my parents, you ask? Well, they were paying for tuition, and I really thought that was plenty, so I never asked them for book money or spending money; their bills were a lot higher than mine. 
So, now, thankfully, there are other options for that hard earned summer money than buying books that are just discarded at the end of the semester. Here's the shout out part: Campus Book Rentals. With all sorts of perks, like 40% off text books prices, free shipping, a book buy-back program, and even donations from each rental to Operation Smile, I can think of many other places to spend that hard-earned summer money.
So, if you're panicking about how slowly quickly college shows up, here's one way to get some help. And, if you know of any others, let me know. I'm halfway there and Reality is Checking me out!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Ask, And You Just Might Get It

Black Raspberry ice cream happily sitting in chocolate sauce
My Mother's Day post is arriving closer to Father's Day but that's because I've been busy making ice cream! For the first time in ten years I actually made a request for Mother's Day, but  let me back up a minute and explain.
I've had some great Mother's Days in my short tenure as Mommy. Sleeping in and brunch in Manhattan. Breakfast in bed and new spring wardrobes. This year though, I was on a mission.
I've been wanting an ice cream machine for over 15 years; ever since I put one on our wedding registry. I didn't get one then, and as often as I've mentioned it since then, and hinted, it still had not materialized. Not this year. I had a plan.
I got smart and told my two oldest kids, "When Daddy asks, tell him that Mommy really wants an ice cream machine for Mother's Day." They liked the idea as much as I did. I wanted to spend my Mother's Day playing in my kitchen with my kids, making ice cream.
I got the machine, and a wake up that felt like Christmas morning. I went to the store to get the right ingredients and almost immediately put my new machine to work. As with so many new kitchen toys, there were some lessons learned. Lesson one was food related: make sure the bowl is frozen for a full 24 hours.

But lesson two was a life lesson: I was finally able to really appreciate Mother's Day.

In the early years, all I wanted on Mother's Day was a day off from being a mother. I wanted to sleep in, I didn't want to cook or do a single "chore", and I wanted to escape from the very reasons that made me a mother. Sad? Perhaps. Brutally truthful? Definitely. This year though, was different.
With a day job (writing), more independent children, and an online community to compliment the one immediately surrounding me, I finally feel balanced. Some for me, some for everyone else. The result; wanting nothing more than to spend my day with the three young people who give me reason to celebrate Mother's Day in the first place.
Have you had any big life lessons lately? Is there a gift you've received, and then realized there was an even bigger gift just waiting to be realized? Have you ever made homemade ice cream?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What If Book Stores Went Away?

I'm in that crazy place where right now I'm trying to keep up with a live Twitter chat from IndieChicks, write an article for my day job, plan out a couple of posts for Perfect Picture Books, and survive through this murky place where school is ending, summer is starting and there is so much crossover for my kids activities, it could make your head spin. In a few weeks, the transition will be over and I'll be watching fireworks over the NYC skyline. But, before that happens, there is an important day coming up. Save the Book Stores Day on June 16th.
See, we writers, readers, and parents can build platforms, write blog posts, tweet, "like", bloghop and Pin to our heart's content as we create and promote our writing, but what good is it all if there is no place to put those books? Bookstores are more than just a place to go in, buy a book and leave. These are the places where my kids learn about new authors, leaf through a book and decide whether or not they want to buy it, authors give live readings and share autographs, people in the store share what they've read lately and what they would recommend. Bookstores have an alter ego of being a community meeting place, just like an ice cream store.
In this video, Maria Bartiromo interviews Ann Patchett about why she decided to open a book store in her city.  People told her books stores were dying and were a wasted investment. What she's found is that people love bookstores. They are a community in their own rite and really, the smaller the better. I agree with everything Patchett says and while the online booksellers have their place, so do bookstores. So, if you can't get into your local bookstore today, place an order online or make a phone call to have a book held for you. And, if you're not sure of what to read, here are some of the books I've read in the past year that I'd recommend, as well as other I just continuously recommend to people. Not sure if it's the right book for you? Hop into the bookstore and read a few pages, then decide.
The Confession
We Need To Talk About Kevin
Long Drive Home
The Book Thief
Al Capone Does My Shirts (read this with my 8 year old son)
Mockingbird (read this with my 10 year old daughter)
The Girl Who Fell From The Sky
The Story of Beautiful Girl
The Colorado Kid
Bel Canto
Noah's Compass
Moonlight Mile
A Drinking Life
Duma Key

Friday, June 15, 2012

Perfect Picture Books: Dinosoaring

I have truly enjoyed participating in Perfect Picture Book Fridays, started by Susanna Hill, this past fall. Aside from meeting a great online community, it's been a wonderful excuse to get new books from the library, re-read books I hadn't read with my kids in a couple of years, and buy new books in the bookstore. Speaking of new books.... next week, a new book will be released from Deb Lund, illustrated by Howard Fine, that continues her DinoAdventures! The title is DINOSOARING and it's the book I've chosen for this week. Deb has graciously agreed to give away one autographed copy of DINOSAILING and All Aboard the Dinotrain to two lucky winners from my contest. Click here to see my interview with Deb and the giveaway. Feel free to share with friends- it's open to anyone and the more the merrier!

Written by: Deb Lund
Illustrated by: Howard Fine
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books, June 2012
Suitable for: Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics: Dinosaurs, flying airplanes, adventures, teamwork
Opening: From the book:
In dinogoggles, scarves, and gear,
They board the airplane from the rear. 
The crew's so squished inside that space,
They can't can't fit one more foot or face.
Brief Synopsis: As usual, these adventurous dinosaurs just can't sit still. They work together to get an airplane in the air and join an airshow. But when the bad weather and clouds create some turbulence, it's parachutes to the rescue.
Links to resources: Paper airplanes. There was a time we had about 50 flying all around at once, and this is the website my son used. It's really good with great instructions.
Why I chose this book: One of my goals (from what would now be called a bucket list that I made in my twenties) was to learn how to fly a plane.  My kids think they can fly. I figure that between the capes my kids have worn, and my own desire to learn how to fly a plane, we are just like these dinosaurs. This is our kind of book! I'll just add here too that I think these are the best illustrations from all three books. Vivid colors and big, bright imagery. It's a wonderful book!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Meeting Deb Lund And A Giveaway!

There's a new picture book about to hit the shelves and I've been waiting for this day for about 5 years. No joke.
I have two boys. They love trains and dinosaurs. We started with All Aboard the Dinotrain a couple of years ago. This was the perfect book. At the end of a very adventurous train ride, the dinosaurs almost immediately ponder flying a plane for their next adventure. So...these fearless dinosaurs are finally taking their adventures to the sky in DINOSOARING, which will be released on June 19th.
I was so excited, but even more exciting is that I had a chance to speak with Deb Lund about the dinoadventures she's created in this trilogy and how they came to be that way.  I think I'm hooked in dinoland!

Me:  What inspired you to write about dinosaurs and their adventures?

Deb: I sailed with the Shifty Sailors, a maritime singing group, from Seattle to Olympia WA. We took the train on the way home. I always say writing is part imagination and part memory. That’s about the only memory that came from that trip, other than getting very dizzy from the sailing. I’m grateful I didn’t get as sick as my dinos!

I knew these adventurers had to be dinos, because kids love them. When I was an elementary librarian, kids would check out stacks of dinosaur books, and I’ll never forget one first grader who came to the library every day to check out new ones. He said, “I have to take these home because my family doesn’t know anything about dinosaurs.”
Sounds like a very smart first grader and I love that you were a librarian!

Me: As someone who has tried writing in rhyme, it’s quite difficult (at least for me). How do you do it? Do the words and meter just flow or is it a long editing process?

Deb: I do often hear the rhyme with the correct meter already in place, but it’s always a long editing process, no matter how quickly the original lines come to me. Each dinobook could probably rival Shakespeare’s longest sonnets in length if the finished books contained all the stanzas that got cut. I can be neurotic about rhyme and meter, and I don’t settle for “close” with either.
My biggest suggestion is to read each line aloud separately as if you were saying it in natural conversation. Then ask yourself these questions. Where do the stressed syllables really fall? Are you including any words just because they rhyme? Are they "real" rhymes? (Ground does not rhyme with Down.) Does each line further the story?
Excellent advice. I might have to try it again.

Me:  What future adventures do you see for these very active and fun dinosaurs?

Deb: The next dinobook will come out from Beach Lane Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and I’ll just give you a hint, since that’s what I usually do at the end of the dinobooks (but not in DINOSOARING!). There will be sirens (you’ll have to make your own noise) and red!
I get suggestions for dinobooks from kids at school author visits, and they’re always fun, especially the illustrated ones. I do hope to eventually see these gargantuan goofballs take off in a rocket!
That would be really cool! My 4 year old's class built a cardboard rocket ship
 and had many, many adventures!

Me:   Your earlier book, Monsters on Machines, received excellent reviews on Goodreads. Do you foresee more stories about Monsters? As the mother of two boys, we love monsters as much as we love dinosaurs!

Deb: Gory Gorbert, Stinky Stuff, Dirty Dugg, and Melvina say thanks for this question! They get a little perturbed at all the dinothis and dinothat. “After all,” says Melvina. “We’re the ones who got a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly!” She gets a little miffed from time to time, but when PW says MONSTERS ON MACHINES “…has just about everything a child could hope for…” I guess you can’t blame her. They say thanks for making their day!
So glad I made their day! 
Thanks Deb for your time, thoughts, words of advice, and keeping the adventures going!

And now, for the really fun extra special part! Deb has agreed to personalize and sign a copy of DINOSAILORS and All Aboard the Dinotrain for two lucky winners! YAY! 
Here's how it will work. I'll randomly choose two people from all the commenters, with one entry per commenter. Deadline will be midnight Sunday, June 17, EDT. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fifth Grade Was A Big Year

For both my FIRST FIGHT, and my FIRST KISS... Hey, there's a blog hop for that!

When I first saw this First Fight/First Kiss bloghop, launched by Danielle at Entertaining Interests and Jackie at Bouquet of Books, I was in! My reasoning? I remember both of these events well. Both happened in the same school year, but I can't remember which one came first, and apparently 5th grade was a big year for me.
Let's start with the first fight: 
By nature, I'm not a fighter, and I'm not confrontational. If anything, I've been called a "fixer." But, I clearly remember that somewhere around second grade all the other kids in my grade kept growing, and I didn't . Well, I did, but just not at the same pace. The teasing started shortly there after and there was plenty of teasing to be done. I was short (still am) and my last (maiden) name (MacDonald) gave people plenty of content for teasing. I'll start with the original: Small Fry, and it just went on from there. So, one day, in 5th grade, when Vinnie Roslyn walked up to me, hunched over and put his hands on his knees to meet me at eye level, I had had enough. I punched him in the nose (he was at eye level, remember?) and gave him a bloody nose. Guess who got in trouble and was reprimanded by the tallest, and only, male teacher in school? That's right, yours truly, but it was worth it. There was no more teasing about my size after that, and at one point kids started singing the old jingle from Wrangler jeans when I walked by. Anyone remember it? Here comes Wrangler Tracy, and she's one tough customer.... 
Ah, on to the first kiss:
So, now you know I was on the tougher side (I had to be) and I was also very much a Tomboy. So, after school when a bunch of us, girls and boys, would hang out with our bikes and play by the stream, there was one day that was very different. Tom G and I walked over to an old tree that had fallen and created a bridge over the stream. (We'd been friends for years, in fact there were a bunch of us, all extended neighborhood kids) We each sat astride the tree, closed eyes, and somehow made it to each other's lips for about .00005 seconds. It happened faster than a blink, but I remember being on a cloud that day as I walked ran home from school and came into the house with the biggest smile on my face. I'm not sure if I told my mom or not, but it was a great day.

PS- So, apparently we were supposed to be using something from a WIP for the blog hop. I didn't realize that. I think I'll blame it on end of school year craziness. Yup. That sounds good. Either way, I love both of these stories, so I'm not going to change them, but instead will relish in making a mistake being different.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Perfect Picture Books- Dinosailors

Wow. I took a couple of weeks off from Perfect Picture Books because, well, *eyes downcast* I felt guilty. It's been a busy few weeks in A2ZMommyland so while I was able to post books to my blog, I was not able to get back to view others posts, and it just didn't seem fair to not be able to give back. But, here I am back with a book, and lots planned for this coming week! YAY! I know, I know, you're excited too. But first things first; the book for this week: Dinosailors

Title: Dinosailors
Written by: Deb Lund
Illustrated by: Howard Fine
Publisher: Harcourt Inc. 2003
Suitable for: Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics: Sailing, adventure, trying new things, returning home
Opening: "Dinosailors at the slip/ Cry out, "Ahoy!" and board their ship. They swab the deck, stow dinogear/ Ignoring clouds that linger near."
Brief Synopsis: Full of confidence and ready for an adventure, the dinosaurs we meet are tired of land and ready for the ocean. But, as their adventure continues, they are exhausted from a lot of work and realize that the ocean is not always calm. The conclusion: home is where they really want to be. Until they see a train....
Links to resources: A Google search for "sailing activities" turns up some interesting results, none of which fit what I was looking for here. But, knowing my own kids, and since it's summer, I think the best activity would be to give kids a sailboat and a couple of toy dinosaurs to play with in the pool and see what happens with that boat. Ooooh, I think I just came up with an activity for the weekend!
Why I chose this book: I just love this band of dinosaurs. These guys are so adventurous, but what I love the most is that despite their adventures, they are always happy to come back home.

As for the rest of the week, I promise to keep this brief. About a month ago, I received an email from Deb Lund (yes, the same author who is listed here) telling me how much she enjoyed my review of All Aboard the Dinotrain. Deb doesn't know this, but I felt so incredibly special that she commented; she's the one who wrote the amazing story!
Anyway, we did some emailing, had a conversation, and later this week I'll have the wonderful pleasure of sharing an interview with her as well as a peek at the next book in the Dinosaur trilogy: Dinosoaring! It's due to be released on June 16th (Save the Bookstores Day) and it's just as great as the first two.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Start? Oh Yeah!

My first taste of summer last weekend was quite enjoyable. Anyone else? Aside from the "honey do" list floating around our house, and passed back and forth between me and my husband, we had the pleasure of having our first full-on family barbecue, the first roasting of marshmallows, and our first trip to the pool for the summer. This last little bit was what got me.
Summer. Pool. Change of mindset.
Summer is my reward for the rest of the school year. Not just the driving around and the homework, but the special projects, helping out in school, planning meals and keeping track of schedules. Knowing that it's imperative to get all my work done before the kids get home from school, when my time becomes their time. So, here I was, at the pool, having some time that I think I needed more than I realized.
I only have a handful of hobbies: reading, knitting, and cooking. That's really it, which is good because unless I clone myself there is no time for others. Plus, I can enjoy these even when my kids are around; for the most part, and let's be clear here: everyone usually benefits from my cooking trials.
So, I sat. And read. Not just one, but two cooking magazines. And then the next day, I read two more! Aside from a growing grocery list and visions of playing in my kitchen, I think I actually relaxed. I wasn't near a computer, staring at a pile of laundry to fold, or picking up stray Lego pieces that I knew would be painful if left on the floor and stepped on. It's not the summer vacation Kristen Lamb and so many of us miss, but it's a new version of vacation, and I'll take it.
Time stood still for an afternoon while I sat in a lounge chair and watched my kids swim. Yes, I gave some time early on freezing in the pool with my youngest. But once he found the little pool and two friends, I was able to warm up and keep reading.
I have a vision of my summer and so far, it's looking great.
Is your summer off to a good start? Do you miss summer vacations from childhood? Do you find summer relaxing or more stressful?