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Melissa Wiley is the author of The Martha Years books about Laura Ingalls Wilder's great-grandmother, Martha Morse Tucker, and The Charlotte Years books, about Laura's grandmother, Charlotte Tucker Quiner.
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1. Scott Peterson on my reckless snack-distribution habits

“I trust you with my life, I trust you with my children’s education, I trust you with my finances—but I do NOT trust you with marshmallows.”

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2. Rohan Maitzen on Academic Blogging

“What I really tried to emphasize in my own remarks is that if we think about why we do research and publish it in the first place–to advance or improve a conversation–then writing online makes perfect sense. I also stressed that for me, the real benefits are intellectual. I specifically invited follow-up questions about ways my blogging had affected my teaching, my research, my writing, and/or my intellectual life. I didn’t get any questions about that at all, leading me to think that the single most important quotation in the presentation is the one from Jo VanEvery: ‘Scholars lose sight of the fact that academic publishing is about communication. Or, perhaps more accurately, communication appears disconnected from the validation process.’ What people wanted to talk about was “validation.” As I said at the close of the discussion, I think that preoccupation in itself is worth reflecting on. It’s inevitable, perhaps, because we are professionals trying to get and keep jobs and build careers, but I think concern about bureaucratic processes should follow on reaching a better understanding of the value of the activity, to the individual scholar, to the university, and to the broader community.”

via What We Talk About When We Talk About Academic Blogging » Novel Readings – Notes on Literature and Criticism.

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3. Downton Abbey Episode 5.3 Recap is Up at GeekMom

and I have my theories.

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4. Ten Years of Blogging, and I Almost Missed It

bonnyglennight_3

I entered the year aware that Bonny Glen’s ten-year anniversary was approaching on Jan. 20, and I had thoughts of all sorts of retrospective posts leading up to the occasion. Then, on Jan. 4, I started a new gig—the kind of steady behind-the-scenes work that makes the children’s-book-writing, homeschooling life possible. I went from Cybils-reading-load busyness to new-assignment busyness, and since I thrive on busy and new (oh especially new), I’ve spent the first weeks of the year in a satisfying whirr of learning and doing.

And I forgot all about the anniversary until I saw Melanie’s post this morning. We began on the same day—a coincidence; we hadn’t met yet; we met through the blogs—and her post puzzled me. Oh, she’s celebrating early, I thought. And then, hang on

The first kid-photo ever to appear on this blog, posted July 2005

The first kid-photo ever to appear on this blog, posted July 2005

Not early; Melanie is timely, I am tardy. It’s no wonder I lost track of the date; Scott is away for a few days on an adventure with his brothers, and on the rare occasions when he goes away, I always turn the house upside down for some kind of grand-scale cleaning/purging endeavor. This time, because I had resolved to sort through ALL THE BOOKS in January, I’m ignoring books entirely and overhauling the clothes situation. Ugh, clothes. Yesterday, up to our ears in piles, we were pondering the merits of Laura and Mary’s two dresses each. In a few minutes I have to get up and return to the fabric mountain. We’ve just gotten Wonderboy off to school, and Bean and Huck are on a “fog walk” (it’s a rare misty, moisty morning here), and Rose and Rilla are taking advantage of the topsy-turvy schedule to sleep in a bit.

Wonderboy and Rilla, June 2006

Wonderboy and Rilla, June 2006

And here I am in the old familiar text window. Ten years of writing here. I began at Typepad in 2005 and migrated to this WordPress site in 2007. I’m always surprised by how short a span of time Bonny Glen resided at Typepad; so much happened in those two years, and I met made so many friends in the blog world, both homeschooling and kidlitosphere, that it seems a much longer period. I’d been blogging for about 16 months when Rilla was born, the first baby whose blog name I settled upon even before we’d chosen her real name. A month later, I was offered a job as one of ClubMom’s regular bloggers, so I set up camp at a second site, The Lilting House, and posted there about three times a week for a year or so. ClubMom shuttered the MomBlog program in 2007 and I folded Lilting House into my archives here. I still have some broken image links from those days that need cleaning up—a Someday project.

In those first years, I wrote a lot about homeschooling—not just the daily glimpses I continue to share here now, but also a lot of theory, a lot of methodology discussion. I was sorting out my ideas and I do that best by writing them down. After a while I had discerned that I would probably never fit entirely into any one camp—unschoolish but not unschooling, Charlotte Mason-inspired but not pure CM, etc—and I coined a term to describe what it is we actually do. I’ve written a good deal more about tidal homeschooling since then, but much more casually than I addressed education method in the first years of this blog. I smile sometimes over the difference between me in my 30s, with a houseful of pretty young kids, and me in my 40s, with a range from college to kindergarten. (Oh my heavens, when you put it like that.) I was so full of helpful advice back then! :) Now, with a lot more experience under my belt, I probably have better advice, but I dish it out sparingly.

view from point loma lighthouse

2007, the year after we moved to San Diego. Photos got bigger after I moved to WordPress!

2007 was the year I joined Twitter, and I can’t remember if Facebook came before or after for me. Either way, I experienced, like everyone else, a shift in blogging and combox conversation after the social media boom. There was a very good discussion of this topic over at Sarah’s last week, and in the course of it I had a little epiphany: even though social networks have had a dampening effect on the amount of conversation that happens in blog comments—what with so many readers preferring to do their chatting on Facebook or Twitter or elsewhere—it’s the humble blog that keeps such discourse lively. I might write a post here that draws a handful of responses from my most faithful readers, who by this time have become dear friends!—but the very same post will generate multiple long threads of discussion over on Facebook. It struck me what an important role the blog post still plays in our online conversation. In Sarah’s comments, I said:

…even though the ease of conversation at Facebook (with reply notifications, user tagging, all the bells and whistles that keep people tuned into the discussion) seems to have given it an edge in the comment department, it’s the *blog* that makes it possible—one permanent link for the original post, easily shared across a variety of networks, with embedded images and links. I couldn’t post a full Downton recap at FB, say, let alone Twitter or Instagram or anywhere else. So no matter what platforms we all drift to for our *discussions*, we still value the blog format for its completeness, its portability, its whole package. Truly, we can’t do without it!

Generating discussions isn’t the only thing I cherish my blog for. I’ve written before about how important it has become for my family—the primary archive of our adventures. I don’t scrapbook, I haven’t compiled a photo album in years, I don’t update baby books. Most of the kids don’t even have them. But I’ve chronicled our stories here for a decade, and we all enjoy laughing over the kid quips in the archives. I didn’t realize just how much it meant to the kids until recently when Bean and Rose told me how often they go back into old posts “to read about our childhood.” They know I pull back on posting kid-stories as they get older, out of respect for their privacy, but they tell me they miss being able to read about the hilarious thing that happened last week. Food for thought, for this blogging mom!

August, 2008. Heart in my throat, looking at this photo today—now I'm reading that same book to this wee girl!

August, 2008. Heart in my throat, looking at this photo today—now I’m reading that same book to this wee girl!

A challenge of blogging has been how to meld the personal and the private—how to share these family stories without saddling my children with a complicated Google history. And how to blend writing as the frank, flawed homeschooling mom I am with a more professional presentation as a children’s author some readers (students, teachers, editors) are looking to connect with. It’s complicated! I mostly muddle through it. I yam what I yam and all that.

But blogging is more than the sum of its parts—more than simple family chronicle, more than author portal, more than a place to engage in the kind of show-and-tell resource-sharing I love so very much—it’s a crucible for friendships. I get a little choked up when I think about all the very real, dear relationships that were born in the comments here. You, my friends. Some of you I’ve had the fun of meeting in person, and some of you live so far away our non-virtual paths may never cross (sob!), but the friendships run deep nonetheless. In the end, I write to share—and it’s you, the friends at the end of the page, I’m thinking of when I sit down and click “Add New.” Thank you—really, from the bottom of my heart—thank you for keeping me company on this journey. I’m so happy to have my own little house on the internet where you can come and visit.

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5. Recently Read or Watched with Various Kids

little bear by sendak

With the boys:

Little Bear.
The original—Huck’s first time, though he’s seen the show of course. He loved the book so much. Although the text is less sophisticated—a bit more Dick-and-Jane—than contemporary early readers, it absolutely holds up. Beautiful pacing; wonderful humor; sweet, cozy tone; warm relationships; and fresh storylines. What a marvel it is. So glad we have more to enjoy together.)

Okay Andy and My New Friend Is So Fun.
Two of my fellow Cybils Early Reader finalists. Huck loved them both. Of course the Elephant and Piggie is a delight. Great plot in this one: Piggie has a new friend and naturally Gerald begins to worry he’s been replaced. Mo Willems is my hero.

With Rilla:

Understood Betsy.
It’s time, it’s time! Color me ecstatic. One of the best readalouds ever, and here’s my last little girl to read it to. Hmm, make that color me wistful. ;) A bit of both, I guess. She’s going to love it so much. I waited and waited until the time was right.

(Meanwhile, Scott is reading her Watership Down. One of his best readalouds. Rose and Beanie are listening in—they wouldn’t have it any other way. This book is a very big deal in our family culture.)

With Beanie:

Short stories: “The Gift of the Magi,” “The Most Dangerous Game.”
Billy Collins poem: “Marginalia.” (Delicious.)

With Rose and Bean:

Big History Project, Unit 1. This week had us reading origin stories from several cultures, watching some really breathtaking videos about space, scale, and various scientific disciplines, and reading a BBC article on Easter Island. Good stuff.

With Rose:

Paradise Lost. 
The whole shebang for her, selections for me. I listened to a number of these Yale Open Courses lectures last fall to prep for this study. Rose is finding it slow going but she enjoys the discussions and agrees that somehow Satan is the most likable character.

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6. Downton Season 5, Episode 2 Recap Is Up at GeekMom

my what big gardens you have

Episode 2 recap, at your service! As always, feel free to discuss over at GeekMom, or here in the comments. I will talk about Downton anywhere.

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7. Couch Fun

rillaloves Six short years ago

A homeschooling friend who’s expecting a baby asked for ideas for fun learning activities to do from the couch. Others chimed in with suggestions; here was my contribution:

I second Erica’s Signing Time recommendation!

Jim Weiss CDs (holler if you want to borrow some of ours)

The Horrible Histories video for English monarchs—we watched it every day for a few weeks until we had them all by heart.

Look for Koosje Koene drawing videos on Youtube. (If the computer is accessible.) Short simple how-to videos that we have found quite inspiring.

Clapping games like Say Say oh Playmate, my kids love when I dredge these up from memory.

This silly parts-of-speech game we used to play in the car. :)

Plus other wordplay games like the one where you pretend you’re packing for a trip and the first person packs an A thing (apple), second person adds a B thing (brush) + says the A word, and so on—see how far through the alphabet you can get. (I am blanking on the name.)

If you have cable you might have a karaoke channel, surprisingly entertaining.

Good time to work on a foreign language

Impromptu spelling bee

Round robin storytelling—one person starts and you take turns going around the room. I can see your girls having a great time with this!

For times table practice sometimes I make them run up and down the hall while I call out problems. For beginners you can give the problem and they give you the answer when they get back, it gives them time to think.

Count all the squares/rectangles/triangles etc in the room. This can get tricky! Doors and windows can have many subdivided rectangles, etc. (I remember once looking at a large window at our church in Virginia. Jane asked how many rectangles I could see. I counted something like 16. She then pointed out to me a total of 37 different rectangles!)

Book scavenger hunt: assign a subject, like a lion. Everyone goes off to look for a book with a lion in it.

Oh how this makes me miss our baby days! Huck turned SIX today, how can that be possible???

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8. What recapping looks like

recapnotes

 

That’s two viewings plus a bit of rewinding during the writeup. Today I discussed Billy Collins’s wonderful poem, “Marginalia,” with a small group of girls, and I when I got home and flipped open my notebook, I had to laugh at the way I wreck a page. That’s not a self-criticism; I’m used to myself now and the chaotic way my mind works as it wrestles a narrative into order. I write my novels the same way: a chunk here, a chapter there, jumping forward and backward in the story until the bones are intact enough that I can settle down and work on muscles, skin, heart.

 

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9. Downton 5.1 Recap Is Posted at GeekMom

My first Downton recap of the season is up! You can read it at GeekMom but of course you are always welcome to chat about it here if you like. :)

three gowns

Downton Abbey Season 5, Episode 1: Fear, Fire, Foes.

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10. Schmesolutions

January 1st
I’m going to blog every day this year!

January 3rd
Well, obviously I didn’t mean weekends.

January 5th
::mutter mutter:: Look, that Downton episode was over 90 minutes long. These things take time! A LOT of time. Like, I’d have had to start writing in 1924 to have a recap ready to publish by Monday morning.

January 7th
It’s ready to go live! Now I can get back to regularly scheduled blogging.

::small boy appears, wants to cuddle::

Hmm, maybe not quite yet.

angrybirdshappyboy

(Photo taken by Rilla on New Year’s morning. Thanks again for the excellent gift choice, Godmother.)

I’ll be running the Downton posts at GeekMom this year. Episode 1 should go live today; I’ll post the link here when it’s up.

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11. January, Planuary

photo (50)

I made a surprising discovery recently: I realized that since moving to San Diego eight (eight!!) years ago, January has become my favorite month. When I lived in the east, I’d have said it was April—early spring, when you walk outside and feel it coming, a freshness in the wind, the redbuds and dogwoods beginning to flower, the daffodils running riot, the tulips jaunty. Oh, I loved that feeling. The Mary Lennox feeling. I’ve never liked the cold, and Eastern winters were much harder than the sunny-cold Colorado days I grew up with: all that lingering, blackening snow, the dull gray skies, the frozen ears and toes. So the first hints of change—the crocuses, the grape hyacinths, the fountains of yellow forsythia in March—exhilarated me. I love change; it makes my blood sing; and the change that meant spring is here was the best of all, even better than after spring had well and truly arrived.

But here in Southern California, our seasons are different. There’s the Season of Blistering Heat, the Season of Glorious Weather (this lasts most of the year), and That One Day It Rained. And the shifts come abruptly and sporadically, without warning. Any given day could be sandal weather or I-really-wish-I’d-succumbed-and-bought-those-boots. And so I realized that the sweet old sense of change in the air I used to associate with early spring now belongs to a shift less weather-related and more cultural. January, the New Year, the season of beginnings and fresh starts.

Looking through my archives I see I’ve rhapsodized about the Fresh Start over and over, this time of year. January is the month when I deep-clean my bedroom (which is also my workspace) and tidy up the garden. I launch projects (don’t we all): Reading Projects or Crafting Projects or Housework Projects. (This year it’s purging the books. I’ve appointed January the month I have a little conversation with every book in the house and discuss its future. For a lot of them, it’s time to head out into the world and seek their fortunes. Local friends, consider yourselves warned.) I love projects. Love planning them out, at least: as Anne would say, there’s so much scope for imagination in the planning stage. Completion is another subject entirely, best reserved for a different essay.

All through December I found myself looking forward to January—enjoying December, of course, which was particularly rich this year, what with my parents visiting and Jane home from school and a long-awaited visit with very dear friends—but enjoying the anticipation of the impending Fresh Start. I spent part of New Year’s Eve answering piled-up email, achieving Inbox Zero just about the time the East Coast entered 2015.

(Spent the rest of it playing Terraria with Rilla after the boys went to bed, while Scott and the other girls watched The Sting. Thus it was that my favorite moment of the holiday was hearing my pixie-like eight-year-old daughter remark, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted a Deathbringer Pickaxe.”)

My one real resolution for the year is to sketch every day, even if only for a few minutes. All my other plans are the sort that will take more determination to pull off, and I’m therefore afraid to spook them by calling attention to them too directly. I’m keeping my Reading Plans quite casual this year—mostly I intend to read whatever strikes me next, and to try to stick to what’s already on the shelves or the Kindle.

I do mean to choose one category of children’s books to focus most deeply on this year; I often fall into a specialization by accident—say, picture books because I read so many to my kids, or graphic novels because I have so many friends publishing them in a given year, or, like 2014, YA Fiction because I’m on a committee. I try to read broadly, of course—middle-grade and YA, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry—keeping reasonably abreast of what my peers are publishing. But I like having a kind of specialty category for the year, one area I can go really deep and try to read everything. As I said, this usually happens by accident; I’m not sure I’ve ever chosen the category in advance. This year I’m having fun thinking about it. Probably it will wind up depending on what kind of ARCs publishers decide to send me, since in the end, that’s the easiest way to keep up with the flood of new books.

alfreddoolittleAs for old books (“old” meaning anything published before this very minute), I have the inevitable nightstand pile, which is much like nightstand piles of previous years. It’s not actually on my nightstand, since I don’t have one, but the pile on my bedroom bookshelf serves that purpose—and the rather staggering queue on my Kindle. I think of these as my Alfred Doolittle books: Books I’m “willin’ to read, wantin’ to read, waitin’ to read.” Books I have probably listed here in the past.

This is also the year I intend to finish Infinite Jest, which may indeed take the whole year.

So:

Resolution—daily sketching

Casual reading plan—Doolittle books + some particular kidlit category

Determination—Infinite Jest

Household project—all the books

Brain food—right now I’m listening to The Sixth Extinction on audio; also a literary lecture series called A Day’s Read (lecture one was on Kafka’s “The Country Doctor” and was pretty good)

Writing goals—I dare not say, but I’ve got them

Blogging goal—the other day, Melanie of A Wine-Dark Sea and I were discussing the upcoming ten-year anniversary of our blogs. Ten! Years! We both began blogging on January 20, 2005—and met in the combox some time later. That anniversary was much on my mind all through December when I blogged so seldom, what with the aforementioned visitors and the holidays and my Cybils reading. This is another thing I’ve been looking forward to with January’s arrival: a return to steady blogging, and a chance to revisit my archives and reflect on what I love about this space and what I want to do more of. So that’s another quiet plan for 2015: a bit of a blogging renaissance.

This got long!

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12. January, Planuary

photo (50)

I made a surprising discovery recently: I realized that since moving to San Diego eight (eight!!) years ago, January has become my favorite month. When I lived in the east, I’d have said it was April—early spring, when you walk outside and feel it coming, a freshness in the wind, the redbuds and dogwoods beginning to flower, the daffodils running riot, the tulips jaunty. Oh, I loved that feeling. The Mary Lennox feeling. I’ve never liked the cold, and Eastern winters were much harder than the sunny-cold Colorado days I grew up with: all that lingering, blackening snow, the dull gray skies, the frozen ears and toes. So the first hints of change—the crocuses, the grape hyacinths, the fountains of yellow forsythia in March—exhilarated me. I love change; it makes my blood sing; and the change that meant spring is here was the best of all, even better than after spring had well and truly arrived.

But here in Southern California, our seasons are different. There’s the Season of Blistering Heat, the Season of Glorious Weather (this lasts most of the year), and That One Day It Rained. And the shifts come abruptly and sporadically, without warning. Any given day could be sandal weather or I-really-wish-I’d-succumbed-and-bought-those-boots. And so I realized that the sweet old sense of change in the air I used to associate with early spring now belongs to a shift less weather-related and more cultural. January, the New Year, the season of beginnings and fresh starts.

Looking through my archives I see I’ve rhapsodized about the Fresh Start over and over, this time of year. January is the month when I deep-clean my bedroom (which is also my workspace) and tidy up the garden. I launch projects (don’t we all): Reading Projects or Crafting Projects or Housework Projects. (This year it’s purging the books. I’ve appointed January the month I have a little conversation with every book in the house and discuss its future. For a lot of them, it’s time to head out into the world and seek their fortunes. Local friends, consider yourselves warned.) I love projects. Love planning them out, at least: as Anne would say, there’s so much scope for imagination in the planning stage. Completion is another subject entirely, best reserved for a different essay.

All through December I found myself looking forward to January—enjoying December, of course, which was particularly rich this year, what with my parents visiting and Jane home from school and a long-awaited visit with very dear friends—but enjoying the anticipation of the impending Fresh Start. I spent part of New Year’s Eve answering piled-up email, achieving Inbox Zero just about the time the East Coast entered 2015.

(Spent the rest of it playing Terraria with Rilla after the boys went to bed, while Scott and the other girls watched The Sting. Thus it was that my favorite moment of the holiday was hearing my pixie-like eight-year-old daughter remark, “Ooh, I’ve always wanted a Deathbringer Pickaxe.”)

My one real resolution for the year is to sketch every day, even if only for a few minutes. All my other plans are the sort that will take more determination to pull off, and I’m therefore afraid to spook them by calling attention to them too directly. I’m keeping my Reading Plans quite casual this year—mostly I intend to read whatever strikes me next, and to try to stick to what’s already on the shelves or the Kindle.

I do mean to choose one category of children’s books to focus most deeply on this year; I often fall into a specialization by accident—say, picture books because I read so many to my kids, or graphic novels because I have so many friends publishing them in a given year, or, like 2014, YA Fiction because I’m on a committee. I try to read broadly, of course—middle-grade and YA, fiction and nonfiction, prose and poetry—keeping reasonably abreast of what my peers are publishing. But I like having a kind of specialty category for the year, one area I can go really deep and try to read everything. As I said, this usually happens by accident; I’m not sure I’ve ever chosen the category in advance. This year I’m having fun thinking about it. Probably it will wind up depending on what kind of ARCs publishers decide to send me, since in the end, that’s the easiest way to keep up with the flood of new books.

alfreddoolittleAs for old books (“old” meaning anything published before this very minute), I have the inevitable nightstand pile, which is much like nightstand piles of previous years. It’s not actually on my nightstand, since I don’t have one, but the pile on my bedroom bookshelf serves that purpose—and the rather staggering queue on my Kindle. I think of these as my Alfred Doolittle books: Books I’m “willin’ to read, wantin’ to read, waitin’ to read.” Books I have probably listed here in the past.

This is also the year I intend to finish Infinite Jest, which may indeed take the whole year.

So:

Resolution—daily sketching

Casual reading plan—Doolittle books + some particular kidlit category

Determination—Infinite Jest

Household project—all the books

Brain food—right now I’m listening to The Sixth Extinction on audio; also a literary lecture series called A Day’s Read (lecture one was on Kafka’s “The Country Doctor” and was pretty good)

Writing goals—I dare not say, but I’ve got them

Blogging goal—Melanie of A Wine-Dark Sea and I were discussing the upcoming ten-year anniversary of our blogs. Ten! Years! We both began blogging on January 20, 2005—and met in the combox some time later. That anniversary was been much on my mind all through December when I blogged so seldom, what with the aforementioned visitors and the holidays and my Cybils reading. This is another thing I’ve been looking forward to with January’s arrival: a return to steady blogging, and a chance to revisit my archives and reflect on what I love about this space and what I want to do more of. So that’s another quiet plan for 2015: a bit of a blogging renaissance.

This got long!

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13. Starting the year off with a wee bit of squee!

Cybils-Logo-2014-Web-Lg

I woke up this morning all kinds of excited because I knew the Cybils shortlist announcements would be live by the time I peeled my eyelids open here on the West Coast, and I’ve been bursting at the seams to share our YA Fiction finalists with you. These books, THESE BOOKS, you guys. So incredibly good. I am thrilled with our list, which we curated via exhaustive and exhausting reading and spirited debate these past two months. Here it is: CYBILs 2014 Finalists: Young Adult Fiction.

Now the funny part: I’d been squeeing about this list on Twitter for a good ten minutes before I settled down to check out the other categories. Imagine my surprise when I got to the Early Reader shortlist and saw Inch and Roly there!

Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley2014 Finalists: Easy Readers & Early Chapter Books | Cybils Awards.

I’m beyond thrilled that Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare is an Easy Reader finalist. I mean, lookit that list! Mo Willems is there!* Among other fabulous folks. I’m so happy. Knowing the challenge of being on the other side of the list—the difficult and sometimes wrenching decisions you make as a Round 1 panelist, whittling hundreds of nominees down into a small number of finalists—I’m deeply honored and beyond excited. A hearty congratulations to all the finalists, all around! And thanks to all the panelists who poured weeks of labor into the curation process.

*At this time I would like to issue a formal apology to the post-NYE exhausted teens I may have awakened with my shrieking. Ahem.

The Easy Reader finalists:

Extraordinary Warren: A Super Chicken by Sarah Dillard
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton
Clara and Clem Under the Sea by Ethan Long
Pigsticks and Harold and the Incredible Journey by Alex Milway
The Ice Cream Shop: A Steve and Wessley Reader by Jennifer Morris
Inch and Roly and the Sunny Day Scare by Melissa Wiley :)
My New Friend Is So Fun! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) by Mo Willems

Book descriptions here.

The YA Fiction finalists:

Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
Girls Like Us by Gail Giles
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds
Pointe by Brandy Colbert

Book descriptions here.

To explore the shortlists in other categories, click here. You’ll probably want your library tab open before you begin. ;)

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14. In With the New

IMG_0009

Happy 2015, my friends.

May a large number of your wishes come true.

(But not all, because it’s nice to have some wishes tucked in your pockets for later.)

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15. The intrepid artist

rillaracetrack

Rilla and I have been trying to work in our sketchbooks daily. I feel brave when I tackle a subject like my stapler or a piece of fruit, and then I watch her casually sit down and commence drawing something massive and complicated with utter confidence. She is dauntless. I am inspired.

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16. The Downton Countdown


Season 5 trailer for those who watch previews. Personally, I’m allergic to them.

Today feels like the weekend and I keep having to remind myself it’s only Wednesday. Guess I’m a wee bit excited about the return of Downton Abbey. Yes, I’ll be recapping the episodes again. Here’s my master list of recaps from previous seasons, if you need to brush up. :)

(Did you catch the two “Text Santa” Downton spoof videos last week? Part 1, Part 2.)

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17. Reading Wrap-Ups

Mental Multivitamin has posted her annual reading review, a post I always look forward to. In it, she mentions the 52 Books in 52 Weeks site, on which I’m a longtime lurker. I’ve never officially participated in that reading challenge but I’ve played along quietly from home. :) Here’s the Mr. Linky for 2014’s participants: 52 Books in 52 Weeks: 2014 Year End Wrap Up.

I like the questions posed by 52 Weeks hostess, Robin McCormack:

How many books did you read and did you meet your own personal goal?
Most thrilling, oh my goodness, I want to read it again, unputdownable book?
Top 5 favorite stories?
Least favorite book?
New author discovery? New genre discovery?
What countries or centuries did you explore?
Share a favorite character, story, quote or cover
One book that touched you – made you laugh, cry, sing or dance.
Are you ready to do it all over again?
Do you have any goals to check out different genres or authors, read translated books or stories in another language for 2015?

I may take a stab at answering these myself, but I think I’ll wait until after the first of the year when the Cybils shortlists have been announced. Some of my answers might be too revealing. :)

Another kind of book report I always look forward to is Julia Sweeney’s monthly recap. (She discusses movies as well.) Here’s her most recent. Like Mental Multivitamin, Julia’s blog poses a threat to the structural integrity of my shelves. (And my wallet.)

Another book challenge I quietly participated in this year was the 20th Century Reading Project. My ongoing list is here. Green entries were read in 2013; black in 2014. I haven’t updated it in a while, having spent the past two months exclusively reading young adult realistic fiction published between Oct 15, 2013 and Oct 14, 2015. (How’s that for specific?) When I get a chance, I’ll bring the list up to date and pick a new color for 2015 entries. I plan to continue this challenge at a casual pace until I’ve read a book for every year, no matter how long it takes. I’m enjoying seeing the clusters of books, such as the three (very different) novels published in 1963 I read in 2013, quite by chance.

Bonus book report: What Charlotte’s kids got for Christmas! Her kids and mine have kindred tastes in books, so it’s always fun to see what she came up with.

If you’ve got a reading recap to share (yours or anyone’s), please leave the link in the comments. I’m a junkie for these things—and coming off the Cybils, I’m way behind on blog-reading!

Related: My 2014 booklog. (Titles only, for now. Notes to follow.)

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18. 2014 Booklog

Sometime in October or November, I abandoned hope of keeping my sidebar booklog up to date. By then I was deeply immersed in reading YA Fiction for the CYBIL awards. Between 10/15 and 12/26, I read a total of 78 nominees. (In yesterday’s post I said 79. Counted wrong!) Ten of those titles are listed below, but the other 68 haven’t made it into this compilation yet. Was too busy reading to fuss with links and things. Eventually I’ll get them listed here. For now, I’m pulling the January-October(ish) list into this post to serve as my master book log for 2014. Time to wipe the slate clean for 2015!

Some of the links below go to GoodReads; others are Amazon Affiliate links because I have a hundred* children to put through college. You understand.

*More or less.

This list goes backward, with most recently read titles first. If I manage anything new before the end of the year, I’ll update this post. High high high on my list is Sarah Elwell’s novel, Deep in the Far Away, which she published as a serial these past few months. I subscribed eagerly and would have loved to enjoy it in periodical-fashion but the timing coincided with the Cybils onslaught. Also enticing: the prospect of another Forster binge (I know, I know, it’s only been six months since the last one) and maybe some Patricia McKillip. Heir of Sea and Fire jumped off the shelf at me yesterday and I thought ohhhh….(I think that one’s my favorite of the Riddle Master trilogy.)

A final note! I hope to come back here and add commentary to some of the entries below, or links to posts about them. But for now I just want to move the list out of my sidebar. :)

Without further ado:

Books I Read (or Listened To) in 2014

116. Matilda (audio with Rilla while we draw—we’re midway through as of this post but I expect we’ll finish by New Year’s)
115. Syllabus by Lynda Barry

Kortney tweeted me about this book, which she correctly pegged as being right up my alley. She caught me at the perfect time, with birthday money from my parents burning a hole in my pocket! And ohhh was she ever right. Utterly marvelous. Inspirational. Possibly life-changing (if only because I was already itching to head in this direction, having so recently resolved to make art journaling and sketching a daily practice).

47-114 (if my math is right): 68 young adult novels to be listed later. So many good books!! (Other Cybils nominees are starred below—some read earlier in the year before they were nominated.)
46. Story of the World Vol. 3
45. Roomies*
44. Conversion*
43. She Is Not Invisible*
42. The BFG (audio)
41. OCD Love Story
40. I’ll Give You the Sun*
39. The Boxcar Children
38. Always Emily*
37. A Mad, Wicked Folly*
36. Girls Like Us*
35. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
34. Pointe*
33. Perfectly Good White Boy*
32. The First Bad Man
31. The Fourteenth Goldfish
30. The Importance of Being Earnest
29. Maurice
28. Dear Committee Members
27. The Blue Castle
26. The Life to Come and Other Stories
25. The Longest Journey
24. A Passage to India
23. We Were Liars*
22. The Rosie Project
21. The Turn of the Screw
20. The Secret Garden
19. The Wheel on the School
18. The Tuesday Club Murders
17. The Remains of the Day
16. The Giver
15. The Blue Flower
14. The Art of Writing, Lecture 1
13. Where Angels Fear to Tread
12. Queen of England: Elizabeth
11. Howards End
10. Howards End Is on the Landing
9. A Room With a View
8. Underfoot in Show Business
7. Q’s Legacy
6. The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street
5. 84, Charing Cross Road
4. The Milly-Molly-Mandy Storybook
3. Gone Girl
2. Paperless Home Organization
1. The Fault in Our Stars

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19. Happy December!

(direct link)

Every year at this time, my blog stats show dozens of searches for the Christmas picture book I wrote long ago. It’s been out of print for ages and tends to be pricey on the resale market, especially this time of year. Last year I decided to read it aloud on video so folks who can’t find it can watch it with their kids.

And here’s my video introduction to the book.

(direct link)

Santa Lucia Day is December 13. Coming up fast!

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20. Possibly my best idea ever

I struck a deal with the kids: for every new app or game I buy them, they must each memorize a poem. So far, so fabulous. Huck, my little iPad junkie, is shaping up to be a regular minstrel by the time he’s twenty. :)

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21. Well, I’m laughing

Huck to Scott, apropos of nothing: Do you still want to hear my knock knock joke?

(Still?)

Scott: Sure.

Huck: How does the chair…

[pause]

[confused look]

[disappointed look]

Huck: Knock knock.

Scott: Who’s there?

Huck: Chair.

Scott: Chair who?

Huck: Chair on your head.

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22. Exonerated

Me: Hey, looks like someone forgot to sweep up the dust pile.

Rose: Wasn’t me. I never sweep.

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23. December 2014, part the first

I know, I know, I go dark for almost two weeks and then suddenly, what, four posts in one day. But if there’s anything I’ve learned in (ye gods) nine years and eleven months of blogging, it’s: if you have something to write, write it, and if you don’t, don’t sweat it. And following a related-links rabbit trail on the Huck post this morning led me through many moments I’m glad I chronicled. So here’s an entry for the memory vault.

Of course the main reason for my silence has been my pile of Cybils reading, as we’re rapidly approaching The Big Discussion right after Christmas. I gave up maintaining my sidebar and Goodreads reading logs weeks ago, but after the madness is over I’ll use my Cybils log to catch up. If you are stuck for book choices I can make suggestions, boy howdy.

(I love this committee. It’s so good for mah brain to consume a megadose of YA fiction every couple of years. And my fellow panelists are so darn smart. It’s the book club of my dreams—fierce but fleeting.)

The other occupier of my time has been a glorious stream of company. :) ’Tis the season for visits from college friends. We had Kristen and her family for Thanksgiving (Krissy, did you get any good pix? Mine, not so much) and then a long-awaited, unremittingly delightful week with my friends Ron and Larry from Portland. I got to show them Balboa Park (the best part of San Diego) not once but twice: two long lovely afternoons there roaming through gardens and museums. One day with kids and one day without. Beanie and Rilla came with us to the SD Museum of Art, where the “Gauguin to Warhol” exhibit wowed us. I wasn’t surprised to be choked up by seeing a Frida Kahlo up close (Self Portrait with Monkey), but I didn’t expect the Jackson Pollock to move me the way it did. The scope of the thing, a whole massive wall of paint crammed with small stories.

Soon we’ll have my parents here, and Jane finished finals yesterday (with a paper on Prufrock, color me proud) and will be headed home in a few days. Fortunately she wasn’t planning on taking the train home today! Amtrak had to cancel the coastal train due to this crazy storm. Water, finally! More than this parched land can handle. Much worse in LA than here. We’re cozying up at home for now.

The other notable thing about our December is, of course, that it’s our biggest birthday month. So before I pour in a bunch of photos from Instagram and elsewhere these past few weeks, I’ll just leave you with this: Wonderboy is eleven now. Eleven!

paperwhites
before the rain

umbrellaboy and during

grasshopperpie
genius at work: the making of the annual grasshopper pie

stampydolls
Rilla’s Stampy Longnose paper dolls

legoskates
shockingly, this did not end in a trip to the emergency room

museumofman
Museum of Man, Balboa Park

wethree
the mischief corner

10846420_10204556464885380_6870503969941367472_n
“Roots + history,” swiped from Larry’s Instagram

birthdayboy11
impossible yet true

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24. Fun Gift Idea: Dress Up Bunch Club

DUB-Club-2015-600x600

Saw this on Twitter and had to share! I love Wendi Gratz’s work—her book is one of Beanie’s go-to resources—and this doll + clothes pattern club such a fun idea I had to share.

You’re Invited to the Dress Up Bunch Club! – Shiny Happy World.

Join the club and on the 13th of every month you’ll get a brand new, never-seen before pattern!

The pattern in January will be for a new Dress Up Bunch doll (a human girl).

Every month after that for the rest of the year, the pattern will be for an outfit and some accessory (or accessories) to go with the doll. I don’t know what they’ll be yet (though I have some ideas) but at least some of them will tie in to seasons or holidays.

You’ll receive the pattern by email. You can start sewing that very day!

This isn’t an affiliate link or sponsored post, just a gift idea I thought some of you might enjoy. :)

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25. Merry merry

As of this moment, my 2014 Cybils work is done. Well, except for hauling a metric ton of books back to the library. Whew!

Since October 15th, I have read 79 young adult novels. Seventy. Nine. So now you know why this blog has been so quiet. But ahhhh, here I am, ready to settle back in and, you know, put the B in CYBILs. (Children’s and Young Adult Blogger Literary Awards.) Consider yourselves warned. :)

For now, though, today, the day after Christmas, I’ll content myself with a few thousand words’ worth of pictures.

christmas morningChristmas morning

birdbook20 Ways to Draw a Tree: the bird page

bongoboywatching TV with his new best friends

monopolyChristmas night: gaming like the olden days

Hope your holidays are happy and restful, friends. And filled with good books!

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