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1. Over in Them Wetlands: A Summer Swamp Tour

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In June, we spent two weeks in Texas.  While my husband had some meetings the boys and I headed to Houma, LA, the second-happiest city in the US, and our home for three years. Ten minutes in to Louisiana, a roseate spoonbill, a native bird I’d never, ever seen, flew over our car, kind of like a state ambassador welcoming us back.

I was determined to go on a swamp tour while we were in town — something we never got around to doing when we lived in Houma (though we sure loved our swamp adventures). I scheduled a trip with Cajun Man Swamp Tours, invited some friends to come along.

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The super personable “Black” Guidry was our guide (check him out here in this Kia commercial). As there were French Canadians on board, Black gave the tour in both English and French, which was a lovely little Cajun bonus.

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Oh, we sweltered. But there was Spanish moss!

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And cypress knees (those little knobby things poking out of the water on the left-hand side)!

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Egrets!

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Even Leroy came to visit!

The tour felt especially personal knowing OVER IN THE WETLANDS, my picture book love letter to Coastal Louisiana, is coming out sometime next year.

A few days after the tour I stumbled on these gorgeous WETLANDS images from illustrator Rob Dunlavey’s studio.

The tour, that spoonbill, those illustrations, they were all like coming home.

 

 

The post Over in Them Wetlands: A Summer Swamp Tour appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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2. DreamWorks Pushes Back ‘Home’ to 2015

Six months before its scheduled release, DreamWorks Animation has pushed back the release date of "Home" from November 26, 2014, to March 27, 2015.

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3. Words for Flora’s Mother (and Other Imperfect Parents)

Often, when I mention that I have five children, people ask, “How do you do it all?” I sometimes quote a response I’ve heard from Donna Jo Napoli, fellow writer, professor, and mother of five:

“How do I do it all? Badly. You could eat off my kitchen floor…for weeks.”

How I do it all is that I don’t do it all at once. As I sit down to write, my kitchen is a mess, and my kids are at their other house with their other mom (my ex-wife). I miss my children, but I’m also grateful to be able to work like hell on the days they’re gone and really focus on them when they’re here. Or at least that’s what I try to do.

diCamillo Flora Words for Floras Mother (and Other Imperfect Parents)Shared reading enables us to slow down and enjoy one another’s company in the midst of our busy, transition-laden routines. I’m currently reading Kate DiCamillo’s 2014 Newbery Medal winner Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures with my four youngest children. I read the ARC by myself and knew my kids would be pulled in by the exact elements that made me initially skeptical. A superhero squirrel? Quasi-comic-book art? Not my cup of tea. But I also felt myself yearning to deliver the message of unconditional love that’s at the heart of the book: “Nothing / would be / easier without / you.”

Sometimes I worry my kids might think I feel differently. There are days when I am snappish or grouchy or just plain overwhelmed by balancing work and motherhood. DiCamillo’s novel has me thinking about depictions in children’s literature of less-than-ideal parents and what they communicate about family life to child and adult readers alike. I don’t mean Roald Dahl-ian parents like poor Matilda Wormwood’s dreadful mother and father, but more like Flora’s divorced parents or her friend William Spiver’s mother and “her new husband.” These secondary, or even offstage, adult characters are believable in all their flawed humanity. Their failings help define Flora’s story as she grapples with the shortcomings of the adults in her life, but DiCamillo paints her characters with such subtlety that the lesson doesn’t overwhelm the text.

On the flip side, many books have the mommy or daddy endlessly reassuring their little Stinky Faces and Nutbrown Hares about their love-you-forever love. Such constructions of adulthood don’t reflect the times we parents fail, as Flora’s mother does. They instead present us with visions of what we might be on our best days.

willems knuffle bunny too Words for Floras Mother (and Other Imperfect Parents)It’s the rare person who rises to the level of idealized parenting achieved, for example, by the father in Mo Willems’s picture book Knuffle Bunny Too. When daughter Trixie realizes, in the middle of the night, that she mistakenly took home the wrong Knuffle, Daddy agrees to an on-the-spot stuffed-bunny exchange. Would I do such a thing? Not a chance. Faced with such a scenario, I’d tell my kid that we’d sort things out in the morning. If I were feeling very generous, I’d tuck her back in with another stuffed animal. And I wouldn’t go back and forth in some reverie about “and if the moon could talk” or whatever. Good. Night.

And yet, even if I can’t pretend to aspire to Trixie’s daddy’s selflessness, I absolutely see a reflection of myself in how plain exhausted he looks when Trixie rouses him from a deep sleep. Indeed, some of the most rounded portraits of parents in picture books come in stories about them trying to get their little ones to “go the f*ck to sleep.” Amy Schwartz’s Some Babies, David Ezra Stein’s Interrupting Chicken, and Janet S. Wong’s Grump (illustrated by John Wallace) are just a few that conclude with beleaguered, fatigued parents nodding off while trying (and failing) to put their little ones to bed.

And why are they so tired? Well, because the days leading up to those fraught bedtimes can be…long. I have a soft spot in my heart for Marla Frazee’s not-so-flattering but oh-so-familiar depictions of parents at the mercy of their Boss Baby; a mother driven nuts by her little girl (Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! by Mem Fox); and an exasperated Mrs. Peters who can’t satisfy everyone’s tastes (The Seven Silly Eaters by Mary Ann Hoberman). And high on my list of picture book illustrations that capture not the drama of difficult moments but the tedium of daily routines is a vignette from Amy Schwartz’s slice-of-life picture book A Glorious Day. The droll text reads: “At home Henry and his mother play trains. Henry is the big train and his mother is the small train. All morning long.” I can practically hear Henry’s mother meditating on a refrain from another train book — “I think I can, I think I can” — as she puts in quality floor time with her kid.

floras very windy day Words for Floras Mother (and Other Imperfect Parents)And yet, she’s hanging in there. The same cannot be said of Flora’s mother. Until book’s end, she’s so wrapped up in herself and her career as a romance novelist that she is blind to her daughter’s needs. She might find kinship with the mother of another Flora, the star of Jeanne Birdsall and Matt Phelan’s picture book Flora’s Very Windy Day. I’ve read it with my children and have recognized myself in its depiction of a mother driven not wild but to weary despair as, instead of helping her quarreling kids solve their dispute, she shoos them outside while trying to get some work done. Is she writing a romance novel on that laptop? I don’t know. But I do know that she, like the other Flora’s mother, and like me sometimes, is not having a terribly glorious day of attentive mothering.

Phelan’s art deftly and powerfully conveys the emotions underlying the conflict. In the first double-page spread Flora, on the verso, is Eloise-like in her rage, with red emanata surrounding her. Little brother Crispin sits, posture alert, at a safe distance by a messy art table (as we saw on the dedication page, he spilled his sister’s paints — again!), his sidelong gaze directed at Flora. He’s clearly seen her blow her top before. Their mother is far to the right of the composition, turning away from her computer screen with a wan, defeated expression. While Flora is unquestionably the focus—the other characters’ eyes are on her, and her erect, outraged depiction demands attention—I can’t help but home in on this mother. I know her. I’ve been her. I want to give her a hug.

Do my children notice this mom? Not really. And who can blame them? Flora is a force to be reckoned with, and my kids are much more interested in the sibling conflict. When they once did shift their attention to the mother, it was to remark, “It’s not fair!” when she insists Flora take Crispin outside with her. “Give her a break!” I said in a mothers-of-the-world-unite sort of way.

The wind carries Crispin away, and Flora resolves to retrieve him: “My mother wouldn’t like it if I lost him.” My then-nine-year-old daughter Emilia empathetically piped up, “And Flora would miss him, too, even if he spills her paints.” On the penultimate spread, Flora and Crispin return home, and their mother, channeling Max’s mom and his “still hot” dinner, has chocolate chip cookies waiting. The story could end there — the text does — but Phelan delivers a heartwarming visual coda on the final page-turn that shifts attention away from the mother’s act of apology and back, where it belongs, to the sibling dynamic. The couplet of pictures first shows Flora and Crispin sitting apart and eating their cookies, then leaning into each other, not making eye contact or smiling, but with the closeness between their little bodies communicating forgiveness. The scene is familiar to me as both an older sister and as a mother of children who bicker and make up, who love one another through and despite times when they fail or hurt or disappoint one another. “Nothing would be easier without you” these pictures seem to say. “Even if you spill my paints.”

brave irene Words for Floras Mother (and Other Imperfect Parents)I appreciate how this wordless closing eschews a mama’s mea culpa as resolution to the story. After all, children’s book readers aren’t terribly interested in a mother’s emotional story arc. I recall with chagrin one time when I was sick with the flu — and also sick and tired of kids bickering before bedtime — that instead of letting my children choose our shared reading material, I dramatically pulled William Steig’s Brave Irene off the shelf, self-indulgently recalling how its intrepid child protagonist lavishes her ill mother with affection and support. “Oh Mom-Mom,” Emilia said, after I’d read a few pages. “We have not been so nice as Irene.”

And did that make me feel any better? Of course not. I felt like a jerk. Guilt-tripping one’s children into compliance or sympathy through passive-aggressive bedtime reading selections isn’t a terrific parenting strategy. I can report, however, that my other kids weren’t so moved. “You’re not really that sick,” Stevie said. “Can I choose the next book?” Caroline asked. And on we went.

I know my kids won’t recall their childhoods — even filled as they are with books, and play, and each other, and parents in two houses who adore them — as devoid of parenting failures, lacking in conflict or hurt, and overflowing only with wonder and whimsy. And I know that my own faults contribute to some of the less-than-ideal moments they’ll recall. That’s a hard pill to swallow, and as I (re)read DiCamillo’s book and anticipate Flora’s reconciliation with her mother, I’ve come to think that although this resolution may be a comfort to child readers who see the child protagonist’s wish fulfilled in confirming her mother’s love, it also gently guides them toward acceptance of flawed adults. Forgive us, children, books with such parents say; we know precisely what we do, and we feel like crap about it. DiCamillo’s novel avoids having the final words be delivered in a parental voice begging filial pardon. Instead, the closing poem is a superhero squirrel’s affirmation of his devotion to the girl who saved him.

Adoptive parents like me frequently encounter well-intentioned but misguided comments implying that we saved our kids. “They’re so lucky to have you” is the refrain. The truism that their other mom and I often resort to is that we are the lucky ones. To stretch and invert Ulysses’s line to Flora, nothing would be harder to imagine than life without them. Paraphrasing DiCamillo: “It’s a miracle. Or something.”

And if I lose sight of the miracle of this modern family of mine, there’s nothing like settling in with a book to redirect our attention away from the tumult of our own foibles and failings toward the common ground of others’ stories. Book bonding, you might call it. We put aside quarrels over who had more time on the Xbox, why it’s so hard to just bring the freaking laundry downstairs, and whatever is “not fair!” at any given moment, to read about everything from very windy days, to bunny-exchanging daddies, to mothers driven wild, to superhero squirrels. And, holy bagumba, as Flora might say, I’ll love those times forever — to the moon and back! The kitchen floor can wait.

From the May/June 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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The post Words for Flora’s Mother (and Other Imperfect Parents) appeared first on The Horn Book.

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4. it was a long winter

It wasn't the amount of snow. It was the cold. It was how long it was cold, in Hotlanta. It was so cold this past winter. I just wanted to make soup and popcorn and burrow under old quilts and watch old movies; and look out the kitchen window to see the winter birds forage on all the old seed pods in the garden; take selfies of ourselves now, and compare them to old pictures of us on my dresser

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5. this and that to begin a new year: experimenting

I'm sifting through an experiment. I got my first smart-phone in late November, and I put down my Nikon D-40 for four months. I've just learned (maybe this is a new blogger thing) that I can work on my laptop and access my phone photos here... very good! Google has done some silly stuff with animated gifs and an end-of-year doo-dad that's sweet, silly, and confusing, as I don't know a couple of

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6. DreamWorks Promotes Upcoming ‘Home’ with New Short ‘Almost Home’

DreamWorks premiered online a new short "Almost Home" on Buzzfeed this morning to promote their next original feature, "Home," which will debut on November 26, 2014.

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7. The Sadistic Overlord of Technology

Although outwardly it may appear that I am in full possession of my life’s reigns, I’ve come to realize that I control very few things besides my attitude. Most events occur around me while I jab at the air to try to influence their outcome. Like a giant game of cornhole, I throw the bean bag in the air, lean left, hold my tongue just right, and hope it goes in the hole. To give my analogy an Olympic flair, I’m swishing a broom violently in the hopes of pushing the stone to the left. I think we are all very reactionary in how we approach life because the demands of family, creditors, employers, government (and the list goes on) dictate most of our schedule.

I enjoyed my college philosophy classes, but remember nothing except my professor who had spindly legs supporting a massive belly. His poor knees creaked and cracked as he paced around the room. I’m sure he would say my theory is some type of classic Plato “–ism” where we are sitting back watching our lives on screens, only able to choose between limited outcomes.

Don’t overestimate my depth. I’m not philosophical at all. I only know that I have no choice in many things – even in my house. But at home, at least I am the Sadistic Overlord of Technology! Don’t you love the title? I gave it to myself. I should probably put it in bold. The Sadistic Overlord of Technology. If anything remotely technological doesn’t work the way one of my family hoped it would, I am to blame. I get blame, ergo, I get the title.

Take, for instance, our printer. It was one of the first wireless printers and worked perfectly for a long time. It still works fine…for some of us. Three of us have Windows 8 and it seems to like that OS. But it gave up trying for Windows 7. My wife and oldest daughter have Windows 7. I have updated the drivers and tried everything I know to do. But when they push print, it will print no more than one page before it dies. Usually it prints about half a page, violently spits the paper onto the floor, and goes into some form of cleaning mode that makes them scream in frustration. Since both are night owls, this nearly always occurs after the Overlord has gone to bed.

My attitude when awoken to fix the printer is where the word Sadistic got added to my title. I’m not much help after I’ve gone to sleep – part by mental capacity and part by groggy choice, I admit. The help desk is closed! I come out of the bedroom like Jack Nicholson poking his head through the door in The Shining – “Here’s Johnny!”

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We’ve been dealing with this for a while and I’ve been dragging my heels on getting a new printer. I guess in some way, my sub-conscious sees this as one thing I can control. As you can imagine, there are ripple effects – mainly in attitude towards the overlord.

Come to think of it, control can be a dangerous thing…

Anyone have a recommendation for a wireless printer?

Photo credit: Jack & some cool app on my iPad

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8. A Warm Heart

What warms your heart on a cold day?  What warms your heart when the tides of change come crashing in?  What warms your heart when the” no’s” become overwhelming? What warms your heart when the crowd scatters and you are “Home Alone”?

I have a whole list of favorite things I like to look at periodically.  These are things that Warm My Heart.   I found myself smiling and even laughing. They are things I feel that God has blessed me with.  When I look at them I see stories! I see people, I see events…  and more.  Life is so much more than what we see during our day.  Life is a tapestry of stories that intertwine and make memories for us.  Some are so real we can almost re-live them just recalling them to our memories.

Favorite Things

  1. God my Father, Jesus my elder brother, the Holy Spirit my helper.
  2. All my Family
  3. Friends / art friends
  4. People
  5. Rosie and Violet
  6. Coffee with cream
  7. Purses
  8. Odd things for the house
  9. Floor Pillows
  10. Blankies
  11. Coffee Shops
  12. Art galleries
  13. Hankies
  14. Sketch books
  15. Lists
  16. Personal chef
  17. Trip to Maine and beyond
  18. Jeep
  19. Toys
  20. Children’s books
  21. Goat yogurt and blueberries
  22. Zinnias
  23. Colors : purply blue, raspberry, Yaya green
  24. Good movies with popcorn
  25. Breakfast in bed with a good magazine.
  26. grandsons!
  27. my SONS.
  28. a zillion best friends!
  29. colors
  30. the valley between Kenosha and BaileY
  31. the mountains
  32. a crackling fire in the stove
  33. falling snow
  34. deep snow and 4wheel drive
  35. My cozy studio
  36. a good book
  37. a comfy chair
  38. writing a story
  39. a bike ride . . …… and today…. Matthew!

Today’s Warm Fuzzy came from a friend.  She took this wonderful picture of her son sleeping with my Peepsqueak plush.  He is so cute!  Matthew is on my list!

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What are your favorite things?  I am sure mine will grow!!


Filed under: Kicking Around Thoughts

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9. Studio Move Out

Production in the studio has been slow.
That's not to mention all of the cool stuff that's happening behind the scenes! 
So let me fill you in with one biggie.

We're moving into our first house at the end of March!!

Yep, my husband and I were finally given the gift of buying our first home, and that means packing it all up. The whole month of March has been preparing and packing, and now we're at the tail end called "crunch time".

This also means working in the studio towards art has been placed aside. Artist cap off, homemaker cap on. Although, picking out paint colors has rambled our design heads a bit. ;)

I'm very excited to be moving into our new home, and the new studio (eeee!!!), and I can't wait to show you! Until I can, here is the before and after of my current studio...the after being where it's at today. Just so you can get an idea.


I still have a mini work space for painting and basic office work since we're still in the apartment for two more weeks, but everything else is getting boxed up and ready to haul.

ETSY SHOP ANNOUNCEMENT
My wee shop is going on vacation Wednesday March 20th until April 15th, that's the longest time on vacation since I opened the shop 5 years ago.

Beginning April 15th thru April 19th everything in the shop will be 35% off to kick off the new studio! Mark your calenders for this sale!

More details will be on Facebook along with sneak peeks of the new studio as I get it all put together.

Want the first peek? The studio is through those doors...


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10. I LOVE TOYS!!!

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For as long as I can remember, I have LOVED toys!  To have a toy made from one of my cartoons is my dream come true!  It will help the world see my character the way I see him.  REAL!!  ha ha!  This series of plush Peepsqueaks in the pictures above, were the first proto-types that came to my home. Merry Makers is the toy company we worked with.  It was so fun to see my little Peepsqueak transform from page to puff!  He is such a cute little plush!!  Merry Makers did such a good job!  You can buy Peepsqueak now if you go to their website. They welcome retail orders online at http://www.merrymakersinc.com and retail and/or wholesale orders at 888-989-0454 or via email at merrymakers@merrymakersinc.com.

Below is the final Peepsqueak. I just love him!  Isn’t he cute!!! I brought him to a preschool yesterday and the children loved him and all wanted to pet him…. so they did!!!!

So order your Peepsqueak now!  He is waiting to live in your home!!!  Don’t forget, the books, “Peepsqueak”,  and “Peepsqueak Wants A Friend” are at your bookstore waiting for you too.  They would all make great gifts for the kiddies on Easter.

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Filed under: My Characters, Peepsqueak!

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11. year of the bunny


I would like to introduce you to the newest members of the family.
Pip, a silky soft spunky dwarf rex velveteen rabbit, and Sparkles (6 year old naming job), a sweet netherland dwarf. We spent a crafty but cramped new years weekend under the deck building them a nice place to live.
Those are the perks of living in a small town, nobody objects, and there isn't really anything better to do. Let me tell you, those are some happy bunnies.
"Wait", you say, "don't you already have a Beagle?" - Why yes we do. Poor pet planning? Maybe, but it sure is exciting around here. The dog loves the bunnies, but we are not letting them play together in the backyard.



meet Pip and Sparkles

bunny paradise under the deck

screen print
I have to warn you, with these models we'll be seeing some more rabbit themed artwork in 2013.
Happy monday!

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12. Ho Ho Ho Merry Christmas

..     MERRY CHRISTMAS ONE AND ALL!   Filed under: Children's Books Tagged: Christmas, holidays, home, merry christmas

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13. Then let us all with one accord…

Stepping away from the news and business this evening, I poked around on YouTube for a nice Christmas video to share with you. For some reason I started wondering if Sitka, Alaska, where I’d spent 2-3 of my childhood years still celebrates Christmas. I remember a Christmas there that lit up the dark Alaskan winter. [...]

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14. Week 36…and 35… and 34

Week 36

Can you even believe it?

36 weeks

Highlights of week 36 so far:

  • We had an ultrasound this week and baby is head down.

Baby, please stay that way, okay?

Thanks!

  • We also got to see the baby find his/her thumb and start sucking on it, which was pretty heart melting for this momma and daddy.
  • The house is getting more and more organized (thanks to my crazy nesting hormones) and baby’s ‘corner’ is starting to come together. At some point this weekend I plan on making a modified version of this mobile. I’ll post pictures when it’s done.
  • We received the car seat in the mail this week!

Thanks Mom and Dad!!

  • We also received a few of the diapers we registered for. We have decided to go the cloth diaper route and we are so thankful any time someone decides to send us one.

Week 35

35 weeks

Highlights of week 35:

  • Mom visit!! I am so thankful for the week that my mom was here. We ran errands, ate good food, watched a lot of Project Runway, and had several heart to hearts. It was hard to see her leave, but she’ll be back as soon as this baby decides to come!
  • Baby shower! Thank you to those who came to my baby shower! I feel so blessed by all of the diapers, clothes, blankets, and love that have been heaped on me and this baby.
  • Graduation! Thank you to those who came to watch me get ‘hooded.’ Again, I am so blessed by the people in my life!
  • Lesta, Christina and Annika came for a short visit! It was so good to see them and watch them get excited about the baby visibly moving around.

Before I move on to week 34, here are some precious Francie gems:

gem

She had me laughing so hard in this next one. She loves relaxing in the sun.

First born

Oh, how much our lives are about to change. :)

Week 34

34 weeks

Highlights of week 34:

  • Celebration of 34 weeks with baby Juniper or baby Arthur.

Baby, I have loved these months where I get you all to myself, but I am starting to feel impatient for you to join the outside world. I can’t wait to hug your little body and kiss your sweet face. 

  • Celebration of 4 years with my love.

Forrest, I can hardly believe that it has already been 4 years. I am so thankful you are my husband and friend.

love

You are my hero.
Love,
Libs


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15. The Skinny on the Housing Crisis


Author: Jim Randel
Publisher: Rand Media
Genre: Home / Finance
ISBN: 978-0-9818935-2-5
Pages: 176
Price: $14.95

Author’s website
Buy it at Amazon

Many factors were involved in the recent housing crisis. We watched the housing market crash and banks strugging with enormous unpaid debt, but few really understood how it happened. In The Skinny on the Housing Crisis, Jim Randel explains exactly what took place.

At a time when housing was booming, rules restricting borrowing were more relaxed. Even those who normally couldn’t qualify for a traditional mortgage had options available to them to buy their house. And since real estate was appreciating so rapidly, no one saw a problem with these practices, at least until real estate prices started to decline. So today’s home buyer needs to be savvy in knowing what to do – and what to avoid doing – to make the right purchase.

This “Skinny” features a stick figure couple buying their first home, and shows us the problems they encounter. While it looks a bit like a comic book, it provides a wealth of information on this important topic. And, as always, a bibliography is provided for those who want to do some more research.

Reviewer: Alice Berger


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16. 33 weeks

I have been pregnant for 33 weeks.

On the one hand, where has the time gone?

On the other hand, guys! I was pregnant on New Year’s Day.

Wow.

That is some significant time.

I have about 7 weeks left (right?), and I am praying (and hoping) that baby waits to come until he/she is healthy, strong, and ready to join us on the outside.

I have had a few baby showers (and been really, really bad about photographing the events), but I have been so blessed by the  abundance of baby clothes, diapers, and other necessities.

Initially, Forrest and I decided not to buy a dresser or changing table; rather, we were going to make room for baby with the space we have available. Then…we realized it might be nice to have a place to put all of baby’s stuff without having to get rid of/stress about de-cluttering our own space. We found a dresser on craigslist for a bargain and I LOVE it. It will double as a changing table on the top, once we get a changing pad.

 

Dresser of happiness

 

The picture shows it as a darker yellow than it is. Think soft yellow.

 

love

 

I washed all of the baby clothes we have received so far, and there is a definite pattern of yellow, polka dots, stripes and giraffes.

LOVE.

Also, there is something about taking those tiny, perfect little clothes off the hanger, clipping off the tags, washing them and putting them in the drawer that makes this baby’s arrival so real. The clothes go from being, “aw, cute!” to, “this belongs to my baby.”

WEIRD!

Wonderful.

We’ve also decided to go the cloth diaper route, and we received the first of many (I hope) at the last shower.

 

 
The pattern on this one is smarty-pants math. Maybe it will make the baby smarter??

Finally, because I know this is really why you read this blog, here is a picture of me and baby at a glorious 33 weeks.

 

 

Thanks for reading.

Love,

Libs

 


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17. All By Myself! by Emile Jadoul

 5 Stars All By Myself! Emile Jadoul Eerdmans Books for Y.R. 978-08028-5411-7 26 pages, ages 3+ 140 miles north of my home is a publisher with some fantastic books.  I try to bring them to you every chance I get, and today is one of those times.  I am so happy to bring you All [...]

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18. a kind, amiable animal

Idly, you understand, idly we had been watching the grassy neighborhood verges for realtors' signs, not taking the idea of moving too seriously, not investing overly because the whole idea of leaving our current house (pictured), of organizing a move, is beyond daunting--although a month ago we impetuously made an offer on one house which thank the stars we didn't get; it wasn't right at all, but we got our feet wet.

And then last Sunday there it was, a house just the right amount of bigger, in a spot neither too close nor too far away, nothing needing to be done to it, full of colors that spoke to us--if not laughingly, as in our current house, then expressively, in a few different languages, and with a garden that reminds us that outdoors is home too.  We let the sellers know by our offer that we could picture ourselves there and they believed us, and now we have bought a house.  Exclamation mark.  We are soaked!

All in the family agree:  we're excited for the new house, its fresh possibilities, but we're sad to leave the old house, which is, after all, a member of the family.



What My House Would Be Like If It Were A Person
Denise Levertov

This person would be an animal.

This animal would be large, at least as large

as a workhorse. It would chew cud, like cows,

having several stomachs.

No one could follow it

into the dense brush to witness

its mating habits. Hidden by fur,

its sex would be hard to determine.

Definitely it would discourage

investigation. But it would be, if not teased,

a kind, amiable animal,

confiding as a chickadee....


Read the rest here, and stop by Paper Tigers for today's Poetry Friday roundup, where Marjorie has picked out a gem of a book to share!

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19. For a New Beginning, Some Things Must Change



Winter: a slow freezing, dripping, hiding, melting. Cold air, cold feet. Deer and ice. Coats and hats.
Spring: already here…lavender, lime green, blue sky, birds sing, thick grass.

Last summer, Mark and I went to Petoskey, Michigan, on vacation. We loved it there. It was August and I got to wear a sweatshirt! There was a beach right on the shores of Lake Michigan. Petoskey is located in Little Traverse Bay, on the north edge of the lake, about an hour from the Mackinac Bridge. See location of purple pin (disregard blue dot).

The air was so fresh and, just like their tagline, "Pure." I could breath there in a way that I find difficult in August in Ohio (or Florida, where I lived for from 1981-1999). So, we returned home, with memories of the beach at Petoskey State Park...




And the lovely flowers, and the comfortable Bay View Inn…


We kidded each other that when we retired we'd move to Petoskey, or Harbor Springs, it's close-by neighbor around the bay. Here is a photo of the marina at Harbor Springs…


Well, one thing led to another, and it was determined moving to a cooler climate by the lake would be very good for me, for us. We figured out a way to do it and made a drive up to Harbor Springs in February to look at houses. We were there during the state junior ski championship and a nice little snowstorm came through, which I didn't mind at all. (I got a good tree photo, after all.)

20. and now it's april

What have I done with the first three months of this year off? So much. And now it is April and book two is once again under my fingertips. So is a little girl named Cambria Bold. She is seven. She loves to cook. She makes me laugh. She has a little sister named Miss Moss and a dog named Old Dreadful No. 7.  Her best friend is Queen Esther Washington who does not love squash. April is shaping up

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21. No Joke! Humor and Culture in Middle-Grade Books

When I was a child, growing up in the various parts of India to which my father’s job took us, books were my friends, and I liked them funny. I discovered my grandfather’s P. G. Wodehouse collection at the age of eleven and was at once enchanted by the amiable lunacy of fictional worlds like the Drones Club and Blandings Castle. Lovable and ludicrous, they allowed me to claim an understanding of characters very different from me. I was at that age when laughter comes easily and convoluted story lines feel newly accessible. Plum’s immortal farces were a gift.

But funny isn’t something we’re taught to respect. That could be why, when writers embark on the serious business of crossing cultural boundaries in their work, they don’t often start out with humor. In 2004, Cynthia and Greg Leitich Smith spoke at the Reading the World conference about the dearth of funny books with cultural resonance. Why, they asked, are multicultural books so very serious?

It was a valid question then. What’s surprising is the degree to which it remains valid today, especially in books for middle-grade readers. Books set in foreign countries are still largely about oppression, while those in hyphenated-American communities are about the challenges of finding oneself and becoming American. While many have humorous moments, they are not, by and large, funny books.

It seems especially necessary that children’s books, in the balance, convey more than a one-dimensional image of “the other,” yet the identity tale of oppressed people continues to dominate those books dubbed “multicultural.” Perhaps the problem is that the very notion of a culturally grounded story is perceived as worthy and important, not concepts we associate with laughter. But the truth is that you can’t see people as fully human if all you can feel for them is pity. Funny books with cultural contexts are capable of subverting and questioning issues of identity and belonging. By upsetting worthy apple carts, they offer new and necessary views of characters with cultural connections beyond the mainstream.

The pioneer in mixing humor with matters of race, culture, and, yes, oppression is undoubtedly Christopher Paul Curtis. The Watsons Go to Birmingham—1963 was published in 1995. The scene in which Byron’s lips get stuck to the family car’s side-view mirror is the one most readers call to mind, but there are others, many of them much more pointed than that one, as when the boys are faced with the prospect of going to the bathroom in the woods. Byron says, sardonically, “Snakes? I ain’t scared of no damn snake, it’s the people I’m worried about.” He means white people, of course, on the family’s journey south. The humor slams the reader with the grimness of the circumstances, even while it gives the characters a means of coping.

Humor in The Watsons is a mechanism Curtis uses to lead readers to an understanding of the insidiousness of racism and discrimination. It allows us to align clearly with one group of people and against another, in a deliberate stance that counters the prejudices of the period. If you’re with Kenny and his family, you can’t condone the racism they have to endure. Inequity, discrimination, and injustice give thematic impetus to the characters’ journeys. Because we can laugh, we can bear to navigate those obstacles along with them.

Since 1995, other writers of multicultural books have ventured into humorous terrain. In Julia Alvarez’s How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay, the unorthodox use of a strikeout in the title places a tongue-in-cheek tonal stamp on the work before the reader has turned a single page. It’s plain that this relative is about to change young Miguel’s life forever. He can’t hold out against this woman who is practically a force of nature, and neither can the reader. Her character, larger than life and twice as real, creates a playfulness that runs through the book and it

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22. Guest Blogging with Food

Chris Smith The Diabetic Chef® Autographing hi...

Chris Smith The Diabetic Chef® Autographing his first cookbook: Cooking with The Diabetic Chef® (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is a quick heads-up for whomever drops in today. I have a guest blog up this morning on Pat McDermott’s all things cooking website.

I disclose my experience with writing a cookbook for the first time. It hasn’t been the hardest project I’ve taken up, but it has been the tastiest. When you develop new recipes that hold restrictions like cakes with no sugar or low sodium meat entrees, cooking becomes a double challenge.

That’s what my cookbook partners and I are dealing with. At the end of the process, and before the last “T” is crossed or “I” dotted, we’re having a Taste-Testing party with our appetizers and desserts, invitation only. That’s a lot of work for senior women with a passion for food, but it’s work that satisfies in more than one way.

If you get the chance today, stop by Pat’s kitchen to see what’s cooking. If nothing else, you’ll find sumptuous recipes with full photos. Food lovers beware. You may be there a while once you walk in the door.

Enjoy yourselves and your little detour today.

A bientot,

Claudsy


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23. Living In Harbor Springs, Michigan - May 2012

It has been nearly 6 weeks since Mark and I moved from Athens, Ohio, to Harbor Springs, Michigan. So much has happened! I am going to let my photos do most of the talking! These are not in chronological order, but neither are the happy memories, visual experiences, and feelings that swirl around in my heart and mind as I become acclimated to this new hometown.

When spring finally arrived, Mark and I went down to the Marina after dinner and enjoyed seeing the first boats docked in the Harbor Springs marina on Lake Michigan.

This is the most recent photo, taken  May 24 at Petoskey State Park, about 10 miles from our home. I lived by the Gulf of Mexico for 17 years. It is good to live near water again!

I loved this plant, growing on the sand dunes.

We have become more active recyclers in our new town. These "friends" appear at the various recycling collection stations.

Here is my Hipstamatic pic of the marina in May. Soon, this place will be full of boats!


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24. A Peek into our Hall Corner

I thought you might like to see a little corner of our home. We live in a German altbau(old building) apartment. Our building dates from around 1900.

This little corner is where our front hall meets our very long, narrow, bowling-alley-like main hall. I can’t remember if it was intentional, but the collection of images is a little homage to my home state of South Carolina. It’s the focal point of our entryway.

The top photograph, entitled Foggy is by South Carolina photographer Robin Smith (find him here) and the bottom photograph, of the Hutchinson House on Edisto Island, is by Susan Roberts (find her here).

The painting is by me, a gift to my husband before we were married. I painted it in Boston, and I remember someone asking me, is there really such a thing as Spanish moss?

It made me laugh, considering that I’d had Spanish moss in my backyard my whole life. Yes, people, it’s real. Not made up for the movies. It’s nice to be able to have a little reminder of it here with me in Germany. We’ll be seeing Spanish moss again soon!

The desk and rug belonged to my husband’s grandparents.

We’re sorting our things, getting things in order, and I’m trying as best I can to stay on my writing schedule until the last minute. This novel has got to happen.


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25. time to cook the kale

Maybe I got over-enthusiastic about the kale at the farmer's market last week. I've had my head so far down in 1964, I haven't cooked much the past couple of weeks except for Sunday dinners. Now it's time to cook (or massage, or juice, or etc) the kale. I've still got a ways to go. But I'm making a dent. Kinda how I feel about the novel right now. Happy Weekend! Eat your kale.

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