Friday, December 19, 2014

A Year Ago... two days, I was getting ready for the library's Family Christmas Program, and was fatter than Santa. My bags were packed and the car was already partially loaded: we were set to leave early, early the next morning for Albuquerque, where I was supposed to have a C-section at UNM Hospital. It was expected that the baby would need heart surgery soon after birth, and we were working out how to 'do' Christmas with the other kids from either the hospital or a hotel room.

Two hours before the program, I got a call from UNM saying that - oh, um, they couldn't do the surgery. At all. We needed to completely change, not just doctors, but hospitals.

So, you know, no stress there.

I don't remember a whole lot of the program that evening, except that the only thing Sheridan asked Santa for was her baby brother for Christmas!

The next morning, early early, we dropped kids off at Grandma's and drove up to Albuquerque - to Presbyterian Hospital. The amazing staff there already had my file practically memorized, despite having it dropped in their lap the day before. They noted that my blood pressure was high, for the first time in my life - can't imagine why. They also mentioned there was a 60-70% chance he would have Down Syndrome as well. I forced myself to eat dinner that evening, knowing I would need it, but could barely stay awake to pick up my fork. Then, the woman in the next room at the hotel-type place where we were staying yelled into her phone, in Spanish, all night.

The next morning, one year ago today, I went back to the hospital, where two nurses were assigned to get me ready for my C-section, and an entire NICU team stood by to take care of the baby. I didn't see another patient until after it was all over. The nurses were fantastic and put Daddy and I both at ease - as much as we could be - so that we were able to laugh when, just before I went in to surgery, I went into labor!

I only caught a glimpse of a black mohawk (?!) before he was rushed off, and I started vomiting for the next 12 hours...but soon enough I was in the NICU with him all day, then by Sunday the doctor announced that she didn't like the way he was yelling at her, and she was kicking us all out! Sheridan got her wish, baby brother home for Christmas, and today Mr. Too-Smart, curly-blonde, fit as a fiddle...

is one! 

Happy Birthday Shane Michael What Cat Nanny-Nanny-Boo-Boo Hello Kitty Duck Butterfly Flower John Jack Jones!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Actually, Miss Scarlet, Some People Do Give a D*mn.

A couple weeks ago, I shared a photo of Miss Scarlet to my Facebook page. Little hound mix, maybe 7 months old, left to starve, then ended up at the county shelter. A sweet little thing, she just couldn't seem to find a new owner there - the bony ribs and hip bones may have put some people off. This is an especially bad time of the year for animals in shelters, especially those that aren't cute little fluffy things. More pets get dropped off as people decide they are 'in the way', or too unruly to deal with when out of town guests are coming. Many...don't have a happy ending.

 Fortunately, just as her time was close to being 'up', a caring couple decided to foster her and fatten her up, in hopes of finding her that perfect home. She got along great with their cats and their baby, didn't have a single accident in the house, played with their big dogs but didn't even glance twice at the barking dogs next door. Charmed everyone at the local bark park. Didn't chew up toys or escape from the yard. Pretty much a perfect dog!

That's what we think, anyway.

Welcome to the family, Miss Scarlet!
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

14 Shopping days Left! Review: Lester's Dreadful Sweaters

Lester's Dreadful Sweaters

A fastidious fellow, Lester likes everything just so. So when Cousin Clara moves in and knits him truly dreadful sweaters as fast as he can surreptitiously dispose of them, Lester must think of a way to get rid of them for good -- or be doomed to look like a clown forever.

Just in time for Holiday Gift Receiving!  Lester politely accepts each increasingly bizarre sweater, but then disposes of each in increasingly unbelievable accidents, until he is finally caught. The solution is just as unbelievable, but highly satisfactory for everyone involved. A fun way to broach the subject of receiving gifts with good grace, and considering others' feelings, without the feeling of having a moral lesson crammed down your throat (Jamie Lee Curtis I'm looking at you). Knowing my kids, I can already pick out which sweaters each will think are marvelous, so we can talk about different tastes and opinions as well!

The illustrations are absolutely wonderful, with Lester's expressions becoming more and more doleful (and at times rather evil), and fun details such as leaves drifting in the door or the dog batting at a bell from under the sofa. The setting seems to be the Louisiana bayou country, which makes a sharp contrast to Lester's persnickitiness (he measures his socks to ensure they are the same height). It may also pay to point out that those whose clothes are raggedy but clean don't seem to be embarrassed at all, while Lester of the carefully knotted tie is more consumed with how he looks.

If you are still doing your Christmas shopping (and who isn't?), gift this with
- a nice sweater
- a plain sweater to decorate for your own ugly sweater contest
- knitting needles and yarn and a promise of lessons

Monday, December 8, 2014

16 Shopping Days Left! Review of Backhoe Joe by Lori Alexander

Backhoe Joe

Okay, I know, this is the third vehicle-related book I have reviewed for the holiday gifting season - but, really, can you ever have too many truck books? This one has a really cute twist:

When Nolan finds a stray backhoe in the street, he can't wait to adopt it. But this backhoe is not very well behaved. As Nolan tries to train his new pet, he learns that maybe this backhoe already has a home.

Yes, this backhoe digs in the flower bed, and leaks all over the driveway. Nolan's parents are less than thrilled, but kids will be all over the idea of a pet backhoe! Or a cement mixer...

Gifting Ideas

This one definitely needs a set of construction vehicles
I can just hear my kids creating all sorts of stories after reading this one!

Friday, December 5, 2014

19 Shopping Days Left! Review of the Our American Symbols series from Millbrook Press

History is kind of big in our house. I mean, how many eight-year-old boys dress up as Abraham Lincoln for Halloween? Car trips are peppered with questions such as, "Why does the Statue of Liberty have a book?" and "What number president was Teddy Roosevelt?" Sometimes we get so caught up in cute picture books, we forget how much kids thirst for stories that are 'real'.

Lerner comes out with some great nonfiction series, really making things accessible for the younger crowd. I was able to look at two from the "Our American Symbols" series: 

Can You Sing

Can We Ring the Liberty Bell?

Other titles include:
Is the Bald Eagle Really Bald?
What is Inside the Lincoln Memorial?
Why are there Stripes on the American Flag? (I have been asked that recently!)
Why is the Statue of Liberty Green?

I think I am going to buy this entire series for myself and stock it in the car, so I can just hand the appropriate book back!

Let's look at pictures first, because I noticed something right away. Lerner's junior readers all seem to have that must-include-all-ethnic-groups thing going on, which is great, but do you see the eyes? I don't think I have ever noticed an illustrator using different shapes, so huge props to Poling for that one! In general, the illustrations are bright and colorful, if somewhat formulaic (there were a couple places where a child was completely cut and pasted from another page - like, the redhead and ponytail girl on pages 4 and 18 in the first title). 

The text follows a class (not the same one each time) through a lesson or field trip centered around the item or event in question. A bit too wordy for a read-aloud, but perfectly suited to a classroom lesson where you wanted to stop and discuss each page. Small side bars add interesting trivia bits (no gum or candy allowed near the Liberty Bell!), and vocabulary is explained clearly, both in the text and in a glossary at the back. Each book also has a suggested activity - writing a patriotic poem, or a game involving hiding the Liberty Bell.

A good introduction to basic symbols of America, with plenty of facts for curious youngsters like mine. 

Gifting Suggestions

I have been eyeing this floor puzzle for the kids:

(did I mention I love Melisa and Doug stuff?)

and, what child doesn't like to wave a flag? Maybe let this one wave in a corner of their room:
Adopt a bald eagle from the World Wildlife Fund, and receive this plush to give as a gift:

Or, if you are close enough to a museum that features a bit of American History, experiences and memories always last longer than tangible gifts!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

21 Shopping Days Left! Review of Enzo Races in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Enzo Races in the Rain!

Enzo the puppy makes the big journey from the farm to the city (bark twice for faster!) and learns to try new things as he makes friends with Denny and Zoe and ultimately calls this new (and rainy!) place home.

"Grown-up" books are not generally my thing, so while I am vaguely aware that there exists a book called Racing in the Rain and that it is popular, I have not actually read it myself. I did read the original Marley book, though, and while I loved that, I find the picture books...rather painfully atrocious.

So, I picked this one up with some trepidation. Fortunately, it is a very cute book all by itself. Stein's writing talents (with the help of Zoe B. Alley) seem to transfer just fine to picture books - not too wordy, showing as much as telling, plenty of dialogue. R. W. Alley's illustrations are a perfect complement, comfortable and expressive. 

Anyone with a lively pup will recognize - and appreciate - the joie de vivre Enzo meets the world with, and any child who has lost something important, or who has been lost himself, will empathize when Enzo gets lost in the rain. Enzo's actions and thoughts are quite true-to-form for a young pup ("Now people are running everywhere - all sprinting after me! They like to run, too! This is fun!") 

I understand that there is at least one more picture book in the works, and - with a sigh of relief - after reading this one I look forward to more. Hand it to any child, or even a teen or young adult who likes to run!

Gifting Ideas

I covered some thoughts behind pets as gifts in a September post, so check back there for ideas.
Along the running theme, maybe a promise to start running together (er...when it's warmer?)
Some good jogging shoes if your giftee is already a runner?
If he is not, GeoPalz has fairly inexpensive pedometers in different styles
which can be set up so that your kids can earn prizes by exercising. Hey, that sounds like a whole lot more fun than feeding them cardboard for lunch!

Monday, December 1, 2014

23 Shopping Days Left! Review of A New Chick for Chickies, by Janee Trasler

I just realized that in all these book reviews/gifting suggestions, I haven't had anything for the really little ones! Never fear, Chickies to the rescue!

A New Chick for Chickies

Life was good.
Muy bien. Life was perfect. Until when . . .
Craaack . . . the Chickies have a new brother!

Love, love, love these guys! Back in March, I called this my new favorite series. Since then we have added Dinnertime for Chickies, and now the above title. I love the squishy covers, the way the story starts from the first inside page, the aDORable bright illustrations, and the funny tongue-in-cheek text. Hand this off to someone expecting a new sibling, or just to anyone who needs a fun (sturdy!) read.

Gifting Suggestions:

A new sibling? Why not - that's what we got last year!

No? Okay, then how about a collection of chickies?
Just make sure those flowers are firmly fastened on before they go in someone's mouth!
or this cute giggle ball, which looks a lot like the chickies in the book:

Little one doesn't need more 'stuff'? Then how about a donation in his name - for $20 you can provide a whole flock of chicks through Heifer International, and change a family's lives!