Thursday, August 31, 2017

Series Review: Space Discovery Guides from Lerner

Fall is weeding time, when we comb through the collections, removing books that are worn, that have stopped circulating, or in the case of nonfiction, books that are too old.

As an old thing myself, I hate to just dismiss somethings worth because of its age. I mean, space for example: okay, so Pluto is not a planet any more, but have black holes really changed?


Black holes are one of the greatest mysteries of outer space. No visible light can escape the strong gravity of a black hole. This makes black holes invisible—and very difficult to study. But scientists make new discoveries and develop new theories about these mysterious objects every day. In 2015, astronomers were able to finally confirm a theory that Einstein had developed one hundred years earlier! And in 2016, scientists found that black holes may form in a different way than they ever thought possible.

Well, that answers that question! Good timing on Lerner's part, then, because that is the section I happen to be on right now.

Other titles in this series include:
Garbage in Space
Mars Missions
Pluto (I'm sorry, it will always be a planet)
Private Space Travel and


Are you tired of me praising Lerner's binding? Too bad. For books that circulate (like those on space or animals), a good binding becomes just as important as copyright date when it comes to weeding time. I have never had to discard a book published by Lerner, however popular, because of its physical condition. Know how this happens to the spines of many books?

Never to Lerner's. Take note, other publishers!

Black Holes begins with a story of the above-mentioned discovery. As a non-sciencey kid, I always appreciated the story approach to getting my attention. The information that follows is easily accessible to this non-sciencey adult. And the Madeleine L'Engle fan in me totally 'got' the illustration of time-space bending!  

While the illustrations often look like photographs, the captions are careful to label them as "this artist's impression", etc - because, of course, no one has photographed a black hole yet! (And when they do we will all have to go out and update our books again.) A poorly illustrated nonfiction book, especially one that is just grainy black and white photographs, simply will not check out, regardless of how interesting the text is. Between illustrations and diagrams (and some old black and white photographs), this title has no worries there.

Astronauts, of course, had plenty of photographs available. From the cover's iconic floating-in-space image, we go on to a garden at the International Space Station - well, that's new, too! Readers learn about the history of astronauts, requirements, training, missions, and job hazards. Did you know astronauts have to go through wilderness survival training, in case they land somewhere unexpected? I didn't! And did you know the lack of gravity can cause a stuffy nose, so you can't taste your food as well? Me neither!

Overall, a highly entertaining and informative series.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Review: Little Kitchen of Horrors series, by Ali Vega



I love Halloween, and I love cookbooks, so really, what more is there to say?

Whether you want inspiration for holiday treats, or need to encourage a picky eater, this series has plenty to offer. My kids might turn their noses up at a spinach smoothie, but what self-respecting child wouldn't at least try a snot smoothie? Daddy thinks oatmeal is gross, but might he try a bowl of brains? And what dinner guests wouldn't be intrigued enough to try your bacon-wrapped worm? (It has bacon! It has to be good!)

While there are plenty of Halloween recipes out on Pinterest and elsewhere, they tend to lean towards the junk food category. These are healthier recipes that actually sound good on their own - calzones and pork loin for example. Things you can really...sink your fangs into. #sorrynotsorry

Instructions are clear, well-illustrated, and thorough (I chuckled at the reminder to sanitize your forceps and dismembered body parts). Glossary, web sites, and index are included, as well as a reminder to clean up - and what exactly that entails! We will definitely be ordering the rest of the titles in this series asap:
Cat Litter Cake and Other Horrifying Desserts
Mummy Dogs and Other Horrifying Snacks
Tombstone Sandwiches and Other Horrifying Lunches
Witches' Brew and Other Horrifying Party Foods

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Review: Mini Makers series by Rebecca Felix



This is a series with Medium Guy written all over it! He LOVES tiny things, from bugs to miniature spools of thread, storing them on shelves and in similarly tiny containers all over his room.

The introduction to Mini Decorating invokes elves and pixies, imagining what their tiny houses might look like. I immediately thought of pairing this with a family read-aloud of any of the Littles books by John Peterson (many of which are, annoyingly, out of print). Tiny tool suggestions are also covered at the beginning, as is the need for PATIENCE.

Some teeny crafts go back to the good old days (miniature teapot and cups from acorns), while others (mini lamps that really light up) bring a more modern flair to your fairy's abode. I can see the mini terrariums being a popular library program!

Mini Wearables is just what it says. Ideas range from the clip-on creatures figured on the cover, to painting your own beads, to a paper-folding domino bracelet (remember folding gum wrappers into chains? I never could get the hang of that! I was not one of the cool kids.) Jewelry is featured heavily, but the tiny book keychains are a bit different, and another possible program craft that could appeal to a wider range of patrons.

The crafts are all doable and fairly unique, instructions are clear and appropriately illustrated with photographs. Other titles in the series include Mini Holiday Crafts and Mini Science Fun, both of which we have ordered. A solid addition anywhere you have crafty kids!

Friday, August 18, 2017

Christopher's Day

Christopher asked to be the last to get his special day with me, and it was nice to spend the last full day of my vacation with him. After six years at a school where all the kids of every grade hang out together, everyone goes to everyone's houses (including the staff), middle school is a big change, and as my worrier he  had more than a little anxiety about it! Fortunately I have awesome friends who totally get that anxiety, and after a quick breakfast, we were able to meet one at his new school and get a private tour of all his classes, meeting most of his teachers. Thanks again M!!! (And, as expected, he is absolutely loving middle school now.)

Not too many pictures, because:11-year-old boy. 'Nuff said.

From the school we went to get his hair cut - he wanted long, I wanted out of his eyes, so we settled on a Zac-Efron-sort-of style that requires a bit of gel and combing (I give that a week). From there we had just enough time to make the early showing of the latest Spiderman movie. Not exactly quality talking time, but the littles aren't quite ready to sit through movies at the theatre, so this was a rare treat. He often doesn't get to see things until they are on DVD, so it was nice for him to know what everyone else is talking about!

Then back to the mall for Chinese, his choice, where I was able to snap a picture, finally.

Sort of.

Then school supply shopping - dang this is getting expensive! Especially when you have to add multiple pairs of shoes. Which are now in my size. Yeesh.

He wanted to try Alamo Jump like the other kids, and I was able to get a few more shots in.

I had to be sneaky, though!

He had fun, but as I suspected, there weren't many kids his age, so we didn't stay too long. If you are local, btw, Alamo Jump is a great deal - $5 for kids, adults are free, and you can come back the same day with a hand stamp. They have several events and classes at no extra charge!

While the day was a bit rushed at times, we had fun. I am very proud of how grown-up and independent he has become, while still considerate and caring and the peace-maker (except among his siblings - oy vey!) I am really enjoying watching the process of him turning into an amazing adult some day!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Shane's Day

Shane was not at all excited about his special day.

Oh my word that child! Little boys learn to flirt by melting their Mamas' hearts. My apologies now to mothers of little girls everywhere.

I was especially excited, because we were checking out a petting zoo I have wanted to visit for ages. It is further up the mountain, and Mapquest said about an hour from our house. It opens at 9AM.

At 6AM, Shane blinked the sleep from his eyes, then sat straight up and said, "MOMMY! I can't WAIT to go to our SPECIAL PLACES!" He asked me about 12 times through breakfast if it was time to leave yet, so we finally piled into the car and dropped the big kids off at Grandma's. That gave us...about two hours to travel one hour away.

We drove slowly, and stopped to stretch our legs and check out some puddles.

If you think there are no "aminals" in there, you would be wrong! There were tiny orangey dot-bugs that crawled all over each other in clumps, little black short wormy-things that disappeared under the mud and sent up plumes of brown where they went in, and white winged things that could walk ON THE WATER! It was all way cool!

There were also deer and elk tracks in the mud, and these prints that belonged to some really scary creature:

Shane ca be just as dramatic as big sister, and has the vocabulary of a 30-year-old at times, so it is a huge trip hearing him describe absolutely anything.

While our stop was fun, it turns out the stalling was not necessary, because bad directions meant we did not get there until an hour AFTER it opened. We got a giant chocolate donut on the way, though, so he was happy!

Our destination was Runyan Ranches, 20 miles past Mayhill. This is easily the nicest petting zoo I have been to, both in terms of the variety of the animals, and the condition  they all seem to be in. Some are in pens, while others are in a big open area, but all can be petted and fed. This is a huge draw for those of us who MUST PET ALL THE FUZZIES, and I knew my littlest guy would love it!

These guys are soooo soft, bot the curly hair and their muzzles.

There are goats everywhere, and they reminded me of seagulls at the beach - the minute they realize you have food, you are EVERYONE'S new best friend.

But, we have goats at home. What we don't have are...

Yes, that's a zebra (and a blurry donkey). The zebra's name is Zip. He's kind of a jerk, so you have to feed him by spoon, but you can still pet him as long as you watch where his teeth are!

The llamas and alpacas you can just feed out of your hand. There was a brand new baby alpaca, pure white, but I didn't get a picture of it.

And a water buffalo. And a camel. And you can feed them. And pet them.


Gentle giant! (That's the camel. At a weird angle.)

And when the day was done and I prompted Shane to tell everyone what animals he saw, he excitedly said, "Fish! And ducks!"

So, I guess we could have just gone to the pet department at Walmart.

He was quite distressed at the one dead trout we saw (somebody was using the wrong pond for catch and release fishing), and made sure he told the owner as we left.

This llama became my shadow. He moved very quietly for a big guy (girl? I didn't really look), I would turn my head slightly and his face would be RIGHT THERE. 

So we took some selfies.

My other shadow was this brown and white goat, who managed to get part of every handful of food I fed to every other animal.

She is a photo bomber, too!
When we got through, one of the owners said she had been watching, and was impressed with how well Shane handled the goats - he wasn't at all concerned about them surrounding him, just shoved his way through. This child is absolutely without fear! He likes to try to scare himself, in fact, which scares US plenty. 

At one point I felt something tugging at my pants leg, and looked down to see this little one, literally wagging its tail.

You gots food for me, too?

Too cute!

The turkeys are, literally, turkeys. 

The one on the right was posing (really, I swear!) getting right up into my camera lens and looking goofy. While I was trying to get the perfect shot,

Missed it.

the one on the left snatched my last bag of food and ran off with it!
The bag was open, so as he ran away in triumph, the food was scattered everywhere, and the llama quietly wandered after him eating it all.

So I had nothing left for the donkeys. This little cutie was just a couple days old.

He tried to come see us, but mama shoved him away. I guess they've heard about those Jones kids, even all the way up there.

There are a few other attractions, such as a gift shop, picture taking opportunities,

and ice cream

That FACE!
And kitties!

I thought she had come running for the ice cream, but she just loves kids. We will definitely be back up with all the kids, and this just went to the top of our places to take visitors to!

Feeding all those animals made us hungry, and with all the places to choose from, of course the 3yo picked Burger King. Waaaaay back down in Alamogordo. Good thing we'd had that ice cream to tide us over!

But Mr. Independence had to sit at this own table!

From there we went to the Blue Stone for his prize (and to see Ivan of course), and he found his first rock!

This is the coolest one I have seen so far - his fingers are covering up the fire breathing dragon - and it turns out it was painted by my friend Annie!

Then, of course, we had to hit Alamo Jump, where he showed just how tired he was.

Help. Me.

I think he had fun, what do you think?

Can't end the day without ice cream.

And then...wait, you're not tired? You want to go to the ZOO, too?


The rain cooled it off to almost winter weather.

NOW are you ready to go home?

With the promise of a Sonic slushie on the way home, I finally lured him back up the mountain.

Thank-you to my spirited, smart, scary, handsome, cheesy, fearless, inappropriately articulate con man for a fantastic day!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Grace's Day

Reality check day. Grace's turn for a fun day with me, but Grace does better with routines, so we needed a somewhat scaled down version.

We had donuts for breakfast, but at home. A haircut was a priority, so we did that first, while she was still fresh and able to sort-of sit still. She did great! The more she tries to be still, the more she twitches and jumps, but the stylist was fast. Then we bought school supplies - the new backpack made her happy, and she clutched it all the way through the store.

We are continually working on large motor skills, so Alamo Jump was a natural stop for her, too. We got there just as the toddler music time was starting.

The teacher was great, but Grace just wasn't engaged - she does better with one-on-one attention, so I just let her go play.

She loved it! I thought she might not be able to do things and get frustrated, but her coordination and strength have really improved.

Having nice soft places to land helped with her confidence as well.

Then she discovered the ride-on cars.

We have a few at home, but the ground is rough, and there are siblings to share with. This was a pretty quiet day, so there were plenty of cars to go around, and lots of space to drive in. She had a blast! An hour and a half of running and playing and shrieking.

Unfortunately, as parents of kids with fasd know, there can be such a thing as too much fun and excitement. Any preschooler will have a crash after a lot of excitement, but kids with fasd don't do anything halfway. It started when she told me she had to go potty - great! We worked really hard on the potty training this summer, and she finally got it! So we headed right to the bathroom.

She wanted to drive her car into the bathroom. No, sweetie, we will leave it outside the door, and you can have it right back.

Five seconds later, she is naked and throwing things in the bathroom, yelling "NO! DON'T WANT TO!" Took several tries to get her on the potty, then dressed again, at which point I calmly told her it was time to go.

Face down on the floor at the shoe rack, screaming. I just grabbed her shoes and carried her out. At this point it was at normal-toddler-level-tantrum, but by the time I got her strapped into her seatbelt, she was doing the horror-movie scream. over. and over. and over. No breaths in between. All logic and communication ability gone. All you can do at that point is let her wear herself out and make sure she doesn't hurt herself (which she often tries when she is in this mode.)

All. the way. home.

When we got home (a 25 minute drive) she was quiet and sweet and talking in full sentences and ate her lunch nicely and put herself down for a nap without being told. After nap, she had a fun time playing with the toys all by herself, and we chatted and were silly. She was an absolute delight.

And then at bedtime she smeared poop all over the bed and the carpet.

This isn't fair. It isn't fair that she can't communicate how she feels. It isn't fair that she can't handle bad feelings without escalating them beyond control. It isn't fair that she can't have fun doing exciting things out of the normal every day routine. It isn't fair to HER, because none of this is her fault.

Gracie is a sweet, pretty girl, who loves to be with people, has plenty of energy, wants to please. And she will always struggle to have what everyone else takes for granted, because her brain was damaged by alcohol before she was even born. 
Just. not. fair.