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November 2006

Rating System

5 stars: Completely enjoyable or compelling
4 stars: Good but flawed
3 stars: Average
2 stars: OK
1 star: Did not finish

Reading Challenges

My Kind of Mystery Reading Challenge 2017 February - January 2017-8



 


I Heard the Owl Call My NameI Heard the Owl Call My Name: 11/30/06

What does one do for a friend who has only a year or two to live? Do you coddle him or challenge him? That's the premise of I Heard the Owl Call My Name. The bishop who is faced with this question, chooses to send his young ill vicar off to the hardest and most remote parish, a small village in British Columbia. The book covers the remaining months of the vicar's life without dwelling on his situation.

Instead, the book focuses on how the vicar learns the culture of the Kwakiutl and likewise how the Kwakiutl begin to slowly accept that the outside world is beginning to seep into their culture as their children seek education outside of the village.

Here is my BookCrossing Review

I Heard the Owl Call My Name is a tender story about two cultures learning from each other as seen through the eyes of a young vicar sent to Kingcome, a village in the Pacific Northwest. It's one of the few books where neither culture is favored in how they are portrayed. Both have their good bits and their bad bits. Characters have good days and bad days and are allowed to grow into well rounded individuals.

Cereal:

One of the trickiest parts to being a parent is knowing when my children are ready to try something new, especially infants. The last bunch of days Harriet has been fussier than usual and waking in the middle of the night to nurse, something she hasn't done in weeks. She is clearly going through a growth spurt and she seems to be far more aware of her surroundings as well so there must be some brain growth going on to. The nursing sessions though haven't been satisfying her as much. She's been getting grumpy whenever the three of us sit down to a meal or when one of us is cooking.

On Tuesday she started chewing on my finger, not sucking as she had been, but actually chewing. I realized that she was acting like Sean when he wanted to move to solids. Current recommendations for infants is to introduce solids at four months at the earliest or six months at the latest. When Ian and I were children, solids were introduced around two months of age but a small percentage of children had problems with aspirating their cereal.

The baby books and online sites tend to agree on when to try solids. They suggest looking for these signs:

  • Baby has good neck support and control
  • Baby is interested in food that parents are eating
  • Baby is chewing rather than sucking

Since Harriet was showing all three of these signs, we decided to try her on some rice cereal last night. We mixed it up with a little formula (as I've not been pumping) and gave her a taste. She loved her first bite and gave me a huge grin. She then opened her mouth up and asked for more. She ended up eating about ten spoonfuls of cereal and slept happily through the night.

This morning when we were having Malto Meal for breakfast, she started fussing again even though I had nursed her. So I made up another little bowl and while she didn't eat as much as the night before, she still ate more than I expected. She's all smiles when eating cereal. She hasn't spit any of it out and seems to have the chewing and swallowing down.

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Steps: 6000

The Kraken WakesThe Kraken Wakes: 11/29/06

Giant squids have been inspiring horror stories for as long as man has taken to the seas. Since the development of science fiction, the kraken has moved from threat of the deep to threat from the skies. The Kraken Wakes begins a visitation from space but sinks to the deepest oceans where a threat lingers misunderstood and ready claim the seas and the shoreline from mankind.

It sounds like a great premise but the story is rather too ponderous. It takes forever for things to get moving. The main characters, reporters from a rival to the BBC don't know enough about what's happening to be credible or interesting first hand witnesses to this invasion. The best and most horrific part of the book is the cover art which reminds me of how Eric Carle would illustrate Call of Cthulhu.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

Apparently the world ends with people living on tiny islands surrounded by hostile creatures; it's the same ending that Wyndham used in Day of the Triffids. The Kraken Wakes has a very similar narrative, that of a man recording the events that lead up to him living on an island surrounded by hostile creatures, in a book report fashion. There is very little in terms of character development or drama. The Watsons are so dispassionate through the entire book that I frankly didn't care what happened to him.

There are a few good scenes, like the initial landing of the fire balls (presumably pods from space), the attacks on the islands and the flooding of London. Unfortunately these scenes were hidden among long and boring laundry lists of mundane events.

Cold Snap:

Since yesterday it has been unseasonably cold here in the Bay Area. Granted, it's not snowing but if we had enough cloud cover it could snow. It's been in the 30s all day and tonight the weather report is predicting temperatures as low as 20° F in the hills. It's nights like this that I rue living in a split level. At least in the day time the upstairs living quarters are warmer than they'd otherwise be but the nights can be brutal.

Sean who is an old hand at these cold nights now has been sleeping soundly but Harriet is bothered by the cold. She has been waking up around three in the morning these last couple nights to eat. I think she just wants the warmth of the milk and of the skin to skin contact. Ian and I have been relying on coffee in the morning to recover from being woken up.

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Steps: 6000


Divided by a Common LanguageDivided by a Common Language: 11/28/06

As Divided by a Common Language notes, 70% of the world's native English speakers are American but British English is the most common dialect taught as a second language in the rest of the world. In the nearly two and a half centuries of independence have given rise to two very different dialects of English. The book says it serves as a must have survival guide for British tourists on holiday to the United States. While there are some useful tips, I hope this isn't their only guide as there are many mistakes in the the American side of things.

The author of the book is a British ex patriot who spent time living abroad first in New Zealand before settling in Florida. This book's lexicon and descriptions of the differences of life the UK versus life in the US. Unfortunately Florida is just one region of the United States and not necessarily a good one for extrapolating how the rest of the nation works (or talks)!

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

I enjoyed Divided by a Common Language but Christopher Davies didn't understand the United States as much as he thought he did when he wrote this book. There are many goofy assumptions about the United States and at least one error about British English. This copy is a first edition, a second one was published in 2001. Having not read that version, I'll hope that some of these errors have been corrected.

In the meantime, I plan to hold onto this book for a little longer. I want to do a series of blog posts about some of the sillier assumptions I found in this book. I don't plan to tear the book apart, just to use it as a starting point for an ongoing discussion on language.

I'm a Winner but...

I still have more work to do. Last night I crossed the 50K mark (as my Live Journal friends already know) on my 2006 nanowrimo but to call it a novel is stretching it right now. It has the beginning of a plot but there are many sections of "notes to myself" where I need to go back and fill in better details once I've had time to have a good think or to do better research.

I wrote this book blind with only what information I could find quickly online (mostly on Wikipedia). Unfortunately the muse inspired me to write about things I know almost nothing about: Hindu culture, Sanskrit and Pakistan. In the previous two years I've gone into the month of November with a better idea of what to write, having an actual plot outline, my character's names chosen and a good idea of where the thing will end. This year, I had no more than an elevator pitch a day or two before the month began.

This year's Nanowrimo was the hardest one I've done so far. I know many have said it's because of Harriet. Sure, she made things tricky at the start of the month but by about the midway point I had learned how to write on her schedule and she made things even easier by sleeping in her crib so that I suddenly had twice my time at night to write. No, the hardest part was a lack of research. I don't want to say I had writer's block because I always found something to write about but the story didn't quite jump onto the page (err, into the computer) as easily as it has in previous years. I really had to force myself most nights to put something in the story. I often times ignored the plot all together to ramble about stuff I know. I also jumped around a lot in space and time writing whatever scene was in my head at that time. In the process I ended up writing the very sort of book that annoys me when I read it. Oh well, maybe that means it will be short listed for a prize someday. Teehee.

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Steps: 6000

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind: 11/27/06

Since I began reading A Beautiful Mind the question I've been asked most is: "How does it compare to the movie?" The simple answer: I don't know. I have not seen the film and after reading the book I have no desire to either. Even after having read the entire book from cover to cover and looking at the scant number of photographs included I come away feeling like I've learned very little about John Nash beyond what I already knew.

The first third of the book serves more as a who's who in Nash's life than as a biography of Nash. Even Princeton University has a chapter. Princeton is a fairly well known institution, it doesn't need to be introduced as a character! The second third covers all of Nash's sexual exploits or potential exploits with men and women. Yawn. The final third deals with his mental breakdown and the people who tried to help him pull out of it. The final third was the most interesting piece of the book but it comes too late to save the book from being an over all dull and pointless read.

It's Raining:

It has rained on and off since yesterday. When we woke up, the sky was cold and clear. Now at noon, the heavens have clouded over and opened up. Of course it started raining right when Ian is trying to come home with groceries.

Sean has a new sweatshirt with a hood (the typical "hoodie" that youths in Britain are always in trouble for wearing) which he is proudly wearing to preschool today. I'm glad he's wearing it with the change in the weather. His yellow jacket has lost its hood and it is too small now anyway.

The recently planted herbs are very happy with the recent rains. We have cilantro, dill and parsley growing now in the pots. The cilantro is tall enough that we've harvested some of it and it was very tasty. It will be some time before we get to harvest the other two herbs.

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Steps: 6000

Hop on PopHop on Pop: 11/26/06

Hop on Pop was one of my brother's favorites as a child and I remember how we would laugh when Mom would get tongue tied reading the book out loud. Now that Sean is old enough, it is one of his favorites. In fact, today at Denny's, he read the book to all of us while we were waiting to give our order.

Hop on Pop is a book heavy on short and rhyming words. Each page starts with a list of rhyming words like: day, play and then a simple sentence (or two) using those rhyming words. The book is simple enough and predictable enough to give beginning readers the confidence to try reading. But it's tricky enough to give over confident parents places to trip up and make mistakes to the amusement of the younger readers.

Dr. Seuss Reviews

The Drive Home:

Today we made the long drive home from South Pasadena. The weather, traffic and Harriet's needs as a young baby stretched our drive home to eight and a half hours from the usual five or six hours. The first half of the trip went quickly and we were soon back to Lost Hills where we stopped for lunch and to refuel my car.

In the time we were having lunch at Denny's, the sky clouded over and the traffic thickened. The next couple of hours we had bumper to bumper sluggish traffic. It wasn't morning commute slow but it was still far below the 70 mph speed limit.

Near Santa Nella we hit rain and Harriet woke up from a nap needing a snack and a diaper change. We waited for a parking spot and then changed Harriet and nursed her while huddling in the car. Ian ventured out for apple juice for Sean and coffee for us. After that we didn't stop until we got home.



Steps: 3500

A Parrot in the Pepper TreeA Parrot in the Pepper Tree: 11/25/06

Two years ago I read and enjoyed Driving Over Lemons, the memoir of a British ex-pat and his family's life in Spain. A Parrot in the Pepper Tree is the follow up book, covering the time when Stewart was writing his first book along with some memories from his youth.

While I felt the bits about his attempt at being a rock star were rather dull, the rest of the book more than makes up for one skip-worthy chapter. The majority of his book takes place in the year when he was writing his first memoir. He describes all his different attempts at farming including a bleak winter drive into Sweden to shear sheep and a go at growing potatoes. Neither venture goes well but he takes the disasters with a good sense of humor. To his sup rise, he succeeds as a writer even though his daughter insists that he can't write (at least in Spanish).

Here is my BookCrossing review:

It took me longer to read than expected but I thoroughly enjoyed it. Chris Stewart is an enthusiastic ex-pat making a living in Spain with his wife and daughter. He tries his hand at sheep sheering, farming and flamenco but ultimately it is writing that he excels at.

Harriet:

Harriet is doing really well on her first big trip. She is sleeping through the night and napping during the day. When she's neither eating nor sleeping she is a laughing, smiling and playful child.

In many ways this Thanksgiving trip has been easier than Sean's first Thanksgiving even though we have the chaos of two children. Part of it is temperament. Harriet has mellowed a great deal from her first month. Part of it is experience. We've learned what the bare minimum we need to take for traveling and are able to pack lightly.

Wally the dog seems to have gotten used to having two small children around the house. Sean has gotten over his initial fear of the dog and Harriet isn't sure what to make of him when he comes over to sniff her.

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Steps: 3500


The Golden FuryThe Golden Fury: 11/24/06

Earlier this month I purchased The Golden Fury at a bookstore called The Bookstore. I chose it because it had a lovely map on the flyleaf. It was also published in 1949 which is sort of too new for most books I like but the map won me over. In between books that I was reading for other BookCrossing members (either as rings or relays) I took the time read and enjoy The Golden Fury.

The book had moments that felt very real and the way Colorado was described as being at the start of the 20th century (1886 through 1906) reminded me a great deal of how Laura Ingalls Wilder described growing up in the Dakotas. In other words, Castle avoided many of the cliches that are rife in the Western genre. Curious, I did a quick search on Marian Castle and found a biography which confirmed my suspicions. Like Caroline, she was the daughter of a preacher and grew up in the frontier towns of Colorado. Her life though was much easier than what she created for her characters.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

The Golden Fury chronicles a woman life in Colorado, from her childhood as the impoverished daughter of a preacher too wrapped up in the word of God to care for his children, to her early marriage, time as a single mother, and later the owner of a silver mine, while all the time looking for stability and laughter in her life. Though the story is cloaked as a romance, it is written with a harsh view on reality, often times with asides from the author that mock her characters' apparent naivety.

The book's main weakness is its ending. The book ends in a Perils of Pauline fashion that completely breaks with the gritty reality of the rest of the tale. The last chapter is rife with melodrama in the form of an out of control automobile, a collapsed bridge, and a raging river! If only the book had ended in a less silly fashion I would have rated the story a 10 out 10.

Sean and CharlieSearching for Pikmin:

This morning Sean spent outside with Charlie. While Charlie did some gardening, Sean picked berries off the bamboo bush to leave for pikmin around the yard. He put some on the cement for white and purple pikmin, some in the pool for the blue pikmin and some in the fireplace for red pikmin. I don't know if he placed any for yellow pikmin but I'm hoping he didn't since it would involve electricity!

Later Charlie and Sean made a fire in the fireplace. It was a nice toasty treat for a cold and foggy day. Mom came to visit and the six of us enjoyed sitting around the fire. Mom stayed for lunch and had lots of time to hold Harriet who was in a very smiley mood.

For lunch we had cold cuts to avoid over doing it with the Thanksgiving leftovers. We did however splurge and have pie for dessert.

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Steps: 3500

Big Work MachinesBig Work Machines: 11/23/06

Big Work Machines is the last of the books from Connor that I've read and of the four I've read so far, it's my favorite. Since Sean was about two, he has been fascinated by construction machines and other big trucks. He comes by it naturally; I've loved them too since I was a toddler. "Big Work Machines" as Relf calls them have been a favorite topic of conversation since Sean's been able to talk. Unfortunately neither of us have known all the proper names for these machines but now with this book, we do! The book is divided up by different sorts of tasks from construction to mining and other jobs. Each section is beautifully illustrated to show the machines at work.

South Pasadena:

Yesterday we made the long drive (along with half of the Bay Area) to southern California for Thanksgiving at Judy and Charlie's home. This drive was Harriet's first long distance road trip and she did great! Both Sean and Harriet were so good and patient in the car.

Traffic was really thick but the worst was in the usual spot on the 580 through Livermore. I did the first couple hours of driving but Ian took over after dinner in Santa Nella. We stopped twice, once at Pea Soup Anderson's for dinner and again in Lost Hills for gasoline and drinks.

We made it in at eleven thirty. After nursing Harriet and giving Sean a box juice we got the kids in bed. Harriet is sleeping in a crib in our room because there isn't room for a bed and a crib in Glen's old room. I went to bed when the kids did because I was exhausted. Unfortunately I didn't any sleep. I was too worked up from the drive and then Sean's cold was bothering him so he woke up three times in the course of the night.

Ian and I finally got an hour of proper sleep right around dawn but then it was Harriet's turn to wake up. We were so tired! A half hour of nursing got Harriet calmed down but she didn't want to be in the crib any longer. Fortunately she was willing to sleep in her chair for a while longer. Sean then got up but he played quietly downstairs with Judy and Charlie allowing Ian, Harriet and me a little longer to sleep.

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Steps: 3500


Follow the ZookeeperFollow the Zookeeper: 11/22/06

Follow the Zookeeper is similar in style to A Day in the Jungle. In this book, the monkey has been replaced with the zookeeper who is making his rounds over the course of a normal day at the zoo. Each stop the zookeeper makes gives the reader a chance to learn something new about an animal. Unfortunately the illustrations err on the side of being too cute while the text itself is rather dry. As I turned each new page I was increasingly struck with the reaction of "oh look, more cute animals doing boring things." Though the book is only 32 pages long, it was a chore to read. I will have to see what Sean's reaction to the book is. We will be reading it together over the holiday weekend.

The Big Drive:

For the first time in five or six years, we will be making the drive down to South Pasadena for Thanksgiving on the night before. My client has already headed home for the weekend so I just have to get the bags packed and moved to the car. Ian has one last errand to run. We have to have lunch and then pick up Sean from school. Our goal is to leave by 3 PM but I wouldn't be surprised if we could get away even earlier.

As with previous years we'll be taking the I5 down the center of California. With living in the East Bay now, the drive to the I5 only takes an hour, cutting our travel time from 7 hours to about 5. Hopefully most everyone will have either left already or will be leaving after work. I don't want to spent a lot of time stuck in traffic with Harriet. This trip will be the longest and farthest we have taken Harriet on yet.

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Steps: 3500


How Things GrowHow Things Grow: 11/21/06

How Things Grow is written as a dialogue between the narrator and the little girl shown on the cover watering her garden. The book starts with the seasons and then goes on to discuss different plants and animals and how they grow. The illustrations diagram what the text covers, such as the life cycle of the frog or how chickens develop inside of eggs. Interestingly, the rooster is noticeably absent from the page describing how chickens grow in eggs. The book ends with the narrator reminding the little girl that she too is growing, having started as a baby. I like the inclusion of the little girl's accomplishments as Sean and I have been having very similar discussions as he compares what he can do and what Harriet can't do yet. I plan to hold onto this book to read to Harriet as she gets older.

Another Successful Night:

Right after Ian got home yesterday Harriet began to fuss. She hadn't been napping much but I had guessed she was just well rested from her long night in her crib. Ian thought she looked sleepy so he put her in her crib. She cried a little bit but was out cold by five. Since Ian had work to do and was feeling frazzled, I left Ian and Harriet at home and got Sean myself. Harriet is rather popular at school and everyone said they missed her.

I expected Harriet to be awake when Sean and I got home but she was still happily asleep. In fact she stayed asleep all through dinner, and through Sean's bath and only peeped open an eye when Sean went to bed.

She stayed asleep until Sean woke up at two in the morning. Sean is still getting over a cold and his nose started to bother him enough that he started to cry. His crying woke up Harriet. Ian did an excellent job of handling the situation (and I slept blissfully through it until three when Harriet was still too hungry to get back to sleep). I got up and nursed Harriet for a few minutes but was able to get back to sleep at three thirty. Harriet then slept the remainder of the night in her chair in our room.

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Steps: 6000

A Day in the JungleA Day in the Jungle: 11/20/06

Sean's friend Connor gave him a whole bunch of his old books at the last BookCrossing meeting. I am going through the process of reading them and will be reviewing them as a I go: A Day in the Jungle is the first of these books. The book follows Silkie, a "young Colobus monkey" as he goes on his first solo adventure through the jungle. Silkie's adventures introduce young readers to the diversity of the rain forest: sun birds, royal pythons, lilytrotters, leopards, gorillas, and so on. Unfortunately not all of the creatures Silkie meets are labeled and none of the plants are, leaving an incomplete view of the rain forest. Before I read this book to Sean I will need to research what these plants and insects are because I know Sean will ask me about them. So while the book sets out to be both entertaining and educational, it falls short on the educational side. The story itself is okay as a laundry list of a Colobus monkey's typical day but it too is lacking.

Twelve Hours:

Since Harriet came home from the hospital she has refused to sleep in her crib until last night. She was sleepy earlier than usual, probably as a result of staying awake until one in the morning the night before. So around six-thirty when Harriet's diaper was changed, she had taken a bath and been changed into her blanket sleeper, Ian put her in her crib. She was just so fussy and tired looking. She cried a little but was eventually out cold. She stayed asleep even as Sean got ready for bed himself and stayed asleep until six-thirty this morning! I hope she continues to sleep in her crib, even if it isn't every night at first. It was nice to have our bedroom to ourselves for the first time in almost three months.

I'm not sure what we're having for dinner tonight except that I'm sure it will involve a heaping pile of fresh vegetables. Right now almost every meal has egg plant, zucchini and bell peppers in it somewhere. Also nearly everything we cook has fresh garlic as a spice. If not garlic, then onions.

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Steps: 5000

Blue Day BookThe Blue Day Book: 11/19/06

Bradley Trevor Greive's second book The Meaning of Life is one of the best traveled books on BookCrossing. It was through that world traveling book that I was first introduced to these advice books that combine common sense and cute photographs of animals. The Blue Day Book as the title and cover art implies gives some tips on how one can get over the blues when having a really bad day. All of the photographs are black and white and show animals in poses that either evoke an emotion or show the animal having his own bad day.

Harriet also enjoyed the book, looking at the various animals. I remember doing the same thing with Sean with the Meaning of Life book when he was an infant.

Fresh Vegetables:

Yesterday we went to the Hayward Farmers' Market and came home with about twelve bags of fresh vegetables. For dinner Ian made wantons filled with a concoction of vegetables and ground beef. Wantons are one of the latest recipes that Ian has learned and although they take him a long time to prepare they are well worth the wait!

I'm not sure what we're having for dinner tonight except that I'm sure it will involve a heaping pile of fresh vegetables. Right now almost every meal has egg plant, zucchini and bell peppers in it somewhere. Also nearly everything we cook has fresh garlic as a spice. If not garlic, then onions.

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Steps: 7000


StorageStorage: 11/18/06

I picked up Storage from the last BookCrossing meeting. The one thing most of us agree on is that we don't have enough room for things (especially books). We all seem to have the same goal: read and more release more books than we receive. Although I wasn't looking for specific advice on our storage problems, I wanted to read the book because it was short, had great photographs and the cover amused me.

Storage is not a step-by-step how-to book. It will not give a to do list of things to make one's storage problems suddenly vanish. Instead it is a small set of suggestions divided up my topic (either by storage device or by room). Most often the book gives multiple suggestions for a type of storage problem instead of one correct way. I liked this approach to the problem; it is okay to be different when tackling storage problems.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

Storage for all its gloss and full color photography does have some practical advice about storage and de cluttering. What I liked best about the book is how it gives many different options to accomplish a storage problem without pushing one option over another.

Harriet liked the book for its bright and colorful photography. She's especially fond of the rain slickers on the cover and page 40 which shows a bowl full of red balls sporting white polka dots.

Spruce Up Day:

Today is the Spruce Up Day at Sean's preschool. We dropped Ian off there to help. When we got there the parents already arrived had been painting the main entry part of the school sky blue. The outside yellow looked like it had gotten a fresh coat too but that might have been a trick of the sunlight.

Before going to school, the four of us went to the Hayward Farmers' Market as the Castro Valley one is closed until May. For $20 we purchased a diverse pile of fresh food that includes: mushrooms, Thai chili peppers, baby bok choi, apples, green onions, bell peppers, cabbage and some other things that have slipped my mind.

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Steps: 7000


TrainsTrains: 11/17/06

I have always liked trains. They have been a part of my life since the very beginning. My grandparents lived on the ridge of Rose Canyon in San Diego. On the canyon's floor a single track connects San Diego with points north as it winds its way through the canyon and in behind Mira Mesa, thereby circumventing the Miramar Navy base.

For my entire childhood, my maternal grandmother's home was my day care and after school place to go. When I was Sean's age, grandmother and I would run out to the back fence when we'd hear a train blow its horn. I would stand on a red chair (now in Sean's room) and stare out to the tracks to catch a glimpse of the train. Sometimes it was an Amtrak train but often times it was a freight train. The freight trains were the best because they were so colorful.

When I was in college, my main mode of transportation for the holidays was Amtrak between Del Mar and Santa Barbara. Then as a young newly wed, again I was riding the train, this time between Los Angeles and Solano (the Del Mar station had closed).

So when Sean and his friend Connor had picked out Trains by Byron Barton, I was thrilled. Trains, though just a children's board book, captures the excitement and magic of traveling by train. It goes through a typical day on a train, each beautifully illustrated in a bold style that young children will enjoy.

Sean the Self Reliant:

I'm so happy that Sean is old enough to get himself ready in the morning. On Fridays I have to take him to school by nine. I have to work from 7:30 until at least 8:00, doing the morning publish for out client. In this time from when Sean gets up to when we leave (usually around 8:30), Sean has to get dressed, eat breakfast, brush his teeth, get his lunch, get his socks and shoes on, and get his jacket on. I also have to get Harriet changed and fed. So it's a busy morning. Thankfully now I can walk Sean through the steps and he'll do them without needing supervision.

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Steps: 7000


Marine Aquariums: A Complete IntroductionMarine Aquariums: 11/16/06

When I was growing up we had an aquarium in our home. It was a fresh water aquarium with a school of guppies. We even had a guppy nursery that hung off the side to keep all the babies. The aquarium sat near the entry way to the home so it was one of the first things anyone saw when coming to the house (the other thing was a cabinet phonograph which is still there). My job was to feed the fish but my mother took charge of the periodic cleaning and water changing.

Later we downsized to a single fish, a beta fish whom we called "Typhoid Mary." Actually she was more my brother's fish although we all shared in the feeding duties. Mom, though, was still the one who cared for the cleaning and water changing duties. I don't know (or don't remember) what happened to Typhoid Mary but it's been a few years since my parents had any fish.

At home I don't keep any fish. We're a one pet family, and that pet is Caligula. However, when I saw Marine Aquariums: A Complete Guide among the books that Whytraven gave me to register and release for her I had to read it. Back at the same time when we had the fish, we also did a lot of sailing as a family out on Mission Bay and every so often one of us would suggest (Dad, John or I) that we get a salt water aquarium since we lived so close to the beach. Mom, I'm pretty sure, was the one to put the kabosh on that idea. So I was curious, just how hard is a marine aquarium?

The answer seems to be, very hard. The book makes it sound like it's just a series of simple steps but knowing the chaos that is my family, I would be certain to get goof it up and kill my fish or break something and make a mess. I know from personal experience that like my mother, I would be the one taking care of the fish and frankly, I don't want to! Plus we have no where to put an aquarium and I'm sure Caligula would try to catch all the fish. No, I think I'll just stick with one cat at a time.

Finding New Routines:

It amazes me how little time it takes to grow accustomed to something. For instance, I was only unable to help with the hardest chores at home for about four months (due to pregnancy induced sciatica and hypertension). Now only two months after giving birth I am feeling like a new person but I'm having to break myself of the habit of thinking I can't do something when I can now.

Plus I now have the added benefit of working from home which frees up two hours of my day. These two hours I'm using (when Harriet cooperates) to tackle chores around the home. I'm slowly but surely getting the floors swept and mopped and soon vacuumed (downstairs has carpet). I've mostly organized the stuff that was on the table.

The downside to all of this cleaning is sometimes my family can't find things. This morning it was the dish washer detergent. I had found the perfect space in an cabinet that we weren't using efficiently. Of course I hadn't told Ian that I had put the boxes in there! Now he knows that the boxes are in there.

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Steps: 5000


Uncle ElephantUncle Elephant: 11/15/06

What happens when an uncle is faced with the possibility that his nephew is now an orphan? That's the story of Uncle Elephant. Arnold Lobel treats this tough story with kindness, humor and heart. His illustrations show the heart break on both the uncle and the nephew even though neither character ever admits his pain to the other. The words, though chosen to be easy for young readers, are put together to show just how people in grief take measures to put up a strong front to the world. Although Uncle Elephant has a happy ending, the book still serves as gentle advice for dealing with real loss.

Don't BookCross on No Sleep:

Last night was our monthly BookCrossing meeting. All in all it was very successful. The entire family went, though Ian went just for coffee and some study time. Sean went to see his friend Connor and the two of them terrorized a small corner of Starbuck's. Harriet got held by the lovely Irma who in turn received many smiles.

The only problem; I released a book I shouldn't have! I had received an email from the person after me who said she no longer needed the book A Simple Monk because she had been given a copy. As she had been the last person on the book ray and I didn't see any names after hers (oh the joys of being sleep deprived). So without double checking against my sleepy eyes, I didn't see that a new name had been slipped onto the bottom of the list.

Fortunately the book has gone into the capable hands of Judy (aka JDT) who will read the book and see that it makes it to the next person on the list. I'm glad I wasn't boneheaded enough to wild release it!

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The Dead ZoneThe Dead Zone: 11/14/06

I enjoyed reading The Dead Zone, enough so to stay up to finish it. It's quite a page turner and it is an interesting comparison between the political atmosphere of the 1970s to that of today. As with then we have a war (that isn't "officially" a war), corruption in politics and a president of questionable merit (I'm being generous).

The book also shows a young author still playing with different methods of story telling. The Dead Zone has about five different voices as the story John Smith, everyman, psychic and martyr is unfolds. Some of the techniques used work better than others with the strongest pieces being the first two thirds of the book and the most experimental pieces being in the last third.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

I can see why this book was turned into a television series. The story lends itself to that format with its episodic nature and strong visual descriptions. I have the same problems with the book now as I did with the miniseries that launched the show: the pacing between the sections of the book is rather jarring as it jumps from book to book. The first third of the story builds slowly, almost too slowly as Johnny discovers his gift and then suffers his accident. The second part where Johnny wakes up and solves the first crime is paced just right; it reads like a nice quick mystery-thriller and has a compact ending. Then the book speeds through a third section that is really two more stories: Johnny sees the future and saves some lives and Johnny sees the future (or thinks he does) and decides to end a life before that person can become the next Hitler. I really don't like the last piece in either the book or the miniseries because it's too much of a change in personality for Johnny. He rapidly transforms from a hands off, let the word do its thing, to a one man super hero / martyr without even blinking.

The Girl Who Will Not Sleep:

Last night Harriet decided it would be the perfect time to start playing. She woke up at one-thirty. We first did the standard baby maintenance things: changed her diaper and nursed her. She dropped off and I put her back in her seat to sleep. But no, she was now full of warm milk and it seemed to her like the perfect time to play. Ian and I figured she would nod off if we turned off the lights and went to bed. Normally she does but not last night. For the next hour I heard every fifteen seconds: "Eh. Giggle. Eh. Squeak. Eh. Oh. Giggle" and so on. Thinking she might still be hungry, I tried nursing her again. She ate some more but mostly just wanted to play. Mid swallow she'd crack a grin or try to giggle. Ian made a bottle to see if she wanted something different. She gave him the same response: slurp, smile, giggle. We were finally so exhausted we went back to bed and passed out to the sound of "Eh. Giggle. Eh. Squeak. Eh. Oh. Giggle."

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: 7000

I Spy MysteryI Spy Mystery: 11/13/06

When Sean was one or two my mother's friend Linda gave him I Spy Spooky Night for Christmas which has been a favorite of his books since then. This past weekend we found this older copy of I Spy Mystery (the newest edition has a photograph of marbles on the cover) and I'm this book will become one of Sean's favorites too.

The I Spy books are a play on the children's game of "I Spy" a game I played often during long car trips except that each book is themed. I Spy Mystery centers around buried treasure, a sunken ship and some other shenanigans. Most of the items photographed are miniatures and toys though what is often being sought in the riddles isn't as obvious as the photograph would first imply. The photographs themselves are deceptively simplistic. A photograph of a green house would appear to be nothing but flowers but may in fact hide things like anchors or race cars.

I Spy Mystery seems to be a tougher book than I Spy Spooky Night. I've read the book now twice and still haven't found all the mentioned items!

Looking Good in her Old Age:

This morning Ian took Caligula to the vets for her booster shots. Caligula is now eleven years old but in very good shape for a cat of "advanced years." She has good reflexes which she demonstrated by hitting tools out of the doctor's hands. She's agile which she demonstrated by jumping off the examination table. She's thin which she demonstrated by hiding under a bookshelf with a 1 1/2 inch clearance.

The doctor wanted to do blood work on her to check for some common senior problems but she wouldn't have anything to do with blood work. It would cost $380 to have her put under general anesthesia to get the blood drawn and a urine sample taken. We've said no to the tests for now and will do them next summer when Ian is making summer pay. A cat who can beat up a doctor and a nurse can't possibly be sick!

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Morris and Boris at the CircusMorris and Boris at the Circus: 11/12/06

The Morris and Boris books are another set I was introduced to by my husband and his family. I personally don't enjoy them as much as either the Frog and Toad series by Arnold Lobel or the George and Martha series by James Marshall. Morris and Boris's friendship doesn't make any sense in this book. They never seem to like each other and they are always arguing.

In Morris and Boris at the Circus, Morris decides to join the circus. Before the Ringmaster will hire him he has to prove himself during a show. Boris tries to help Morris do a variety of things (acrobat, lion tamer, performing dog, etc.) and he fails horribly at each task. Part of Morris's problem is he's an idiot and a lot of story is wasted on Boris having to explain things to Morris repeatedly. Morris does finally succeed at the expense of Boris. You can probably guess how.

Thanksgiving Plans:

This morning over breakfast Ian and I finally came up with our Thanksgiving travel plans. For the last four years we've driven down on Thursday to arrive just before dinner. This year with me working from home and my day ending at four in the afternoon we'll make the drive on Wednesday night, arriving at Ian's parent's home around nine or ten. It will be late for Sean but he's old enough to handle staying up that late. Harriet will probably sleep through most of the trip especially if we bundle her up in her car seat.

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Air Disaster Vol. 1Air Disaster Volume 1: 11/11/06

There are many ways to test a new invention or a modification but sometimes things are missed or not even thought of until something fails. In the case of airplanes, a failure often times results in loss of life. Air Disaster Volume 1 follows the lessons learned from various jet airplane crashes. The stories aren't overly technical but their presentation in the form of an oversized book and three column layout with a tiny font makes for difficult reading. I also found the presentation of the stories rather dry and in the process noticed a number of typographical errors.

The best and most informative part of Air Disaster is how it is illustrated. Each chapter has many charts, diagrams and photographs from the crash being discussed. There are at least three volumes in this this series but I'm not inspired enough to read further.

A Day of Books:

A BookCrossing acquaintance, Whytraven, put a call out last night via her livejournal for BookCrossers to take her books. She's being forced to move and can't take the books. Since she lives just forty minutes away, I volunteered to take a couple of boxes of her books. The plan is to get the registered and compile a list of BCIDs for her so she can track where her books go. Books that duplicate my set I will release immediately either via the monthly meetings in Dublin (California) or via the BookRelay site. Books that look interesting to read (and there seem to be many) I will try to read and review before I release them through the usual channels.

Before going though I had to clean out my car's trunk. Goodness how things has accumulated in there. I pulled the newspaper recycling bin right up to my car and chucked loads and loads of old newspapers. Then I filled two bags with stuff. One bag was trash (how did all this trash get in there?) and one bag was stuff that needs to be sorted and taken inside to be put away.

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My Very First Book of ShapesMy Very First Book of Shapes: 11/10/06

Sean brought home another shape book from preschool called My Very First Book of Shapes, written and illustrated by Eric Carle. It is one of the best introduction to shapes books I've seen. It has a wider variety of shapes than most books do. Each shape is also labeled and with the variety of shapes, beginning readers will be introduced to words they may not have had to read before. For instance, Sean has now learned the word almond. Of course the book has the lovely paper collage illustrations by Eric Carle which gives the book a vibrancies and personality. Finally, the book is a matching game. The pages are cut in the middle with a Carle illustration on one half and a black silhouette on the other half. Readers of the book are asked to match the black shape with the Carle picture. As the shapes aren't in order the book is somewhat challenging than a more traditional shape book.

Spruce Up Day:

Sean's school needs a little sprucing up and the owner has asked all the parents to volunteer some time next weekend to help out. We're thinking of signing up for a morning slot. We'd have breakfast at Baker's Square and then pop over to the school to put in a couple hours of work. The things that need work are: some painting, some furniture moving, and I think some yard work. I will have to look at the list of chores tonight when I pick up Sean to refresh my memory.

If entire families are welcome to volunteer, then all four of us will go. If not, then Ian will go on our behalf and I'll take Sean and Harriet either to the park (weather permitting) or home (if it is raining). Speaking of the weather, last night we had our first frost of the season and I've had to run the heater a little bit today during its usual off period because it's just too cold. Later today or tomorrow we're expecting rain.

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Dame EdnaDame Edna Everage: 11/09/06

There's a long British tradition of men dressing up as women on the stage going back to Elizabethan times and more recently in the Panto. Of course, Dame Edna and her creator, Barry Humphries, is Australian, but many of the traditions are the same and certainly the historical heritage is the same.

John Lahr took on the Herculean task of interviewing Barry Humphries for this book but you'll see that the book sports his most famous character's name: Dame Edna Everage and the Rise of Western Civilisation. Of the 274 pages of text, maybe forty pages are actually about Humphries. The bulk of the book is filler about waiting for a show to start and older gags and of course Dame Edna's "life."

Barry Humphries' instance on staying in character as Dame Edna for all of his public events makes me think of the San Diego Chicken aka Ted Giannoulas. That damn chicken started as a lame radio advertising campaign (thanks KGO!) and went on to be a piece of San Diego culture that could not be escaped. The chicken ended up being the mascot of the Padres for a while (and pretty much any other venue in San Diego). I remember in junior high there was a lot of hubbub over discovering the Chicken's true identity. It was stupid then and it is stupid in this book.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

My husband enjoyed this book more than I did. He found many of the passages amusing enough to laugh. I found myself struggling to read the book, bored at being back stage with a celebrity who was treating his interviewer horribly. If anything, Lahr got back at Humphries but recounting just how awful it was to write this book.

I suppose fans of Humphries' and his characters (Edna and Les) would love this book. Humphries apparently rarely broke character while Lahr was trying to write this book and was therefore forced to write more about the characters than the man behind them (yawn). While I went into this book finding Edna somewhat funny (and never having heard of Les) I'm now bored with both of them. The best story in the entire book was how the show boomed in New York. Humphries seemed completely baffled that anyone might not find his shtick funny.

Fair Suck of the Sav Mate!

Sean is learning geography at school right now. I've told him a few times in passing that I spent three months living in Australia as an exchange student. Some how he got it stuck in his head that our family is from Australia and he told everyone at school. So yesterday I had to explain to his teachers that no, we're a multi-generation Californian family.

It would certainly be more interesting for Sean's studies right now if he could point to a specific point on the map and say, "My family is from here" and have that "here" be somewhere else. Unfortunately for him most of his family has grown up in California. Then when it comes to the question of what culture are we, we have to pull pull out or laundry list of countries and ethnicities. Face it; we're mutts.

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Tiger with WingsTiger with Wings: 11/08/06

I know I've mentioned many times Sean's fascination with owls. Whenever I can find a children's book about owls I get it. One of the more educational books Sean has in his owl library is Tiger with Wings. The story follows a mother owl over the course of a year as she hunts, finds a mate, and cares for her young. The illustrations by Mary Barrett Brown really capture the owl in all its beauty and power.

Even though it's a children's book I've learned a few things about the Great Horned owl. For instance, I had no idea that the owl is large enough and strong enough to hunt skunks and cats. This species of owl is at the top of the food chain, up there with mountain lions and other large predators.

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

I got this for my son. It's designed for kids in elementary school but he so loves great horned owls that I figured we could enjoy the pictures now and later read the book together. He does love looking at the pictures and the text is very informative. The illustrations are gorgeous!

Best Election in 12 Years:

Ian and I took Harriet to vote yesterday. It's been a while since I've had to vote with a baby in a sling. I think she was one of the highlights of the day for the poll workers. She fussed at first but then fell asleep; it was a long ballot, two pages front and back.

For the candidates I voted a straight party line, even though I really don't like Jerry Brown. I knew that things looked good for a democratic take over of the house but the landslide amount was stunning and rewarding. Having Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and Rumsfeld resigning, I feel like it's my birthday. I haven't felt this good about an election since I was in college.

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So You Want to be a WizardSo You Want to be a Wizard: 11/07/06

New York City, especially Manhattan island, is a popular place for paranormal activity in fiction. There are often times gates to other universes (think of the two in the Ghost Busters movies) and in So You Want to Be a Wizard, there is a gate to a very strange alternate New York. Two novice wizards, Kit and Nita, travel to this alternate New York while innocently trying to recover Nita's lost pen. Can they get home and save the world at the same time?

While the book is a fairy typical young teen discovers magic is real type of story, I quickly found myself sucked into it. I liked how easily the wizardry fit into the modern world without a separation of societies into muggles and wizards as in the Harry Potter books. Wizardry in Duane's books can be a serious occupation or a hobby or somewhere in between.

My one complaint with the book (though this is more a complaint with book two) is the amount of time Duane spends on describing the Speech, a universal language that all wizards and all things in the universe can speak except apparently human adults who have forgotten how to speak it. I like the concept of a universal form of communication but Duane's endless descriptions of how it works and how wonderful it is often time stalls the plot.

Fortunately there is enough humor and horror to keep the plot moving. On the humor side, there is Fred, an eager white hole who is excellent at making diversions for Kit and Nita. On the horror side there are the living vehicles (cars, trains, helicopters, and elevators) who are bent on killing each other and eating anything that gets in their way; I will never look at hydrants the same way again!

Here is my BookCrossing Review:

After having struggled to read the second book, Deep Wizardry, I was surprised at how quickly I was sucked into this story. I'm a sucker for paranormal high jinx and horror in cities such as New York. Throw in a parallel universe and killer sentient automobiles, and a dragon living in an abandoned subway station -- it's my kind of fantasy!

Making Plans:

It's 51 weeks until Halloween and Sean is planning next year's costume. He wants to be a purple pikmin. Every morning he reminds me to take his measurements on his 5th birthday so I can start sewing his costume. If by August he still wants to be a pikmin, it will be the most difficult sewing project I will have ever attempted.

Then I have to wonder what to dress Harriet as. If she is walking well I could dress her in Sean's old kitten costume. Or maybe she'll be a pikmin too.

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One Fine DayOne Fine Day: 11/06/06

Over the weekend we found this book at the used book store we were visiting. As Sean has the first George and Martha book, we had to get One Fine Day. Although these books were published when I was a child and my husband grew up with them, I didn't start reading them until I was married. My in laws introduced them to me. So when I read them I always think of my mother and father in law!

The summary in the front of the book describes the story as the continuing friendship of two hippopotamuses. From the books I've read, I've always gotten the impression that George and Martha are a married couple. That doesn't mean they can't also be friends but there is a greater implied intimacy between the two than just a friendship.

Our Garden:

After the recent rains, Sean's fairy garden has burst into bloom. The nasturtiums we planted over the summer have their first flower. It's a glorious sunny yellow. As you can imagine, Sean is very proud of his first flower.

We also have three sets of herbs now growing from seeds in the garden. We have cilantro (coriander), dill and parsley. Of them, the cilantro is doing the best and we might be able to use some of it soon.

The pumpkin continues to grow but the squirrels are swiping the fruit before it can grow into anything useable. Nonetheless we're having fun seeing what the plant will do next.

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Astonishing Splashes of ColourAstonishing Splashes of Colour: 11/05/06

I read the book because of title and I enjoyed the few moments here and there when Clare Morrall played up her book's connection to Peter Pan but for the most part Astonishing Splashes of Colour left me bored. Kitty for a variety of reasons is a thirty-something adult who refuses to grow-up. It's not that she's young at heart or playful, she doesn't want to face the harsh reality that life can sometimes throw at a person.

Of course, there must be reasons for Kitty's withdrawal from the real world because people don't just break, at least that's what Morrall is implying. And rather than come up with anything "astonishing" or "colorful" she goes with humdrum and hackneyed. Kitty's family must be hiding a dead dark secret from her and if that's not enough, she's also suffered a mysterious still birth. Of course she can now, for no apparent reason try again for another child. Instead she is forced to wallow in the life that might have been for her if things had worked out differently. Whatever.

I've ready many positive reviews of the book and it was short listed in 2003 for the Man Booker Prize but I just don't see what all the praise is for. Sure, the book does have some interesting passages and I did love the first chapter, but the story doesn't go anywhere except down a very crowded and cliche ridden path followed by so many other books.

Two months old:

Harriet is now two months old today. She's spending her day being very cranky and very hungry. I have spent most of my waking hours so far just holding and nursing her meaning that all my other plans for far haven't happened. I still need to do Nanowrimo and I am just now at five o'clock getting this website updated.

Fortunately as she gets older these days of constant crying and constant nursing are fewer and farther apart but when they happen they are still very difficult. In her two months she has learned to smile and is close to being able to hold her head up. She can also sometimes giggle.

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A House for Hermit CrabA House for Hermit Crab: 11/04/06

Sean borrowed another new book from preschool. He chose a delightful one by Eric Carle called A House for Hermit Crab. It is Carle at his best; it is pretty to look at, a sweet story about friendship and one that teaches about real sea creatures.

In this story a hermit crab must chose a new shell as he has out grown his old one. His new shell is rather boring so he decides to decorate it with other creatures and plants that live in the sea. Each month he finds a new friend to decorate his home. Of course by the end of the year when his home is perfect it is also too small! Now the hermit crab must learn about sharing and start decorating a new home.

Sean's choice of this book is timely because he has already decided what he wants to be for Halloween next year. He has decided to be a pikmin and he wants me to start on his costume now. I have been explaining to him that if I start now he will be too tall for the costume by the time we would finish it in October of next year. I've told him that we should wait until his 5th birthday to start or else we'll have to share his costume with a four year old just as the hermit crab had to share his home with a smaller hermit crab at the end of the year.

Our Trip to Pleasanton

We had a nice day in Pleasanton. We found the weekly farmers' market but it was getting too late when we got there and we had forgotten to go to the bank first. We will be better prepared next time. Nonetheless we still had fun. Downtown Pleasanton has a nice old feel to it and reminds me both of South Pasadena and Juneau. Part of our excitement in downtown was having to wait for a freight train to pass. When one has a four year old, freight trains are exciting!

We also found another nice used bookstore in Pleasanton called "The Bookstore." Its logo is a sea turtle and that made me think of my recently departed BookCrossing friend Kamala (aka Kamalamalama) who always sent her books to the mainland via media mail which she called "the old sea turtle" and the packages came decorated with sea turtles and other Hawaiian sea life. Whenever I go to "The Bookstore" I will think of her fondly.

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Mushy Gushy ValentimeJunie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime: 11/03/06

Sometimes books just find me. It seems that the books that find me end up being the most enjoyable reads. My most recent read of a book like this is Junie B. Jones and the Mushy Gushy Valentime by Barbara Park. This one is a book that Sean picked out at the last BookCrossing meeting by pulling it off the Dublin Friends of the Library shelf.

The title and the cover illustration told me it would be a quick read but I had the feeling I wouldn't enjoy it. It just seemed too cute. I decided to give it a read when I was stuck on a much harder book and needed a little fluff for my brain. By the bottom of the first page, I was in love with the book: "A 'nouncement is the school word for listen to me... and I MEAN it."

Barbara Park clearly understands how kids that age (four to six) think. So many of things that Junie B. says and thinks are things that could have come out of Sean's mouth or the mouths of his friends. I was laughing on almost every page.

Here is my BookCrossing review:

As a parent of a child who is almost ready for kindergarten, I found this book about a Valentine's Day party very funny. Junie B's narration with all of the types of mistakes I've heard my son and his friends make made me laugh. The teacher's exasperation at some of the children's antics rings true too.

Fall is Here

Most of the trees around our complex are evergreens so from most locations it is hard to judge the seasons with an untrained eye. There is one exception, the Japanese plum three behind our patio. It is the first sign of fall and the first sign of spring. Right now the leaves are turning brown and beginning to fall. Come February or March the buds will explode from the bare branches, turning the tree into a giant white puff ball. The crows that have been absent since the last of the fruit fell in July are back. They are harvesting the smallest branches for their nests. By December we will have lost our shade completely until new leaves come in at March or April.

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Melanie Mouse's Moving DayMelanie Mouse's Moving Day: 11/02/06

Melanie Mouse's Moving Day is the second of the two Cyndy Szekeries books we own. This book has more of a plot than Hide-and-Seek Duck. As the title implies, Melanie Mouse is moving. At first she is reluctant to move when her parents are ready to move house but what can a little mouse do?

Like the story about Duck, most of the pages are taken up with Melanie saying good-bye to all her different animal friends. There are also scenes of packing and the actual move and finally the making of new friends.

Children who are facing a move or have just moved may find some comfort in this book. It shows the good and the bad of moving. There is the work of packing and moving. There is the sadness of saying goodbye to old friends and happy places but there is also the adventure of meeting new friends and making new memories.

Watch the Birdie

In the last few days (maybe a week or so) Harriet has become fascinated with the spinning bird on her bouncy seat. She's coordinated enough to touch it and sometimes she can get it to spin by pulling on the purple or green butterfly. The only problem is she doesn't take frustration well. Sometimes the bird spins so it's face is turned away from her and she doesn't like that. Sometimes she wants to play with the bird when it's really not a good time to, like this morning. See, she woke up at ten to six this morning to play with her bird and demanded (by screaming) that I turn on the light by my side of the bed. As soon as the light came on she started to coo with delight. We finally gave up and moved her and her chair upstairs at six thirty.

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Hide-and-Seek DuckHide-and-Seek Duck: 11/01/06

I think my mother gave me Hide-and-Seek Duck and Melanie Mouse's Moving Day. Anyway, it's a typical children's book with cute baby animals wearing clothing playing together blissfully like we parents wish our children would. In this case, the game is hide-and-seek and the seeker is a little duckling, creatively named "Duck."

Duck is looking for his bunny friend. On his search he runs into a variety of other animal friends. Each page then is filled with a delightful full color illustration of Duck and his encounter with one of his friends. These sorts of stories are the type Sean enjoys. They're repetitive. They have animals he knows. They have the animals doing something he can relate to like playing a favorite school yard game.

For me, I like the illustrations. In this case, the author is also the illustrator. Cyndy Szekeres has a style of drawing reminiscent of Beatrice Potter. Her animals and scenes are both naturalistic and anthropomorphic. She uses a soft and warm pallet that is engaging and inviting.

Halloween Party

Yesterday at three Sean's preschool held a costume party. Harriet and I attended because work had finished early for me. It was the first party of his that I've been able to attend one his school Halloween parties. I'm so glad I went this year!

Like last year, Sean dressed as Spiderman. He's decided next year he'll dress as Batman. By then he will have out grown his current costume (though we were lucky to get two year's use out of it). I've told him he'll have to make up his mind for sure by October first of next year. That's when we'll either start making his costume or shopping for one.

Each family brought something to the party and the variety of food was wonderful. There were some egg rolls, various types of fruit salad, cookies, mixed nuts, wrapped sandwiches and other delights. Sean was mostly interested in the M&Ms from the trail mix although I did get him to try some fruit (especially grapes) and some cheese and chips.

Harriet meanwhile slept through the entire event. She fell asleep just before the children paraded for us in their costumes. She stayed asleep in her sling while I helped the other adults set up the snack table and later while I ate one handed. There are quite a number of children Harriet's age or on the way. Sithy will soon have siblings to teach when the current "crop" is old enough.

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