Saturday, May 28, 2011


Lots of people are moving lately so I thought some things I've learned from experience might be helpful to others.
Moving is one of the hardest jobs in the world because you can't go home from it and rest. It's a good idea to pack a special box of things needed to set up an area where you can turn your back on the mess in the new home and relax. Comfortable chairs, a small table, snacks, music and something to read can provide breaks from the constant unpacking. That box needs to be one of the first things to unload.
Last time we moved we packed things ourselves and labeled each box with a code showing the priority of how soon it needed to be unpacked. For example, boxes containing basic necessities for survival like bedding, towels, and frequently used dishes and cooking equipment might have been labeled as top priority with a star. Seasonal things like Christmas decorations, and sentimental items like children's drawings were labeled as lowest priority, perhaps with a zero. And other symbols were used for medium levels of priority.
Each box was also labeled with the initials or name of the room where the contents would belong. The labels were written on all sides and the tops of the boxes so they were easy to see.
Last time we moved we were able to enter our new home before the movers arrived and put removable tape on the floors showing where major pieces of furniture should go and areas where the boxes of each priority should be placed. That made the movers' job so much easier they charged us quite a bit less than the estimate.
The worst move we ever made was to a new home only a few blocks from the previous one. We were able to drive everything from one location to the other ourselves, but failed to pack things as carefully as we'd done for longer distance moves and several items were lost or damaged. That certainly taught us a lesson.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dog Spit

Some parents worry about their kids getting licked or slobbered on by dogs. They might be surprised to know that canine saliva contains an enzyme that kills many germs.
That's because wolves, coyotes, and other wild dogs that are the ancestors of our domesticated pets often eat carrion. That means bodies of dead animals they find - sort of the natural variety of road kill.
Once my husband had a horrible infection in his hand and none of the antibiotics the doctor tried were doing any good. One day, after weeks of pain, he let our pet dog lick the wound and it improved in less than a half hour. He let her lick it again and again and the infection was completely gone by the next morning.
A doctor friend told us about that enzyme in the canine saliva, but said it would never be used for medical purposes because nobody wanted pet dogs to be used in experiments or to have their saliva extracted.
But if you ever get dog spit slobbered on you or your kids please remember that it's nothing to worry about.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Special Needs

Several years ago I was advised to start a second blog about special needs and did so. Since I'm a techno-idiot (could that be considered a disability?) I couldn't figure out how to link that blog to other social networking sites without unlinking this one, so it got almost no hits and I've posted to it less and less often.
Special needs are one of the things I care about deeply and I really want to share some of the things I've put on that blog in the past. I could send them directly to Facebook or widen the focus of this blog and repost some of them here, but I can't decide which is the best thing to do.
Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I saw on someone else's blog that I would be reviewing The Weaver here today, but I already did that last month. Anyone who is interested can see that review here:

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mr. Topper, the Potbellied Pig

Many people have potbellied pigs as pets, but Mr. Topper, the main character in Liam Maher's book, is homeless. He wants someone to take care of him, but can't find anyone willing to do that. Then he gets an idea; he'll pretend he can bring magical good luck to whoever takes him in.
After several failed attempts, a kind-hearted person finally welcomes Mr. Topper into his home. But when his benefactor falls on hard times the pig really wants to bring him good luck. Is there any way he can help the kind human?
No spoilers intended here, but a child who has recently lost a tooth will probably especially enjoy this book.
Perhaps it's because the author grew up in Ireland that the story reads like a classical folk tale, the sort that never goes out of style. Even the illustrations by Vanda Lavar remind me of pictures in books I enjoyed way back when I was a kid and I think children today will enjoy this book a lot.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stella, The Fire Farting Dragon

Kids will love this picture book! It's a funny story about a dragon who wants to win a contest, but is nervous and can't stop farting fire. She could be publicly humiliated!
What will happen if she follows the advice of her human friend Allen? "No matter what happens, keep flying," he tells her.
I love the illustrations by Jack Foster (who also illustrated one of my books) because they're just as amusing as the story.
The author, J Aday Kennedy, is "differently-abled" and has plenty of experience with persevering in spite of difficulties, but the book isn't at all preachy-teachy. Stella, The Fire Farting Dragon is just plain fun!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

One Pelican at a Time

Nancy Stewart's book, One Pelican at a Time, has already won some awards although it was only published a few months ago. It's about two girls, Britt and Bella, who discover a pelican covered by oil from the Gulf Oil spill and help to save it. The girls wisely got help from adults, but what they did themselves mattered a lot.
I asked the author, who lives in Florida near the Gulf of Mexico, what influence her own experience after the famous disaster had on writing this book. Here's what she told me:
"Our condo is on Clearwater Beach, a part of Tampa Bay. Fortunately, we did not have any oil spill residue. But just being a part of the gulf community was enough to be impacted emotionally. We love it and respect the marine life found there, so it wasn't any stretch of the imagination to empathize. Because of this and coupled with all the live shots of the oil spurting from the well and at the surface, the book was a natural. In fact, Lynda Burch, my publisher and I thought the book was crying out to be written. So I wrote it."
The book is well written and the lovely illustrations by Samantha Bell convey the story perfectly. Kids who read it will enjoy discovering what two children like themselves were able to do to make a difference in the world. I hope a lot of readers will be inspired to make a difference themselves. I asked Nancy Stewart for some suggestions and she said, "I believe the things to do with kids that will have the most impact are things they can really do. Every day. Things such as: turn off water while brushing teeth (three gallons used each time we don't), turn off lights when leaving a room, (I always tell little ones in school visits, each time they turn off a light they are helping save a polar bear), take short showers and unplug appliances after using them. And there are so many more. In fact, I have a power point I made as a presenter at the Illinois Reading Council Conference in March. It's on my website for anyone to use. It's called, Let's Help Kids Save Our Planet. If anyone wants it, s/he is free to use it.

The web address is:

My blog site is:

I believe many young readers will be inspired by this book to make a difference in the world.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Missing Mothers

Mother's Day makes me miss my mother, who died a few years ago.
It also makes me think of all the people, especially kids, who don't get to see their mothers. Some never even knew their birth mothers while others were separated from them by divorce, put into foster care, or sent to live with other relatives.
Even though they may see their mothers at times, lots of other children don't live with them. Others do live with their mothers, but those may be addicts, abusive, or have serious health problems so they can't parent effectively.
It's sad that thousands - perhaps millions - of kids have never experienced a healthy family life and that makes it less likely that they'll be able to provide one for their own kids.
But it can help a lot if kids have other mother figures who are good role models, even if they don't live with them. A stepmother, foster mother, grandmother, aunt, or even a teacher or neighbor can help to love and nurture a child and be an example of what a parent should be like. Even people from healthy families with wonderful mothers of their own can benefit from knowing other people like that.
Did you have any women in your life who were good role models for you? If so, Mother's Day is a good time to express your appreciation.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


Last week I blogged about heirlooms that remind us of things in the past. Since Sunday will be Mother's Day this is a good time to talk about memories of our mothers.
I remember my mother placing my new baby brother in my arms as I sat in my little rocking chair and allowing me to feed him from his bottle.
As we drove to California I remember her calling out, "Westward Ho! That's us, kids."
Of course I remember the morning she told us our father had died of polio the night before.
And I remember her beautiful singing as she cooked dinner.
Those are only a few of the many memories I have of my mother. What do you remember about yours?