Tuesday, October 6, 2015


My son drops me off at school at what he describes as the "butt crack of dawn"- 5:58 a.m. to be exact. My first meeting is at 7 and I have a lot to do before that.

Zay totaled his car earlier this summer and has been living with the consequences ever since. Mostly, he rides his bike. Every once in a while, if it's for something really important, I let him borrow my car.

Today I let him borrow my car.

It's for something really important.

He has a job interview at 10:00. Rain is in the forecast and he doesn't want to arrive at his interview wet, so I let him use my car.

This has been a long hard year for him. In January, he made the decision to quit college and give up his life long love of football. Since then, he has been through a long string of bad decisions and hard luck. He lived with me from January until March, and then I kicked both he and his brother out, because both boys were making such poor choices.

He lived with his younger brother's biological father for a few weeks, then moved in with an older  brother.

He got a job, then lost a job.

He moved back home.

He went with a friend to California and totaled his car.

He lost his iPhone.

He broke his computer.

And he was hospitalized twice, the last time for 2.5 weeks.

He came home last Tuesday. And now he has a job interview for a courtesy clerk position at a nearby grocery store.

I am antsy all morning, thinking about him, wondering about him.

At 11:30 I cannot stand it any more. I text him. How'd it go.

He texts back. It went well.

I text again. What did they say?

Forty-five minutes later, I still have not heard. I take my phone to recess duty. The phone rings almost right away.

I got a job.

He is thrilled. And I am thrilled for him.

When he picks me up, I get the details.

He starts tomorrow at 10. The company will provide uniforms.  He had to take a drug test.

I ask if he will pass it. He says he will. I pray that is true.

It's about time for him to start turning his ship around.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


This afternoon at the library, I found a book I KNOW kids (and art teachers) are going to love. ONCE UPON A LINE by Wallace Edwards was just published this month and reminds me a little of Chris Van Allsburg's classic MYSTERIES OF HARRIS BURDICK. The story begins with an introduction…

One rainy night many years ago, we found in the attic a letter folder inside an old steamer trunk. The contents belonged to our Great-Uncle George. Not much is known about him except that he was a magician who traveled the world and disappeared on stage along with a monkey and a motorcycle. 
It was said that Uncle George had an enchanted pen from the East. With this pen, he would draw an ordinary line. With this pen he would draw an ordinary line. That lined turned into a painting. 

The reader is then invited to look at a series of paintings. Somewhere in each painting is is hidden the line. Each painting has a million details to discover. A king holds a bouquet of balloons. A baby alligator. A penguin wearing a cowboy hat with a peacock feather and cowboy boots. A duck on stilts resting in two miniature rowboats. And an ending that leaves me wondering more than a little bit, and thinking  I need to look at each picture way more closely than this word girl usually does.

Each illustration is accompanied by the beginning of a story. The story that matches the front cover, for instance…

an explorer found a path to a new and strange planet
Should she stop exploring or keep going?
She finally decided to…

Another page, which features a performing circus frog…

there was a reluctant circus performer. /
He was tired of getting stuck in a hoop, /
and feathers made him sneeze, so he decided to…

And of course you know I'd find the dog painting and story…

Once upon a line
 a dog thought she was a cat. 
But why did she make barking noises and ignore mice?
One day she suddenly noticed…

A key at the end identifies the line in each picture.

One of those books I am pretty sure I will buy and re-buy and re-buy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The smell hits me as soon as I walk into the discharge pharmacy.

Unwashed. Unloved.

I wonder momentarily if my son smells that badly, but quickly realize it cannot be him.
I don't think the hospital would have let him go that long without a shower. And I am pretty sure I would have noticed it as we walked the two blocks from the hospital ward to the pharmacy.

There is a gentleman sitting in a chair at the pharmacy.

I wonder if he smells or if someone else just left the pharmacy.

The prescription is not ready and we have to wait.

The door opens again.
It is a woman about my age with an eight or nine-year-old girl.
The girl wears a polo shirt from an elementary school in my district.
Her long brown hair is pulled away from her face in a pony tail.
Her eyes are striking aquamarine blue.
She is beautiful.

She and the woman converse about school. She did hard math. She went to gym. She ate grilled cheese.  The girl asks if she can ride her scooter when they get home and the woman tells her she will have to ask her mother. I decide the woman must be her grandmother.

I look away and when I look back she has pulled her shirt up over her nose.

She stays that way a long time, probably for almost five minutes.

Her grandmother finally notices and asks her what she is doing.

"It stinks in here," she announces.

The man, who has been sitting silent since the girl and her grandmother came in, but now he speaks.

"It's me," he says. "I live outside."

And then he apologizes for smelling bad.

The woman doesn't say anything.

The little girl with the gorgeous aquamarine eyes doesn't say anything.

I want her grandmother to tell her to apologize.

I want her to tell the little girl to be kind.

I want her to explain that not everyone has a home and a shower and a warm bed to sleep in.

But she does not.

She does not say anything.

And I want to cry.

Because there are way too many people who smell in Denver.

And way too many people who do not do anything about it.

Thursday, September 17, 2015


When people ask me where they should go for children's literature titles, I always tell them about the CYBILS awards. In case you are new to my blog, the CYBILS are books nominated and chosen by book lovers- teachers, librarians, authors, and parents. The first two weeks in October, people nominate books for more than a dozen different categories-- fiction, nonfiction, speculative fiction, poetry, book apps, etc. Books are also separated by elementary and Young Adult. Starting in mid-October, panels of judges start reading-- last year I was on the Elementary Nonfiction judging panel and read over 100 books published in the last year. That panel chooses 5-7 finalists to pass on to the second round judges, who are charged with the difficult task of choosing one winner. You can get the lists of finalists and the winners from the CYBILS website here and you will be set up with reading material for the next year.

Earlier this week, the CYBILS judges for this year were announced. I've done elementary nonfiction the last couple of years, but this year I will be switching over to poetry. I'm super excited to be working on a panel with some really heavy hitters in the poetry world! I know I will learn a LOT! Here are the other first and second round Poetry judges:

Nancy Bo Flood

Irene Latham

Jone Rush McCullough

Margaret Simon

Tricia Stohr Hunt

Sylvia Vardell

Linda Baie

Diane Mayr

Heidi Mordhorst

Laura Shovan

To see the CYBILS judges for other genre, click here

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


I hoped we would not come to this dark place again so soon.

Earlier this summer, my oldest son had a "psychotic episode"and was hospitalized for about a week.
He was released with medication and encouraged to seek treatment at a local mental health facility.
Which we did.
But he hated it.
He went three times and stopped going.
Then he stopped taking the medication.

This weekend, he had another episode.
And ended up in a different hospital.
I have not seen him since Saturday night when he went by ambulance.
I did an intake interview Sunday morning.
And spoke with a doctor last night on the phone.
He said I could call today,
which I did,
but my son will not talk to me.
And the nurses will not tell me anything
because he has signed a form
saying he does not want any information to be released to anyone.

The hole in our hearts is huge.
The silence in our house is deafening.
My prayers bounce endlessly off the ceiling.

I hoped we would not come to this dark place again so soon.

Monday, September 14, 2015

BLACK ICE- Becca Fitzpatrick

I teach in a K-8 school. In my mind, that means I have to be ready, at any time, to talk to kids from 5-15 about books. I try, then, to read up and down the age spectrum and across a variety of genres. I also have a book, usually YA, but sometimes adult, in the car at all times.

For the past couple of weeks I have been reading (with my ears) BLACK ICE by Becca Fitzpatrick. When I read the back cover, I thought it was going to be a survival novel, kind of a YA version of HATCHET, and with a female main character. And with a little romance, which some of the older girls like a lot.  (I should be honest here. I don't read a lot of romance-y kind of books. Either for kids or for adults).

Here's the premise of the story. Britt Pfeiffer is a senior in high school. She convinces her best friend that they should back pack in the Tetons, rather than go to Hawaii with all of their friends for spring break. On the way there, they encounter a snowstorm, and hole up in a cabin with two young men. But then it turns out that the men are actually fugitives, attempting to find their way off the mountain. They want Britt, who has always depended on other people to take care of her, to guide them. Britt sets out with the men, believing that her ex-boyfriend, Calvin, will soon rescue her…

The story doesn't quite work for me. First, I can't imagine a seventeen-year-old's parent agreeing to a backpacking trip in the mountains, over spring break, when the weather is still dicey at best. And I wonder why Britt's father didn't check the weather report ahead of time. The romance part of the story is also a little much.

At the same time, when I suspend judgment, I can think of a whole group of eighth grade girls who might enjoy this book.  Some of them are not doing a whole lot of reading right now. And if I can get them reading something, and help them connect with an author who has several other books, well, that's definitely worth a shot.

Not my kind of book, but one that I am glad I read.

Sunday, September 13, 2015


Yikes! A crazy beginning to the school year and I'm just not blogging much! I will try to do better soon! Except today's is going to have to be quick because it's a beautiful sunny early fall day and the dog is casting hopeful looks outside and the Bronco's are playing at 2:00.

OK, anyway, today's read is POPPY'S BEST PAPER by Susan Eaddy. Poppy is a little rabbit who loves to read and wants to be a writer when she grows up. When her teacher announces a writing contest, Poppy is absolutely sure she will win. Unfortunately, Poppy doesn't really want to work all that hard at her writing, and when the winner of the contest is announced, it isn't Poppy, instead, it's her best friend. Lavender Bloom.

Here is a link about the process Eaddy went through in trying to first illustrate the book using her favorite style, clay, and then finally turning it over to a different illustrator. Really interesting! And it shows readers how hard authors and illustrators work at their craft.

And the trailer for this book is really cute!

A great story about solving problems, e.g. jealousy, in friendship, or writing process, also about the importance of working hard to achieve goals.