Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Reading List

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events - The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  • Bloodletting & Miraculous Cures by Vincent Lam
  • Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
  • Cook with Jamie by Jamie Oliver
  • For One More Day by Mitch Albom
  • Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
  • Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson
  • Holes by Louis Sachar
  • Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver
  • Jamie's Italy by Jamie Oliver
  • Just as Long as We're Together by Judy Blume
  • Kira-Kira by Cynthia Kadohata
  • Le Petit Prince by St-Exupery
  • My Brother, My Sister, and I by Yoko Kawashima Watkins
  • My Life in France by Julia Child with Alex Prud'homme
  • No Plot? No Problem! by Chris Baty
  • Offshoots 9 - Writing from Geneva and Beyond by the Geneva Writers' Group
  • Oscar et la dame rose by Albin Michel
  • P.S. Longer Letter Later by Paula Danziger & Ann M. Martin
  • Penny from Heaven by Jennifer L. Holm
  • Rules by Cynthia Lord
  • Stories from the Vinyl Cafe - 10th Anniversary Edition by Stuart McLean
  • The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
  • The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron
  • The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton
  • The Triathlete's Training Bible by Joe Friel
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
  • Wayside School is Falling Down by Louis Sachar

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Crafty Kids

My kids love their crafts. Here are a few specimens they created this past year that they are particularly proud of. These first two are by Mighty Mouse, created using a sand art kit. The kit included lots of different coloured sands and at least eight different adhesive coated pictures. My only criticism would be that the craft was a touch messy, but its kid appeal is hard to beat.

These last two are Emma the Brave's, made using an Aquarellum kit. One of the most interesting aspects of this craft was that she created her own shades of colours using five basic ink dyes, water, and a little plastic dropper. More templates would have been greatly appreciated, though. She finished the eight provided in under two hours.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

My Most Useful Links of 2007

Let me preface this by saying that I am not an avid surfer. Until I started blogging I spent almost no time online and then it was only to check email or my calendar. It's not that I am philosophically opposed to the joys of the internet. On the contrary, it is an incredibly useful treasure-trove of information. But, as I'm sure you'll agree, the junk out there far out-numbers the gems and time is mortally finite. That said, here are some of my most useful finds:

The Renaissance Learning Quiz Store
At what point does a short story cross over into novel-dom? Unwilling to type out J.K. Rowling's latest opus, I was determined to find a better way. This site provides the word count, reading level and interest level of countless titles for adults and children, search-able by author, title, or ISBN. And, yes, it's free.

The Association for Library Service to Children
It is extremely difficult to emulate a child's voice and perspective. For this reason alone I sometimes find myself wishing I was more inclined to write stories about 30-something stay-at-home moms. The American Library Association children's arm annually recognizes excellence in children's literature by bestowing such awards as the Newberry and Caldecott Medals. Announced in January, I use these titles as a starting point when planning my year's reading.

The Vinyl Cafe
After much anticipation, Stuart McLean's stories from The Vinyl Cafe are now available by podcast. Before we had to remember when to tune in online and pray the girls didn't talk, laugh or argue too much during the broadcast. The stories are funny and touching and undeniably Canadian. What more can a home-sick wannabe writer ask for? Just follow the links and enjoy.
I'm not much for using websites as a training tool, but Children's Book Insider, the newsletter produced by this website, provides both education and potential markets. I commend three of my four publication credits to this newsletter and its the only one I subscribe to.

So that's it--my best finds of 2007 that kept me educated, employed and, most importantly, entertained.

Now get back to work! No one will write it for you.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Working Without a Net

You'd think I'd have it down by now. For four years in a row I've prepared Christmas dinner with no mom, mother-in-law, or, for that matter, grandmother-in-law to watch over me, no dad to sing endless carols, and no father-in-law to mash the potatoes. And, for the fourth year in a row it's gone off famously.

Why, then, does it feel like something was missing?

Monday, December 24, 2007

It's All in How You Accessorize

Emma the Brave and I are on the chair lift. Beneath us a snowboarder with relatively novice skill is descending the modest piste . He's riding goofy, his right foot forward. His turns are wide; his speed, reasonable. But he catches his front edge while facing down hill and slams face first into the hard-packed slope. He doesn't move.

A skier stops. She speaks to him. Nothing.

The skier flags down other skiers by waving her poles. Our boarder friend still hasn't moved.

He's wearing a lovely blue wool toque.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

One Step Too Far

I took Emma the Brave Christmas shopping today so she could choose a gift for Mighty Mouse. This is a deceptively difficult task when one is almost seven and one's younger, same-sex sibling is almost five. It needs to be something good, but not too good.

Leading up to today's excursion, Emma was a fountain of benign gift ideas--marbles or a stuffed polar bear--anything she thought Mouse might appreciate without evoking undue sibling rivalry. To put it simply, she was content to give Mouse anything that she (MM) already had and that she, herself, didn't particularly want.

We were walking past Fust, the Swiss answer to Best Buy, when I reached the end of my persuasive rope. "We could buy her a toaster," I said.

Emma's response was wordless roll of the eyes.

I earned that.

A block and half later we entered Franz Karl Weber. (Think Toys-R-Us only three times smaller and more expensive.) Stacked chest-high to the right of the entrance were dozens of Hello Kitty toasters. Just pop in your bread, depress the lever and minutes later you're rewarded with toast sporting an untoasted silhouette of the adorable Asian kitty.

Thank goodness, Emma thought they were pretty ridiculous, too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Blogging My Novel: Week 6 ¾

I have come to accept that Draft 4 will be the slowest one yet. With the plot thread established, thus begins the polishing that will give relevance to the details and resonance to the tale being told.

Uh, no pressure.

I have two days left to write before the Christmas break and I'm about one third of the way through. I admit I am dreading the loss of what feeble momentum I've gained. That said, Blogging My Novel: The Series will resume January 11, 2008. Blogging on all other topics will continue with reckless abandon. (And you thought you were off the hook!)

Wishing you all a safe and happy holiday season and a truly inspired New Year,

Mighty Mom

Monday, December 17, 2007

The Home Stretch

It's not easy parenting on one's own. For two weeks--less a measly 15 hours--I've been the sole counsellor, confidante, curator and cook to the two most singly-minded little girls I know.

"Only six sleeps until Daddy comes home," I tell them. I write a big '6' in the top right-hand corner of the chalk board in the kitchen. They think it's for them.

It's not that things run that much more smoothly when Kirk is around. In fact, it's quite the opposite: dinners run late, laundry baskets overflow, and the garbage mysteriously never makes it to the curb.

But in the palm of our imprecision lies the faith that together we will make it through.

Six more sleeps.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

When an Open Door Isn't

Honey was born in a barn. We missed the significance of this detail when we chose her. For the first three months of her domesticated life she mistook wall-to-wall carpeting for dirt, peeing repeatedly on the off-white plush of our Vancouver rental. At six months of age she established dominance over a full-grown Doberman by humping it in the dog park. When the puppy school instructor suggested we had an alpha-female, I took offense. Like a dewy-eyed new parent, I was blind to Honey's faults. She was mine and I was hers, world without end.

Honey's first home away from home was Kerrisdale Centennial Park, a green space a short walk away that boasted a pair of soccer fields, a playground, countless ash and red cedars, and, thanks to a plethora of neighbourhood dog lovers, an official off-leash area. While not fenced in, it was small enough that the average dog could be easily kept under voice control. Need I remind you, dear reader, we did not have the average dog.

On one of her earliest outings, Honey befriended a blond mutt I will call Elsa, whose real name, for reasons which will soon come apparent, my memory seems to have blocked out. Elsa was every dog-owners' nightmare, committing such atrocities as chewing through drywall when left to her own devices for more than an hour. The two dogs primarily liked to wrestle, but occasionally took to chasing each other at warp speed into the odd soccer match.

One evening in late November, while Elsa's owner was confessing her dog's latest offenses, our dynamic duo bolted out of sight into the thick border of trees and brush that lined the park's east side. We, being the concerned dog owners that we were, ran into the wood after them, calling their names.

The trees quickly gave way to a disturbingly quiet residential street. Elsa's owner went one way and I the other, barging into one cedar-hedged garden after another in search of our escapees.

A sinking sense of panic was closing in when I passed a beautifully restored one-and-half-story Cape Cod. It's front and back doors were wide open such that one could easily see straight through it. Drop sheets lined the entrance where a woman was standing, hands on her hips.

"They're here," she said.

I sensed she was not among the dog-lover contingency--at least not anymore.

The two dogs had chased each other around the house a few times before escaping into the woman's backyard. I commandeered my fugitive and marched her apologetically out of the house, grateful for the drop sheets, now mud-streaked, that covered the woman's off-white plush.

And so the saying goes: you can take the dog out of the barn, but you can't take the barn out of the dog, world without end.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Blogging My Novel: Week 6

There is a lot to be said for the objectivity afforded by letting a manuscript sit. While dust mites procreate between our neglected pages, so burgeons our ability to discern the wheat from the chaff of our creative brilliance.

Unfortunately, time is not on my side. The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators is hosting a conference in Bologna, Italy this coming spring and I've signed on for a manuscript review: twenty minutes with an editor, writer, or agent who will give their opinion of my work and perhaps nudge it toward publication. Not only must I have a reasonably presentable draft, but a synopsis as well--a summary of the novel's key points boiled down to what can fit on a postcard. The deadline: January 31, 2008. Need I say, "Oi!"?

So Draft 4, begun only a week after it's predecessor was put to bed, will demand ample conscious objectivity on my part. I will have to impose a list of demands on every scene: mood, characterization, place and plot. The key will be to maintain a forward momentum. After all, Draft 5 awaits.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Dear Santa...

Dear Santa,
For Christmas I would like, please,

  1. a doll that talks and in her handbag her clothes. It needs to be a girl doll.
  2. a white horse and baby horse
  3. a toy kitty
  4. a polar bear backpack
  5. shoes for the baby doll
  6. a snow globe
  7. a toy kitchen
  8. a soft toy porcupine
  9. (oops)
  10. a fuzzy doggy
  11. a big polar bear
  12. a skipping rope
Thank you, Santa.
Mighty Mouse

Dear Santa,
For Christmas I would like:
  1. little white tiger
  2. little orange tiger
  3. dolphin with a cord that makes music with a baby attached
  4. toy girraf
  5. five medium cars in a bag
  6. (see #10 below)
  7. one baby doll with clothes and a bottle
  8. set of markers
  9. one bear blanket
  10. a giant dolphin that is blue please
Emma the Brave

Let's hope the big guy's been eating his Wheaties!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Course de l'Escalade

My so-called friend, Christine, challenged me to run the Course de l' Escalade shortly after convincing me to train for next summer's Geneva Triathlon. At the time I think I readily agreed. But as the date crept closer, my resolve began to wane.

"We'll see," I would say whenever the subject came up.

In the interim months since accepting my first physical goal since pregnancy, the realities of a fifteen year break in training had become abundantly clear. By mid-September I could only run one minute and walk for one minute seven times in a row. Any more and my knees would object with a painful debriefing that would linger for days. I had even suffered my first minor injury, a tendonitis reminiscent of one I had experienced during university when I was running 30 kilometers a week, not three.

Enter my personal physiotherapist--me.

My assessment:
Symptoms consistent with patello-femoral pain due to patella maltracking and concurrent ilio-tibial band (ITB) tendonitis.

Recommended treatment plan:
Ice: 10 minutes, three times a day
Twice Daily Stretching: quads, hams, gluts, piriformis, 20sec x 3
Strengthening 3 times a week: weights with focus on strengthening vastus medialis to correct patella maltracking

Enter the worst patient I've ever treated--again, me.

The truth is, I hate weight training. It has to be the most mind-numbing sport known to man. But for the sake of my personal goal I persisted for seven weeks--then quit. Four weeks later I re-injured.


The Escalade was only three weeks away. I'd paid my 30 franc. I'd passed on the cancellation insurance. Worse, I wanted to run it, injured or not. I was officially hooked.

This is why I never aspired to treating athletes--they just don't listen.

So, for the next three weeks, I behaved myself. I iced, I stretched, I cross-trained--even weight-trained-- and yesterday morning boarded the tram for the big event without so much as a hint of knee pain.

Over 27,000 people were registered to compete in this year's race, 1,685 of which would be running with us. Crowded in at the start line, my fingers were clammy and I needed to pee. The boom of the starter's pistol was a relief.

The course was a hilly double loop following the cobblestoned streets up through the vieille ville. Spectators lined the route and leaned out of windows, sipping vin chaud and nibbling roasted marron while cheering us on.

"Allez, allez!"

It was nothing short of fantastic. I ran the whole way, sprinted to the finish, and can walk without pain a day later. Now, if I can just keep to the advice of my physiotherapist, I'll be there next year, too.

We'll see...