Monday, June 30, 2008

Blogging My Novel: The Home Stretch

Meez 3D avatar avatars games
So, this is it: the last frenetic burst of revision before the summer holidays. The girls are attending a week of ballet camp which leaves me with lots of time and no excuses. I'm up to Chapter 8 of 15, over half way, but the hard part is yet to come. That said, I'm imposing a blog ban until Friday PM. Incessant prodding via comments is encouraged. Remember, we writers are needy!

Saturday, June 28, 2008


It happens at the end of June like Swiss clockwork. All kids in every grade all over the canton celebrate their promotion from one year to the next. Not every commune or village celebrates in the exact same manner but, rest assured, a party only to be surpassed by December's Escalade takes place.

What follows are photos from the village of Corsier's festivities. The event was kicked off by a cortège or procession that began in front of the school buildings, wound through the village, only to finish in the school gym. This year the youngest students carried flags from whichever country they wanted while the other classes wore or carried items that represented the different continents. A wagon loaded with preschoolers who will attend the 'big' school in the fall brought up the rear.

The band.
(Check out the shoes on the clarinetist. Only in Europe!)

Flags of the world

African Shields

Statues of Liberty for North America
(A Mountie or two would have been nice. *sniff*)

Footballs for Europe

Coolie hats for Asia

Sombreros for South America

And, finally, the 'La Pomme' Wagon.
Last year Mighty Mouse was on board. *sniff*

The ceremony that followed consisted of singing by the students followed by presentations made by the mayor of Corsier. Teachers who were moving on to other schools or retiring received flowers while the 6th graders, who will move on to cycle or high school in the fall, received enormous dictionaries and a handshake or three kisses on the cheek, depending on their gender.

With formalities over, the party could begin. Sausages, hamburgers, fries, and drinks were served by the village fire brigade, hors d'oeuvres by the parent association, and dessert by the parents of the preschoolers. There were free carousel rides, a bouncy castle, carnival games, and the unofficial annual water fight.

The party went on well into the evening, long after the Mighty family headed for home.

Congratulations on your Promo everyone! Have a great summer.

Let the games begin!

Yesterday afternoon the parents of Corsier helped animate Les Jeux, or Games Day. I was in charge of refreshments, dispensing over 35 liters of syrop, apple juice and water in just under two hours. Kids, ranging in age from four to thirteen, roamed as they liked between the events which included various forms of target practice, musical chairs and face painting.

When the horn sounded that signaled the event's end, there was a general moan of disapproval. The kids were escorted back into class for their final dismissal and, with that, the 2007-8 school year was over. On with la promotion!

In case you are curious:
syrop (seer-OH) - flavoured syrups like grenadine mixed with water (pretty gross if you ask me)
la promotion (PRO-mo-sion) - a parade, ceremony, and party which marks the promotion of all students from one grade to the next

Friday, June 27, 2008


A few weeks ago I was sure this day would never come: the seedlings were on their last legs--dusky and limp. I'd prepared the kids and the composter. It was just not meant to be.

But then the sun came out--and stayed. Leaves sprouted one, after the other, after the other until, low and behold, the seedlings looked almost presentable. All along the girls had planned to give 'un petit pommier' to their teachers. Now they could. They transplanted them yesterday and presented them today, the last day of school.

Au revoir P'tit Pommier!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Year in Trees

Way to go, Mighty Mouse! Glad to have you back. XOXOX

Book Review: Alphabet of Dreams by Susan Fletcher

I met Susan Fletcher on a bus headed for the Bologna Fair Grounds where the 2008 Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference was being held. Her book, Alphabet of Dreams, was on the list of those I planned to read, so I introduced myself, then sat behind her in silent awe until we reached our destination. That's Susan Fletcher! Eek!

When we arrived at the conference I quickly snapped up the one and only copy of her book from the book stand and began to read. Ancient Persia in The City of the adolescent girl disguised as boy... a much younger brother with prophetic dreams...evil kings, wise men and a birth foretold in the stars... I was not only hooked--I was transported.

Alphabet of Dreams is classified by the powers-that-be as a young adult (YA) novel. I can't help but agree. While the main character, Mitra, is at most 14-years-old, the vocabulary used in this narrative is extremely rich and could prove discouraging to a less advanced reader. That said, if you were to read the book along with your young teen, it could make for a truly unique summer reading experience.

Bravo, Ms. Fletcher. I look forward to meeting you again.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Twinkle's Wish

Illustrated by the children of Class 1A at the International School of Geneva. Written by me. Enjoy!

Twinkle was tiny and Twinkle was white,
the brightest and smallest of twinkles of light,

burst from the Sun and aimed straight for the Earth
and bearing one wish that she’d had since her birth:

“I wish to be scarlet, bright orange or gold.
I wish to be coloured – a sight to behold!”

A glowing blue ball through the darkness appeared
As Twinkle flew quickly, it rapidly neared.

“Blue is the colour that I want to be
I am sure brilliant blue is the colour for me!”

Twinkle wiggled and wriggled and squiggled to steer
Toward sparkling blue oceans and seas as they neared.

Despite wiggles and wriggles her path did not change,
Leaving wide open seas for a huge mountain range.

Blushing red peaks in a tidy long row
towered high up above a thick forest below.

“I wish to be red or a lush leafy green;
I wish to be coloured, a sight to be seen!”

She wiggled and wriggled and squiggled to steer
Toward rugged red peaks and green trees as they neared.

Despite wiggles and wriggles her path did not change,
Pushing past rocky peaks to a great yellow plain.

A ripe field of wheat in the last light of day
rippled and swayed as two impish winds played;

“I wish to be yellow, the colour of gold;
I wish to be coloured, a sight to behold!”

She wiggled and wriggled and squiggled with glee
so certain she was that bright gold she would be.

And she might have been, too, had a heavy dark cloud
not started to drip great round drops to the ground.

In the blink of an eye there were drops on all sides
and to Twinkle’s dismay there was no place to hide.

With no way to stop and without means to steer
Twinkle’s last wish became perfectly clear:

“I wish that these drops will not swallow me whole!
I wish to be Twinkle, a sight to behold!”

It was then that it happened, on that fateful day:
All her wishes came true in their own special way.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Novel? What Novel?

Meez 3D avatar avatars games
Above is my first crack at a Mighty Mom Meez. She's supposed to be flying 'super-hero-style' around the room as if seeking out the latest source of mischief, but apparently the code's too long. Figures. Instead she looks like she's feeling a bit guilty for not keeping up with her novelling goal. Perhaps that's more accurate.

Monday, June 23, 2008

It's a boy!

He wasn't in the house ten minutes before he'd drained a liter of milk, brought me up to speed on the football championships, and disassembled and reassembled my kitchen shears three times. Look out, ladies: testosterone has entered the building!

In all seriousness, Hugo the Great, aka Le Grand Hugo, is a terrific kid and it's a shame I'll have to give him back when his parents return from London today.

We'll miss you, big guy!

Afrique à la Suisse

What better way is there for kids to appreciate art from a different culture than by trying to reproduce it themselves? Below is an African-style wall hanging created by the girls and their classmates (ages 4 to 7) using dyes made from clay and dried leaves. It is approximately 2 meters wide by 2.5 meters long and hangs in the school entrance.

Bravo to the teachers and students of École de Corsier!
You never cease to amaze me.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Beautiful Minds

These five women, plus one who couldn't be here, make up the Birkenstocks, my little writers' group. Every two weeks we meet at each other's homes to critique, eat, then critique some more.
If my novel ever makes it past the slush pile, they will have been a huge part of getting it there.

Have a great summer, ladies. Write on!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Text Me, Baby!

Technology and I parted company at the cell phone. It wasn't that I was philosophically opposed to them; I just didn't see the point. If I was out and about, I was likely with the person I wanted to talk to. If I was home--well, I was home. Call me there. It was bad enough having to carry a pager at work. I didn't need something beeping without warning everywhere I went.

A few years later, I was on my way home from work when I had a sudden change of heart. Eight months pregnant with Emma the Brave, it occurred to me that I could give birth at any moment--right there, squatting on the side of the Deerfoot Trail. I stepped on the gas. The second I walked into the house, I announced my decision to the Captain. "I'm getting a cell phone."

Forever the selective cheapskate, he replied, "Don't do that. Take mine."

I had to admit, he had a point. As the Captain wasn't traveling, he didn't need his cell. He was either at work or with me. I took him up on his offer and, as luck would have it, never used it.

A repeat bout of cell phone urgency occurred when Moody Mouse was on the way, only this time the hypothetical birth took place on Highway 400 and Emma was watching. Once again, I scooped the Captain's portable and the feeling dissipated. Moody was born right where she was supposed to and the phone never got touched.

Well, I've been getting that feeling again. The first inkling came when I lost track of time and was 20 minutes late to pick up the girls and their friend from school. A few days later I left my headlights on outside where I volunteer. But the bean that burst the bag came last Friday when I passed out in a downtown pharmacy. Not only did I not have a phone, but the Captain was away and I didn't have the phone numbers of anyone who might have been able to help.

Saturday we went shopping. I was eyeing the BlackBerries with their full keyboards--imagine the blogging!--but conceded to the Captain's hand-me-down. Not bad, eh!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Temporary Name Change

Until further notice, Mighty Mouse will be referred to as Moody Mouse.
Lord, help me.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Border Crossings

It's a border I haven't dared cross for nearly eight years: that fine line between being a stay-at-home mother and a working parent. But these past few weeks I've come close, so close I could almost smell the ink on the pay stub. And it felt good.

It wasn't for the money---don't get me wrong; that would be nice---but more for the recognition, gratitude, and admiration that comes from working at something at which you excel. Motherhood is rewarding, but it's inherently lonely. Not that the Captain and the girls don't show their appreciation--they do. But it's a long haul, both for those who give and those who receive. The human body is a master at accommodation. We stop smelling, feeling, and hearing that which we sense all the time. We're not ungratious; it's just how we're wired.

As it turns out, I didn't get the job. Some day I will be the teacher a kid never forgets. Just not now.

Empty Nesting

The day has finally come: Patches, the last of Peanut's nine babies, has left the nest.

It's been an amazing experience for the whole family, these hamster pups. Peanut was quite the little mother, nursing her crew almost non-stop for two weeks before weaning could begin. I couldn't help but wonder if she'd done it before. If not, I sure could have used instincts like hers seven years ago. That said, it's clear that Peanut is ready go solo again. (She's been caught pinning Patches to the wood chips as if to say, "My cage. My wheel.") As for the rest of us, we won't be forgetting them any time soon.

Bye, guys! You'll be missed.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Word About the Colonel

There are more dads in this world than you can shake a dirty stick at. Some are colder than a witch's kiss; others share everything from soup to nuts. But once in a blue moon there's a keeper, one who says he's taught me everything he knows...
...and still I don't know nothing!

Happy Father's Day, Dad!
I love you!

Father's Day à la Suisse

Father's Day isn't officially recognized in Switzerland. Unless your child goes to a school frequented by loads of expatriates, they won't be coming home with gifts like the ones I've received for Fête de Maman these past four years (see the photos below). It's a bit of a shame and requires the girls and I to get a bit more creative--but we like that.

Two years ago, we invoked a tradition of our own, recruiting a couple of other Canadian families to go water skiing on Lac de Genève. There are a few pay-as-you-go ski boat operators at the Geneva end of the lake. The dads, moms, and the occasional kid ski until their legs jiggle while snacking and sipping between runs. Unfortunately a cool, wet spring has postponed this year's event. Nonetheless, we're having a celebratory barbecue and saving our wet suits for a warmer day.

We love you, Captain! You are a terrific dad!

Porte monnaie by Mighty Mouse

Ivy Sconce and TicTacToe Game by Emma the Brave

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Give a Dog a Bone

Only the second bone in her dog life, poor deprived pooch. That said, the Captain's on duty tonight if this bright idea of his backfires!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Blogging My Novel: Draft 5 --The First Step Is A Doozie

For reasons too numerous and equally too pathetic to mention, Draft 5 will begin tomorrow, a week behind schedule. The good news? I read Draft 4 and it didn't make me want to run screaming into the neighbouring field of wheat.

I'll be tracking my revision hours instead of my word count this time around. My goal? An average of two hours per weekday until June 27, when the girls finish school. Should I appear to be slacking, public ridicule via comments is encouraged.

Want to know what I'm working on? Read an excerpt here.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Apple Seeds: The Road to Recovery

A big thanks to Hester Macdonald at WRS for her in-the-nick-of-time advice on saving the seedlings. Here's what she wrote:
"I can't really tell if the problem is powdery mildew or downy mildew. Both are, yes, a sort of mould. Apple Powdery mildew is quite a serious disease that starts on the stems and leaves shortly after bud burst and takes the form of a powdery white coating. You can treat it with a simple fungicide. Mildew problems are common in many seed varieties that have not been treated with an anti-mildew fungicide, and are exacerbated by very damp conditions.

"If it's downy mildew, you will see yellowish spots on the upper leaves (it's probably not this) and can be treated with a copper-based product."
The very next morning I was fungicide shopping and by noon I'd sprayed every last leaf, both top and bottom. Within hours the plants had lost their dusty pallor. Had I not forgotten them out in the pouring rain--not once, but twice--they might have been cured. Unfortunately, in a clear case of horticultural neglect, two seedlings re-entered the circle of life. There is new growth on the remaining twenty, so hope prevails.

At one point last week I warned the girls that the seedlings might not make it. Their response: "That's okay, Mommy. We can grow tomatoes instead."


Monday, June 9, 2008

The 'Talk'

"Can we read this tonight, Mommy?"

Emma the Brave's standing on her desk chair which she's pulled in front of her bookshelves. In her hands is a big book I'd saved from my own childhood, one I'd purposely put up high out of reach: "Where Did I Come From?" by Peter Mayle. Evidently she's grown.

I take the book from her hands. "I suppose we could. But are you sure this is what you want to read? It's not a story book, you know."

"I know."

"It's about how babies are made."

"I know."

"There's absolutely no story."


We settle on to her bed and open it up. The paper that lines the front cover is filled from top to bottom with cartoon sperm. The one in the center wears a top hat and is carrying a rose. "You're sure about this?"

She looks me dead in the eye. "Go."

I begin to read. The book begins by myth busting. Emma giggles at a picture of a baby being carried in a sling by a stork. "That's silly," she says. While Santa and the Tooth Fairy are still within the realm of possibility, a baby-porting bird is unfathomable.

The book goes on to properly name the private parts of the human body for both males and females. The giggles come again, not due to the proper names, which she's known for as long as she can remember, but due to the made-up ones they mention. She thinks the word 'boobs' is hilarious. I can't help but agree. If they ever need to name a fifth Teletubbie, 'Boobs' could be it.

By the time we get to the nitty-gritty, where 'tab A' inserts into 'slot B,' she's in absolute hysterics. "YUCK--" she cries, then pauses with sudden revelation: "You did that with DADDY?!"

I guess she did get a story after all.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The World's Most Notorious Child Criminal Strikes Again

Goldilocks and the Three Bears:
A Play in Three Acts
by Mighty Mouse

Act 1:
Innocent Beginnings
Act 2:
Felonies Overfloweth

Act 3: