Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Feeling A Tad Toxic Myself

Like most parents, I find advertising aimed at children to be bothersome. Call me old-fashioned, but I don't think the term "children" should be synonymous with "lucrative marketing age-bracket." But I also generally try not to get too riled up about it. Sure, the fact that 30 seconds exposure to commercial TV or the ads in most children's magazines can leave a kid convinced that he or she simply has to have a box of sugar-whammo-blammos for breakfast and must have the latest overpriced junky piece of plastic to play with does bug me, but I figure it also provides an opportunity to teach the concepts of critical thinking and money management. When all else fails, there's always, "No."

That said, I am extremely bothered by the print ad I saw last night in a children's magazine for a candy product line called "Toxic Waste." Some of the candies are described as "hazardously sour." Others have an image on them called "Mr. Toxie Head," who is grimacing.

Did anybody at this company actually think about what they were doing? Maybe their excuse is, "We're aiming our product at children old enough to realize we are kidding." But at what age are we supposed to assume our children know that Toxic doesn't really mean Toxic? Pardon me, but I think the correct answer is never.

Words such as toxic, poison, hazardous, flammable -- these are crucial words with specific meanings meant to identify known threats to our well-being. Many children as young as three can recognize letters and words. If a child that young receives candy that is labeled with the string of letters T O X I C, then the word "toxic" means "candy," and anything labeled toxic becomes instantly attractive.

Overreaction on my part? Perhaps. But I think the candy company should yank their product line now, before some young child consumes something poisonous. And shame on Boys' Life (and any other magazine that carries a Toxic Waste candy ad) for accepting the ad.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire

I haven't read this book yet, but it looks terrific: Brenda A. Ferber's Jemma Hartman, Camper Extraordinaire. It's for girls ages 8-12 and is a friendship story set at an overnight camp in Wisconsin. Find it at your favorite library or bookseller.

Sunday, April 26, 2009


It's been a while since I've posted a YouTube video link. Head on over here for The Dewey Decimal Rap.

Librarians and literacy folks are so much more fun than people give them credit for.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Gratitude; and Abrams Falls

At any given moment, I am grateful for more things than I can enumerate. Two that come to mind right now are: 1) gratitude for the kindness that the Mom who was running the "Zoo Parade" event at last night's school carnival showed toward my son; and 2) gratitude to Jacqui Robbins, for posting a link on her blog to a funny article that I just so happen to have read many, many years ago and have previously tried to re-locate, with no success. You'll find it here (and, if you want to find more writing by Ian Frazier, head here).

I'm also thankful today for many other things, including, but not limited to: that I took some time this morning to enjoy the beauty of our backyard daffodils before afternoon storms knocked them down; that I have a wonderful family, in all its many layers; that the seven uniquely talented people who constitute my writing group are also my fast friends; that every day, new and wonderful books are published (such as books you'll find on the Michigan Notable Books list; the new book by Michael Perry, which I haven't read yet, but plan to; and the many varied and enjoyable books you can read about on MittenLit); that chocolate comes in many different flavors and potencies; and that nobody complains when I neglect my blog. Life is a funny thing, and I'm sure glad I'm around for all its wonderful oddities.

My blog neglect has left hanging those of you who were following my Smoky Mountain hiking write-ups. You've heard about driveway trauma and our warm-weather wildflower walk. Now, how about a bit about our Abrams Falls hike?

In this case, I'll let the pictures do most of the talking. Here are some of the trees we encountered en route to the falls:

And here are the falls themselves:

Overall, our hike was uneventful (a little cool, but not cold; misty, but not rainy), but quite fun. We were on the trail long enough and steep enough for it to feel like a hike, but not so long or steep as to feel like a trek. The kids were great hikers throughout it all. Great time.

Next entry: the Tuckaleechee Caverns (aka What To Do When It Snows On Your Spring Break). Till then, I'm gratefully yours...

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Funny you should ask

So you're wondering, "When is she going to finish up her vacation series? Doesn't she have two more hikes to blog about?"

Yes indeed. Two, plus some caverns.

But will I be posting a new blog entry today? No. I will not.

And will I be posting a new blog entry tomorrow? No. I will not.

This is not due to my being lazy and/or terribly behind on too many things to count. Well, there is that. But the primary reason for my delay is so I can work into this blog entry a new word I learned this week. Here goes:

Debbie means well, but she has a tendency to perendinate.

Who knew there was a word that means, "To put off until the day after tomorrow"! Great word. (I learned it from Word A Day, a free email service you should definitely subscribe to.) I'll be ostentatiously sticking "perendinate" into conversation and/or blog posts indefinitely.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In Which I Gloat

And just why am I gloating? Well. Funny you should ask.

In my hot little hands, I just so happen to have the Advance Reader's Edition of this book...
...and you, the poor soul(s) who constitute my blog readership, do not.

Unlike me, you will have to wait until fall to read The Everafter, Amy Huntley's debut young adult novel.

So uncap your pen right now and mark your calendar: September 29, 2009.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Vacation News

After indulging in a bit of silliness over on Write Brainers, and adding photos to my previous vacation blog entry, I'm now back with more blather about my trip to Tennessee. (Those of you bored already feel free to choose another, better blog from the sidebar.)

Last entry I enthused about our quarters (as well as our Perilous Driveway). Now we'll head into the park!

Our first hike took full advantage of the lovely warm day of our arrival. We were all in short-sleeves as we hiked up the Chestnut Top Wildflowers path. I think we were probably a week out from the height of the wildflower season, but boy, was it pretty. Lots of trillium and loads of other wildflowers I don't recognize.

The path was nicely angled. Not too steep, but steep enough. The trail goes up about 400 feet in the course of a mile, and provided some pretty neat angles and views down. Here are a couple of shots from up, looking down:

And of course I took lots of photos of trees (they pose more cooperatively than children do). Here's a general feel of the tree life of the area:

Quite a few of the trees that I saw had hidden "faces." For instance, this one looked like a one-eyed buffalo:

And then there was the one that looked like it was ready for a nap:

I think of this one as Pout-Pout Tree in Profile:

Plenty of other tree photos, but I'll stop myself before I lose what remains of my readership. (And yes, for the record, I do occasionally take photos of my family! I just don't put them on my blog.)

More soon. And back to regular blog features after I run out of Vacation Days to recap.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mountainous Meanderings

While I suppose blog-sharing news of one’s vacation is the online equivalent of pulling out the slide projector and vacation slides (a sure Snore for anyone who wasn’t on the vacation in the first place, and sometimes even for those who were), I’m going to do it anyway. Might bore you all, but it’ll let me prolong the nice feeling of being on vacation.

Our car trip to the Smoky Mountain region was uneventful. Our kids, great travelers though they are, are young enough that we elected to do the trip in two days, rather than cram it into one verylongday. So we drove the bigger half first, and stayed in Lexington, KY. It was pretty neat to see the landscape change as we traveled south: first the grayish expanses of grass greened up; then the green grew taller; then, around Cincinnati, we spotted our first dandelions (the truest sign of spring); and by the time we reached Kentucky, everything was gorgeous. I’m not one to fall in love with Place (it’s People who determine where I go), but I was quite taken by the green rolling hills of Kentucky, and by the houses and barns in deep brick red.

We did the shorter half of the drive, from Lexington to Townsend, the next day, and by the time we got out of the car to pick up groceries, it was short-sleeved-shirt weather: sunny and lovely and warm. After we crammed our groceries into the last few remaining square inches of car space, we headed for our rented cabin.

As we came around a curve of road, our younger son pointed and called out, "Is that where we're staying?"
He seemed a little disappointed when I told him No...

But none of us were disappointed in this:

The aptly named Serenity Mill was peaceful and beautiful. There was plenty of room for all of us (a bit of elbow room being crucial to a successful vacation) and a rustic feel (plank wood flooring and a fireplace) but with all the creature comforts of home (central heating, dishwasher, two Very Large bathtubs, satellite dish TV, and more…). An absolutely terrific place.

However, the driveway to the cabin! Now that was an experience.

Imagine if you will, four vacationers and all their vacation paraphernalia crammed in a tiny little car. The car travels down the road, comes to the sign for the cabins. The car turns into the driveway, which involves a U-turn from the road onto the driveway (paved) which then immediately stretches upward at an approximately 45 degree angle for 50 feet or so. Little car then makes a sharp right, heading straight up again, still at a definite incline, perhaps steeper this time, and for longer; then the little car reaches gravel, goes up a bit, then down again, up again, then steeply down. "Unsettling" doesn’t quite capture the experience for this flatlander. If it weren’t for my husband, we’d’ve parked at the bottom and hiked our gear up. And as for getting back down! Oh, that last turn. I think it shaved 5 years off my life every time we took it. (The idea of meeting another car at that blind, steep corner, with no guard rail, doesn’t ever bear considering!) Spouse at the Wheel, trying to comfort his Agitated Wife, said, “It’s not really so bad. There’s just no margin for error.” Comforted I was not!

But still, the cabin’s many delights more than made up for the moments of sheer terror. With a view from the porch like this, Why Worry?

Next in my vacation ramblings, we’ll hit the trail for a wildflower hike. Till then, watch those sharp turns!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Still Scaling Mountains

The post-vacation laundry mountain is, after five loads, incrementally smaller. The email mountain is mostly unchanged. But the taxes are done, so that's progress.

The upshot? Still a ways off from resuming regular blogging.

But in the meantime, I wanted to post a quick reminder of two weekend appearances: April 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Dart Bank in Grand Ledge; and April 18 at 10 a.m., Eaton Int. School in Charlotte. Both story times are part of a program put on by Early Childhood Connections of Eaton County and Great Start. A number of community agencies and businesses will be on hand with activities and information. The first 50 families who attend at each site will receive a free copy of The Pout-Pout Fish. Hope to see some of you there!

Friday, April 10, 2009

She's Back!

I'm back from a family vacation to the beautiful Smoky Mountains. 'Twas a grand time.

I'm now pondering two smaller mountains: one of laundry; the other of email. I'll return to regular blog posting (including a couple of vacation-related posts) after I unearth.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Apologies in Advance...

Apologies in advance for a little bit of a break in blogging. I've got some things on the agenda and will probably not be posting much for a little while. But in the meantime, please avail yourselves of all the wonderful poetry offerings on other blogs and sites in celebration of National Poetry Month. Poetry is a great thing to celebrate!

Also, just a heads up that I have a couple of upcoming appearances in the Lansing area: April 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Dart Bank in Grand Ledge; and April 18 at 10 a.m., Eaton Int. School in Charlotte. The appearances are hosted by Early Childhood Connections of Eaton County, and I'm looking forward to them! I haven't listed them on my BookTour page yet, but my web site Appearances page has details and contact info: click here.

And, on a totally unrelated - but happy - note, as a follow-up to a previous post of mine about truly awful o.o.p. news, Blueberries for Sal is going back in print. Apparently there was some issue between Viking and the McCloskey estate, but all is now well and Blueberries for Sal will be back on shelves. Hurrah!

Two Links I Only Just Ran Across and Thought I'd Share... of which is dated April 1st, and one of which is not:

Thursday, April 2, 2009

My Life As An Elephant

Regular readers of this blog know that though I have many weekly features, not all of them are featured weekly. New readers may need a bit of reassurance that this week's lack of blogging is temporary, and in short order I'll be back to my Tuesday Tunes, Wednesday Workout Reviews, Poetry Friday, and Sandburg Saturday entries.

In the meantime, I thought I'd link you over to a page I found recently on my way to something else: a page for an elephant named Debbie, a former circus performer who now makes her home at the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, TN. I had more than a little fun contemplating my elephant alter ego. I doubt the circus years were much fun, but she looks pretty happy now.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Results of my Library-Loving Challenge

A big, big thank you to everyone who participated in the recent Library Loving Challenge -- not only on this blog, but on many others.

I had 42 comments, 17 of which included a library story (those were worth double). So that's a base donation of $15, plus (17 @ $1) and (25 @ .50) for a total of... $44.50. My check to the wonderful Delta Township District Library is heading off in today's mail.

I haven't done the drawing yet for the signed copy of The Pout-Pout Fish, but I'll be putting the names in a hat and drawing tonight, so I'll have the results on that later today or tomorrow.

Thank you to all of you: to Jennifer Hubbard who thought of and launched the challenge; to the dozen or so bloggers who took up the challenge; to all of you who commented, here and elsewhere, and shared your love of libraries; and to libraries -- for being libraries!