Friday, April 25, 2008

Book Review: Tap Dancing on the Roof: sijo (poems), by Linda Sue Park

Tap Dancing on the Roof: sijo (poems) is one of Linda Sue Park's latest books, published in 2007.  The title comes from a line in the second poem within. This book was chosen as a 2008 Notable Children's Book in the Language Arts, in the Poetry and Drama category.

Small in size, but mighty in content, this thin, square volume of 48 pages is just right for toting along on an outing, and for resting on a lap for reading.  Smooth, glossy pages have a substantial feel to them, which makes reading it a wonderful experience for many senses at once.

The book begins with an introduction that gives the reader a brief cultural background as well as the accepted formats for writing sijo - a traditional Korean poetry form.  It is a helpful addition that gives the reader a framework of understanding, and prepares them for the treat that awaits.

Istvan Banyai's illustrations are a perfect complement to Ms Park's poems.  He adds to her words, giving the reader even more to imagine, rather than simply showing what's written. The drawings are simple, and use a limited palette.  The effect is quite striking, and causes the reader to linger a bit over the pages, to take everything in.  Children are depicted in both fantasy as well as realistic situations, all to impressive effect.

The sijo topics are exclusively kid-centric, and run the gamut from the little things kids notice and wonder about - like where all the unbroken sand dollar are kept, to rituals endured, but not particularly enjoyed - like brushing one's teeth.  Her poems turn mundane tasks such as laundry folding into imagined dramas involving reunited socks, and expound (in a simple, yet profound way) on life lessons to be learned from the likes of the lowly weed.  She even throws word play and vocabulary into the mix - including the little definition of a big, long, but fun-to-say word that kids would love to stump an adult with!

Perhaps most unique is the Author's Note at the end.  It is the perfect accompaniment to her poetry, giving the reader a further sense of the Asian culture in which sijo is rooted, as well as a bibliography for both kids and adults who are interested in learning more about this wonderful literary form.  The final inclusion of this section is very impressive - a tutorial which encourages the reader to try his or her hand at writing sijo.  She simply but effectively explains the process step-by-step, pointing out possible roadblocks, and inserting some help to get the inspiration flowing.

For Teachers and Librarians:
As a poetry form most kids may not be aware of, this book provides you with a fresh angle at which to approach poetry. With it's simple structure and with no rhyming required, kids will find it fun to create sijo themselves.  In the process, you can sneak in some work on syllables, rhythm, poetic forms, and Korean culture and history.  They won't even realize they're actually doing school work!

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
Reading these sijo will be as fun for you as it is for them. Poetry in general lends itself well to situations where you don't have a lot of time, but you want as much quality as you can pack in, and this book is no exception.  It may even encourage your little darlings to write a few sijo of their own, and you can encourage them to add pictures for even more fun.  You may even want to try your own hand at writing a few...

For the Kids:
This book is easy to read, and is not too long, and not too short.  Some of the pictures are funny, and all of them tell you even more about what's happening in each poem.  Can you figure out what the illustrator is showing you?  Plus, if you like what you've read, the author even has a part at the end where she tells you exactly how to write your own sijo. Kids have lots of ideas swimming around in their brains. Wouldn't you like to learn a new way to show other people just how smart you really are?  

For Everyone Else:
This book is a great introduction to sijo.  It also gives you a window into how kids think, which comes in useful more often than not.  The author notes that sijo has some similarity to haiku, in that the syllables are important, and the content, but not the rhyme.  It's a great way to have a simple creative outlet, and the tutorial at the end is easy to follow.  Learning new things keeps the brain active.  And an active brain keeps you young!

Wrapping up:
Tap Dancing on the Roof - sijo (poems) appeals to readers both big and small.  The whole experience of reading this book is at times funny, at times introspective, and always enjoyable. 

Title: Tap Dancing on the Roof: sijo (poems)
Author: Linda Sue Park
Illustrator: Istvan Banyai
Pages: 48
Reading level: ages 4-8
Publisher and date: Clarion Books, 2007
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published in: United States
Price: $16.00
ISBN-10: 0618234837
ISBN-13: 978-0618234837

Author Spotlight: Linda Sue Park

Linda Sue Park has been writing poems and stories since the age of four.  Born March 25, 1960, in Urbana, Illinois, she grew up outside of Chicago.  This author, like the one spotlighted last week, did not set out to be a children's author.

Ms Park's Korean immigrant parents strongly encouraged reading - which the author has said is the most important thing a writer can do.  She remembers her father taking her to the library every two weeks, from the time she was very small.  It's no surprise to learn that her favorite activity as a child was reading, and re-reading.  She credits this love of reading with what makes her a better writer.

Her first published work was a haiku printed in Trailblazer magazine (Winter 1969) when she was nine years old.  Her payment: a check for $1.  She never cashed it.  Instead, she gave it to her father as a Christmas present, and to this day it hangs framed above his desk.  She continued to be published in magazines throughout her elementary and high school years.

After graduating from college, Ms Park started her career in 1981 as a public relations writer.  Two years later, she moved to Dublin, Ireland.  From there she moved to London, England and worked for an advertising agency, and taught English as a second language to college students.  She even worked as a food journalist.  But it wasn't until she was a wife and mother, and had been back in the US for several years, that she thought of writing for children.

In 1997, she started writing her first children's book, Seesaw Girl, which was accepted for publication the same year.  It came out in 1999.  She was awarded the Newberry medal in 2002 for A Single Shard, becoming the first Korean American author to win this honor.  In her children's writing career, she has published novels, picture books, poems, and short stories.  Most of her work is historical fiction that focuses on Korean culture and history.

Ms Park now lives in upstate New York with her Irish journalist husband, two kids, and their pets.


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Observations in Bryant Park (NYC) at Noon Today

Children playing - little guys 

Sirens whooping, then fading

Little boys playing tag in the grass

Girlfriends out for lunch

Guys hanging out for lunch

A mommy, happily tugged along by a teeny girl about one-fourth her size


Sunbathers - swimsuit, sunscreen, towel and all!

Wish I brought a blanket

Business types, tourist types, families, singles, couples

Quiet conversations competing with traffic noise - yet still strangely tranquil

Business deals


Readers - tabloids, newspapers, paperbacks



Tall trees line a block filled with green, green grass, tables and chairs, shade umbrellas, food stands

Tall buildings peek through the foliage of the trees.

Shirtless, shoeless, but thank goodness no one's pant-less!

Boys in Blue take walk-thru's.

Dog collars clink against leashes.

Some just passin' through, and some just sit a spell

Carousel with a green and tan striped canopy and lots of happy tots

Strollers, shopping bags, cell phones, laptops, handbags, briefcases, backpacks

A napper flips over.



Buildings - green, brown, tan

Shining windows reflect the sun.

Bare feet, sandals, flip-flops, sneaks, loafers

Lots of shades 'cause there is no shade, but nobody minds because of the breeze

Brown baggers, trendy baggers, no baggers

Chairs and tables moved to suit

Ground is damp, but grass is soft

Muscle shirts, T-shirts, business shirts, trendy blouses, strapless blouses, tanks

Silver sneaks reflect the sun as their wearer snoozes on.

Nobody famous - at least not that I noticed

Two guys in shirts and ties - twinsies today in Oxford Blue and maroon

Grass... not weeds...  niiiiiice!

All these differences, but one thing in common: everyone enjoying a warm spring day in the city

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Today is National Jelly Bean Day!

In honor of this most auspicious occasion, here's some trivia for you, in jelly bean colors:

The exact origin of jelly beans is unknown, but it is believed to be a derivative of a candy that dates back to Biblical times: Turkish Delight.  

Any Chronicles of Narnia fans out there? Turkish Delight is the candy that lands Edmund in a whole lot of trouble in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I always wondered what Turkish Delight was, and now I do: it's a candy with a soft, chewy center and a firm outer shell. So, now you know, too. Who would have thought candy could be fun and literary and historical all at the same time??

That little tidbit above begs the question: If jelly beans can trace their lineage back to Biblical times, does that make them Holy Food? Hmmm... yes, well, moving on...

In the early 1900's, jelly beans were one of the first confectionary items to be sold by weight, and were one of the original penny candies.

Peak season for jelly beans is Easter, a tradition begun sometime in the 1930's, presumably due to their egg-like shape.

It takes approximately 6 - 10 days to make jelly beans.

Since 1976, there have been two types of jelly beans: gourmet and traditional. What's the diff, you say? I always wondered that myself, so here, for your edification and mine, is the distinction:
        Traditional jelly beans have flavor in the shell only.
        Gourmet jelly beans have flavor in the shell and the 

On October 15, 1999, the world's largest jar of jelly beans was shown publicly. It weighed 6,050 pounds!

Jelly Belly brand jelly beans were the favorite candy of President Ronald Regan. In fact, he was the inspiration for the Blueberry flavor Jelly Belly bean, which enabled him to serve red, white, and blue jelly beans at his inaugural parties. Also, you may have heard about his portrait - done entirely in jelly beans?

Jelly Belly beans were the first in outer space, sharing the same historic flight with the first American female astronaut, Sally Ride.

Anywhere from 14 to 16 billion jelly beans are manufactured in the United States each year. 

Need more jelly bean info? Do a Google search of "jelly bean history." Make sure you have lots of time to browse - there are about 486,000 results for you to sift through...

But, if you don't have all that much time, here are the sites I visited to find the facts listed here:
     Jelly Belly

Have a happy National Jelly Bean Day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Writer's Block

The kids are in bed. The dishes are done. All I have to do is find a pen so I can write a note to the kids' teachers. Then I'll have all the "must do's" over with, so I can get to my writing.

A pen.

All I need is a pen.

Fortunately, I know right where one is. It's a bright, fushia, pink-type color, with these bumpy, turquoise rubber grips near the tip. It's shaped like a torpedo, with a silver clippy thing near the top, and it fits neatly in the palm of my hand. Very distinctive. Very unique from your usual, run-of-the-mill stick pen. Easy-peasy.

So, I go to my bag, digging right to the bottom, 'cause that's always where they settle to, right?  

Dig, dig, dig. I know it's in here. I just used it this afternoon. Hmmm...there's, that's not... Hey! Maybe this is...nope. Oh, here it... ewww! That's not it. CRAP! Where is that thing?

I spent probably 5 minutes rooting around in that silly bag.  

"Where.  Is.  That.  PEN???"

Finally, I resorted to that tried-and-true Teacher Approach. You know, the one where you had a messy desk, and your teacher had finally had enough of seeing a desk that looked like it was perpetually throwing up, so she dumped it all out on the floor, and then you had to organize it and toss all the trash and put all your stuff minus the trash and questionable bagels back neatly in the desk?  


That was just me?  


Well, anyway - WHUMP!

OK, now we're talkin.' Hmmm... let's see: grocery coupon, first aid kit, empty baggie that used to be my first aid kit, grocery receipt, another grocery coupon, list of kid's books I want to read to see what the market's like these days, cell phone, check book, coupons and receipts stuffed in said check book, black pen (nope - I need the purplish-pink one, dang flabbit!), PDA (oh, yes, well, I'm organized - it's just my bag that's not), napkins from wiping the seemingly permanent chocolate cookie ring from around my little man's mouth (where does he get those things?), 6 poetry books I'm thinking of choosing from for my Friday book review, Osh Kosh coupons, wallet, little notebook (in case I get an idea for the blog), box of gum (empty), prescription (I wondered where I put that), dime, comb, mirror, children's Tylenol (hmmm... how much of that does it take to get an adult dose?), cell earpiece case (I'm assuming the earpiece is actually still in there), another black pen, more kids' Tylenol (oops, no, that's an empty), plastic hanger from my son's shoe purchase (They're not Crocs, Mommy, they're holey shoes)... 

Ah HA! Found it. (Don't bother looking - it was under all that stuff and totally not visible. But trust me, it was there.)

Now I can...I can...  Oh, crud. Why did I want this pen, again?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

A Shorts Tale

I was in second grade. It was well into spring, and the weather had finally turned nice enough that pants were starting to become uncomfortably warm attire. Since I DID NOT wear skirts or dresses unless they were forcibly applied to my person, that method of "skirting the issue" wasn't available to me. (Also included in my Do Not Wear List was anything frilly, lacy, pink, or in any way "girly-girl." Ringer t-shirts, cut-offs and tube socks with sneaks were more my style. Truth be told, the first time I wore a skirt on purpose and by choice and not for a function of some type was my junior year in high school - and even then, only at the insistence of my closest friends. But, I digress...)

Anyway, I was beyond thrilled when the school announced that the wearing of shorts was finally acceptable. Woo hoo! Woo...uhhh...oh, crud! This wasn't going to help me at all. I had only one pair of shorts I could wear to school that still fit OK. (I had grown a few inches since last summer, and we hadn't gone shopping for new summer clothes, yet.) Though they were super cool, faded denim, short-but-not-too-short cut-offs with a far-out, frayed hem, I knew I had a problem. I couldn't be caught wearing the same pair of shorts more than once a week - and even that was a borderline fashion "don't." I was certainly no fashion plate, but I at least knew the basic rules of the game. What would people think? 

Having no other shorts that were acceptable - even in the era of short-shorts - I made my decision. I would tough it out, endure the unbearable heat of our non-air-conditioned classrooms, and not wear those shorts until the very last day of school. I marked it on my calendar at home, and counted down each day. The closer we got to early June, the more excited I became. I couldn't wait to unveil my most favorite (and indeed, only) piece of summer attire.

Seven weeks, four days, and 14 hours later, The Day had finally arrived! I eagerly got up for school that morning, climbed into those cut-offs that I had laid out so carefully the night before, and bounded down to breakfast. I couldn't wait to finally be comfy at school, and looked forward to getting home a whole half day early, and not even having to change before I went out to play. I bounced in my bus seat all the way there, and dashed into my classroom.

But, what was this? Where were the report cards? Where were the fun activities we always did on the last day of school? And why were we going to lunch? Flustered and totally disoriented, I asked the teacher why we were still there. And that is when I found out the awful truth...

"Sorry, Kim.  The last day of school isn't until tomorrow."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Book Review: Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein

If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...

And so begins the very first poem, "Invitation," from Where the Sidewalk Ends - Shel Silverstein's second collection of poems and drawings for children.  When it came out in 1974, it was hailed as an "instant classic," and received the Michigan Young Readers Award.  

This book has 176 pages filled with all lengths of poems, from short and to-the-point, to three-page narratives, and everything in between.  The poems are, by turns: funny, poignant, irreverent, imaginative, naughty, silly, sad, enchanting, quirky, witty, giddy, and zany.  Nearly every one is accompanied by a drawing that sometimes gives the reader a bit more clarification, and sometimes simply illustrates what's already there in the printed words.

It is a collection that has something for everyone, from the littlest of kids to the oldest of adults.  There are poems that bring back memories, poke fun at life, and give advice - admittedly somewhat twisted advice, like why you should not pick your nose, or whether or not to believe that the world is indeed round - but the message is there... subtle, but there.  

Some of the poems tell tales, revel in silliness, make light of small anxieties, and give voice to outrageous things a kid would never, ever do - like bathe an armadillo, for instance, or make a hippopotamus sandwich, or spit from the twenty-sixth floor - but always wondered what would happen if they did.

Still other rhymes play with words, or make you think: Are we really all so different? Do I really want to grow up so fast?  Maybe some risks are good to take.

There are poems that describe quintessential childhood pranks (see "Hat" on page 74), and reassure kids that they're not the only ones to go through something - like bad days, thumb-sucking, older siblings picking on them, younger siblings bugging them, or learning how hard it is to try and be good.

Of course, no Shel Silverstein poetry collection would be complete without the uproariously funny poems that make you laugh out loud as you read about things like pants that dance, double-tailed dogs, eating with your toes, and the infamous Dirty Dan.

For Teachers and Librarians:
This book will grab even the most reluctant reader's attention.  It's great for introducing poetry to the younger students, and for including in poetry units for the older ones.  The poems are a perfect way to provide some welcome comic relief after a stressful day in the classroom - for you and for them!  With so many topics covered, it is easy to find poems to enhance a teaching unit of any type.  Many of the poems included can often give voice to a child's unspoken anxieties or feelings - things they just haven't found a way to express or understand on their own.  And, of course, there are plenty of poems to give your students something to think about, as well.

For Parents, Grandparents and Caregivers:
This collection is the ideal choice for reading together when you only have short snippets of time, and is the ultimate luxury to read together when you have oodles of time.  Your kids can pick and choose and skip around the book as much or as little as they want - a safe and fun way to have no rules, even if it's only for a little while.  And, there is never a dull moment reading it.  It's the perfect opportunity to have one, big, prolonged gigglefest with the kiddos!

For the kids:
It's fun to read if you know how to read, and it's fun to listen to if you don't know how to read, or if you just need a little help when you read.  There are all kinds of poems all in one book - some are long and some are short and some are in-between.  You don't have to read the whole thing in order, either.  Plus, the pictures are sooooo funny!  You can read all about the king who only loved one single thing, what it's like to write poems from inside a lion, how to make a stew out of you, what it is that Captain Hook must remember never to do, and a whole lot more.  If you like to laugh, then this is the book for you!

For Everyone Else:
This book will give you a glimpse into the minds of kids.  If you have ever asked yourself, "What are they thinking?" then these poems just might shed a bit of light on that subject.  Many of the topics may remind you of your younger self, as well. Or, perhaps the poems will make you think.  They might even cause you to re-evaluate what's really important in life.  But most of all, this book will make you laugh.  Out loud.  And who doesn't need a little of that every now and again?

Wrapping up:
Where the Sidewalk Ends gives the reader so many ways to connect, on so many levels, with so many poems to choose from, that it's difficult not to enjoy it.

Title: Where the Sidewalk Ends
Author and Illustrator: Shel Silverstein
Pages: 176
Reading Level: ages 4-8
Publisher and Date: HarperCollins, 1974
Edition: 1st
Language: English
Published In: United States
Price: $18.99
ISBN-10: 0060256672
ISBN-13: 978-0060256678

*To add to the fun, there is also Where the Sidewalk Ends, an album (CD) of poems from the book "recited, sung and shouted" by the author, which won a Grammy Award in 1984 for Best Children's Album.  If you've never heard it, go find it, buy it, or borrow it, and listen to the whole thing.  It is a treat that you simply cannot miss.

Author Spotlight: Shel Silverstein

Shel Silverstein never planned to write for children, and yet, that is the writing for which he is best known.  He was a man who wore many hats in his lifetime: writer, poet, cartoonist, songwriter, playwright, musician, composer, folksinger, screenwriter. 

He was born in Chicago, IL in 1930.  His writing career began when he was a GI in Japan and Korea in the 1950's, writing and cartooning for adults.  Later, he learned to play the guitar, and wrote songs for himself as well as others to perform.  Some of those "others" include: "A Boy Named Sue" sung by Johnny Cash, "The Cover of the Rolling Stone" sung by Dr. Hook, and "The Unicorn" sung by the Irish Rovers.  Amongst all of that, he wrote plays and films.   

It was not until he was brought to Ursula Nordstrom, legendary editor at HarperCollins Children's division, that Shel considered writing for kids.  His first children's book, Lafcadio, the Lion Who Shot Back, was published in 1963.  In 1964, his fourth children's title, Uncle Shelby's Zoo: Don't Bump the Glump! and Other Fantasies, was published.  It was his first poetry collection, and his first and only children's book done in full color.  When A Light in the Attic came out in 1981, it was the first children's book to break onto the New York Times Bestseller List.  It stayed there for a record-shattering 182 weeks.  

Shel Silverstein continued to write many other treasures for young readers before his death in May 1999.  Today, his books are published in 30+ different languages, and his work is loved by both children and adults alike.

Shel Silverstein Teacher Resource File
* (Sadly, the above link no longer works as of 4/19/2013.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Food Failure, With Some Sibling Rivalry Thrown In

I am no whiz in the kitchen by any stretch of the imagination, but I can hold my own. In fact, most of the time, my kids actually thank me for making whatever it is I put on their plates. And really, how hard can it be when their favorites include mac-n-cheese (from a box), green beans (from a can) and hot dogs (from a vacuum-sealed plastic pouch)?

That being said, there is one food item that I have tried to make time and time again, yet each time I meet with abject failure. I would not feed the results to my worst enemy. (Although, I wouldn't be above asking someone else to feed said results to my worst enemy, secretly... on my behalf...)  
Yes, well, anyway, back to the topic: one thing I simply am somehow incapable of making edible in any way, shape or form. That thing is, unfortunately, one of my favorite desserts: sugar pie.

What? Surely you've had sugar pie before? No? Well, it is a confectionary delight, to be sure, that came from my mom's side of the family, and that is in no way good for you. All it is, is your basic pie crust, with a layer of flour, sugar, and some milk stirred together, poured in the crust, and baked for a little while until it's gooey. (There might be some butter in there somewhere, too. I'm not sure.)  

You would think I could manage that.  

You would be wrong.  

Every time I try, it never sets up. The filling remains liquidy and otherwise fluid no matter how long I bake it, and no matter how many different ways I try to mix it, and no matter how many ingredient variations I use. My only recourse is to ask dear old Mom to make it for me. (Not that she's old. Did I say that? Old? Well, no, what I meant was "dear old Mom" as in, "wonderful woman who graciously whips up a sugar pie at Christmas and Thanksgiving because I am too incompetent to do it myself without making someone seriously ill or destroying the kitchen." Yeah. That "dear old Mom.")  

This arrangement works out beautifully...unless my brother D happens to be visiting her at the same time. Unfortunately, sugar pie is one of his favorites, too. So, two years ago, at Thanksgiving, Mom made a sugar pie. And since my family and I arrived there first, I cut a nice, big slice for myself. I think I may have bragged about getting to eat the first piece before D got there... 

Well, being the mature adult that he is, D waited until I went up to bed that night, then grabbed the freshly baked sugar pie from the kitchen and hid it in his room. Yes. IN HIS ROOM. He has a wife and child. They pay their own bills. They have their own place to live. Did I mention the "mature adult" part? HE. HID. IT. IN. HIS. ROOM!!!! The next day, he gave me his best ____-eating grin and announced he'd gobbled down the whole thing the night before. THE WHOLE THING! So, being the mature adult that I am, and being more than a touch gullible, I not only believed him, I pouted. Yes. Pouted. (I know - great example to give our kids. But honestly, do we ever really outgrow sibling rivalry? Do we? In the case of D and

To make a long story short (What? Too late? Oh, well...) D brought down the pie. I think by the end of the visit, he got maybe two pieces of that pie. I'm not sure who ate the rest...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Would You PLEASE Stop That?

I have a weakness for mild potty humor - said weakness being something my husband C finds less than bearable. Now, in honor of his extreme patience with me on that subject, I'll give you a brief run-down of some pet peeves of my own. (Needle away at me, if you wish. It will make my husband grin uncontrollably!)

First up is "nucular." Yep. "Nucular." Know what that is? Neither do I, because that word does not exist. Despite this cold, hard fact, George Bush (the younger) and countless others use it in place of the actual word: nuclear. As in nuclear power. Nuclear weapons. Nuclear physics. Nuclear magnetic resonance. Neeeewwwww-cleeeeeeee-er. Nuclear. NOT new-cue-ler.

Next is grammar. I'm driving along, taking in the sights, when a giant billboard looms in front of me, filling my field of vision. It assaults my grammatical sensibilities, because on it, in three-foot-tall words, is this sentence: "Give them what their asking for." Their? Their. Ummm, shouldn't it be, "they're," as in "they are," and not "their," as in, "belonging to them?" I'm just saying, if you have the big bucks to pay for that oversized ad, at least hire a living, breathing, human proofreader to make sure it's right (since we all know spell-check will NOT find such a mistake/oversight). It seems that, for many people, "there," "they're" and "their" are interchangeable terms, to be used willy-nilly as the mood strikes them. I don't think so. (Hoity-toity? Perhaps. Nit-picky? Probably. But, it's MY pet peeve, and I'm stickin' to it!)

Moving on: Food. The pet peeve here, to be precise, is having to listen to the sound of someone chewing and swallowing in close proximity to me. I don't know why, but I just can't stand it. My rational side understands this is ridiculous, and that no one can help making those sounds (especially if they're eating a reeeeeally good chocolate cheesecake, or some sour cream and onion potato chips). Even so, it totally grates on my last nerve. There are only two ways I can deal with it: get up and move, or join in. Since joining in is infinitely more satisfying, that's my usual choice. My own chomping and chewing doesn't bother me in the least, so I can cover up their chomping and chewing with my chomping and chewing, and then everything is good. Go figure.

Finally: automated answering services. All I want is a real person to talk to. How many times do I have to navigate through endless prompts to get the answer to a simple question, only to have the computer tell me to "please hold for the next available representative?" Oh, you mean a real person? Wouldn't it have been simpler for said real person to answer the phone in the first place? Apparently not. Usually, when I get to this point, I get cut off, and then have to go through the whole maddening process all over again. Even worse are those voice-activated ones, where they don't give you the option of punching a number on the key pad, especially when the ol' work-around of just punching zero to get a real person doesn't work. "Tell me briefly... what are you calling about?" Even after carefully enunciating, I still sometimes hear: "Sorry - I didn't get that. Did you say... you want to join the circus?" No, I didn't. And no, I don't. But if I ever change my mind, I know who to call.

So, now it's your turn. Go on and click "comments," and tell me about your pet peeves. It's cathartic. I feel better now, anyway.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Funny Stuff

Today is International Moment of Laughter Day (which I double-checked, just to be sure). To celebrate, I searched for "funny stuff." This is what I found:

A joke website: Laugh of the Day

Evolution of Dance - it's 6 minutes, but so worth it:

One of many Laughing Baby videos the kiddos and I found:
And a joke I found on
Q: Why do ducks have flat feet?
A: To stamp out forest fires.
Q: Why do elephants have flat feet?
A: To stamp out flaming ducks.
Have a hysterical day!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Poetry Contest Winners!!!

The votes are in, and now, as promised, here are the top entries for the Bugs and Bunnies Poetry Contest!  I hope the two ladies who entered enjoyed writing some poetry this month.   

Congratulations to our contest winner, Theresa, for her poem, "The Journey Begins With Me."  Theresa received the most votes, and has won her very own Original Magnetic Poetry Kit. 

In second place, is Cloudscome.  You can find her over at a wrung sponge.   She has been writing haiku on her blog in celebration of National Poetry Month, and her entry is from one of her creations from her site.

Please read on to enjoy the thoughtful and lovely poetry of Theresa and Cloudscome:  

The Journey Begins with Me by Theresa 

As I lay in bed
Listening to His voice,
I know that everything I do
Ultimately is my choice.

Where do you want me?
Who shall I lead?
The Harvester, The Reaper,
It’s about the Word, the seed.

Will I do a good job?
Will I spread the message of Love?
I can’t do it.
My eyes looking above.

Where do you want me?
Pulled in so many different ways.
My mind is racing.
It’s like I am running in a maze.

I need direction.
Tell me where to go.
I am overwhelmed with commitment.
How will I know?

You are the Light.
You live in me.
I am your lamp stand.
Yes, people will see.

It doesn’t matter where I am
It does matter what I do.
It’s all about YOU.

So, now I can get out of bed.
Confident? It may be.
But only with the knowledge that if I can’t
You will carry me.

A haiku by Cloudscome:

cherry in rain 2

I would not
live without these tears -
plum blossom

Thank you to the entrants, voters and readers - I enjoyed hosting the contest!

Contest Results Later Today

My plan to post this morning was foiled, but I will get the entries and winner posted before the day ends!  Sorry about the delay...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Last Chance to Wax Poetic

The Bugs and Bunnies Poetry Contest is rapidly drawing to a close.  If you want to enter, there's still time - until the end of today!  I will be logging in again tomorrow morning to collect the entries and tally the votes, and post the top 5 entries. 

Remember, it's just for fun!  You don't have to be a bard, just someone with an itch to try your hand at creating some poetry.  What better way to celebrate National Poetry Month?

And now, I must go.  I did finally procure my coveted laptop after yesterday's unsuccessful attempt, and I reeeeeeeeeaaaly want to go set it up!  (Yes, I am a closet tech geek - not a very good one, mind you.  Not at all.  But I do so love all things cool and flashy and gadgety...) 

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Some Sights and Sounds That Saved My Day

Wednesday is usually my Dedicated Writing Day - no having to shoe-horn some word-wrangling in between volunteer assignments, after-school lessons, games, practices or some other "kid-commitment-that's-really-a-mom-commitment-'cause-she's-the-one-who-has-to-get-them-there" thing to do. Yes, my Wednesday is usually just one long, blissfully empty day with nothing else to do... but write. At least until school is out. 

Well. Today was not my usual Wednesday, which was supposed to be OK, because I planned its "unusualness" myself. But, this most unusual Wednesday that was supposed to be OK, was not OK.  

The first part of my plan was to go get that laptop I've been saving up for, but that didn't work. Since the explanation for that is a long, and (for you all) boring tale, I'll spare you. (You're welcome.) The second part of my plan was to come home and gleefully set up my brand spankin' new laptop and type away. That didn't work 'cause the first part of my plan didn't work.  

So, I made a new unusual plan. I would buy the groceries I forgot to get when I went grocery shopping yesterday. Check. I would buy what my lovely girl needed so she could take her turn at running her Girl Scout meeting tomorrow.  Check. I would eat lunch. Ummm... Does a jelly-filled doughnut and a sugar-crammed bottle of iced green tea with honey count? Hmmm... Check! I would write today's blog post sometime before the sun went down. Yes, well, as you can see from the time stamp on this post... no check.

However, because my planned-to-be-unusual day turned into my unplanned-and-still-unusual day, I saw and heard some pretty funny things that made the day bearable:

Seen on the road
A big yellow school bus turned left across my lane. Emblazoned on its side, in big, black capital letters, was: "GROSS SCHOOL BUS." I kid you not! Why, why, why don't I ever have my camera when I need it?

Seen at the mall
A laughing mom, running as she pushed a stroller, while the teensy, dark-haired girl inside it waved her arms in the air, leaned forward into the wind, and screeched with joy, "Faster, Mommy, faster! Yaaaaayyyyy!" 

Overheard in the store
A very tiny girl singing, oh, I don't know, 45 times in a row, with utter abandon: "Haaaappy birrrrrthday to you! Cha! Cha! Cha!"

Read on Nice Facts website
"Fact #9: In Texas, it's illegal to put graffiti on someone else's cow." Hmmm... I guess your own cow is fair game.

I hope your day ended up with a few smiles, too. And now, I'm gonna go dream about spray paint and Texas cows...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's Draw a Picture of a Bird Day...

so here's my contribution...

and my sweet girl's contribution...

and my handsome boy's contribution...

Monday, April 7, 2008

Only Four Days Left to Submit... the Poetry Contest!  

Surely you have some poems just itching to be released? 
 April is National Poetry Month after all.  

Can't you just feel the inspiration floating in the air all around you?  Oh, wait... it's... no... that's just pollen.  Sorry.  But seriously, come join the fun!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Can I Quote You on That?

When I was in elementary school, some friends and I had this club. We called it the Laughy Ho Ho's. (With a name like that, it had to be a riot, right? And, oh, it was, in our youthful opinions.) We did try, though, to have these super-serious club meetings at one of our houses. Early on in the process, before we surrendered to our hopelessly giggly natures, someone had to stand in front of the group and ceremoniously read from this brick of a book that my best friend found on her parents' bookshelf. It was full of nothing but quotations.  Funny ones. Thoughtful ones. Noble ones. You name the quote, and it was probably contained somewhere within those myriad pages. Though I don't remember the quotes we used, I do remember thinking those recitations lent some level of decorum to our otherwise silly proceedings.

Whether as a direct result of those meetings, or for some other reason I can't fathom, I like to collect quotes I find particularly meaningful, or funny, or both. For example:


"I say, when life gives you a lemon, wing it right back and add some lemons of your own!"
- Calvin (of Bill Watterson's Calvin and Hobbes comics)


Sometimes I find them already in quote form, and think, ahhh, someone has read my mind. Where's my pen?  

Sometimes I pull the quote myself from something I've read, or a show I've seen, and think, I gotta get this down! Where's my pen? 

And sometimes, quotes bubble to the surface organically, straight from the horse's mouth, and I think, Holey Cow! I need a pen! Hurry! Hurry!

I'll leave you with three quotes I find quite powerful. Read them, if you will. Let them rattle around in your brain a bit. 


"It's nonsense to think that being a role model is
something that the person who is seen as a role
model can control. The people elevate you to that
level, so it's almost involuntary. But one day you
realize you've been elevated. Sometimes it's by
five students in your class. Sometimes it's by your
children. And sometimes it's by 50 million people,
because you're really good a putting a ball in a 
hole. But it doesn't matter - once they elevate
you, it's your job to behave in a way that will
never leave you responsible for bad things that
happen to them.
- John Amaechi, as interviewed in The Penn Stater Magazine

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed
by the things that you didn't do than the ones you did
do... Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain

"You must remember this: You're braver than you  
believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter
than you think."
- Christopher Robin, speaking to Winnie-the-Pooh

Any reaction to these? Leave me a comment, below. And, if you have some favorite quotes of your own, please share those as well. I'm always on the lookout for new "finds" for my collection!