Friday, May 30, 2008

Home Sweet Bookstore

Shrinking Violet Promotions is hosting a series that highlights bloggers' favorite independent bookstores. Recently, SVP featured my own favorite: Island Books on Mercer Island. Yay! Third Place Books is rapidly becoming a favorite of mine as well.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Summer Reading and the Scourge of Beach-Balls

This post was inspired by Adrienne's post in her Unpopular Library-Related Opinions series called, “To the Left,” or How to Ditch Your Summer Reading Program and Find Something More Fulfilling:

As a child, I was completely unaware of my local library’s summer reading program. I was too busy trying to read all of the books in the children’s section to be aware of anything but the next book. I’m not exaggerating. My first exposure to the library’s summer reading program happened when I was 14 or 15. My mother, who was trained as a children’s librarian, started working at our local library as a shelver, then as a reference librarian, and finally as a children’s librarian when that position opened up. The schedule of the previous children’s librarian’s summer reading program with all its prizes was already in place. For some reason (probably having to do with staffing issues), my mom could not oversee the film showing of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and had a library staff person host the program. [Correction: She was not yet the children's librarian.] My mom The librarian asked me to help with the distribution of the prizes afterward: beach balls and Frisbees.

After the film was over, it became quite clear that almost everyone was there for the prizes. They swarmed up and loudly clamored for the beach balls. One boy said he’d forgotten his summer reading program sheet, but he had read all the books. I believed him, and gave him a beach ball. Soon after, the patrons started yelling at me. We had run out of beach balls, and only had Frisbees left. The parents said they had come for the beach balls, and I was ruining their child’s summer reading program experience. (No, I don’t think they actually said that, but they were quite whipped out of shape.) After scolding me, one of the moms told her daughter, “You don’t get a beach ball after all,” and radiated triumph when her daughter started to cry.

My mom will probably point out in the comments that I got parts of the story wrong [Yes indeed! Corrections are noted], but I definitely know that she was appalled by the behavior of the patrons. She said, “They watched a movie that addressed kindness and selfishness, and the message didn’t sink in at all. I can’t believe they came to the program just to get a 3 dollar plastic beach ball.” The next year, and all the years after that she was a children’s librarian at the local library, my mom had more mellow summer reading programs with books as prizes.

As the sole children’s librarian in a branch independent of the county library system, my mom was able to make those kinds of decisions without having to wrangle with a centralized system. When I myself became a children’s librarian, I worked in large systems where the themes, programs and prizes were already mandated. I do appreciate the benefits of large systems (being able to place holds on books that are then delivered to my home branch, online full-text periodicals databases), but I wish that the children’s librarians had more of a say in how they oversee their summer reading programs. Frankly, I wish they wouldn’t be run ragged by the intense schedules. When I worked in the libraries, I was always so grateful when the summer was over and the school schedules began. As busy and lively as the libraries were during the school year, it was nothing in comparison to the frenetic intensity of summer.

I'm happy to say that Seattle Public Library has a low-key, simple summer reading program. The reader writes down ten books read during the summer, and then gets to choose a free book and enter his or her name in the "Breakfast of Champions" drawing at the end of the summer. Subsequent groups of ten don't warrant more prizes, just more chances to enter the drawing. Lucia loves choosing a free book for her prize. The reward for her reading (i.e. being read to) is more reading.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Pete Seeger's Flow Chart, the Urban Mennonite, and the Amish Guitar

This flowchart by MisterHippity, (courtesy of The Urban Mennonite) of how Pete Seeger would write songs if he had been a software engineer delights me:

Speaking of urban Mennonites, I'm also pleased to have been introduced to this guitar blog written by one of my fellow college alumni: Amish Guitar. As much as I enjoy reading blogs by musicians proficient in guitar, it's good to have forums for questions and discoveries among the rest of us. I had to laugh with recognition when I read the post where K.Jay's family clamored that he not play the guitar. It turned out, they just wanted him to watch the movie with them, but I was reminded of Lucia shrieking, "Mommy don't play! Hold you like a baby!" because she knew that once I picked up my guitar, I'd want not to be pestered. (Singing along and dancing is fine-- putting her foot over the sound-hole is not.)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Second Annual Kidlitosphere Conference

Here it is, the preliminary R.S.V.P. list for the Portland Kidlit Conference. Last year, I really wanted to go to the First Annual Kidlosphere Conference and couldn't go. This year, I can go. I'll bring my guitar, too.

I love Portland, Oregon. It's three hours from Seattle, and I don't get there nearly enough. Portland is the home of Powells Books, Captain Bogg and Salty and a beautiful historic central library.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Quick Note

We're back in town after visiting California. Despite the terrible reason for being there, we had a wonderful visit with family and made some new friends. You may read about the funeral here and see the memorial video here.

Regular S&S posts shall resume next week. Thank you all so much for your outpouring of support.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Sunday Garden Stroll: Shade Plants

Since we are leaving for California later than planned, I have a chance for one more post. (Someone is watching the house, watering the kitties and feeding the plants. Brigands, be gone.) Thank you so much for all of your kind words and prayers about my young great-nephew. I plan to gather them all together for my niece after our trip. The funeral will be on Wednesday, May 22.

I am glad that Cloudscome of A Wrung Sponge is doing her Sunday Garden Tour again. I took some photos of plants in the shade garden this morning. Please click on the individual photos in order to enlarge them.

A brand new plant is the Disporum smithii ("Smith's fairybells" or "fairy lanterns") that I planted yesterday in memory of my great-nephew:

Here's how the fairy lanterns look with dappled light shining through the blossoms:

Keeping company with the fairy lanterns are a number of trillium, including this newly-blossomed "Bashful wakerobin":

This is Solomon's Seal, planted in front of one of the fragrant sarcococca (and HipWriterMama, you'll be pleased to know the latter is a deer-resistant plant):

Finally, here is the overview of the shade garden:

For the majority of the photos, I had to crouch down low, hold the camera accordingly, and then crop the pictures so that the angles wouldn't look wonky. Those of you who are wondering about the green plastic pots may be amused to know that they are "beer garden" slug traps. They work surprisingly well, as long as my husband doesn't keep drinking all of the beer I save for the slugs.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sad News

Yesterday, my husband's niece lost her two-year-old son when a reckless truck driver drove up over the curb. We're making plans to go to the funeral. Please keep the family in your thoughts and prayers. I'll respond to comments and emails when we get back.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Gnome Home

One of the places we regularly visit has a tree that houses gnomes:

Lucia knocks on the door every time we go by, but alas, we always come by on market day, and the gnomes are never home:

We have a pine tree in our back yard that would be a perfect residence for gnomes. We've sent out the word. The housing market is difficult right now, and so far, there have been no inquiries about the property. However, I feel confident that we shall have gnomes take up residence in our pine tree before the summer is over. Gnomes make excellent neighbors. They weed gardens and water the plants.

June 2015 update: We finally have a door in our tree. For those of you looking for fairy and gnome doors, visit Nothin' But Wood.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Five Year Old Girl

Five years ago, Lucia was born:

It is appropriate to share the school rhyme that all the children in her class know (but I just learned yesterday).

When Lucia was one, she had just begun:

When Lucia was two, everything was new:

When Lucia was three, she said, "I am me!":

When Lucia was four, she ran out the door:

Now, Lucia is five, and she is bright and alive:

We hosted a lovely birthday party with six girls from school. I sang songs and told stories for the entertainment. For the finale, one of the dads brought out his guitar, and we played "Yellow Submarine."

Friday, May 09, 2008

Quizzical Quests with Act!vated Storytellers

The House of Glee had a good time at the Act!vated Storytellers program yesterday. It turned out that this show was seventeen-year-old Zephyr's final public performance with the company. He's got plenty of projects of his own: his band, theme park projects, film projects-- fun stuff like that. Act!vated performed two stories yesterday. The first was Simple Ivan, a folktale from Russia that had a lot of similiarities to Lazy Jack (of which I tell a slightly modern version) Epossumondas, and other stories in which the main character is so foolish that he takes the instruction for one situation and applies it to the next.

In "Simple Ivan," Zephyr pours water on Dennis and Kimberly, who are trying to cook a chicken over a fire.

The second story, The Golden Pitcher, was a Mongolian tale about vanity, foolishness, and the wisdom of people with grey hair. Kimberly is shown here fitting her body through an opening in a cave the size of a tennis racquet:

If you try this at home, be sure that (1) The racquet's strings are removed (2) You bring your leg up over your head with your foot toward your ear (3) You have someone on hand with a saw to cut the racquet in the unlikely event you get stuck.

Afterward, Lucia requested that we get a photo with Kimberly:

A number of Kimberly's internet friends attended the show, and I got to meet some of them. Hello to Neelie! I also sat next to another "librarian-in-semi-retirement" who left her job to raise her daughter and got to chat with her a bit, too.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Act!vated Storytellers at Crossroads Mall Today

Act!vated Storytellers are going to be at the Bellevue Crossroads Mall today at 4:30 presenting Quizzical Quests, sponsored by King County Library System. I'd meant to post a note earlier about this show, but at least you know before the end. El JoPe Magnifico chastised me (and rightly so) for writing about Captain Bogg & Salty after they had left the Seattle area.

You may read my interview with Act!vated Storytellers here.

Baby Lettuce

The slugs are attacking my columbine, but they haven't yet found this:

I had forgotten how delicious fresh baby lettuce is. Lucia is normally not a fan of leafy greens unless they're blended into smoothies, but even she is kvelling. We had a few leaves on our way to the car, and she said, "I'm SO hungry." I got the hint, but said she could have more lettuce when she came home from school. We both understand why Peter Rabbit got carried away in Mr. MacGregor's garden.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Cat Ate My Peppers

This is the first year that anything has thrived in this shady part of the garden, as you can see here. All that changed when I realized that the soil was choked with tree roots, and removed all that I could. Here's an idea of how that part of the garden around this time last year.

I have been spending just about every spare moment in the garden. It's a young garden. Last year was the time to beat down the knee-high weeds, figure out which of the plants my mom had planted in 2003 actually survived years of benign neglect, and bring in new plants and seeds to see how they would fare in various parts of the yard. This year has been the time in which I liberated the soil from the vast amounts of roots left over from the trees that were taken down prior to our moving in (to make way for the improved sewer line), moved plants to where they would seem happier, and start building up the spaces for more permanent perennial gardens.

Inside, I planted yellow and red roasting pepper plant seeds and placed the peat pots on the windowsill. I myself am no fan of peppers, but Lucia loves them and I love Lucia, so that's where the logic lies. I was pleasantly surprised when the seeds actually sprouted. A few weeks ago, I gave away some of my seedlings. I was looking forward to putting the peppers in pots outdoors when the weather warmed up.

Yesterday, the cats bypassed the homemade "cat-alarm" of soda-cans and strings in order to eat the pepper plants.

[Fill in the space here for all of the rotten, outrageous things I said, the things I threw, etc.]

Today, I went out and bought two yellow pepper plants. The plant specialist recommended that I put plastic bags over the plants at night, because there was no way I was bringing them indoors for the cats to destroy.

I wonder if the cats eating my peppers was karmic justice for my having stolen cucumbers? I just found out that my own garden thievery wasn't very sophisticated in comparison to how it could have been. Bede's brother would eat all of the carrots in their mother's garden, then plant the carrot tops to make it look as if they were still growing.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

May Faire 2008

Here is Lucia dancing in the May Pole dance for the first time:

And here we are with our flower finery:

I was happy to hear the Padstow song featured in the opening ceremony, with some alternative lyrics about the Queen of May. After all the grades performed their dances, the stations for the bake sale, salmon grilled lunch, "fishing pond" and cake-walk were set up. I had signed up to play for a half-hour during the cake-walk, but was relieved after 20 minutes by one of the graders with her recorder. Afterward, the experienced musicians played as a guitar/saxophone trio.

We were all rather soggy today. Earlier, I asked, "What is the plan if we get rained upon during May Faire?" The answer was, "It's never rained on May Faire!"

Friday, May 02, 2008

Song of the Week (Special Edition): Padstow May Day Song

In relation to the Padstow "'Obby 'Oss" May Day song I blogged yesterday, here are the basic guitar chords as I've figured them out, based on the Lance Frodsham and Steeleye Span versions:

Click on the image to enlarge it

If you are better-versed in musical theory than I, or you are trying to play the song and the chords just don't match up, leave a message in the comments or send me email to let me know. To my ear, this song doesn't sound right transposed into any other key. There's something special about the B7 chord.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Padstow, the 'Obby 'Oss and our May Day Celebration

'Obby 'Oss photo by Ennor

Happy May Day! One of the biggest May Day festivals can be found in Padstow, Cornwall. It's called 'Obby 'Oss Day.* Here are some of the lyrics to the Padstow May Day song:

Unite and unite, and let us all unite
For summer is a-comin' today.
And whither we are going we all will unite,
In the merry morning of May.

The young men of Padstow, they might if they would,
For summer is a-comin' today.
They might have built a ship and gilded it with gold
In the merry morning of May.

For the rest of the lyrics to this version of the May Day song, click here. The best audio I could find was this video of Steeleye Span. When my father visited us, he showed me a better quality video of Steeleye Span performing this song on a DVD he owned. The tune is catchy. I found night and day versions of the Padstow song here. [Careful! An audio file loads automatically.] For those of you who want to try out the song on guitar, here are the chords.** There are more recorded versions out there, as a quick iTunes search reveals.

While Lucia's class is delivering paper cones of flowers to people in the community, the big May Day festival is our May Faire this Saturday. This is the first year Lucia will dance in the May Pole Dance, and we're all excited. I'll take photos for sure. I wish I had my birthday camera with its video capabilities, but that's still in the works. I hope that next year I'll be able to capture a video clip for you to see, as long as I get permission from the other kindergarten parents to have their children pictured on my blog.

*Amended May 2nd: "Hobby Horse Day."

**I'm trying them out now, and I'm not sure if they're going to work. I'll let you know. Update: For me, the song works best as a three-chord deal in the key of F (E chord shapes and a capo on the first fret). There are a few chords in the "St. George" section that are beyond my reach. Maybe I'll just strum a B7 and hope for the best.