Book reviews: Tillermans, war-riddled America (that isn’t CNN), and writing advice.

May 18, 2017

I started out this morning happy to blog because somehow, some way this past week I diddled the lock (in the great Steve King parlance) that was holding my reading habits hostage. I read a whopping ten books in the past two weeks (!!!), so I feel fully returned to former glory. Only time will tell if I can stay this engaged (please, baby jeebus), but I hope so.

Of course, because I tend to expect things to fall this way lately, my morning fell apart when I heard the news about Chris Cornell. He was always a favorite of mine, the top-rated singer on my List of Five Twenty if we were judging by voices only. (Um, everyone has a Voices-Only list, right?) Music was always, even this spring, the one thing that could soothe me, and to lose such a favorite at such a time really throws me for a loop. He’ll be missed. And not just because his voice was fine AF.

And so, I’m choosing to focus on reading and reviews because music right now is a basket of nope. Good thing it’s Book Review Thursday.

DreamsOfGodsMonstersDreams of Gods and Monsters, by Laini Taylor (Daughters of Smoke and Bone series #3) (2014, Little, Brown & Company, 613 pages, ebook). This isn’t going to be a full review, because I have several friends reading it right now and I don’t want to color their experience. I will say this: of the trilogy, this was the weakest novel. The story pacing was all over the place. Taylor finally pulled it together for most of the third-quarter, finding some snap and sass and her sense of timing, but the last big reveal? I have a sense she was trying to find a larger But what’s it all for? but it seemed tacked on, undeveloped, and unnecessary. I’ll flesh out my review after everyone I know has had a turn, so for now: Novel: 3 1/2 of 5 stars, Series: 5 of 5 stars.

YearofYesThe Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person, by Shonda Rhimes (2015, Simon & Schuster, 311 pages, ebook). To state it simply: I enjoyed this book an awful lot for not liking it at all. I wanted to like it. I wanted it to be a grown woman’s oasis of advice, an introvert’s survival guide, a way to feel like we were in our pajamas in front of Thursday night TV every time we had to drag ourselves off the couch and out the garage. And Shonda did have me turning pages…the problem is that I was looking for her point. I liked the premise: you have to say yes to everything that comes your way in the course of a year, no take-backs, no changesies. I wanted the book to be more engaging, and I don’t think Rhimes walked the fine line between gossipy revelation and Introverts Survival Guide as she’d hoped. Like I said, I kept turning pages, because Rhimes is charming even if you can see through her game, but I’m glad the book was a deal of the day, because if I’d paid more than a couple bucks, I’d be annoyed. At least I can say YES! I read that trendy coffee table book and read people based on their own reactions. 2 of 5 stars.

HomecomingHomecoming, Dicey’s Song, and A Solitary Blue, by Cynthia Voigt. These are all re-reads for me; battered, beat-up paperbacks (though not my originals; those were lost to my mom’s attic years ago). They’re my favorite books of the series: Homecoming, the original book in which Dicey leads her three younger siblings from suburban Connecticut to Providence, Rhode Island, then down to the Eastern Shores of Maryland, searching for the meaning of (and a literal) family; Dicey’s Song, the second book of the series, which picks up where Homecoming left off, as everyone figures out their new roles and start to put down roots; and the third book, A Solitary Blue, a wonderful optional stand-alone that looks at the backstory of Dicey’s friend Jeff, who was abandoned by his mom first as a boy of 7, and then again at a critical juncture in his adolescence, that was almost his undoing. I could – and sometimes do – reread these three books every year, and I’m not surprised I returned to them during a time I was looking for reassurance. They’re 5-star re-reads, each and every time.

WritingLifeThe Writing Life, by Annie Dillard (1989, HarperCollins, 113 pages, paperback). This was a find from the used book store found its way to me at Christmas. I finally stayed awake long enough at bedtime to make my way through. It was a lot more philosophical than I expected; the first few chapters I had to divine what I thought the parable might be, and how it related to writing. The style itself wasn’t quite my favorite, either, so the entire experience was a little off-putting. That being said, any words of wisdom about writing can be put to good use, and it’s short enough that I knocked it out in an hour, so I can’t wish away the experience. I just probably won’t ever revisit the matter. 2 of 5 stars.

BlindsidedBlindsided, by Priscilla Cummings (2010, Dutton Books, 240 pages, eloan). I borrowed this based on BookRiot’s recent Buy, Borrow, Bypass column, with Blindsided getting a hard Buy. It’s built for the middle-grade audience, about a girl growing up as an only child on her parents’ goat/dairy farm, as she slowly loses vision due to mysterious medical reasons. Natalie is sent to a special school to learn how to be a blind person navigating a world built for the sighted. Though she (and her parents) initially resist, the heart-warming story inevitably comes around with Natalie’s change of heart. And just like it sounds, the story was a bit too schmarmy for me. I’m sure it’s a better sell for the tween and early teen set, much as the Lurlene McDaniels stories were for my generation. There’s something about the worst-has-come-to-pass stories that are just what you need right then – if only to overshadow all the trivial embarrassments you’re forced to ensure day in and day out. But for me, it felt like the backstory of WHY was glossed over, rushed, and too two-dimensional. I wish more time had been spent mounting evidence, building worry, delving into what-if as Natalie (and her parents) dealt (or not-dealt) with what was happening. Instead, the story centered around Natalie learning practicalities and building a new corps of support. Ultimately, framing the story this way felt like ableism as fashion accessory that was too hard to stomach. 1 of 5 stars.

AmericanWarAmerican War, by Omar El Akkad (2017, Knopf Publishing, 352 pages, eloan). A brilliant debut novel imagines America’s second civil war, with some plague, some mid-apocalypse, and heavily cinematic language telling the story thrown in there for good measure. The borders are reimagined (don’t worry, there are maps), the threats are all too possible, the scenarios familiar – the resource-rich South has seceded because petroleum has been outlawed (climate change is a background kickstarter for the plot), and tempers are hot all around. El Akkad does a beautiful job of making the story both fresh and relevant and somehow new despite the politics of it happening every day in every headline. This is going to be one of the it books of the year. 4 of 5 stars.

Okay, folks – there are others I haven’t gotten to, but I’ll have to append them to next week’s bounty. Let’s not enjoy all the spoils the first week back!

Lookin’ for fun and feelin’ groovy…

May 17, 2017

Aside from my Mother’s Day fiasco (which Gracie and I have discussed and settled, thank you baby jeebus) – oh!, and the world almost ending with the chaos in the White House (c’mon impeachment!) – aside from all of that, I have to say I am feeling more myself these days. I’m enjoying it while I can, and building a good, solid base, just in case that pocket of “okay-ness” pops and strands me here. As long as I like where “here” is, it’s okay. I know I’ll get movin’ again soon. That’s my outlook these days.

It’s a good one.

It means I’m reading more new books, not just re-reads. I tore through the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series, last night I read short book on writing, and also read through a book of Emily Dickinson’s poems because I was feeling nostalgic. (Okay, technically the poems are re-reading!) I have my eye on a few more new books that I might dive into today, depending which the library has on hand. Oh! And I read Shonda’s book about just saying yes. Ironically. So my reading is all good.

I even sat down and wrote a few pages for my book. I know! I’ve read and re-read what I already have, but last night I actually added a few pages. And that’s not the first night lately when that’s happened.

Even the TV is pulling me in – you know things are either really bad or really good when I feel the pull of the couch and TV. Except I’m not just re-watching Bones and Grey’s and Downton ad nauseum. I went back to my “100 Greatest Movies of All Time” list and I’m trying to tick off the one’s I’ve missed (which is nearly all of them). I watched an episode of 13 Reasons Why with the girls the other night, and last night I watched two (three?) more episodes (while furiously reading tweets and breaking news about the current administration falling apart; I was almost afraid of what I’d miss if I stopped watching!). I have Victoria to watch with my Bee-girl. All of the shows again! Okay, maybe not all the shows – the very idea makes me anxious. But some. Some are starting to call to me.

Re-Emerging Katie isn’t perfect. I’m still not me-me. I had to back out of meeting friends for drinks because of a conflict with a school thing and I jumped at it because socially-anxious Katie was mad “normal”Katie tried to make plans. So I know I’m still me, and I still have a lot of work to do on that. But at least I know I’m in there alive and kicking and doing not-so-bad if I want to all of those things.

I’ll be okay. Just please, please, please don’t take that as a challenge, dear Universe.

She won’t stop chanting “Fashion show at lunch.”

May 16, 2017

I knew Gracie had grown in leaps and bounds lately, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when she told me she didn’t fit into any of her summer clothes. None of her shorts fit. Very few of her tshirts. And only two of her pairs of jeans from this spring. This spring!

I was going to try to take her to the outlet mall this past Saturday, but I knew Bee would hate that idea, and our friends were busy, so I couldn’t leave her in the middle of a playdate. Also, I had to supervise Bee’s project, and that took a lot more time than I thought. So as a compromise – and because they were having a 40% off sale – we all went out to Old Navy Saturday morning.

Gracie picked out a few pairs of shorts, some shirts, and wanted to really get some jeans since they were 50% off. I pointed out, though, that if her jeans from this spring didn’t fit, who was to say they’d fit in November when it was cool enough to wear them again. My teen ceded the rare valid point and crossed jeans off her shopping list. Don’t worry – we still have armfuls of clothes to try on! (Bee helped load ’em up. She had a couple shirts, a jacket, some tank tops, and a dress or two [I think? it’s all a blur] in the mix. But she culled entirely from the clearance rack with one exception, so I’m proud, not mad!)

As soon as we checked out, Gracie started in on “Hey! I know what we can do when we get home! Fashion show! Fashion show! Fashion show at lunch! Fashion show! Fashion show! Fashion show at lunch! Yep, that’s still her favorite. Even more so since she watched The Office and learned what it was from.

And so, unsurprisingly, this happened later Saturday evening:


Yeah, words-on-tees trend got Gracie like whoa. And since I know she’ll wear it, I’m more than okay letting her load ’em up. She also has on a new pair of shorts, dark wash, with a cuff, even though she says she’s not a fan of cuffs.


We almost missed this shirt, and I’m glad I got out of line to grab it because it’s an actual. color. instead of just white, black, or grey. I knew Gracie would love it because arrows are her jam. For the record: arrows > neutrals.


Gracie picked out two dresses (of the 40 she tried on); this one, and a similar blue floral that I have to exchange because while the hangar said Small, the actual dress, it turned out, was XXL. Not quite Gracie-sized! But now Gracie has something to wear to church besides the two semi-formal dresses she’s been rotating between.


This might be Gracie’s favorites, for obvious reasons. My baby girl won’t ever not be in a hurry to grow up! We both saw the mannequin sporting this top and liked it. I wouldn’t ever be able to wear it – more because it’s white and would make me nervous that I’m spill something on it…or out of it. Gracie doesn’t have any such worries. And she did look terrific in it! So we added it to the Buy pile, after making sure it looked just as good(ish) with the sleeves pulled up over her shoulders. You know – in case Dad freaks out. And these shorts are a new pair, too. Gracie much prefers the fringed hemline to the cuffed ones from earlier. I like them both – you need different looks!


This tank might be a little too low-cut to be worn outside the house on its own (that would be the layering in the layering tank bit, m’dear), but I love the fatigue green on Gracie and the pineapple shorts sets off my girlie’s tan very nicely. Also: pineapples!

So mi chica has a good base for her summer wardrobe. She could stand to pick up another couple shirts and a sundress or two, but we did pretty good for an hour or two on a Saturday morning. Certainly we picked up enough to stage a fashion show! fashion show! fashion show at lunch!

My best of times, worst of times Mother’s Day.

May 15, 2017

Mother’s Day is never an easy day for me.

I’m filled with gratitude for this amazing village that surrounds me, helping me to be the best me – as they step in to designate hit for me when needed – and helping to raise my girlies for me. I have great sisters (birth sisters and accumulated sisters), cousins, friends, and the best dang stepmom I could have dreamed of. So many people help keep us upright and I am blessed!

But even with all of that happy, there’s the reality of my own mom. Mother’s Day goes in both directions. And my mom is…not how I remember my mom. But I still need to honor Mom as she is. I called her and let her talk for as long as she could. I talked to her about what was going on with us, and she didn’t have much to add from her end. But I know it meant a lot to her to hear from us. Kim and Rhi were there, so I felt like I was, too. Talking – even when she’s obviously having a bad spell – is good for her.

But it wrecked me. Seeing Mom be Not-Mom is always a gutpunch. On Mother’s Day, even more so.


But let’s rewind. The girls and I were having an epic, wonderful weekend. We had a dance party on Friday night, and then after we wore ourselves out with wii-dancing, we played board games and talked and talked and talked. Everyone got along and it was great!

Saturday was the same. The girls went on errands with me without complaining, we went summer clothes shopping for Gracie (who has outgrown all of her clothes since spring), and Bee found a thing or two. She had more that she had picked out, but when I would point out that they wanted $20 for a tank top, she decided herself that it was ridiculous. Watching her carefully weight wants and needs, and the spending of my money, it was glorious!

After shopping, Bee knocked out her project and did it with minimal fuss. Gracie ran out grocery shopping with me, like she does, and I only had minimal grumbling when I made her. She put away the groceries when I got back while I helped Bee finish her project. Bee even wielded the hot glue gun all by herself! And the project was AMAZING:

Bee made the house and lined up the cotton and grapes. It was my idea to do a beginning, middle, and end slide on a rolling paper background, wrapped around two pencils to wind and unwind the paper scenes. (I am so frickin proud of my idea to mount the pencils on push pins that I super-glued to the base. The pencils went onto the push pins with the eraser. That way the bottom was attached firmly, but the pencils could still twirl. Genius, right?!) And then Saturday night the girls kept asking to do something as a family! Something as a family! Please? So we watched movies and had make-up tutorials that we re-enacted on ourselves. Don’t ask me how late I let them stay up! Because they weren’t arguing and we were having fun all together.

And then actual Mother’s Day showed up. Bee decorated all my usual seats with scarves, to make it fancy. The girls got ready for church and gave me a million hugs and told me how much they loved me. It was lovely.

After church, they came home and we opened cards and…no gifts. The cards were nice – don’t get me wrong! But – and here’s where I feel like a horrible person who’s a little materialistic, but let me explain how it’s not – I know I shouldn’t take how my Ex sees my value as a mom by him helping the girls get me a gift for Mother’s Day, but I do. I know he appreciates me – we get along so much better now and we’re honest to god friends, like I was at one point afraid we never would be. I’m close with his new wife, the girls’ stepmom. We call ourselves sister wives! ha! But I can’t say the lack of gifts didn’t hurt a little. I felt like I wasn’t worth the effort. My sister Kim helped the girls get me something, just in case, and it was lovely. Bee picked out a season of Victoria, that she and I could bond over together. (Kim’s right – time period costuming is definitely in our future!) And Gracie got me a bouquet of roses that she arranged.

But, after Gracie arranged the flowers and I got big hugs after church….everything went downhill in a hurry. The girls bickered all afternoon. They entrenched themselves in the living room and turned into zombies, playing Minecraft. I had to do laundry. I had to load the dishwasher. No one wanted to do anything fun with me. My afternoon of watching Victoria wasn’t realized. They were busy. No one wanted anything to do with me. I had my heartbreaking conversation with my mom and the girls had their turns talking with her. And then they went back to…not me. Which, I could have handled in small portions. I don’t expect every single moment to be devoted to me. I just wanted some sort of acknowledgment that it was Mother’s Day and I mattered. That they liked spending time with me. Without me asking. Just one activity together. Like the rest of the weekend!

Dinner was more of the same. Bee asked if she had to make dinner. Why couldn’t I do it. (Sigh.) They watched me set the table. I finished first and rather sit and talk to them at the table while they ate, I just got up and left. I shut my door. You’d think they’d realize I was hurt. They definitely got it when I came out, hours later, and was crying. I had to clear up the leftovers. The girls went right back to Minecrafting in the same seats they had been in since they got home from church. I told them through tears how hurt I was and how they had ruined my day, since they only came to talk to me when they were complaining and tattling about their sister.

So, no. Mother’s Day wasn’t my favorite. So many things went wrong. And no one took any trouble to make it right.

I could have kept quiet. I could have just sighed and hoped next year would be better. But I decided to write about it because this is the truth of what happened. It might hurt some people’s feelings. I don’t mean it to. I just needed to write it out, to purge my hurt feelings.

And maybe things will be better.

Five for Friday.

May 12, 2017

Praise the Godstars – it’s Friday! Let’s jump right in, shall we?

1 I am pages – pages – from finishing Laini Taylor’s Daughters of Smoke and Bone trilogy. I haven’t had this much fun getting lost in a series since I don’t know when. The books run about 600 pages each, and were the kind that you wanted to gulp down read savor as you went along, so it’s been a fun two weeks. That being said, I’m ready to start filling my timeline chock-a-block with new titles and reviews! It’s been decadent taking my time, but I’m ready for the next adventure!

2 Gracie-boo is sick, sick, sick with that bronchitis that’s been going around. I’m hoping she makes it all day at school today. Then we have the weekend to rest up. Our “big plans” for tonight were to grab fast food and binge on 13 Reasons Why tonight, so as long as she can hold on, I know we can get her through this.

3 I know many people have many different feelings about 13RW – and every single one of them is valid. We’ve unfortunately experienced a lot of suicide, and so I choose to watch the show with my girls (if they want) and talk about it with them. I’m terrified of not having those lines of communications open, that hand out. Gracie was the first one to inhale the series, and then she accused me of starting it without her (she had offered to rewatch with me), but it was Bee-girl who had played it. So we’ll all watch together.

4 Speaking of Bee’s all-of-a-sudden grown-up tastes, she’s been begging me to read It with her. I had stopped because it was freaking Gracie out (and, well, Gracie just flat out doesn’t want to be read to), but Bee begged me to continue! So I might read that one just the two of us. I wish there was a graphic novel adaptation I could let her read, quasi-unsupervised. (No way I’m handing over the paperback – I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with orange pom poms staring me in the face. Beep-beep, Bee-girl.) Kim suggested I tweet the idea to those who might be able to make it happen. I’m thinking I let Bee illustrate a few panels first. Then send them my rather stupendous idea!

5 Mother’s Day, with all of its rather complicated feelings, rushing at us all. Here’s hoping this weekend is not the worst.

So there you go. A quick and dirty list to jump start our Friday! Go forth and make the most of it!

My Little Free Library: The before.

May 9, 2017

Waaaaay back at Christmas, my sister gifted me with a Little Free Library kit. Well, she gave the gift to me – the name of the gift – because they were slightly back-ordered. So my kit arrived sometime in March – still long enough ago that it should be up and operational by now.

The problem is, I was ignoring it for the longest time because I was going through the darkest depression this spring and it was all I could do to act “normal”, get through my day, go to work, take care of the family… you get the idea. So the Little Free Library sat in its box, waiting.

A few weeks, I started thinking about it. It came out of its box and I checked out all of the books (the kit Kim ordered came with a bunch of free books), and looked at the design. I started thinking about where I wanted to put it. I mean, I knew where I wanted to plant my LFL: at the entrance to our neighborhood park. It would get a lot of traffic as everyone walked by, plus it would be visible from the streets – the entrance is at the elbow of two roads, so twice the visibility. And it would motivate me to get back to running again – if I have to check it out regularly to make sure there are books there and everything is copacetic, it’s something I can do as I go for a run. (If I go the long way, it’ll be the one mile marker. How smart am I?!) The only problem was: How do we get permission to put a semi-permanent structure on public land?

I called 2342 different offices in my rather large city. I wasn’t sure who would be in charge of the project. I spoke to about a dozen people, some of them twice as I got re-routed, and they were all sympathetic and trying to be helpful, but no one seemed to be in charge of either selling me a permit or saying it was okay to just go do. I was relaying the story to a guy at work, someone who’s had about a gazillion jobs in the past few years. He’s wicked bright, like scary bright, and he mentioned that he used to be a contractor back in his youth. He asked if I got along with my neighbors, how many of them liked the park, if I thought the LFL would be vandalized or if they’d complain about it being there. No? My neighbors are awesome. And even if no one used it, or even particularly liked it, I can’t see them calling the city. So, this guy said, I should just do it. No one is going to know unless someone complains.


It’s an idea. One I rather like. I tried to do it the proper way, but that didn’t seem to be going anywhere. Now I’ll do it this way. And so, with a plan in mind, now I have to execute. And that means prepping my LFL box.

I’m thinking of painting the LFL box as if it’s a Tardis. (And not just because I wish the dang thing were bigger on the inside to hold all the books at once!)(But maybe.) I can buy Tardis blue paint (everyone was kind enough to send me the Pantone number) and then created the details at the top and on the sides and back (which I should have taken a picture of). It will be spectacular!

As you can see, we have a number of books ready for deployment. The free books that came with the kit are mostly younger kids books, which is perfect! The girls get books for their ages that they won’t necessarily want to keep when they’re done, and I have lots of grown-up books that I can donate after reading, so younger kids is definitely the area we wouldn’t naturally be able to fill. There are board books about Mickey Mouse, younger readers about the Avengers, two boxed book sets that are Cars themed, two big Disney themed 5-minute stories type books, two activity books by Don’t Let the Pigeon, and a bunch of bunny-themed easy readers. A good haul, even if there are duplicates, that means there are more for everyone! The haul for the grown-ups includes Guernsey Literary and Potato Pie Society, You, Shatter, My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry, The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood, Everybody Sees the Ants, Ella Minnow Pea, The Eyre Affair, Pride and Prejudice, The Kite Runner, The Girl on the Train, The Red Tent, The Girl at the Bottom of the Well, August Moon, Everything for a Dog, Swiss Family Robinson, Gutsy Girl, and Everlast. Not a bad start!

So! We’ll get to painting this weekend. Then we’ll figure out how to attach the kit to a post. Then we’ll get that sucker planted into the ground. I have some favors to call in because I’m sure not digging a post hole in this clay soil! Ha!

Stand by for the rest of the story! I’m sure it will be an adventure and a half!

Mayfesting our Saturday away.

May 8, 2017

Saturday was Mayfest, a carnival held down on the river in the cultural district. There are rides and games and several music stages. Bee’s After Care program (all of them in the city, in fact) were putting on a show on one of the stages. Since Bee is the captain of the step team, the After Care director had been asking me since Christmas if Bee was going to be there. She knows we’re responsible and that many kids flake out and don’t show up to Mayfest because: traffic. The traffic is a nightmare. Last time we went, it took two hours to make a 20 minute drive.

So I wasn’t really looking forward to Mayfest, because on top of the lovely drive ahead of me, I also still had my bronchitis to deal with. My plans had been to just cuddle up with a book in bed and never change out of my pajamas. But: Mayfest. It was my Ex’s weekend; I could have laid Mayfest at his feet. But they had other plans and it was important to me after promising the director all year that Bee be there. And Bee’s best friend’s dad wasn’t able to take her and her mom was working, so now we were bringing Zari*, too.

So, Saturday rolls around and I pick up Bee-girl and then Zari. We headed out to the festival two hours early because I was a little paranoid about parking, and we wanted to have time for some carnival food and maybe a ride before we had to meet up with the group to practice.

And you know what happened, don’t you? Traffic was a piece of cake. I face worse traffic coming home from work every day. Sigh. So we enjoyed our extra time. We found the stage where we’d be performing and checked out all the rides and food tents (because the ground were laid out in a circle and our stage was the very last one). Then we all grabbed ice cream and drinks because 86°, all the sunshine, and we were all in pants. (Whoops.)

Then, because I’m a good mama who likes to let loose every once in awhile, we splurged on more than a few rides:

The girls loved the bungee jumps (and that’s good, because it was the most expensive ride there!). They did flips and jumps and I have no idea how they had energy left to stomp after all the jumping! They also demanded video, so I didn’t have memory left on my phone to get pictures of the rest of the rides. (They’re all on Bee’s phone and I haven’t gotten them from her yet.) They did a Superman-type ride where they laid down and did a tilt-o-whirl type thing on their stomachs like they were flying. (EESH!) They did the really high swings. They did a mirror maze that I thought looked fun and crazy enough that I’d have to go in there after them, but they were pretty good. [Bee-girl even said to me when we were pulling into the driveway that she hoped I wasn’t too lonely waiting while she and Zari were on all the rides. What a sweet girl to think of that!] The girls had a blast and I enjoyed being able to give them a bit of fun while we waited for the group to get there.

We also stuffed ourselves with food (ice cream, funnel cakes, roasted corn, turkey legs, beer, and so many cold sodas) and took advantage of all the freebies. And I have to say – the festival was really wonderful at having enough to do without spending tickets! (I guess to make up for $3 drinks?) There was a splash station, give-aways and free treats (we all got apples, yogurt, and won tshirts, towels, and sunglasses), and a stilt-walking station that gave lessons. The girls were surprisingly adept at stilts! I was amazed that after a time or two, they were walking up and down the walkway without a single falter! Their favorite freebie tent, though, was the art show.


We spent a good half-hour in there, cooling off and examining technique on all of the drawings. They looked for and found their classmates entries, and Bee lamented that she hadn’t entered. (Her obsession with art mediums – especially drawing – has grown recently and I’m starting to wonder if art won’t play a larger role in her life. She has an aunt and a great-uncle who are both professionals, so there’s a strong possibility!)

After the art tent, it was time to wander back to the reason we were Mayfesting to begin with – the dance competition. The girls were impressed with the few shows we got to watch (I loved the traditional Mexican folk dancers), and they killed it when it was their turn!

You could see their faces light up when they heard the audience gasp and cheer them on. No one else had done anything outside of traditional “dancing” since it was a dance competition. But stepping is what our school wanted to do, and so that’s what they did, and I’m proud of them for it. I don’t think they won anything more than a participation ribbon, but they weren’t in it for a prize. It was wonderful to see my flighty, funky, hilarious little spazz monkey get up there and shout out the call-outs and lead the steppers with a loud, commanding voice and confidence in every movement.

It was a good, good day. Even if I went through three travel-packs of tissues and got a little sunburnt. I wasn’t planning on walking around a carnival for four hours, but I’m glad I got to spend some more time with my squinky, and that I got to give her a day of fun with her friend. Not a bad Saturday at all!


*Not her real name.

Five for Friday.

May 5, 2017

Friday! I am still terribly sick. My head is pounding, my teeth ache from all the sinus pressure, and my throat hurts. I’m not getting out of bed this weekend unless it’s wicked important. Thankfully, my brain doesn’t have to stretch too far because today is Five for Friday day!

1 Today isn’t the easiest day for Gracie-girl for a couple reasons. We had a long talk last night and while I promised her I wouldn’t get into details, I do know how she loves staring in my blog. So I just want to say: Fries before guys, sweet girl. And I wish you knew how badly I tried to swing it so my lunchtime today coincided with yours, so I could bring you a bouquet of french fries. (Ooooh, or a bucket of Chicken Express mashed potatoes and a bouquet of spoons, so you could share with your friends!)

2 The staying-in bit will be easier because I finished the second book in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone series last night, which means I am ready for Book 3 tonight. I’m cozying up with it and not moving until I finish it. And then I plan to hoover up anything else Laini Taylor has ever written!

3 The not-getting-out-of-bed thing might be complicated by Mayfest. Bee-girl’s AfterCare leader has been asking me since Christmas if Bee was going to be able to make it to Mayfest. Bee’s the captain of the Step Team, and they’re performing (naturally), and since Bee is the captain, she’s the one who leads the steps. She needs to be there. Only her dad and I thought it was next weekend, during my weekend. So we’re scrambling to change plans and figure out how to get her there, and whether we can help her friend out (because her mama can’t take her, so could we?). Which would be fine if it was my weekend and I wasn’t sick and I could just make command decisions with an un-fuzzy brain! We’ll get it sorted out.

4 Bee also has her Big Project due for English and history classes. She’s making a model of Esperanza’s camp from Esperanza Rising, and so she and I were planning all of the things for that. I’m glad she has two weekends to get it done, and her dad was all over it, but these are the projects I love helping with, and I’m stuck batting clean-up. I know Bee is going to get dinged for the 25% that’s graded on neatness, so I’m trying to help her recoup some of that with the 25% graded on creativity. Like, what if in the back of her model, I showed her how to make a moving backdrop out of two pencils and a long piece of white paper, that can be colored in, and spun around the pencils, to change from one scene to the next? I bet she could handle something like that. And it could make her shadow box more dynamic instead of static. We’ll see what Bee-girl thinks!

5 Being sick and on self-imposed bed-rest also means that I won’t be working on my Little Free Library this weekend. Well, maybe if I have a burst of energy I can pull it all out of the box and make sure the “attached to a metal pole” plan is going to work. If it won’t, there’s no point in bribing my big, muscle-y guy friends to come help me dig a post hole. If that will work, I need to figure out my paint scheme and get that going so I can assemble that sucker and get it going. Now that I have a plan in place, it’s hard not to just go do it already!

So that’s my plan for what is – hopefully – a restful weekend! I hope yours is just as relaxing!


May 2, 2017

That thing when you get back from vacation and you know that reality is going to smack you in the face and (other than seeing your oldest girl-child again), it’s going to suck. But then it really happens and not only are you dealing with sucky reality, but you’re sick?

Yeah. That.

Double sucky.

I’ve gone through approximately two boxes of tissues in two days and I’m about to commandeer the nice ones, with lotion in the them. Anything to make my nose stop hurting.

This all started the day before I left San Antonio, and I thought it might have been a reaction to the new allergens in a new city, but now everything’s the same, except for my rather unique stopped-up-ed-ness, and I’m ready for that to leave me now. Although It could have been worse and I could have been sick (or allergic to the air or whatever it is) the entire time I was there. Infecting everyone – or exposing them to germapalooza – would have been worse, definitely.

So I’ll take my mountain of tissues and emails and laundry and play poor pitiful mama for a few days and see how far that gets me. And when that’s not very far, at least I know there’s a weekend right around the corner for me to sleep through.

Huzzah? Huzzah.


Hidden superpowers.

May 1, 2017

When I decided to steal my girlies for a roadtrip, part of me wondered how much of a good idea it would be. Granted, Gracie decided to stay home instead of going with, but even with just half of my dynamic duo, was a five-hour road trip so soon after their trip to Houston (and Galveston) really a smart idea? Could they handle another mega-car ride so soon after the first?

Turns out, my Bee-girl has a hidden superpower or two that she didn’t tell me about. And turnpikin’ is one of ’em.


After a tasty, tasty pancake-and-egg breakfast, the three of us girls hit the road, armed with mix CDs, fully charged phones, half-baked directions, and all manner of stories we needed to catch up on. And even though we ran into a minor delay at a PlaceThatShallNotBeDiscussed because of a CrisisThatShallNotBeHintedAt, we still made incredibly good time, racing into the city well before rush hour.

And that was including the 30-minute lunch break we took to introduce Auntie Kim to Buc-ee’s, the world’s largest rest stops. I really wish I had’ve had my camera ready for that, you guys. Her. face. Priceless! I understand; we have gas stations smaller than the restrooms alone. The place is just massive. But so clean and rather addictive, and conveniently halfway between our house and the party hotel. Even with our pit stop, we still rolled into San Antonio early enough for dinner and some shenanigans…

Mostly we walked along the Riverwalk, scoping out places to eat and get an early cocktail. We checked out some local curiosities and stopped in a gift shop or two to peruse. We may have found Auntie Rhi (avert your eyes!) a Sully puppet, but couldn’t find a matching Dr. Quinn. Alas…

I love seeing all of the hidey-holes and different shops and museums around the Riverwalk. Some people might find it kitschy, but I love never knowing exactly what you’ll find around the next corner. Because it was Fiesta, for us it mean there was usually a parade around every corner, several times a day, complicating even matters as mundane as crossing the street. Didn’t get to Bee-girl at all, though – nothing got to her! Except maybe when we told her to go pretend to kiss the bull that just happened to be standing at the side of the road…

We finally had to show her how!

Not a bad first evening, even though we called it an early night. Kim had meetings to prepare for, and Bee and I had been go-go-going all week getting ready. A slam! game of War and half of Bee’s Easter candy while we watched mindless TV was the perfect end to what should have been a draining first day – and was, unless you were a certain 10-year-old with superpowers to brush off even the most grueling of five-hour treks across state!