Things I Would Be Doing if I Weren't Moving

Aug 28, 2012

  • Writing a review for Gone With the Wind. I have so many thoughts to share about this book! I hope they haven't all escaped my brain by the time I have time to write.
  • Going to a family's done and past. We desperately wanted to squeeze it in, but something had to go. Very, very sad.
  • Reading. I think I've read 20 pages in the last five days. The good news is I've been blazing my way through audio books. Thank heavens for those. I think they've saved my sanity.
  • Getting to know my neighbors...that will come with time, but hopefully they'll forgive me for just waving and not stopping to chat.
  • Working on videos for the family film festival...more on that later.
  • Going on a date with Mike; between the dissertation and the move, I'm worried this might not ever happen again.
The good news is, we are in our new house, have probably unpacked about half of it (it's the second half that will be hard though), and are loving all the extra space we now have. Stay tuned!

In Which I Meet One of My Very Favorite Authors

Aug 22, 2012

It was the summer of 2006, and I had just finished a busy and stressful spring term at BYU. (A little redundant since I didn't have a semester that wasn't busy and's in my personality to make all productivity stressful.) I was looking for some blissful rest and relaxation.

One day I was talking to my dear friend, Rachel (who also happens to be Mike's cousin), and she couldn't stop raving about her new favorite book, The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale. The thought suddenly occurred to me, Hey, in my life before school, I used to like to read! And so I decided to pick it up. (And Rachel generously loaned me her copy, which I found out later was the ultimate bestowal of trust since she keeps her books in mint condition. She later got that copy signed and told me that she would never loan it out ever again.)

Reading The Goose Girl was the best experience I had had with books in a long time. I read it out loud to Mike, and I can remember literally squealing in anticipation when we got to the climax. (Mike, in case you were wondering, did NOT squeal...but he did laugh at me.)

And that is how I fell in love with Shannon Hale.

Now, six years later and having read practically everything written by her, you can imagine my excitement when I saw that she would be at The King's English with her brand-new book, Palace of Stone, the sequel to Princess Academy. I persuaded my good friend, Holli, to come with me, and it was, to wax a bit cheesy, everything I could have hoped for.

I have never heard Shannon Hale speak before, but I am an avid reader of her blog (and of course, her books), and so I was hoping she'd be as entertaining and personable in real life, and she was. Her editor spoke with her for part of the time, and they complemented each other very well. (And as a side note, as I listened to Shannon talk about writing, I didn't feel the desire to become a writer, but as I listened to Victoria, the editor, speak, I thought that maybe, in another life, I would have liked to do some editing.)

After they finished speaking (or rather, were told to stop speaking...I think they and the audience could have kept going for hours), Shannon signed copies of her books. Even standing in line was fun because I had a friend to talk to and new books to browse through. So yes, all in all, a very fun night out.

And in case you want a little more, these were some of my first impressions of Shannon Hale in real life: She is funny and witty with great comedic timing; she is mindful of her audience; she knows how to put a person at ease;  I would love to have her as a friend; she doesn't brush aside questions that she's probably had hundreds of times (i.e., questions about publishing and her writing process); she tries to make a personal connection with each person she meets (much to the frustration of The King's English employees who tried in vain to move along the signing line); her love of writing and telling stories is obvious and real; she is kind and sincere (I especially noticed the extra-special attention she paid to the 8-14-year-old crowd. They'll remember that forever.); she is humble and seems genuinely grateful for every one of her readers.

And as photographic proof of my star-struck evening:

A little blurry, but perfect just the same. 
(Now just imagine a King's English employee glaring at me from the side at this uncalled for holdup to the line.)

Charlotte's Web by E.B. White

Aug 20, 2012

Aaron and I are just breaking the surface of chapter books: there are so many I want to read to him that I find the task of selecting "the perfect book" to be a little daunting. Up to this point, I've tried to pick ones with plenty of pictures scattered throughout, short enough that it won't take us years to finish, and with a plot-line that will intrigue a four-year-old. Charlotte's Web fit these requirements perfectly.

The story begins when Wilbur (a pig) is born the runt of the litter. He is about to be "done away with," but is rescued by the farmer's daughter, Fern. She raises him as a pet, and he is eventually moved to Uncle Homer's farm where he is visited regularly by Fern and enjoys sleeping on his warm manure pile and eating his tasty slops. Wilbur could almost be content except that he yearns for a friend. And that is when he meets Charlotte, a common grey spider, who befriends him and ultimately saves his life.

Some think that Charlotte's Web, while much-loved by adults, holds very little appeal for the modern child. And while I maybe read just a smidgen faster through some of the descriptions of lazy summer days and perfect dewy mornings, overall I didn't have to do much to hold Aaron's, and even two-year-old Maxwell's, interest.

I know some little girls who fall in love with the story because they idolize Fern, but I was gambling on Aaron's obsession with spiders to carry us through. And it worked. The parts where Charlotte is wrapping up a tasty insect for dinner or repairing her web using her spinnerets or guarding her masterpiece, the egg sac, were the parts where Aaron's attention was riveted. (One day, when we were well into the book, Aaron told me that Charlotte could catch daddy-long-legs in her web. "Daddy-long-legs? Surely not!" So to settle our dispute, I had to find the page and read back through the list of thirteen things to be trapped and eaten by Charlotte. Daddy-long-legs were on the list.)

Even though I am absolutely terrified of spiders in real life, in the safe confines of a book, I loved Charlotte...although I did better when I thought of her more in her mentor-role and less in her spider-role. She was kind and honest, and even though she loved Wilbur, she treated him in a very no-nonsense, unbiased kind of way. As I read to the boys, I enjoyed giving the characters different voices (I only do this in the comfort of my own home with my own non-judgmental children!!), and Charlotte's lines were my favorite to read aloud.

Besides Charlotte, Aaron was also interested in Avery (Fern's brother) and Templeton (the selfish, disgusting rat). There's a picture at the end of the book where Templeton is huge and obese because he has been gorging himself so regularly. Aaron loves that picture and insisted we show it to Mike when he got home.

One of the things that maybe escaped Aaron's notice but that I especially loved was the way death is explored in a very safe, but realistic, way. It's an interesting paradox that Charlotte spends the whole book trying to save Wilbur's life, but in the end, she herself grows old. So now, even though Wilbur's life is spared, his best friend dies, leaving him alone (at least for a time). It made me realize that wearing out our own lives in the service of others can bring a lot of joy and fulfillment. When we came to Charlotte's last words, my voice cracked; I couldn't help it. But Aaron was unmoved. He understood that she died, but I think he couldn't wrap his brain around the full ramifications of what that meant for Wilbur...or maybe he was just better at remembering that spiders can only live for a short time.

I was reading this book to the boys one afternoon while they finished eating lunch, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a spider dash out from under the refrigerator. In an instant, all thoughts of my love for Charlotte vanished and I grabbed the nearest object to smash her distant cousin with. But just as quickly, he turned and fled back to his dark home, and I haven't seen him since (even though I made Mike move out the fridge and look for him). Perhaps he, too, was just enjoying the story of Charlotte and merely came out to thank me. What he didn't realize is that while I might be able to fall in love with a spider in a book, I can never ever do it in real life.

Four Facts for Friday (3)

Aug 17, 2012

A random fact about yesterday: My younger brother got married! Okay, I guess that's not so random; it was well planned in advance. But, yes, it's a fact that he got married. And his bride, Meagan, was beautiful. She is amazing, and we love her so much. As for something a little more random, at the reception, Max spilled purple punch all over his pants and white shirt. (And this, after I told Mike I didn't think the purple punch was a good idea.)

Sealed in the Oquirrh Mountain Temple

A random fact about today: The boys and I went to our little music class this morning. (This weekly co-op has been so much fun for us! Every mom takes a turn teaching. We sing lots of old favorites, occasionally teach some new songs and add in lots of dancing and actions.)

EDIT: Slightly more exciting than music class, my brother and his wife had a baby boy tonight! His name is Charlie, and I cannot wait to hold him.

A random fact about tomorrow: In an effort to not move junk to our new place in a couple weeks, we're having a yard sale where we will attempt to pass off all said junk onto other people and make a little money in the process.

A random fact about my house: Between my family coming into town, the wedding, the yard sale, the impending move, and three small boys, my home has seen better days. I'm off to clean!

KidPages: Bradley Boy Likes Books

Aug 15, 2012

Up to this point, Bradley has been, shall we say, rather indifferent to books in general. I know other moms who swear their babies are totally engaged in the pictures at just four months of age, but that has not been the case with Bradley, who is now 10.5 months old.

That's not to say he hasn't had a relationship with books. In order to placate me, he will occasionally look at a couple of pages and beat his palm on the pictures. And he loves to get a good mouthful of cardboard pages or hear the rustle of crinkling paper.

But as far as sitting down and basking in the reading experience? Um, not so much.

And then, all of a sudden on a normal, average day last week, a switch flipped.

And it all started with this book:

Baby Bear Sees Blue by Ashley Wolff

It is not for lack of trying that Bradley has not appreciated books. On a daily basis, I put him on my lap while I read to Aaron and Max, but he usually squirms off within the minute. But the cover of Baby Bear Sees Blue captured his attention...and he laughed.

I opened to the first page, which showed Baby Bear and his mama...and he laughed again.

As a disclaimer, I have to say that if you know anything about Bradley, it is that it doesn't take much to get him to's a big joke to him. But this was unusual even for him. He seemed genuinely delighted by the pictures. And as we progressed through the story, I could see why.

The illustrations are vivid and bold with the focus being primarily on the bear and his mother and the backgrounds being washed out and less detailed.

I didn't know it when I put it on hold at the library, but it is a book about colors. As Baby Bear and his mother go about their day, he asks questions, like, "Who is singing to me, Mama?" and the mother answers, "Those are the jays." And then on the next page, we see the jays and the text says, "Baby Bear sees blue."

The thing I love about this book as opposed to other books with a similar focus is that the colors are explored in a subtle way. When Baby Bear sees red, the accompanying illustration is not overwhelmed by red objects. Instead, there are just a few red strawberries that Baby Bear is eyeing greedily.

Another thing I love about this book is that along with colors it also explores the senses: touch ("Who tickled me?"), sight ("Who is waving to me?"), smell ("What smells so good?"), and sound ("Who is growling at me?"). Taste is never really mentioned, so maybe the connection with the other senses wasn't intentional, but it is a detail I like nonetheless.

I read through the book slowly, carefully...Bradley laughing at every page, the other boys completely engaged. I was almost afraid to move, and as I came to the final page, I looked at Bradley in disbelief. Had he really just sat through an entire story, and not a short board book at that?

At first I wondered if there was something specific about this particular story that captured Bradley's attention. But as the days have passed, he has been sitting and looking and listening to many books, so it seems he is finally joining the rest of us in our love of reading.

But regardless of what other books he likes in the future, Baby Bear Sees Blue will always be special to me because it was Bradley's springboard into the wonderful world of literature. 

LibraryPages: My Hometown Library

Aug 13, 2012

The public library: a weekly fixture of my childhood

The library of my childhood holds a special place in my heart. I grew up in a small town (pop. 1700) in northeastern Colorado, and the library was literally one of the only attractions in the whole town. It was built in 1931 and has served as a public library ever since.

My earliest memories are of going to Story Hour on Tuesdays. The library was closed on Tuesdays, which meant we could use the open space in the middle of  the room (there's a computer station there now, which was a monumental event in and of itself). During Story Hour, we learned nursery rhymes, songs, and read stories, and we even had a yearly program to show off our accomplishments.

The view from the entrance. 
See the bookcase with the short shelves facing out? That's the Young Adult section.
Also, note the computer station, where the four chairs are lined up.

My next memory is of going to preschool in the basement, where I had to descend a narrow set of squeaky stairs and navigate a frightening turn part way down. There were no books in the basement. It was just used for community meetings and, of course, preschool.

Then came years and years of the summer reading program. Now that I'm in a larger city, I can see that there were some benefits to living in a small town, and one of them was the summer reading program. Our prizes were phenomenally better than the prizes my boys received this summer and included Little Debbie brownies, juice boxes, cans of pop, full-size candy bars, bags of chips, bookmarks, balls, and other toys. You received a prize for every two hours of reading, so you could make bank and keep a stash of snacks that would last the entire summer. Plus, after 20 hours of reading, you earned a book, and there was a wide range of high-quality books to choose from. I usually earned 4-5 each summer.

As a teenager, I volunteered at the library where I learned the ropes of a card catalog (that was made up of actual index cards!), ISBN numbers, and the Dewey Decimal system.

Through this all, the library had exactly one librarian. Yes, that's right. One. Her name is Jan, and she is a dear family friend and still works there to this day. She ordered hundreds of books for my family through the inter-library loan system, and she often purchased books for the library she knew we were interested in. We never gave her a library card; we were such familiar faces, she just kept our cards on file. She would stamp the card in the book with the due date, and I loved to check out a book that hadn't been stamped in years. It made me feel like I was doing the book a service so it could stay on the shelves a little longer.

 Jan the Librarian
(I remember when she upgraded to that desk...another memorable event)

On one of our recent visits to Colorado, I excitedly told Aaron that I was going to show him the library I went to when I was a little girl.

To say he was a little bit dumbfounded would not be an exaggeration. I think he was looking for the rest of the library, not knowing that what he saw was the whole package. He was even more flabbergasted when I escorted him over to the children's section and encouraged him to pick a book. In the weeks since that visit, he will sometimes say to me, "Remember your teeny tiny library, Mom?"

The children's section

Yes, I remember. And even though it might be teeny tiny, I am so grateful I grew up with a library just a bike ride away. Not all small towns are so lucky.

With this post, I'm participating in Where in the World Are You Reading?, a monthly meme hosted by Kelly, Lisa, and Trish.

Four Facts for Friday (2)

Aug 10, 2012

A random fact about this week: On Wednesday Mike and I saw Wicked at Salt Lake City's Capitol Theater. We've seen it before, but our seats this time were markedly better (I only had to use the binoculars occasionally instead of almost the entire duration of the play). We went with our good friends, and it was just the kind of evening out I needed (lots of talking, Cheesecake Factory, music I love, etc.).

A random fact about my past: When I was a student at BYU, I played the carillon (i.e., the bell tower). And because people always ask, no, not the hourly "Come, Come Ye Saints" chime, but yes, the mid-day concerts.

A random fact about my daily habits: I am an avid journal writer. I write in it every day, no exceptions (up to this point). I felt like I had to qualify that statement because you never know what the future holds, but up to this point even childbirth and mastitis have not kept me from writing every single day in the last...wait for it...12 years. Maybe someday I'll write a post explaining why I am so adamant about writing in it so religiously. Because, believe me, I have firm opinions on the matter.

A random fact about summer: I've been suffering through the 100-degree heat with everyone else, but every time I'm tempted to complain, I remember what it's like to put on socks, boots, coats, and mittens for three boys plus myself AND how much I hate the early darkness in the evenings, and then I step outside and revel in my bare feet and the sunshine.

For a Four-Year-Old

Aug 8, 2012

Four years ago I was looking at this...

 Aaron @ one week old

...and now that same little human is an intelligent, perceptive, curious, kind, and mischievous four-year-old. They're not kidding when they say Blink, and you might miss it.  

Aaron has been anticipating his birthday since, well, since he turned three. And it did not disappoint. (But it would be really hard to disappoint this kid; he's like his dad: easy going and easy to please.)
Birthdays offer me one of the rare opportunities where I feel totally and completely justified in buying brand-new books. I have known for months what I wanted to get Aaron: two books from the Mercy Watson series by Kate DiCamillo. (I would have liked to get him all six books in the series, but I had to show some restraint.)

I've been wanting to check out Weller Book Works in Salt Lake City for quite some time. It sells new, used, and rare books, so its inventory changes regularly. They catalog all of their used books so it's easy to find out if they have what you want.
It's kind of like a warehouse on the inside, but it has beautiful book displays and is very well organized.

And they had what I wanted! Two beautiful hardback copies of Mercy Watson. Both were labeled as used, but you could have fooled me. They look brand spanking new.

In case you aren't acquainted with Mercy Watson, oh, you are missing out. She was Aaron's very first introduction to "chapter" books. (They're divided into about 12 chapters but are easily read in one sitting with a picture on almost every page. In my mind, they're the perfect crossover between picture books and real chapter books.)

 Do these look used to you?!

I love both the author and the illustrator so much, I cannot keep from gushing when I talk about them. Kate DiCamillo (of Tale of Despereaux fame) does amazing things with just a few words. Mike and I have both been so impressed with the way she gives all her characters tangible, memorable personalities without boring her young listeners. And of course, Chris Van Dusen's illustrations don't hurt one bit. His pictures are so warm and light. I feel happy just looking at them. (We just read his newest book, Randy Riley's Really Big Hit, for the first time this afternoon, and Aaron loved it so much, he took it to bed with him.)

Aaron got Princess in Disguise (a very girly title but very gender-neutral otherwise) and Something Wonky This Way Comes, which are actually #4 and #6 in the series; those are the ones Weller Book Works had, so I went with them.  I think Maxwell (the two-year-old) was even happier than Aaron about the books. (He and I share both looks and book nerdiness.) Now I'll be on the lookout for the rest of the books so that someday we can have the complete Mercy Watson series (which will be a day worth blogging about!).

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

Aug 7, 2012

When I was getting my Bachelor's, one of the required general classes was Physical Science 100. The course covered very basic physics, chemistry, and geology. But I do not have a scientific brain, so I would surely have been sunk except that I happened to marry a physics major. Saved! (And, no, he did not do my homework for me, but he did read every single chapter with me and helped me study for all my tests. Now that is true love. And I even got an A.)

When I was 17, my brother and I studied biology together (remember, I was home schooled). It was great fun having a study buddy, but there were still many pieces of the biology puzzle that I did not understand. One day, in total frustration, I shouted that I just wanted to throw the biology textbook out the window. Overhearing a snippet of my rant, my mom quickly rushed in and chided, "Amy! That isn't very nice to want to throw your brother out the window!"

I give you all that background so you will understand how truly amazing it is that I not only liked, but LOVED The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. And I think the chapters that described cell culture and division and research were actually my favorite parts. Which made me realize that when you add human emotion and personality back into science, I will eat it up.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is the true story guessed it...Henrietta Lacks, a black woman who was diagnosed with cervical cancer in the early 1950's. Following an early treatment, part of her tumor was given to George Gey, the head of tissue culture research at Johns Hopkins. He had been collecting tissue samples for years in the hopes of finding a sustainable cell line. Henrietta's cells were treated like any other, but for some reason, they took off and multiplied so rapidly that George Gey was soon sending them to research labs all over the United States and beyond. Henrietta's cells became known as HeLa, the first immortal human cell line. But Henrietta died soon after and never knew that her cells were changing the face of science, and even her husband and children knew nothing until 25 years later, and by that time HeLa cells had been multiplied millions and billions of times and had been used for all kinds of research from cancer to in vitro fertilization.

But this book is not just a biography about Henrietta (though it is that), and it's not just about her cells either (though it is that, too). It's also a memoir (a personal account of the author's journey), and it raises a host of ethical and moral questions. All of these elements combined made this a fast-paced, fascinating, and emotional read.

I had a recurring thought while reading this book: Rebecca Skloot could never write this book now. She wrote it at the perfect time. If she had written it earlier, Henrietta's family would probably have refused to talk to her (they almost did maybe it was her persistence and not the timing that convinced them). But if she had waited until now to begin her research, she might still have written a book, but it wouldn't have been this book. Too many key characters have passed away, and without their unique perspectives, she wouldn't have been able to achieve the same depth and detail.

This book is 10 years' worth of  research, and it is absolutely breathtaking in its magnitude. To be able to write non-fiction so concisely and cleanly and captivating is a rare gift. Even the dialogue comes from written records or interviews. Nothing is made up for the sake of drama (it's dramatic enough as it is), but it reads like a novel. I'm not kidding. In the acknowledgements, Rebecca Skloot says that the book was "intensively fact-checked" by many experts, and I think that shows. I was also so impressed with the little side-stories she shared which really added to the overall comprehension of the story. For example, I thought John Moore's legal battle was absolutely fascinating.

The book is not arranged chronologically. It skips back and forth between the 1950's (and later 60's and 70's) and the early 2000's (when Rebecca was conducting all her research). I loved this format because it helped connect the past with the present and interlaced details in a way that wouldn't have been possible with a chronological recounting.  She built the story gradually, piece by piece.

This story opens up an ethical can of worms. Should doctors have asked for Henrietta's consent before giving away her cells? Should the Lacks family have received at least a small portion of the profits accrued from mass producing Henrietta's cells? Of course, opinions vary vastly.  In the afterword, Rebecca Skloot said, "...some tissue-rights activists believe donors should have the right to say, for example, that they don't want their tissues used for research on nuclear weapons, abortion,...or anything else that might run contrary to their beliefs." And I could see that point. But then she told about David Korn's research where he used tissue samples from a soldier who died in 1918 during the Spanish flu pandemic to study avian flu today. They would never have been able to ask for that soldier's permission because science has come so far as to make it impossible to conceive of all the future possibilities. And I could see that point, too. Even among my own friends and family, I've been surprised at the broad spectrum of thoughts. When I was talking to my dad about the book, I said something like, "Isn't that terrible that they just used, and even sold, her cells without asking?" But my dad, in his dry, matter-of-fact, black-and-white way said, "Why? She didn't want them. They were of absolutely no use to her." And I could see that side of it, too.

But at the same time, my heart broke for Henrietta's family. When Rebecca first met them and began talking to them, she could tell by the way they were referring to Henrietta's cells that they didn't have a firm grasp on what a cell even was. They thought there were Henrietta clones walking around London and that Johns Hopkins was snatching people off the street to use for medical research. I think it really shows that ignorance hinders people and holds them back. The unknown feels mysterious and frightening. On the flip side, education opens up doors and opportunities and provides much needed understanding. Education would solve so many of the world's problems.

I was going to try to make this a short review (HA!), and believe it or not, I still didn't write about everything I wanted to. But just know that this is by far one of the best non-fiction books I have ever read, and if I ever end up home schooling my kids, I would use this as part of a high school curriculum. I know I would have enjoyed biology more if it had been supplemented with this book.

I checked out a copy of this book from my local library. 

Content note: There are, I think, three instances of the F-word, and one mature scene where Henrietta's young daughter is sexually abused by her cousin.

Productivity Hindered

Aug 6, 2012

It is (not-so-surprisingly) difficult to write a blog post when:
  1. none of your three children will take a nap
  2. the ten-month-old finally falls asleep, and the four-year-old wakes him up
  3. the ten-month-old spirals into a vicious cycle of awake, asleep, awake, asleep
  4. the Internet dies...for the exact hour you had set aside for writing.
  5. the Olympics are on, and you want to see if Gabby Douglas will get a third gold medal (she won't).
  6. none of your three children will go to sleep for the night (are you catching a familiar theme? Something was definitely off today...)
  7. the two-year-old decides to get out of his bed every 2.5 minutes (which really has a way of disrupting flow of thought).
  8. in spite of taking away the beloved BYU blankie, the two-year-old continues to test his limits.
  9. you get an irresistible snack craving.
  10. the two-year-old begins crying and wailing, and that wakes up the 10-month-old, who also begins crying and wailing (oh, the joys of three boys in the same bedroom!). which point you look at the clock, see that it says 10:30pm, and give up for the night.

Sorry, folks, stay tuned for a book review tomorrow. And keep your fingers crossed that I'll actually be able to finish it!

KidPages: An Unfortunate Comparison

Aug 3, 2012

Remember a few weeks ago when I featured the old favorite Fortunately on this blog? Here's the cover if you need a visual reminder to spark your memory:

Well, this week, our library haul included a book called Fortunately, Unfortunately by Michael Foreman, and it bore a striking, almost disturbing, resemblance to the 1961 classic. I say "disturbing" simply because I honestly can't believe you can publish a book that is so blatantly similar to another one and not give some kind of credit or acknowledgement to the original author. No "A modern twist on the classic tale" or "Inspired by Remy Charlip's Fortunately." No, from the looks of it, it was all Michael Foreman's original idea, but I'm not buying it...

The most glaring similarity is that it follows the same "Fortunately, __________ happened, Unfortunately, ___________happened" pattern used in Remy Charlip's story. The progression of events is also somewhat parallel, beginning with average events (a birthday party and cross-country trip in Charlip's, sunshine and rain in Foreman's) and moving to more and more fantastical and unbelievable happenings (sharks and tigers in Charlip's, dinosaurs and aliens in Foreman's). Also, both books end with the main characters arriving (rather miraculously) at their originally-planned-for destinations.

If you remember, I wasn't crazy about Charlip's illustrations...old schoolish, but boring (although I did like the alternation between color and black/white). Foreman's illustrations are very different...the one true deviation from the original story; they are colorful and more detailed, but, meh, I have nothing else to say about them.

But where Charlip's story is charming and funny, Foreman's is weird and ridiculous. Honestly, even if I wasn't comparing it with Charlip's, I don't think I would have liked it. There are too many Fortunately/Unfortunately scenarios, so the book feels endless. And the part with the aliens is just too much. So strange. I had to wonder if he included them in an attempt to separate his story from Charlip's (or if maybe he was trying to appeal to a new generation of boys?).

Obviously, authors are inspired not only by each other but by life events, the media, and people they know. There will always be spin-offs and adaptations and modern re-tellings. But where is the line between "inspiration" and "plagiarism"? This book goes too far in the direction of shameless copying for my taste.

Perhaps I'd be more forgiving if there was some mention of Remy Charlip, but when not a word is said in his direction, well, it kind of makes me despise the new book.

Why I've Suddenly Become a TV Addict

Aug 1, 2012

I've already established the fact that I don't watch a lot of TV.

But apparently, when I wrote that, I was not remembering that the Olympics would be on in a few weeks.

And, I'm here to tell you folks, I love the Olympics.

Where I usually only spend one to three hours per week in front of the screen, I've now been spending one to three hours per day.

There is something so special about the Olympics...I don't know if it's just the fact that instead of just watching a team or an individual, you're watching a country, but it makes me feel so patriotic, and I will watch any sport.

This is unlike me for two reasons: 1) I don't watch a lot of TV (yes, yes, how many times can I mention that?) and 2) I really am not a sports fan (in fact, I have never, and I mean never, watched an entire game of anything on TV (football, soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.).

So what makes me suddenly interested in water polo or rowing, diving or volleyball? We are definitely not high-tech enough to be able to DVR anything, so when I watch, it's as it's being skipping commercials or fast forwarding through boring events. The strange thing is, I really don't mind.

If you are one of the few stone-age souls like me, watching it in real time, you know there is frequent enough switching between events to keep it all interesting and exciting. (Three hours of alternating between four different sports, I can handle. Three hours of one football game, I cannot.)

Then there's the human interest element: the stories about the various athletes, about their struggles and endurance and perseverance, are inspiring. Suddenly, I know who I'm cheering, and why they're worth cheering for, and that makes all the difference.

And then, like I already mentioned, the Olympics has a way of getting the patriotism flowing. Sure, I might not care about swimming on any other day, but if it's adding medals to the United States, then, yah!, you bet I care. (And actually, swimming is one of my favorite sports to watch, so that was a poor example.)

I fully plan on watching all three weeks of the Olympics, but, even though I'm sure there are many great moments to come, I can't imagine enjoying anything more than last night's events . Between Michael Phelps breaking the total Olympic medals record and the U.S. women's gymnastics team winning the gold, I could not pry myself away from the TV.

In some ways, not knowing the outcome was agony...I'm sure I would have enjoyed each individual performance a lot more if I'd know there weren't going to be any major falls or mishaps. But at the same time, watching it all unfold, and feeling that gripping tension and anticipation, made the experience memorable. I even got a little emotional as the five gymnasts waited for Aly Raisman's score so that their win would be official.

So, if you come by my house and it's a complete disaster or I don't put up a single book review in the next three weeks, you'll know it's because I've turned into a (temporary) TV addict. Go Team USA!
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