Friday, March 12, 2010


Yesterday I had to go to the hospital for an infusion because my migraine was so bad. So John had to come home early from work to take me in and to take care of Lily. When he got home he showed Lily what he'd brought from the company store: cake mix, "so we can bake Mommy a get well cake!" Chocolate GF (gluten-free) cake, plus he'd picked out special frosting that Lily would like--whipped pink.

It was such a sweet thought, literally and figuratively, and Lily enjoyed helping, and they even put candles on it for me to blow out. Lily kept saying, "It could be Mommy's birthday," so John sang "Happy Get Well To You." Lily helped me blow out the candles and we all had a piece.

That's my family, God love 'em.


Rough day today for me. Very nauseated and big headache. But Lily made it bearable. Tonight she made John and I laugh so hard. It was almost bedtime and so John was reading her a book (we always read three books before naptime and then before bedtime), and he kept dozing off as he was reading.

I've done it before, too. You are trying so hard to keep reading that your brain will make up stuff that isn't there while your eyes are crossing and your speech is slurring. I was reading The Cat in the Hat yesterday and dozing off at the part where the house is all messy before the cat starts cleaning it, and I heard myself explain to Lily that "this is the part the garbage man says." Then some more awake part of my brain said, "What the hell are you talking about?!" And I woke back up and read a few more pages.

So John was reading and he'd already dozed off a few times and I kept saying, "Hey! Wake up!" Finally one time he was totally incomprehensible reading, and Lily said, very clearly and patiently, "What are you trying to say?" It woke him up and he answered her, laughing, saying, "I have no idea!" We were both laughing so hard that it made her laugh. It was so funny, because that's what we say to her when we can't quite understand what she's saying. So then she turns around and says it to us. I guess you could call that a good parenting moment. It was wonderful.

I love this cookie!

Especially the black frosting. This was at a General Mills family event celebrating winter. I guess they thought it would be funny to have snowman cookies with black frosting, for the hat and lining the edges. I mean, there's no way a kid could not get black frosting all over their face! Hee hee.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Some Great New Children's Books

Every few months I try to grab a few recent Horn Book issues from the library and scan the reviews and ads for new children's books that look fun. Then I get online and reserve a bunch of titles from my local library, which is now a huge conglomeration of Hennepin County library and the Minneapolis libraries. So I can usually find anything I want, I just have to wait for it to get to my branch where I pick up my reserves. It's quite satisfying, a definite improvement over ye olden days when you had to go ask the librarian in person for every book you wanted.

So here's what I've gotten lately that I like:

Mermaid Queen by Shana Corey
This big picture book biography is gorgeous and fascinating. It's a bit too texty for Lily right now, but I mostly got it for me to read anyway. It's the story of Annette Kellerman, the real-life inspiration for Esther Williams. I always thought Esther Williams was, well, a mermaid queen herself. Who knew there was an even more interesting real-life woman who was a real queen of the water?

Annette Kellerman was a sort of swimsuit suffragette for women, rebelling against the ridiculously uncomfortable swimwear of her time (the early 1900s). This was no small feat. The first time she swam in public in America (she grew up in Australia and England), she was arrested for her shockingly revealing swimwear (while the other women on the beach sweated it out under their parasols on the hot sand, too poofy and heavy to actually go into the water)! Celebrating swimming as both an athletic and artistic pursuit, she paved the way for female athletes all over the world.

The artwork is--dare I say it?--splashy. And I mean that in the best way possible. It's appropriate for the subject matter, and the bold color palette of artist Edwin Fotheringham is delicious to behold. Not only is water illustrated with curving, swlirling shapes, but everything from the sound of music to the night sky seems to take on the joyful shapes of water as well.

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Dan Yaccarino
Yes, another book about humans in the water. A large part of my childhood was spent in the water, and I miss it! I want to go back to the beaches of my youth. And the swimming pools. Especially the backyard swimming pools. But I digress.

Cousteau was kind of a skinny little runt, so his doctors suggested he build up his strength by swimming. Then when he was a young man, he got in a bad car accident and had to wear braces on his arms. His fate was sealed soon after this, but not by his injury. He built strength in his arms by going back to the sea and swimming. Then a friend lent him some goggles and he suddenly saw all the fishies in the sea underneath him.

Yaccarino does the artwork as well as the story, and it's wonderful to see how he transforms Cousteau's scrawniness on land to lithe grace underwater. In one layout, Cousteau's swimming form parallels the shape of an octopus swimming above him. The colors are bright and many-layered, like the rich palette of undersea life Cousteau is exploring.

Like Mermaid Queen Annette Kellerman, Jacques Cousteau was a pioneer in his field. Today we take scuba suits for granted, but the diving suit of Cousteau's day was like an iron spacesuit. Cousteau worked with engineers to invent diving equipment that allowed him and his team to swim like fish. Likewise underwater camera equipment.

The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau (of which I have fond memories) ran for ten years on television, and served as Cousteau's platform to both entertain and educate the world about the vast array of life in our oceans that needed our protection. Yaccarino does a nice job of portraying Cousteau as a man who wanted to share his joy and passion, in contrast to a celebrity with a cause-of-the-week.

This is a fabulous book. I'm going to buy a copy to keep for Lily (and me), because I think it works on so many levels. The artwork is so good that it can be explored on its own, and the story is appealing in a classic way, like a rags to riches tale, where the rags are Cousteau's physical limitations and the riches are his exploration of the undersea world--and most importantly, the joy this brings him!

And that concludes today's book reviews. Hope you enjoyed them! Oh, and if you don't get the Horn Book at your library or you aren't familiar with this bible of children's book reviews, you can always look at a few pages of reviews of the current issue online. Here's a sample.

Non-Verbal Communication

This is from Christmas, obviously. I just love the look she's giving me.