Saturday, June 29, 2013

Books and Ice Cream

I have a tradition I started about 11 years ago with my oldest nephew.  Whenever I came home to visit, I would take him out for ice cream.  Then, about 5 years ago, it morphed into books and ice cream.  We would go get ice cream and then head to a bookstore to pick out a new book to read.  A couple of years later, nephew number 2 was added to the tradition.

Today, the last of the 4 kids, yes 4 kids, were added on.  I picked them up from their house and we drove to a bookstore where each was allowed to pick out one book.  I picked out two, one for me and one for our trip to the ice cream shop.  Here are real kids' picks from a real book shopping expedition.

Alice, age 3.  (well, she turns 3 on Monday.)  She chose the timeless and well-loved Corduroy.

Noah, age 4.  He chose a board book version of Otis Loves to Play by Loren Long.  
His reason?  There was a tractor in it.

Nate, age 8.  Nate broke the "no movie book" rule but I let it go because I just can't say no to Diary of a Wimpy Kid.  There won't be any rule breaking in the future but honestly, look at that face!

Joshua, age almost-13, going on 30.  Joshua has apparently decided to jump straight from Rick Riordan and Percy Jackson to conspiracy theory and history of the Soviet Union.  He tells me it is good for us to read these things because then we learn what not to do.

Meg, age...yeah, right.  Josh took this picture of me.  I chose Oliver Jeffer's new book The Day the Crayons Quit, which is actually written by Drew Dewalt.  The special ice cream store book is Mo Willems's Should I Share My Ice Cream, featuring the famous Elephant and Piggie.  It was a big hit.

So there you have it!  Check out these great books, recommended by my family for yours!

Dancing in the Rain

I did borrow this picture from my dad...
this is "backstage" in Buffalo at an outdoor concert
I've been back on the east coast for all of 3 days and it has rained at least a little bit every day I've been here.  Last night, however, really tested my commitment to being away from my sunny home of LA.  My dad had tickets to see Willie Nile, The Wallflowers, and Counting an outdoor venue.  At 5 when we got there, also the reason for no Dance Friday post last night, it wasn't raining at all.  Just a little overcast.  I had borrowed a pair of rain boots from a friend and came with my trusty hat but there was no raincoat to speak of but I thought I could tough out a few drops.

Well, we made it through the first set with no problem.  Willie Nile, who is the headliner at a concert my dad is producing in September, was awesome and we were about two inches from the stage.  Willie Nile finished, set change started...rain started.  My dad and brother escaped to the back with their exclusive back stage pass and my brother's friend and I held our spots up front.  At first it was just a sprinkle and I only had a few drops in my already 90% water beer.  I thought, "Well, this isn't bad.  It is almost kind of fun to have a few rain drops at a concert."

And then it really started to rain.  Downpour.  Richie and I looked at each other and I said, "Well, it is really bleep'in raining."  "Yup." Jakob Dylan did his thing, nice and dry.  He even joked that at least we didn't have a chance of getting electrocuted like the band did.  I actually have a really amazing picture of Mr. Dylan performing that you can't see right now because apparently that 30 seconds of photo taking killed my phone.  It is currently living in a bowl of rice with the hopes of resurrecting my memories and my money.

It was a lovely welcome back to the east coast.  It is why I didn't post anything last night.  Now that I've had a few hours of drying, here is my Dance Friday post.  You might get a picture later.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Summer Reading

As I mentioned before, my summer reading list this year has been somewhat chosen for me.  As a part of a weekend institute at Simmons College, I have a list of recommended books to read.  Since they are all children's books, they automatically go on the list.  Some I have already read so I will pass on those but I am going to do my best to crank out the others before July 26th.

I have also held strong to a tradition of reading a Gabriel Garcia Marquez book every summer and this summer is no different!  The book I chose for this summer is a collection of short stories called No One Writes to the Colonel.  I may try to squeeze Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn in there as well because too many folks have told me to read it.

Now, on to the list. As I mentioned before, the theme of the institute is "Love Letters." The titles marked with a * are the books I have already read so I will pass on those.  Pretty ambitious, right? I'll be marking them as I finish each one.

Charles and Emma: The Darwins’ Leap of Faith, by Deborah Heiligman (finished!)

The Penderwicks, by Jeanne Birdsall*

See You at Harry’s, by Jo Knowles (finished!)

Islands, by Jason Chin (finished!)

Coral Reefs, by Jason Chin (finished!)

Redwoods, by Jason Chin (finished!)

Upstairs Mouse, Downstairs Mole, by Wong Herbert Yee (finished!)

Abracadabra! Magic with Mouse and Mole, by Wong Herbert Yee (finished!)

Max Makes a Million, by Maira Kalman (finished!)

Oh, La, La: Max in Love: Wow, by Maira Kalman (finished!)

Max in Hollywood, Baby, by Maira Kalman (finished!)

Swami on Rye: Max in India, by Maira Kalman (finished!)

Anastasia Krupnik, by Lowis Lowry (finished!)

Anastasia Has the Answers, by Lois Lowry (finished!)

Why We Broke Up, by Daniel Handler and Maira Kalman*

The Basic Eight, by Daniel Handler (finished!)

Lessons from a Dead Girl, by Jo Knowles (finished!)

Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos*

My picks for my students (heading into 6th grade) this summer were:

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

One Crazy Summer
by Rita Williams Garcia

by Steve Sheinkin

Forge! by Laurie Halse Anderson

Scat by Carl Hiaasen 

We read Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson as a class this year and Forge! is the sequel.  I already know about six kids who already started that book.  We also read 2 of Carl Hiaasen's books (Hoot and Flush) so Scat seemed like a logical option as well.

What have you put on your reading list? Comment below and share some of your picks!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Live Reporting!

Right now, as I type these very words, Nik Wallenda, world famous tightrope walker, is preparing to walk across a gorge at the Grand Canyon.  If I type fast enough and you click fast enough, you can watch along with me at Discovery Channel's live broadcast. All done! It was amazing!

In honor of this event I am giving you a song and a book!  First, the book.

The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Modicai Gerstein, tells the true story of French aerialist, Philippe Petit.  Philippe performed a tightrope walk/dance/skip across a wire he set up between the Twin Towers in NYC.  Unlike Wallenda, his walk wasn't televised and it wasn't even legal!  After setting the rope up in the middle of the night, he treated early risers to a long performance.  While he did his thing, police officers ran up to the top, ready to arrest him when he was done.  Check this book out for all the amazing details, coupled with award winning illustrations!

And now, the song.

I've posted this before on Dance Friday but it just seemed appropriate for today.  I give you Janelle Monae's Tightrope.

Friday, June 21, 2013

If There Was Life Without Music

My fellow teachers and I successfully finished another school year last week.  During our school's last assembly, we were blessed to see many amazing performances.  My class performed a choreographed dance to The Black Eyed Peas' One Tribe, the teachers put on a surprise performance of our version of The Wizard of Oz, and the 6th graders gave us a little taste of their end of the year poetry slam.  Two students, Ethan and Alexander, were the oh-so-cool and incredibly talented MCs for the event.  They really set the stage for an amazing performance.

Ethan, who I had the pleasure of knowing at a previous school, blew me away with his poem about music.  He performed it with the right amount of jazz that a slam poet must possess and when it was over I thought, "Phew!  What just happened?!"  So when I ran into his mom the other day, a full week after the performance, I begged her to send me a copy.  She also sent me a video of Ethan performing his poem.  The beginning is cut off but I am so glad you all get to see his rendition of his own poem.

Usually I feature a dance video on Fridays for Dance Friday.  However, this young man so beautifully captures, in just a few words, the reason I post these dance videos, I thought this would be perfect.  Keep your eye out for Ethan in the future, cuz he is only heading into 7th grade.

A portal through a porthole full of more

A way of life that can never be ignored

I'm transported from a world full of hatred and bore

To a world full of wonder and happiness galore

It inspires and puts fire to any bored soul

If there was life without music I would die in a hole

by Ethan


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Creepy Carrots

Things are a little more than crazy busy over here but I have to ice my ankle for the next 20 minutes due to a mishap with guacamole.  Yes, it is true, but believe me, the story isn't as amazing as that sounds.

I'm grateful for the few moments of rest because it gives me some time to tell you about this book you simply must read.  Creepy Carrots by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by Peter Brown first came on my radar during the ALA book awards when it won a Caldecott Honor.

The story tells of a young rabbit who looooves his carrots. Jasper Rabbit is particularly fond of the carrots in Crackenhopper Field and he snags one from the field whenever he passes by.  Things start to get really creepy, however, when he starts seeing carrots everywhere.  He notices them out of the corner of his eye in the tool shed. His mind seems to be playing tricks on him and at a closer glance, they turn out to be tools.  However, the creepiness continues and his paranoia grows. Whenever he thinks he sees the creepy carrots following him, it turns out to be something else...or is it? As hysteria grips this poor little hungry bunny, he builds a fence around Crackenhopper Field so those darn carrots won't follow him anymore.  Does it work?  Well, pick it up and take a look!

Are those creepy carrots...or regular old bath stuff?

Brown's illustrations are stunning shades of grey, with just the right amount of bright orange to highlight the rising climax of the story.  Kids will love this book, especially those little ones with a sneaky sense of humor.  Reynolds writes a unique story that hasn't been told yet, which is very refreshing in a world of sequels, prequels, and twisted tales.  Pick this up for a nice little chuckle or the perfect birthday gift.

And now, the icing is done and it is time to get back to work.  Let me know if you read this!  I would love to hear your thoughts!

Friday, June 14, 2013

Shake What Your Papa Gave You

Me and my Papa Bear.
Thumbs up Daddio!
Back in May, Jimmy Fallon and Michelle Obama blessed the world with the Evolution of Mom Dancing.  It swept the nation almost as fast as the Harlem Shake shake that people did that went to the music of a song that said Harlem Shake every now and again.

Well, in honor of Father's Day this weekend, I did a bit of research and it turns out a year ago Mr. Fallon also produced the Evolution of Dad Dancing.  If you have a dad like me, then you will feel some pride as you watch this knowing your dad rocks a little more than Fallon's impressions.  If you have a dad that dances like this video, well, prepare yourself to giggle.

Happy Dance Friday, folks. And shake what your papa gave you!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Can You Feel the Beat?

Most Friday nights I post songs and videos to get your bootie shaking.  Well, tonight I am posting one that will move your soul.

This is Helen Keller, visiting the studio of famous dancer Martha Graham.  My favorite is the end when she gets in the middle of the dancers and literally feels the dance.  *Sigh.

Keep believing in miracles folks, they happen every now and again.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Four Letter Word

My relationships...always the beginning of
beautiful....friendships.  Damn you Casablanca!

Yep, I said it.  Sometimes it feels just as awful coming out as some of the other four letter words we know...sometimes it feels even worse.  My roller coaster with love is enough to make Carrie from Sex and the City apologize for being so lucky.  I could teach Romeo and Juliet a thing or two about being star-crossed.  Let's not even start with the chapters I could write about unrequited love.

It seems the fates have deemed that I be the lucky recipient of unconditional love from a lot of family and friends, and that sometimes I will sometimes get someone to fall in love with me...for all of 2 seconds.  My good friend and I often joke about the irony of our lifestyles.  All I ever wanted was for someone to fall in love with me and stay with me forever.  All he ever wanted was to live a plot-driven life.  He is happily married, owns a home, and planning a future family.  I am living in a studio apartment with my cat and have moved into a new apartment (sometimes a new city) every year or two since I was 18.

I'm not going to complain, however.  Because my plot-driven life has given me some good love stories that will keep me smirking for years to come.  I've done the goofy photo booth pictures and played in the rain on a playground.  One time, someone actually showed up at the airport in a dramatic goodbye, just like the movies tell you they should, and I will never feel the same way in an airport again.  Once, a man sent me a package filled with thimbles and each thimble had a little note inside that said, "*wink."  The package return address?  Peter Pan of course.  (If you don't get it, just believe that this guy knew me well enough to know I would get it.) Yeah, I've got some good stories.

"Peter, I should like to give you a kiss."

However, they all end the same and I have been with my cat for over 15 years now.  Despite all this, I'm about to embark on a summer with a dream come true and a whole lotta love.

Every two years, Simmons College in Boston, MA hosts a weekend children's literature institute
Over the course of the three days, lucky students get to learn from editors, authors, and professors of children's literature.  Each institute has some common theme woven through children's literature.  Past years have hosted themes of food, dance, good vs. evil, and more.  This year's theme?  Love Letters. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

And I'll Teach You, Teach You, Teach You...

Make Way for Ducklings Line Dance?
The Waddle!
Prancing.  It hit big on the interwebs this week.  When I saw the prancercise video I immediately "dusted" my hands off and said, "Dance Friday, taken care of."  However, I started to feel like I needed to work a little harder than just copying what everyone else was posting about.

So I went back and forth.  Prance.  No prance.  Prance.  No prance.  I ultimately decided on no prance.  (If you want to see the prancing video, however, click here.)  Instead, I am going to educate you on a line dance you should know about.

Let's talk for a minute first about line dances.  I love them.  I love getting in there with a group of people who spring up to boogie and know all the same moves, almost as if we were a random group of spontaneous dancers that all know choreographed dances just like in musicals.  My first line dance was at a wedding when I was very young and I learned the Electric Slide.  I'll tell you what, if you are going to pick one dance to put in your line dance repertoire, that is the one.  It comes up in all sorts of situations, it can be used with just about every song, and it isn't too terribly difficult to learn.

Some of my other favorites include the Cotton Eyed Joe, The Cha Cha Slide, and the Cupid Shuffle.  My favorite Cupid Shuffle memory is with my karaoke pals back in Boston.  They are an amazing crew of folks and when I first hit up the karaoke scene with them I was impressed with their singing.  However, mid-way through our second outing, Billy, the karaoke MC/DJ, took a singing break and busted out a string of songs for us to dance to.  Among them was the Cupid Shuffle.  I couldn't believe my eyes when all these singers came out and could dance too!  Karaoke AND line dancing!?  Now that was a crew I could roll with.

It shouldn't have come as much of a surprise when I was out with my karaoke crew in LA and we had another line dance magical moment.  The MC/DJ threw on the Wobble and one of my friends got right in there and started dancing.  I had never heard of this song or the dance and I was baffled!  However, armed with the rhythm of an experienced electric slider, I was ready to pick up what they were throwing down.  Joy of joys, I had a new dance!

Last weekend, my college girlfriends and I embarked on an epic ladies weekend.  (Hence the lack of Dance Friday last week.)  While we were out and about gallivanting, the Wobble came on.  NOBODY knew the dance.  Not my friends, not the people around us, no one!  What a sad moment when a line dance song is played and nobody is there to do the dance.  I was sad at our missed opportunity but knew the perfect venue for teaching the world to Wobble. Dance Friday.

So my friends, the prance lost out to the Wobble.  There are always variations of a line dance (as you will see in the video) but I think this will cover the basics for you. Learn it, love it, find a crazy bunch of people to do it with you.  And happy Dance Friday!!!!