Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Goodbye, girlfriend.


It was with great sadness that we had to put our beloved kitty, Belle to sleep on Friday. It was the day after her 17th birthday. Her condition had gotten worse and we didn't think she would survive the weekend. After putting CJ to sleep 15 years ago, I never thought I'd hurt that much over a pet again. I was wrong. I am absolutely heartbroken.

Belle was with us for 17 years. She was a member of the family. She came into our lives through my sister, who brought her over one night because she thought she looked like CJ. Except for the orange streak up her nose, Belle was a spitting image of CJ. This was around 1993 and we still had CJ at the time, along with another cat named Abby. I suppose that helped two years later when I had to put CJ to sleep. When I came home on that horrible day, Belle and Abby were there to greet me. It wasn't long before Belle took over and began sleeping in my room.

I know many of my friends are going through hard times right now. Some have lost parents, or siblings, or friends. Others are having serious health issues, or dealing with sick children. I suppose to some people, losing a pet might not seem that big of a deal. Some people can go through life with that "it's just an animal" attitude. Not me. Belle was my best friend. She has been with us so long. No matter where I went, she would find me and want to sit either on me or near me. She wasn't a lapcat, by any means, but she was on my lap almost all the time. It had to be on HER condition.

Though it might seem petty or even pathetic to some, I have had an absolutely horrible weekend. As I said, I'm heartbroken. Belle was the first one to greet me when I came into the house. If Rick and the kids were downstairs at night, Belle was always at my side when I was upstairs. Now she's gone. My room no longer has the sound of water trickling from her little water fountain. I can't hear her say "yeah" every time she meowed. It's so horribly silent. I can't sleep at night because she's not lying on me or leaning up on my leg. Every time Rick moves at night, I wake up thinking it's Belle jumping on the bed. Reality hits again and I fall to pieces. It doesn't take much to make me fall apart -- from finding a few cat hairs on my clothes, or seeing the empty place where her bowl used to be, or watching her pictures come up on my digital frame. I'd like for them to be wonderful reminders of her life with us, but right now it just hurts.

As I know from CJ, it will take time before I can sit back and think about all the good times we had with Belle. I guess it's too early for that right now because everything is still so painful. And unlike how it was with CJ, I don't have the other cats to console me. I'm a mess. We do have Kitty, but she's my girl's cat and stays in Nichelle's room most of the time. I feel so empty and alone. I just lost my best friend and it hurts.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Happy Birthday, Belle!


My kitty, Belle is 17 years old today. That's really old for a cat. She is probably one of the oldest pets I've ever had. My other cat, CJ only lived to be 14 and he seemed ancient at the time. This isn't a current picture of Belle. This one was taken sometime around 2007. Sadly, Belle's age has really caught up with her and she's not doing too well right now. She's barely eating and is getting very, very skinny. I think her little body is just shutting down, to be honest. I hate seeing her like this, but I know there's no point taking her in right now. I know what any vet would say. I'm just trying to keep her comfortable. She's been sleeping behind the chair in my bedroom a lot these days. It breaks my heart to see her like this because I feel her days are few. As much as I want to be happy about it being her birthday, my heart aches for her. Happy Birthday to my Little Old Lady!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wish I could go ...


I've really been enjoying the Africam website lately. My boys are totally into it and have been looking up African animals for days now. We've seen elephants, rhinos, zebras, water monitors, owls, jackals, baboons, warthogs, foxes, and a lot more. It's incredible.

Thanks to Nancy, who took the time to look up the location of all these reserves, I know want to go to ALL of them! Sadly, it's not something I don't think I could ever afford. I've heard these African safari trips are something like $5000 a person, not including airfare. However, the resorts located on these animal reserves are nothing but spectacular. Check them out ...


They all look fantastic. Poor Nathan wants to go so bad too. I consider myself pretty lucky to be surrounded by the wildlife I see in Montana. I mean, I've had huge bears on my deck looking in my door at me! But going to Africa would be so awesome -- just too awesome.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Step, step, step ...


We recently got one of these to replace our very old treadmill that was no longer working properly. This is the least expensive of the Bowflex TreadClimbers. I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, so I didn't want to get the more expensive model and not use it. If you click on the link, you can see them all and compare them from each other. For now, the TC1000 is all I need.

The first time I used this thing, it nearly killed me. Okay, that's a little exaggeration, but it was hard. It was nothing like the treadmill I was used to. It's like you're walking upstairs on a treadmill. Well, it's more like walking up stairs that never end. It has a totally different feel to it. I've found I can't walk nearly as long or as fast as before. I used to walk for about 40 minutes on my treadmill, but when I started the TreadClimber I could only go 15 minutes. I'm now up to 30 minutes, but still at a pretty slow pace. Like the treadmill, I can only walk while listening to my iPod. I've been listening to the same CD and that helps because I know where I'm at time-wise by what song is playing. Even so, I've found I really have to pay more attention to what I'm doing on this thing, unlike a regular treadmill where I could be more relaxed.

I was doing really good where I was walking 6 times a week and taking one day off. Then I had my surgery and had to miss 4 days. That was longer than I wanted, but the vertigo threw me off an extra day. Anyway, I'm back on it now and hope to keep it up. I was pretty lax about using my treadmill. I seemed to go in spurts of using it a lot and then going for weeks without walking.I'm determined to use it, so hopefully I can stick with it.

What, if anything, are you doing for exercise these days?

Monday, March 22, 2010

Africam


I've got a new addiction -- Africam! I don't even know how I stumbled on this the other day, but it's a great site. Now, I've never been into live webcams that much. The ones in zoos are kind of boring for me. The only one I really ever check is the Lake McDonald webcam in Glacier National Park. That's usually to check the weather before we head up there. Other than that, I've never really been into webcams. Well, until now ...

Africam is amazing! This morning the boys and I watched it for about an hour. In that time, we saw a herd of zebras, a troop of baboons, several elephants, some wildebeests, some Dik Diks, a few warthogs, and a bunch of different types of birds. Last night I saw a water lizard monitor sitting in the sun by the watering hole. I still need to read the website more to find exactly where these cameras are located. I'm guessing in the African animal reserves or someplace. Even so, this is so much more interesting than watching an animal in a zoo. The other day someone spotted two cheetahs on the camera. I didn't see it live, but got to watch the video they put up afterwards.

My family is really into national parks and sometimes we'll drive around all day looking for wildlife. Yellowstone is a good one for that, as is Grand Teton. Africam is really fun for me because I get to see animals I'm not as familiar with. One of these days I'd love to go on one of those African safari photo trips. What an experience that would be! If you like, check out the Africam website. They're also on Facebook and Twitter, so if something good comes up, people will let you know. Also, I have the badge at the bottom right of my blog. Just click on it and it takes you right to their site. The only downside is that it's nighttime in Africa right now, which means I have to stay up late or get up early to see the action. It's worth it though!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

So, where's the genie?


I swear, sometimes I think I have the goofiest kids in the universe. This morning Nathan is in my bathroom and sees Rick's neti pot on the sink. He laughs and says something about a genie. I'm not paying much attention, but soon after Neil comes in and looks around. He leaves and goes back to Nathan who says, "Look for the lamp!" Sure enough, Neil is back in the bathroom, giggling.

When I was looking for a neti pot image to post on here, I was totally surprised by how many people have posted pictures of themselves online while using a neti pot. GROSS! I don't know about you, but I personally don't need to see someone rinsing out their sinus passages with streams of snot coming out their nose. Now, I realize these things work great and some people love their neti pots. However, it's not pleasant to look at.

I suppose I should explain to the boys what it is, just in case they start rubbing the lamp in hopes of a genie coming out and granting them three wishes. I wonder what they would do if I said, "That's not a genie! It's a greenie!" Good grief! What would the Aladdin say?

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spinning with ideas ...


I woke up this morning with what appears to be vertigo. As I sat up in bed, the whole room tilted and I nearly fell over. When I got up to walk around, I was going at an angle. Talk about weird. Rick gets vertigo pretty bad sometimes, but not me. I'm not sure what this is all about, but I really doubt it has anything to do with my recent surgery. Maybe I slept wrong, since my neck was a little sore when I woke up. Who knows. I took something for it, so now I'm just kind of a zombie. This clipart pic is almost too much for me.

Anyway, I've been wanting to start on a picture book idea I've had for a few days, but just haven't felt up to it yet. Maybe I'll let it brew in my mind awhile as I lounge around on my bed. It's about a tiger, which is my favorite animal. As you know, I have two picture books out right now. A New Job for Dilly was my first, and there are to be two more Dilly books to come. Lemur Troops & Critter Groups came out in December, and there are two more Critter books scheduled. My next one to come out is The Marshmallow Man. I was thinking about all the other stories I have written. Some are ...

Coffee For Collie
Bananas Don't Dance
Twilight Visitors
Ocean Visitors
Manny's Big Adventure
Shaggy Dan
Too Many Worms!
Mountain Goats Are Kids Like You
Mr. Snuffles
Missing Mittens
Gooble Gooble's Scary Day
Sara Makes A Difference
Hungry Little Numbat

Sometimes I wonder if I should work more on submitting some of these stories, rather than start a new project. I know I'm very fortunate to be contracted for seven books all at once, especially since I went for over five years trying to find a home for just one of them. Now I have this idea for a story about a tiger. I guess the good thing is that I'm not lacking for ideas.

How about you -- how many unpublished gems do you have lying around?

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy News!


Thanks for the comments on my post below regarding my surgery. The good, or happy news is that I heard from my doctor today and the pathology report shows NO cancer! So, that's definitely a good thing. She said there's still some weird stuff going on, and if the D&C doesn't clear it up, I might have to take something for a few months. But no cancer -- that's good!

Oddly, today I've felt more out of it than I did yesterday. I've been super sleepy all day and have very little energy. I also have a little more discomfort today than I had yesterday. I guess it just takes time for all of that anesthesia to wear off. When it does, your body definitely feels like it had something happen to it. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better and I can get back to walking. I was doing really well exercising for 3 weeks straight, only to have to take a break. Tomorrow is a new day, so maybe I start up again.

Also, I updated my Jacket Flap profile last night and realized it has been ages since I've been there. If any of you writers or illustrators want to add me, click here for my profile. I really should use this site more often, rather than spend so much time on Facebook.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Who ordered the pizza?


I laughed when I saw this cartoon because I always wonder what surgical staff talks about during an operation. I'm doing really well from my surgery yesterday. My only real discomfort right now is a sore throat from whatever they stuck down there. Other than that, I'm doing pretty good. I had a hysterscopy to remove a polyp, followed by a D&C. In other words, yucky female related stuff -- bleck. I'll spare you the gory details.

The last time I had surgery was in 1991 for a bunionectomy. It was done as an outpatient thing, which freaked me out a little because I had the same surgery in the 70s and had a 6 day hospital stay. Yesterday's surgery was nothing like that, thank goodness. I have no incision site, so that makes a lot of difference. And removing tissue is a lot less painful than having part of your bone cut out.

The anesthesiologist was really nice. He came in an gave me something to relax before they took me into the operating room. Man, that stuff works fast! I remember being wheeled down the hall and entering a large operating room. They had the funniest looking surgical lights. I've worked in hospitals before and these lights were unlike any I've ever seen. And no, it wasn't the drugs tripping me out. I remember them telling me to scoot from the gurney to the table and then someone came up behind me and started putting the heart monitor stickers on my chest. That's all I remember. I don't even remember the anesthesiologist putting anything on my face, telling me to count backwards, or anything. I was out good.

When I woke up and thought about how easily I went out, I was reminded of Michael Jackson. Aren't those the meds he wanted to use regularly to fall asleep? The whole concept of that is mind boggling because it's not real sleep. There's no REM sleep. I don't know what he was thinking. Those are powerful drugs and I'm amazed anyone was willing to listen to him and let him use them for sleeping. I woke up in a little recovery room/cubicle. They gave me some ice to munch on and then moved me to another cubicle area that had a reclining chair. There was one other patient in the room, across from me. Talk about a baby! He had some sort of surgery on his nose, probably sinus surgery or something, and he was just carrying on. He was rambling about how he takes Oxycotin everyday and started whining about the nurse not giving him enough Vicodin to go home with. When the nurse wasn't with him, he really whined to his wife how much he hurt and how miserable he was. Just listening to him, I could tell he was totally addicted to the meds. I know I'm being harsh and judgemental, but damn, he was acting like an idiot. I feel sorry for nurses who have to deal with people like that.

But anyway, I'm doing good and hopefully I can get back to my regular routine today. I've been walking everyday, but they told me not to do anything strenuous, so my TreadClimber will have to wait another day. Maybe I can walk around the neighborhood with Rick tonight or something. Thanks for all of your well wishes, both here and over on Facebook. I appreciate them all.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day!


I was looking through my pictures last night and realized I didn't have anything that related to St. Patrick's Day. I have lots of pictures with green in them, and then Neil's middle name is Patrick, but that's about as close as I got. So, I picked this picture Rick took back in 2005. It's Nathan and he was around 5 here. This picture always makes me smile, especially because of the bubble stuck to his cheek.

That's a good thing too because I need a reason to smile today. I'm leaving in about 20 minutes to have my surgery done. It's a minor procedure, but I will be put under all the way, so I'm a little leery about that. I handle anesthesia okay; it's just the waking up and getting back home part I don't like. The surgery is about an hour, so I should be home this afternoon. I guess I won't be wearing green today for St. Patrick's Day. Green doesn't go well in the OR!

OH! Please do me a favor and go check out Kim's blog here. Yesterday she posted an author interview with me. She's so sweet and she has a great blog, so please check it out. She always has great ideas for recycling, going green, and all that good stuff. Thank you again, Kim!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Celebrity Smells ...


I saw an article yesterday (more like a slideshow) of celebrities who have come out with their own perfumes. Other than simply to make money, I've never understood why these people think their fragrances are so great. Some are downright awful. The only celebrity fragrances I like are by Priscilla Presley. I don't think they're manufactured anymore, but she had four of them -- Moments, Indian Summer, Roses & More, and Experiences. I loved all of them, though the only one I have now is Experiences. In her case, her name sold the product for me because of her relation to Elvis. However, had they smelled gross, I wouldn't have gotten them. Other than those, I usually don't buy perfumes from celebrities.

I was really surprised to see just how many there were though! Check out this list to see some of them. I expected to see the usual -- actresses, singers, socialites, and a few sports figures. However, I was kind of surprised to see some others. Did you know the author Danielle Steel has her own fragrance? How about Miss Piggy? Barbie? Kiss? Yep, they do. Even the the characters from Desperate Housewives have their own perfume, as do Dora the Explorer and Austin Powers. I suppose if you have a big enough name and someone willing to invest in you, anyone can have their own fragrance line. Strawberry Shortcake has hers -- so does Carlos Santana! So, here are a few questions for you ...
  1. Which celebrity fragrances do you like?
  2. Which celebrity fragrances do you not like?
  3. If you were a celebrity, what would you name your fragrance?

Monday, March 15, 2010

And the winner is ...


I've taken all the names of those who entered my book giveaway and put them in a hat. Well, it was more like a bowl because I'm just not a hat person. I look silly in hats. Anyway, the winner is ...


Congratulations, Niki! I know you said not to worry about the contest because of shipping to New Zealand, but I was a rebel and entered you anyway. I actually picked your name twice. The first time was when I was putting the names into the bowl and yours got stuck to my finger. I didn't know if I should count that, so I mixed them all up again really good and picked yours again. So -- it was meant to be! I hope you will enjoy Lemur Troops & Critter Groups. Please tell your friends about the book. I'm honored to be sending it all the way to New Zealand!

Thanks to everyone who took the time to enter. I appreciate all the entries as well as those of you who were able to post my book information on your blogs. I am so blessed to have such great friends as well as be working with three great illustrators. Nikki Shoemaker is doing the Critter Series and seems to be having a lot of fun with it. Lisa Oakman is working on the other two books in the Dilly series. Stephen Macquignon has illustrated my next book, The Marshmallow Man, which is due to come out next. I don't have a release date yet, but I'm really looking forward to this book. Congratulations again, Niki, and thanks to everyone who entered!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

National Potato Chip Day!


I'm late blogging today. I like to do my blog early in the morning as I enjoy my first cup of coffee. However, today I got out of bed and went downstairs to exercise first thing. Yes, I know, I'll visit my doctor soon and make sure I'm not coming down with something! ;) Anyway, today is National Potato Chip Day, in case you didn't know. If not, now you do -- woot, woot!

I don't eat potato chips that much. I like weird flavors like dill pickle or jalapeno and no one else likes those much, which is probably why I don't eat them too often. I'm more of a tortilla chip person anyway. I love Doritos Habanero chips. But if I had to eat regular potato chips, I'd probably pick Lays Barbecue flavored chips. So, what's your favorite potato chip?

Don't forget about my Lemur Troops & Critter Groups Book Giveaway. I'm going to pick a winner tomorrow morning, so there's still time to enter if you haven't done so. I have three ways to enter -- posting about my book on your blog, leaving a review for either Lemur Troops or A New Job for Dilly on Amazon, or letting me know what you favorite animal is of the ones featured in the book. Click here for a list of the animals featured in the book. A big thank you to everyone who has entered so far. There's still time to enter if you like. OH! Check out this post for an absolutely ADORABLE little fan of Dilly's! Thank you so much again, Michelle & Darcy!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Loser!


Would you call a sixth grader a loser? Sixth grade is how old -- about eleven? I saw this story online today and stuff like this infuriates me. What is wrong with people? What makes me even more mad are parents who agree with this teacher's style, and yet, are too much of a coward to go on camera and explain it. Another thing that ticks me off was the teacher himself blatantly saying, "When I come to school every day I have one hundred nineteen kids that I'm their parent for nine hours of the day." What the hell? Who is this guy? Parents parent their children. Teachers are supposed to teach children academics. When I look back on my own education, especially elementary school, I can't think of one teacher that I ever looked up to or thought of as a parent. Not one.

Stories like this make me glad I homeschool my kids. I feel bad for children who are dealing with stuff like this in school. No one should be bullied by a classmate, more or less their teacher. I didn't exactly have school experience filled with rainbows and lollipops either. I could make a huge list of negative things relating to my school days. Now, I realize there are a lot of good teachers out there -- really, really good teachers. It's just like criminals. We only hear of the things the bad guys do, when in fact, they make up only 1% of the population, if that. I'm sure it's that way with teachers. This is really unfortunate too because I know good teachers exist. However, we only read the stories about the ones who write "-20% for being a loser!" on a little girl's assignment, or the thirtysomething women having affairs with fourteen-year-old boys. Are there no thirtysomething men for these pathetic women? And tell me, how can telling a child they're a loser make them better themselves? How? By the way, if you click on the link to the story, watch the video too. The little girl looks like a sweetheart. Where were all MY teachers when all the real losers were messing with me during school?

Friday, March 12, 2010

What's your phobia?


I was looking through some phobias of famous people yesterday and found they were pretty interesting. I have a hard time laughing at any of them, since I have a pretty irrational phobia myself. Johnny Depp is apparently afraid of clowns. I thought that was odd because of the almost clown-like make-up he wore for his role as the Mad Hatter. Others include ...
  • Nicole Kidman -- fear of butterflies
  • Orlando Bloom -- fear of pigs
  • Megan Fox -- fear of paper
  • Billy Bob Thornton -- fear of antiques
  • Christina Ricci -- fear of houseplants
  • Tyra Banks -- fear of dolphins
  • David Beckham -- fear of disorder
  • Uma Thurman -- fear of confined spaces
  • Bobby Brown -- fear of dogs and heights
  • Carmen Electra -- fear of water
  • Matthew McConaughey -- fear of revolving doors
  • Oprah Winfrey -- fear of chewed gum
  • Madonna -- fear of thunder

So, what's your phobia? Do you have one? Click here for a list. When I first started my blog in August 2008, I posted about my phobia -- Scoleciphobia. That's the fear of worms. I can't stand the things. I know they won't hurt me, but they give me the major willies. I tried to overcome the fear by writing a picture book called TOO MANY WORMS! It's about a little worm named Maude who feels overcrowded and wants to find a place where she can be alone. Did you know that there are approximately ONE MILLION worms under the ground on an acre of land? Anyway, Maude has become quite popular in our house. Neil absolutely hates her, so when and if I ever get that book published, I'm going to dedicate it to just him.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

I so hungry ...


"Please, lady, can I have more seeds? I promise I'll be good. I'll share with my brothers and everything. Please ... just a few more? Pretty please?"

Silly squirrels. I took this picture a few days ago, but now their feeder is completely buried in snow, so they're having to dig a little harder for their seeds. Crazy weather. It was so nice recently and we started seeing more birds coming back. Even saw a chipmunk! Then the very next day, we got over 3 inches of new snow. We must just be high enough at the house because the rest of town doesn't have much snow.

Good news on the pillow front! The memory foam contour pillow is working out GREAT! I've used it for the past four nights and have slept really good. Haven't woken up with a sore neck either. It's a funny looking pillow and it doesn't look like it would be very comfortable, but I'm really liking it -- a lot!

Don't forget about my Lemur Troops & Critter Groups Book Giveaway! It runs through Monday. I'll be posting the winner on Monday morning sometime. There are three ways to enter -- blog about my book on your blog, post a review on Amazon, or list your favorite animal. Check the link for more details and feel free to tell your friends as well -- thanks, everyone!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

From Me To You!


Niki has graciously given me the From Me To You award. Click on her name to visit her blog because it's a lot of fun. I've just started following it and have really enjoyed her posts. Niki and I have a few things in common -- we both write for children and we both have four children. In addition, she lives in the one place in the world I want to travel to the most -- New Zealand. In order to accept this award, I am to list seven truths about myself. I've done things like this in the past on my blog, so I'm going to try to come up with something I haven't already posted before ...
  1. I have a strange fear of high places. I'm scared to death on steep mountain roads while driving in our big van, but I love it in my little Jeep. I also don't like gondola cars, but am perfectly fine sitting on a chairlift all out in the open.
  2. I don't like salmon. I tried it for the first time when I went on a cruise back in the early 80s. Then just recently, I tried it again and still didn't like it. I had a hard time swallowing one bite.
  3. I was in a bad bike accident in the 70s. I got on a bike barefoot that had no brakes and then rode down a steep hill. The only way I could stop was by making a sharp turn into a driveway, crashing into a teacher's car. I lost most of the skin off my heel and had some nasty cuts. Not the smartest thing I've done.
  4. I write picture books, but read political books. Yeah, I'm weird.
  5. I get majorly creeped out when my husband uses his back scratcher when I'm in the room. All I think about are skin cells flying in the air and going into my nose and lungs. It totally grosses me out.
  6. I am pretty fast at typing. I took typing class every year I could in high school. However, when it comes to taking a timed test to see what my WMP is, I clam up and usually get an awful score.
  7. I was accused of a crime I didn't commit when I was a little kid. I was looking at a candy display in Kmart when I noticed one of the packages was opened. Remember those candy dots that were stuck on sheets of paper? An employee walked up and accused me of eating the candy -- what a worm.

I would like to nominate the following bloggers for this award ...

  1. Edward
  2. Miss Daphne
  3. Elysabeth
  4. Doda
  5. Kim

And don't forget about my book giveaway! It's a few posts down. I'm giving away an autographed copy of Lemur Troops & Critter Groups. Check the blog below for details and remember to tell your friends to enter if they would like. Thanks so much!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Sunny one day ...


Snow the next! This is what my road looked like this morning. Very pretty. It's still snowing, but parts of the road are an absolute mess. My Jeep, which has both 4-wheel drive and studded tires, was sliding all over the place just a few minutes ago. The main roads are all clear, but I guess no one has been up to plow our road yet. It's a mess in some spots.

We've had such a mild winter this year, unlike last year where we had to scrape snow off our roof because there was so much. This year has been really mellow though. Sunday was beautiful and we spent some time sitting on the deck enjoying the sunshine. It was still on the chilly side, but it was still nice. I even had flip-flops on, whereas it's back to snow boots today. Yesterday I saw the first chipmunk emerge from his den. He was running all over the yard, collecting seeds and such. I don't know if he came out of hibernation because the weather had been so warm, or if he knew more snow was on the way and now was his chance to collect some food. I'm not sure if he's back in his den or what, but the squirrels aren't too happy with the snow covering their seeds.

I had to go to my OB/GYN today and then over to the surgery center for a pre-op visit. I've been poked, prodded, monitored, and asked to undress more times than I care to think about. I'm having surgery next Wednesday, so I had to get all the details done for that today. It's nothing major, just female crud, but I still have to go under general anesthesia and such. Not something I'm really looking forward to. So, I'm all messed up with my schedule, so I guess I better try and see if I can get the boys caught up.

Don't forget about my book giveaway in the post below and thanks to those who have entered already. Please tell your friends as well.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Lemur Troops Giveaway!


Since I have a few extra copies of Lemur Troops & Critter Groups, I've decided to have a giveaway. I've been meaning to do a blog tour, but at least I can do this for the time being. For those who don't know, Lemur Troops & Critter Groups is my second picture book published by 4RV Publishing. It's a collection of 21 rhymes that teach kids about animal congregations, or group names. It's illustrated by the talented Nikki Shoemaker, and it's the first in a three book series. If you would like to win an autographed copy, there are several ways to enter ...

1. Feature Lemur Troops & Critter Groups on your blog. All you have to do is include the cover picture and a few details. Check here to read more. It's available through my website, 4RV Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble online. Just remember to send me an email or leave a comment here that you've included it on your blog.

2. Post a review on Amazon for either Lemur Troops & Critter Groups or A New Job for Dilly. Obviously, this is for people who've read one or another. And again, let me know you've left a review so I can include you.

3. For those who don't have blogs and/or haven't read either book to leave a review, there is another way to enter. Simply leave a comment on this blog post and let me know which of these animals is your favorite and why. All of these animals are featured in the book, by the way ...

Lemurs -- Bears -- Cats -- Bees
Foxes -- Whales -- Lions -- Cattle
Swans -- Turtles -- Mice -- Giraffes
Parrots -- Seals -- Gorillas -- Rabbits -- Otters
Snails -- Geese -- Armadillos -- Sheep

So, there you have it -- three ways to enter! If you already have the book, you can still win a copy to give to a friend, give to your child's school, or even to offer as a giveaway for your own blog. The contest will run for a week and I'll post a winner next Monday, March 15th. Thanks and good luck!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sore neck & funky hair ...


I'm having pillow problems again -- grrr! As you might recall, I complained about pillows a little over a year ago here. Yesterday morning I woke up and could barely move my head. My neck and shoulders were so sore. I had been using down alternative ones and those were working pretty good for awhile. However, they seem to lose their shape pretty quick. So rather than listen to me complain, Rick let me use his pillow, which I'm sure was one of my old rejects. You should see my room right now. Between our sleeping pillows and the extra ones I keep on the bed, there are ELEVEN pillows in this room! It's stupid. I lasted one night with the one Rick gave me. Yesterday it was bad enough to go up to town to look for a new one.

I've tried just about everything -- down, down alternative, fiberfill, memory foam, even some made from buckwheat. The only thing I haven't tried is the rubber/latex ones that Bish recommended in my first pillow blog. That might be my next option. Anyway, I came home with a contour pillow, much like this one in the picture. It is a memory foam one, which I was skeptical of because I don't like the other foam one I have. It's way too hard and heavy. This contour one is much smaller and lighter, so I decided to give it a try. I slept pretty good on it, but my neck is still sore. I'm thinking that might be because of the night before, and not so much because of the new pillow. The contour one feels like it's what I need, which the curved part going right under my neck. So, I'm going to give it a few more tries and see how it works.

I also did something really SCARY yesterday. I bought one of those hair color removing kits and decided to give it a try. This was a big deal for me because I have reddish-brown hair, but over the years I've been coloring it a very dark brown. After damaging it so much, the ends were starting to look black. So, putting a peroxide mixture on very dark hair was a little unnerving for me. I was trying not to freak out, even when I saw the instructions would say my hair would be red-orange because hair coloring strips the hair of its natural pigments. The directions said you would have to re-color right away, so I was nervous about that too. Since my hair had gotten so dark, I had to leave the mixture on a whole hour. The freaky thing was -- it worked! However, my hair was not only red-orange in places, almost copper, but blond in a few other places. So, then I re-colored it with a shade closer to my original. As you can see in the picture below, the ends are still kind of dark. Sorry for the scary looking picture, but the whole thing freaked me out bigtime! I'm debating to do the remover again to even it out more the next time I color. Even with the darker ends, most of the black is gone. Now it's red and dark brown -- ha! So, with a little more work, I might be able to get it back to how it used to be. Maybe ... wish me luck.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Rough-legged or not?


I took this picture last week as we were driving to the National Bison Range. I'm pretty sure this is a rough-legged hawk. Rick insists it's not, but I have Nathan on my side, which is a very good thing because he's a little bird nerd. Awhile back I posted another picture of a rough-legged hawk. Click here to see it. That was one the dark morph version. If this bird here is a rough-legged, I'm guessing this must be one of the light morphs and maybe even a juvenile. I could be wrong, however, and it could be another bird all together. Just don't tell Rick that ...

Friday, March 5, 2010

Pirates of the Modern Day


When most people hear the word pirates I'm sure images like this cartoon come up -- peg legs, eye patches, maps, buried treasure, etc. If not that, then images of Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom or something along those lines. Hollywood has taken pirates to a level all its own. Most of what we see on the big screen or television isn't real when it comes to pirates. And often times, what we see is so outdated -- sloops, cutlasses, flintlocks, cannons, etc. If you watch or read the news, you'll see that pirates are still very real. They've traded their flintlocks for assault rifles and their sloops and compasses for high speed boats with GPS machines.

Did you know there are currently 130 sailors being held by pirates in Somalia right now? The Chandlers, from the UK, are still being held hostage. They were taken from their yacht last October as they were heading to Tanzania. The pirates asked for $7M in ransom, but the British government refuses to pay it. They hope, by not paying, that pirates will stop kidnapping if they no longer receive ransom money. I can't even imagine what they are going through being held captive for so long, as well as the other 128 people.

In the year 2009 along, there were over 217 pirate attacks. That was up 111 attacks from 2008. To me, this just seems unimaginable in this day and age. How can this still be happening? We can put men on the moon, but we can't control what goes on in the high seas. Or can we? Do you think government can or should do more? Should they pay the ransoms? Should they just go in with all guns a blazing? Should more countries take a zero tolerance stand on pirates? Or, do you think it will always be like this?

Hollywood has really distorted people's opinions on pirates. I think everyone should watch The Caribbean Pirates by the History Channel to see what it was really like. They might think differently about modern day pirates too. As much as I love the old pirate movies, including Treasure Island and Pirates of the Caribbean, I still feel a little sad that the subject has been glamorized so much and made these criminals out to be heroes. What will it be like in another hundred years? Will they make movies about LA street gangs and glamorizing them? Well, make more movies, since there are already enough of those crappy films. It's just one of those things that makes you wonder sometimes, you know?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory


I'm reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to the boys in school right now. We're enjoying it a lot, however, the boys think they need to eat chocolate whenever I read a few chapters. When we're done with the book, we're going to watch the movie. I'm not sure if we'll watch the 1971 version with Gene Wilder or the 2005 version with Johnny Depp. Maybe we'll watch both. I have only seen the older version, having grown up in the 70s, but the boys have watched the newer one too.

Books always vary from movies, and from what I've read, there are many discrepancies in both versions of the films. However, it is interesting to read that the 1971 version had a budget of $3M, but only brought in $4M and was considered a box-office flop. The 2005 version had a budget of $150M and grossed $470M in return. That doesn't surprise me, since there are obviously more people seeing movies now, things cost way more, and plus Johnny draws a huge crowd all by himself.

What a book! It features everything a good book should have -- adventure, unforgettable characters, discovery, suspense, danger, humor, and of course, candy. Imagine writing a book so good that not only is it made into a movie, but they make TWO of them. It's definitely a classic in children's lit.

Which is your favorite -- the book, the 1971 film, or the 2005 film?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

How Do Bears Sleep?


It's hard for me to leave a visitor center empty-handed. Okay, it's near impossible when books are involved, which is usually the case at most nature or national park visitor centers. We went to the National Bison Range on Monday and they have some books in their visitor center. I can almost always find something useful for school in these places. However, this time it was a picture book that caught my eye.

How Do Bears Sleep? is written and illustrated by E.J. Bird and was published in 1990 by Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing. It's written in rhyme and gives suggestions of what a bear might be doing in his den in the winter. Does he twist? Does he turn? Does he dream? It has a second grade reading level and is geared towards the 5-10 age group. What hooked me into buying this book were the illustrations. If you click on the link above, it takes you to Amazon where you can see some of the artwork, which is a little different than the cover. This is a great read-aloud book, not only because of the clever rhymes, but because it gives children so much to imagine. Does he curl up in a ball? Does he scratch his behind?

As I said, I found my copy at the visitor center of the National Bison Range. It was only $6.95, which is a huge plus for me. I love picture books, but sometimes I have a hard time dishing out $20+ for them, so this was a real bargain. If you can't find it at your local bookseller or library, it's available through Amazon on the link above. It's definitely worth checking out!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Pronghorn


Here is the picture I took yesterday of the pronghorn. I'm not sure how old this one is, but it has to be pretty young. There were 2 walking together who appeared to be the same age. Pronghorn teens, maybe? Both males and females have horns, but the females' horns are usually less noticeable. These pronghorns look like they were youngsters, especially with the soft looking fur. They are cute things, that's for sure.

We see pronghorn a lot when we go to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. They are also all over Montana and we've seen them in Glacier from time to time too. They can run over 60 miles per hour and are the fastest animal in North America. They're also the second fastest land animal behind the cheetah. Pronghorns can actually run longer than cheetahs at high speeds. This particular one wasn't in any hurry though. In fact, he stood in the road for awhile (with his sibling), making a car wait a few minutes before it could pass. Maybe no one has taught him that he's the fastest land animal in America. He wasn't in any hurry, not with all the sunshine to enjoy!

Monday, March 1, 2010

National Bison Range


We took a spur-of-the-moment field trip to the National Bison Range today, which is about an hour away from us. Got some cool pictures, including these white-tailed deer with the Mission Mountain range in the background. In addition to the deer, we also saw bison, pronghorn antelope, bald eagles, rough-legged hawks, even some turtles. I think I got a pretty good picture of some pronghorn, but it's on Rick's camera. He and Nichelle both got some really good ones of the turtles in the pond. We only saw the bison from really far away this time. The upper part of the loop road is still closed because of ice. I hope we can get back in May when the entire road is open. We walked through the nature trails by the river and saw lots more birds. I also found a really cool picture book about bears in the visitor center, so I'll blog about that soon. Rick always has 3-day weekends, so it's nice to get out and do something on Mondays. We hadn't been on an official field trip in awhile, so it was about time we did.