Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Booker T ...

All this week Neil has been learning about Booker T. Washington in his history lessons. He's only in third grade, so the stuff he's reading is pretty simple, despite Mr. Washington's extensive life story. Nevertheless, he gave us some fantastic quotes that are just as powerful today as when he first said them. Some of my favorites include ...

"Nothing ever comes to one, that is worth having, except as a result of hard work."

"One man cannot hold another man down in the ditch without remaining in the ditch with him."

"Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way."

"If you can't read, it's going to be hard to realize dreams."

"Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than in bad company."

"Character, not circumstances, makes the man."

"I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him."

Powerful stuff, even today -- thank you, Mr. Washington.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Author Interview

Last Saturday I was a featured author on the blog, The Gift. Chynna did a wonderful job with the interview and asked me some interesting questions that were a lot of fun to answer. I hope you will pop over there and take a look. Please leave a message if you like. Here's the link ...

Monday, March 28, 2011

My new cards ...

A few months ago I designed some business cards for my books on Zazzle. Not having the extra money, I just saved the file for later. When I found out Zazzle was offering 50% off on business card orders, I ordered a few sets. This picture shows the front and back of the cards. As you can see, it's pretty simple and obviously designed for the picture book crowd.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Belle -- a whole year later.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of having to put our cat to sleep. Belle would have celebrated her 18th birthday on Friday. I'm thankful for the 17 years we got to spend with her, but I miss her a lot. I miss her leaning on my legs all night long. I miss her sassy little meow that sounded like, "Yeah!" I miss seeing her tiny nose with the streak of orange running up it. I miss her snotty little attitude and how she snapped at me whenever I ticked her off. I miss how she would snuff at Rick and I'd tell him, "She hates you." She was an ornery little cuss, but I really miss her -- we all do. Back when we first lost her, Rick said something that stuck with me. He said something to the effect that she was in Kitty Heaven comparing notes with CJ. If that's true, I'm in big trouble! Ha!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Wind in the Willows

I'm going to start reading The Wind in the Willows to the boys today in school. The only version I have is the Great Illustrated Classics, which is an adapted version. I've heard there is quite a bit of the story taken out, but since it's all I have, that's what I'm starting with. The boys are familiar with Mr. Toad's Wild Ride at Disneyland, so maybe it will make a little more sense to them after reading this book. I was hoping they had the same ride at the Magic Kingdom, but I read they shut it down in 1998. It was replaced it with the Winnie The Pooh ride. That's a cute ride, but I like Mr. Toad's better. Oh well ... I guess we can't have it all.

Do you have a favorite character in The Wind in the Willows?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Pretty cool ...

I went to the dentist today. Initially, my appointment wasn't until April, but they had an opening and called yesterday to see if I wanted to come in sooner. I did because I wanted to get this tooth finished, but the bad part was that I had to be there at 8:50am. My dentist office is an hour drive away, so I had to get up earlier than usual. Well, I'm usually awake that early, but it's rare for me to be up and out the door. Fortunately, Nicole had an appointment at the same time, so that worked out to our advantage.

The good news is that my dentist was able to fix my tooth without having to remove my crown. You might remember me talking about getting a crown awhile back and then later on finding out I had to have a root canal done. When my dentist tried, it was too calcified and he wasn't able to do it, so I was sent to a specialist. I put that off for as long as I could, even with the temporary filling coming out a few times. I finally had the root canal done last month, but she noticed a bit of decay under the crown and said I needed to have my dentist fix that. That's what I get for going without that temporary filing for so long. Duh.

Anyway, I was told I might have to have the whole thing taken off and a new crown made, so wasn't too happy. Those things are so expensive and I'm at the end of my insurance because that stupid root canal used up so much. So anyway, I was really happy he was able to fix the tooth without having to remove or replace the crown. He didn't even numb me because of the root canal. This is the second visit I've had where he's worked on me without Novocaine. That's so weird to think about. {{{shudder}}}

On our way home we stopped at the Salvation Army to look for books. Nicole mentioned how she was on a quest to find Ramona and her Father. It's the only Ramona book we don't have. What's so flipping weird is that she actually found it! Of all the Ramona books there are, what's the chance of her finding the only one she wanted? I guess it was her lucky day. We also found two GI Joe's for the boys, so they were happy. I got six new Little Golden Books to add to my collection. I think they were a dime each -- can't beat that. I also found four simple, knit tops. Since losing weight, I really don't have many tops I can tuck in. I've been wearing long, baggy tops forever, so I was happy to find a few. One is a tank with a Mickey Mouse print, so that will be perfect for our upcoming trip to WDW.

Anyway, I thought this was all pretty cool. I am so happy I don't have to dish out a bunch of money I don't have for a new crown. That was great news. The books, GI Joe's, and tops were kind of cool, too. What's cool in your neck of the woods?

Friday, March 18, 2011

It's back ... sort of!

Do you remember Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper? It had a very short life here in the US and was only available for 5 short months in 2007-2008. I loved the stuff and couldn't get enough of it. One of my friends (Anita) even went to all the trouble to mail me some that she had after finding she didn't like it much. I was really bummed out when they discontinued it. They always do that whenever I like something. I hate that.

I have some Diet Cherry Dr. Pepper right now, so I decided to add some of my sugar-free Pasano chocolate syrup in it. Those are similar to Torani syrups, just like they put in fancy coffee drinks. I added a couple of teaspoons to my soda and it tastes EXACTLY like the old Diet Cherry Chocolate Dr. Pepper. Problem solved -- yay!

As I said yesterday -- it doesn't take much to make me happy.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The best 3 bucks I've spent -- at least in awhile. I found this thing while shopping recently. I have a Nalgene type wide-mouth water bottle that I got from Glacier National Park a couple of years back. It's really cool because not only is it blue, but it has a mountain goat on it. Two of my favorite things right there. But what I hated was how the water came splashing out whenever I tried to take a drink. They call it a wide-mouth bottle, but half the time it ends up going up your nose. So, I found this splash guard thing at REI and all is good now. They come in all sorts of colors and designs, but of course, I had to get the pirate one. Blue pirate mountain goats?

It doesn't take much to make me happy -- obviously.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I'm late, I'm late ...

I just made the mistake of looking at the calendar. WHOA -- big mistake. What the heck happened to March? It can't be half over already! Didn't it just start? Wasn't it just February? Weren't we just reading about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? I feel like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland -- I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!

I'm behind on everything. I have school yearbooks to finish. I have another yearbook I haven't even printed because once I start, it's going to cost a bundle in ink cartridges. I have photographs to organize. I've got craft supplies to find a place for. I have so many books to read that the stack literally falls over when I add a new one to the pile. I have a middle grade novel that needs to be revised more and submitted. And then there is the never-ending chores of the laundry, dishes, and everything else.

My biggest gripe is that I have 58 more days until our trip to Disneyworld. I really wanted to be at my goal weight by then. I have about 22 more pounds to go, which means if I'm going to reach my goal, I have to lose 11 this month and 11 next month. It's March 16th! So basically, here I am, freaking out. I don't know if I can do it. I'm at an okay weight now and even if I don't lose another pound, I'd be happy staying where I am. However, I really want to reach my goal weight. I really, really, really do.

In light of what's going on in Japan, all this is really petty. It just isn't that big of a deal. I mean, these things do matter to me because I think they're important. But compared to what those people are dealing with, this is nothing. I need to keep that in perspective. In the meantime, I'll keep looking for my magic wand. It has to be around here somewhere ...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Humbled ...

I have been seeing a lot of images like these today. Photographs of people clutching their pets after the massive earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on Friday. The pictures are heartbreaking and yet, comforting in a strange way. Pets bring people comfort. My heart aches for the loss of life in this tragedy, including the animals.

As I slid into bed last night, I was reminded of those who no longer have a home, more or less, a bed to slide into. Temperatures are dropping in Japan and so many are without power or places to stay. There I was, under my three blankets (one plugged into the wall), feeling guilty knowing there are people huddling together somewhere just hoping and praying for rescue. I can't even imagine how many are trapped under debris. Yesterday afternoon I went around the house forcing myself to drink more water to help with my weight-loss. The entire day I thought about people in Japan who haven't had a sip of water since Friday. And here I am dieting, trying not to eat more than I should, but many people in Japan have no food whatsoever. It really puts things into perspective, at least it does for me.

We are so blessed in America. I see these images and videos of what's going on in Japan and it's absolutely heartbreaking. Then I turn around and see people here complaining about their jobs, needing vacations, high gas prices, unions, even the weather not being to their liking. It makes me wonder sometimes. I know life goes on and there's only so much we can do, but it still makes me wonder. I know people aren't heartless. I know they care and that they're giving in ways they can to help. It's just weird to listen to people complain about petty things when an entire country has been hit so hard. I understand people here have heartaches and some are going through terrible times. I'm not trying to downplay anyone or what they're going through. For me, it's just extremely humbling. My so-called problems are nothing. Compared to people in Japan right now, I have no problems. I am truly fortunate.

I've seen a lot of disasters strike in my 46 years. When they do, I become a news junkie and can't seem to pull myself away from watching. Sometimes they've hit close to home. I remember evacuating from floods and fires before. I've been through more earthquakes than I can even remember. However, I have never seen anything like what Japan just experienced. No one has. No matter how strong we build our buildings and how on top of earthquakes we become, I don't think we'll ever be able to fully understand the power of water. We take water for granted. It's always there in the tap when we're thirsty. It's in the lake when we want to go out on the boat. It's in the hose to wash the car, give the dog a bath, or even run through the sprinkler to cool off. You simply don't expect to see a fighter jet floating through town or a ferry sitting on top of your home. Even more so, you don't expect to see entire cities and their inhabitants washed out to sea. These images will stay with us forever -- and they rightly should.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Peanut Butter Rhino

Nathan just read Peanut Butter Rhino to us in school. It's a very simple book with only sixteen pages. I am so glad my boys still love picture books. This one is geared towards kids ages 4-6 years, but I don't think anyone is too old for picture books. I know I'm not, especially when they make me laugh like this one.

Peanut Butter Rhino was written and illustrated by Vincent Andriani and published by Scholastic in 1994. The illustrations are bright and colorful -- not to mention funny! The main character is Rhino, who is looking forward to having lunch with his friend, Elephant. As he checks his lunch to make sure he has everything he needs, he unknowingly sits on his peanut butter sandwich. The next few pages are hilarious as he asks his jungle friends to help look for his sandwich. The monkey can't find it. The lion hasn't seen it. All the mouse finds is some old cheese. None of the jungle friends notice the peanut butter sandwich stuck to Rhino's behind, but we get to see it. Finally, he meets up with Elephant, who not only spots the squished sandwich, but informs Rhino that he's made an extra peanut butter sandwich just for him. I so love those happy endings!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Say goodnight, Discovery.

The boys and I took a break from our school work today to watch the final landing of the Discovery space shuttle. What a historic moment. I found myself feeling sad for this massive piece of machinery. It was an odd emotion for me -- it's a space shuttle, not a person. At the same time, I was happy to see it's going into a museum. Hopefully, many people will be able to visit and learn more about it as well as the missions it took. I'd love to see it someday.

Growing up in Southern California, the space shuttles were no stranger to me. I can't remember how many times I was awoken by sonic booms when the shuttle had to land at Edwards AFB instead of the Kennedy Space Center. Even though I lived several hours away, those booms were loud.

So, today the boys and I watched Discovery make its final landing. We also looked online at some pictures of the shuttle. My favorite is the one I posted here with the American flag in the foreground. The boys loved seeing a picture of Buzz Lightyear standing in front of Discovery after taking a voyage in 2008. They thought that was just the coolest thing ever. Buzz Lightyear on the space shuttle -- makes sense to me!

It must be absolutely amazing to be an astronaut. I guess the closest thing I'll ever get is Mission: SPACE at Epcot. Now to decide if I want to be on the Orange Team or the Green Team. There are motion sickness bags for the Orange Team. It's that intense. If you've been on it, which team did you do?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Author Interview

My good friend, Nancy asked me a few questions about writing, so I wanted to share them with you today. Nancy runs a home daycare business and reading to her kids has always been a big part of her daily routine. The image above is featured in my newest picture book, Stork Musters & Critter Clusters -- illustrated by Nikki Boetger and published by 4RV Publishing, LLC. That's a muster of storks eating with forks, by the way!

NANCY: Rena, what made you decide to write children's books?

ME: I was inspired to write my first children's story in 2003 after visiting Glacier National Park in northwestern Montana. My family was camping in the park and one activity we did was search for mountain goats on the rocky cliffs. A story idea popped into my head about a little mountain goat named Manny, so I wrote it down as soon as I got home. Manny the Mountain Goat is still unpublished and has been revised many times since I wrote it. I'm not sure if it will ever become a book, but I'd love for it to happen because it has special meaning to me being my first story. Mountain goats are beautiful animals and are extremely cute when they're babies. Kids love seeing them when they come to the park.

NANCY: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

ME: No, not really in the sense of being a writer/author, but I have been involved in writing for as long as I can remember. English was one of my favorite and best subjects in school. In my teens, I got involved in pen palling and that took up a huge chunk of my time. At one point, I wrote to over 100 pen pals. I got involved in pen pal newsletters and even started publishing three of my own. They weren't anything fancy, but they were fun to put together and share with people. One was for pet lovers, another was for coffee drinkers, and the last was one for Christians to find other Christian pen pals. So basically, writing has been a big part of my life, although the author stuff is still fairly new to me.

NANCY: What was the inspiration for your Critter Series, and how did you come up with the idea?

ME: In 2006, we decided to move our family from Southern California to Montana. We now live less than an hour away from Glacier National Park where my first story took place. Since our home is in a forested area, we see a lot of different kinds of wildlife near the house. Visitors include deer, moose, raccoons, squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, a variety of birds, and even bears. I've also heard coyotes and wolves at night, although I haven't seen them. There are even mountain lions that roam around on the hill behind my house. So, when it comes to inspiration, it wasn't hard for me to write something about animals. I thought it would be fun to list the different group names, or congregations, of animals. I came up with 63 of them, so my publisher separated them into three different books. There are many animals not listed, but that's because some were very hard to make rhyme. Not much rhymes with hippopotamus!

NANCY: Do you have more Critter books in the works?

ME: As of now, there are three books in the series. Lemur Troops & Critter Groups came out in December 2009. The second book, Stork Musters & Critter Clusters was just released last month. Both of these books were beautifully illustrated by Nikki Boetger. The third book in the series will be called Pony Strings & Critter Things, although I don't have a release date. Due to personal reasons, Nikki will not be illustrating the last book. I have yet to hear who will be doing the drawings for it. Those three are the only ones I have for now, although my boys are constantly coming up with new animal groups for me to write about.

Thanks for taking the time to ask about my writing, Nancy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dinosaur Cousins?

We doing Dinosaur Week for school right now. I tell you, why did they have to make such complicated names for these animals? I can get the "saurs" part, but the rest has me tripping over my tongue. Fortunately, Nathan knows how to say quite a few of them, so he's saved me a few times.

Today we read this book, Dinosaur Cousins? It was written and illustrated by Bernard Most and published by Sandpiper in 1990. I don't even remember where we got it. The girls might have bought it from their book club when they went to a private school, or maybe we picked it up at a yard sale or thrift store. I always find it funny how some of the books we have are listed for so much on Amazon. This particular one is listed for over $60 brand new. Regardless, it's a cute book.

Anyway, it's fun because it lists many different dinosaurs and pairs them up with modern day animals. I don't know how factual it is, but the author doesn't claim for it to be. He simply says certain dinosaurs remind him of certain animals. His illustrations are awesome and he does a good job explaining why he feels they're similar -- whether it be their bodies, what they like to eat, where they live, and so forth. It's a fun book, especially for kids who love dinosaurs.