Tuesday, April 29, 2014

"Caught Between Two Curses," by Margo Dill

Today I'm featuring fellow GAP author, Margo Dill, and her new YA book, Caught Between Two Curses.

Margo Dill’s newly published young adult paranormal romance novel, Caught Between Two Curses, is a fast-paced, easy read for teens.  It is especially appealing to those teens caught on the horns of a dilemma in their first experience with romantic love -- dealing with the issues of sex for the first time.   

This story has interesting characters, a double curse plot line, and emotional depth.  It has humor in the daily grind and even features the Great American Past-time:  Baseball!
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The main character, Julie Nigelson is right smack dab in the middle of a family curse, and in a race against time to remove it.  Her family’s curse is also somehow tied to the Chicago Cubs’ Billy Goat Curse: 

“Seventeen-year-old Julie Nigelson is cursed. So is her entire family. And it's not just any-old-regular curse, either-it's strangely connected to the famous "Curse of the Billy Goat" on the Chicago Cubs. Julie must figure out this mystery while her uncle lies in a coma and her entire love life is in ruins:  her boyfriend Gus is pressuring her to have sex, while her best friend Matt is growing more attractive to her all the time. Somehow, Julie must figure out how to save her uncle, her family's future, and her own love life-and time is running out!”

Tragically, this curse on Julie's family has already taken the lives of three members of her family and is threatening a fourth, Uncle Henri.  Plus, it will continue to affect her family until and unless Julie can figure out the clues from the riddle in an old letter  her grandmother gave her, and solve the puzzle in time to save her uncle – and her own future as well. 

Ms. Dill's story has it all:  intrigue in the form of a magical curse, complex family relationships, “true love” – plus all the high school senior year angst anyone could ever want.  The scenes at the high school are so realistic you wonder if Ms. Dill “snuck in” and eavesdropped to get it just right!  Please grab your copy – gift one to a friend -- and enjoy!

Caught Between Two Curses is published by Rocking Horse Publishing and available from quality online booksellers, like www.Amazon.com.

This is the second published book for Margo Dill.  I also reviewed her first book, Finding My Place:  One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg.  (My December 11, 2012 review is in my Blog Archives.)  It's a realistic historical novel set in Civil War time, about a young girl dealing with war time survival, loss, and family responsibilities.
 Product DetailsRead more about Margo Dill at www.margodill.com. Image of Margo L. Dill

Tags:  Margo Dill, Caught Between Two Curses, Baseball, Romance, Teens, High School, Senior Year, Chicago Cubs, Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, Civil War, history,

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday Madness - Parenting a Teen (My Young Adult)

Today's Monday Madness will be vignettes - a vocabulary word for one of my students.

Overreaching - Setting Goals that are Too High:
I'm not talking about college courses.  Here she and a friend decided to hike to to Mission Peak.  It's a thing with folks around here.  Climb to the top and have your picture taken with your hand on the peak marker.  Most people are cheering or doing a thumbs up or jumping because they're glad they made it.  

My teen and her friend went up there on a day with rain predicted.  Not only did it rain, but it blew and stormed and even hailed on them!  In spite of this weather, they trudged on to the top, when others coming down asked, "Enjoying the hail?"  Yes, the biting, stinging, freezing stuff that was whipping around their faces, getting in their ears and nose. A hailstorm.  Freezing hands and wet, freezing feet.  And yet still they pressed onward and upward toward their goal, slipping, sliding, covered in mud and in cold misery.  

What does this tell you?  No good judgment here.  No, "Hey, let's just come back another day." No shame in that.  Who even knew they were up there -- not me!  They could have slipped, fallen, broken bones, and who would have been looking there for them?  Did they even have cell phone reception up there?  So, am I proud of this achievement?  Not so much.  The picture at the top is not one of joy and accomplishment, but more of a drenched, muddy, drowned rat type photo.  Perseverance.  Dogged Determination.  Goal Achieved.  On to the next challenge.
Grades and College Courses:
If your teen says," Hey I want to drop this course - I'm not doing too well."  Go ahead and let her do it.  Don't say, as I did, "Oh, don't be a quitter.  Stick it out.  You can do it.  You love this subject, etc., etc."  I said those things and she failed the course.  So, now her GPA is down and she may not qualify for financial aid.  Sure, she can retake it in the fall, but the damage is done and there's no way to "fix" her GPA short of getting straight A's until then.  (And the Cal Grant application already went in, probably with the low grade.)

Lesson learned:  If they want to drop a course, let them.  Don't learn this the hard way as I have.  It's their choice, their decision to study or not.  If they realize they can't do it, and it's in the add/drop time period, then let it be dropped.  You don't learn much from failing a course in college.  Well, you learn that you should study more or not take such a hard course.  But learning about failing when it affects your financial aid isn't such a good lesson.  It affects more than the student - it affects the whole family, the whole budgeting process.  A hard lesson to learn.
Muddy Shoes:
Back to the Mission Peak experience (Peak experience, he he).  What happened to the muddy shoes?  They sat outside on the chair in the front yard until this morning when they were scrubbed in the kitchen sink.  Yes, dirty water spraying all over the sink and the dishes (and muddy plates and bowls loaded into the dishwasher.)  "Do you know we have a laundry sink where you can wash your shoes?"  But I usually wash the mud off mine outside, using tap water, not in the kitchen sink using filtered soft water.  Good judgment?  I think not.  When will this lesson be learned?  And the frustration and the lessons continue!
Tags:  Mission Peak, Hiking, muddy shoes, poor grades, dity sink, setting goals, perseverance, determination, failing courses, teens, young adults, judgement, making good decisions, making good choices, learning from experience, lessons learned.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Friday Firsts and Fancies - Artist and Author, David Shannon

Sorry, again I missed Wednesday Wow's and Friday First's blogs.  I was indisposed, as they say.  So, I am combining Wednesday with Friday on Saturday!  Today I'm featuring David Shannon, author and artist. 

Most parents have read at least one of Mr. Shannon's books, most famously "No David."  I subbed on Friday and read a book illustrated by David Shannon and written by Melinda Long, "How I became a Pirate."  As are his other books, it is brilliantly illustrated.  You are right there in the action when Jeremy sees a pirate ship while he's at the beach making sand castles.  Yes, he's digging in the sand and who are the pirates looking for, why a "digger" to help them bury their treasure! Jeremy goes with them and learns to be a pirate.  He figures it's okay as long as he makes it back by soccer practice.  

He learns all the fun things that pirates do, the songs, the pirate lingo, the "doing-whatever-I-want-to" life.  No one tells a pirate to brush their teeth (their teeth are a gross green), or go to bed or use good manners.  However, he also learns that no one tucks pirates into their beds, reads them bedtime stories, or kisses them goodnight.  When a huge storm comes up in the night, no one comforts pirates and tells them it's going to be okay.  He learns that maybe it's not all that wonderful being a pirate, all the time.  But he does get to help bury the treasure.  And he makes it back for soccer practice with his team, The Pirates!  

Product DetailsIt's a cute, colorful reminder that childhood is a time of imaginative adventure, but it's also a time when we want to keep our children safe and enjoying their childhood for as long as possible.  We want to give them enough freedom to dream, play, imagine all sorts of things, learn, and grow.  And we want to be there to pick them up when they fall, reassure them that everything will be all night as we tuck them in bed, read them a bedtime story, and kiss them goodnight.

David Shannon has illustrated a lot of books for other authors, but here are some that he's written and illustrated:
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Tags:  David Shannon, No David, Alice Fairy, Fergus Dog, Stripes, Baseball, Soccer, childhood, pirates, tuck in bed, bedtime story, goodnight kiss, sand castles at the beach, imagination, learning, having fun.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Madness - Parenting Teens - Fresh Angst

I apologize, Dear Reader, for missing Friday Firsts and Fancies (on Spring Break last week.)  I will "catch up" this week.

As for today's post, I promise you I didn't have a fight with my teen just so I'd have something to write about.  It's painful to realize that she doesn't need me or want to spend as much time with me as she spends with her friends.  I know if she's really sick, she'll come crawling home.  This I know from experience.  But if she's just tired and cross and not wanting to do anything but crash at a friend's place, then what can I do about that?  
Well, I can raise my voice -- yes, I yelled.  I can loudly proclaim my hurt and disappointment in the form of  "If you didn't want to have dinner on  Easter with me, then why did you say you'd be home for dinner?  I could have eaten earlier.  I could have gone shopping instead of waiting patiently for you to come home."  She says, "Sorry, but I'm not hungry now.  I'm tired.  I'm going to crash with my friend." 

So I did what other parents have told me they've done -- when pushed to the limit -- I pushed back.  "Then just get out.  Go on.  Leave."  And worse.  I was hurting and I didn't think about what I was saying.  I just fought back.  So then we both went to bed hurting and unhappy.

We made up today, by text no less.  And now it's all good.  We both had a good night's sleep.  We have more rest and more appreciation for the pain we caused each other.  We apologized.  Promised to try to do better.  Promised to try to communicate better -- without yelling.
This is truly what parenting a teen is all about.  The chance for a do over.  It's important for our kids to see that we make mistakes, too.  We try and we mess up and we apologize -- just like they do.  We're in this together.  No one is perfect.  We all make mistakes.  We hope we learn from them, but if we make a mistake again, it's not the end of the world.  We can forgive and try harder to not make that mistake again.  

How many times can we forgive and be forgiven?  The Bible says:

Matthew 18:21-22 (New American Standard Bible)


21 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” 22 Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.
Tags:  forgiveness, teens, yelling, fighting, anger, pain, hurt,  parents

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Wows - Marc Brown, Author of the "Arthur" Books and Seen on PBS TV

Last week when I was subbing, I came across an Arthur story by Marc Brown, Arthur's Computer Disaster:

Product Details"Arthur loves playing games on his mother's computer, but when he uses it without permission, chaos ensues. Arthur and his cohorts search desperately for a solution, and in the process learn a lesson about following rules and respecting others."

It's a common enough problem these days.  Kids want to play at whatever they're playing at and don't stop even when they're told to, they even sneak back when no one is looking.  In this case, Arthur was told not to play on the computer and he does anyway while his mother is out.  When it stops, he thinks he's broken the computer.  He and his friends try to fix it before his mother comes home.  Of course, there will be consequences.  

This is a good story for kids to realize that when they make a bad choice, there will be consequences.  They are responsible for their actions.  This is a lesson that kids need to learn again and again.  Everyone must be accountable for our decisions and actions.  Sometimes we can fix things, but if we can't then we must accept responsibility, try to make it right, and make up for our mistake or error.

This time when I read this Arthur story, I wasn't thinking what an important lesson this is or what a good story idea this is, or how nice to see the familiar characters in Arthur's world.  This time I was focusing on the artwork.  Marc Brown is foremost an artist.  Most parents know him as the creator of the Arthur book series which  resulted in a much watched PBS TV series for kids.  My child loved to watch Arthur on TV and as a teacher I've read Arthur books in school. 

 "Arthur, the little aardvark with a big agenda.  Arthur is in the business of trying to make children successful.  We are always on the lookout for issues that are important to children and families and present them through Books and Television in ways that are helpful, instructive and entertaining."

This time I really looked at the artwork.  What Marc Brown shows in this book is a normal messy or cluttered family home.  It's not neat and tidy.  There are pet and children's toys scattered all around.  There are books piled up.  The house looks lived in, not perfect.  Everyone can see themselves in this little family.  Both parents have jobs and the children have homework and chores.  They do things together as a family and with friends.  They have the same hopes, dreams, and problems we do.  It's a great series.

On his website Marc Brown wrote: 
"Although I'm better known for writing and illustrating all of the Arthur books, I think of myself more as an illustrator. Thirty-five years ago I began the wonderful Arthur adventure and now after writing and illustrating almost one hundred books about Arthur, I've decided to refocus my energies on illustration. For the last few years I've been experimenting with new techniques and having more fun than ever. There are so many new projects in the pipeline and I look forward to sharing them with you in the coming years." http://marcbrownstudios.com/work

We wish you much continued success with all of your future endeavors!

Tags:  Arthur Aardvark stories, Marc Brown, PBS TV, children's books.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Madness - Another Hodge Podge

Sometimes I get my blogging inspiration from where I've been and what's happening in my life.  Today I'm sharing a hodge podge of stuff -- normal highs and lows of life with a teen.

Thursday we got some devastating news.  The mother of one of my daughter's high school friends died of cancer.  We hadn't even known she was sick.  My girl had visited with her friend just a few months ago and nothing was said at that time.  How could this have happened?  How could she not know she was sick?  Or if she knew, how could she not tell her family?  Perhaps it was sudden, aggressive cancer.  Cancer doesn't always let us know it's there, does it?  We'll find out more after the funeral.  
This mother and grandmother was in her 50's.  I'm not sure of her exact age, but most parents of college age kids are just entering their 50's, unless they had their kids very young, then in their 40's.  She also had an older daughter, so I'm pretty sure she was in her 50's.  That is still too young.  And too young for her daughters and granddaughter to lose their mother and grandmother.  She was very "with it," very involved in her daughters' lives.  A smiling, gracious woman.  We were totally blown away by this news.  Now, instead of singing at the Maundy Thursday service, my daughter will be going to a funeral to support her friend.  How do you continue without your mother at that age?

We reevaluate.  I'm now even more committed to my health and daily exercise.  If at all possible, I'm going to improve the quality of my health and hopefully, extend my life.  I'm already older than most of my daughter's friends' parents.  Optimistically, I have a head start on longevity.  Realistically, I have less time left, so health, fitness, safe living, and joy in life are my watchwords.
Over the weekend, I believe we felt more intensely.  We observed life more closely.  We made more plans and enjoyed our time together more.  I even perused Facebook to see what my family was up to.  You never know how much time you have left, so make the most of each moment.  Of course, doing so sacrifices some sleep -- need to be careful there  -- sleep seems to extend your life and helps repair your body.

That gave us a lot to think about as my daughter launched into the second week of her new quarter.  This morning she got great news in Math, 80 out of 100, so a real B!  We rejoice in these small victories.  She can bring her GPA up, she can keep her good student/good driver insurance discount.  It is uplifting to both of us to see her successful.  When you deal with special needs kids, you are grateful for these moments and pray for more.

Yes, there's a bit of madness in daily living.  Nothing works right all the time.  You sit at a lot of red lights.  You swerve to miss a crazy driver.  You get "ticked" at losing a parking spot or losing a discount that you'd counted on getting.  Sadly, you lose friends and family.  But then there is a bright light shining on a lovely "B" grade, so very satisfying.  It makes the sky bluer, the grass greener, the flowers prettier, the roses sweeter -- "and I say to myself, what a wonderful world. . ."

Have a wonderful week!
Tags:  sadness, cancer, death, loss, teens, friends, mothers, grandmothers, math, good grades, victory, triumph, daily life, beauty in nature, love, hope, gratitude, thankfulness.


Friday, April 11, 2014

Wednesday Wow - missed - Friday First and Fancies - Denise Fleming

Sorry, I missed my Wednesday Wow posting.  So I'm doubling up today with my Friday First and Fancies post in place of Wed. Wow.

I subbed today and while rummaging in the class library, I rediscovered some old favorites to blog about. 

Product DetailsI picked up Denise Fleming's "In the Tall, Tall Grass."  It was delightful to read her book again -- about the creatures who live in the tall grass.

She wrote and illustrated many children's books and won the Caldecott Honor for "In the Small, Small Pond."

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Tags: Denise Fleming, Children's books, animals, grass, bugs,