Saturday, April 27, 2013


I haven't played with decorations much since I left Alaska—somehow we just don’t set the tables around home with starched napkins or artsy centerpieces. Still, I’ve been playing with some this week.

Can I just say that flowers are fun, especially when you get more of them than you expected?

Fortunately, I also found a type of candle that shouldn’t melt quite the same as some other candles have.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Science Study

Photo of the week: my students and I went on a nature walk this week, and found a killdeer guarding her eggs in the parking lot. She seemed much happier once we moved on!

Also worth noting, this marks my last week of tutoring for now.

By some odd quirk, I ended up with a class of 8th grade students last year. We debated science together, puzzled our brains with logic, and wrote short stories. The students did, at least.

This year, for a bit of a surprise, I ended up tutoring a class of 3rd-4th graders. I mentioned this at least once back in the fall. It's been a big commitment through the year, but it's not really come up as a topic.

Like last year, I was tutoring only one day each week. Nothing grand, nothing profound happened. We memorized a timeline from beginning to end. At least, my students did. I know that Christopher Columbus came after Prince Henry the Navigator, but something might have happened in between them.  I’m also not sure about the history sentences that occasionally float through my head these days. They’re set to music, which makes the forgetting a challenge at times. And, we dissected owl pellets.

Owl what?

Yes, pellets. When I opened the science kit, half my students (mostly the boys) greeted the project with: "Oh…wow!" The other half (all girls, though not all of the girls) replied with: "What?! Oh..."

Owl pellets, at first sight, are two-inch-long, gray, matted objects. Once we picked the outer layer off, we found that owl pellets are actually a mass of miniscule bones and bone fragments. And, by the time we found the second and third mouse skulls, even the most reluctant students were becoming absorbed in the project.

Stories and writing have layers too. There are layers of plot, of conflict, of character emotion, of detail and development I've been observing that more recentlyin between answering questions about rock formations.

Maybe I'll have to write about that concept soon. Even better yet, I'm hoping to apply it to my own short story one of these days. It might make a good summer project, now that class is out...

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sneak & Swipe: Book Review

It’s becoming a theme… I’m reading speculative fiction these days, especially end-of-the-world, multi-book epics. (Wait, doesn’t that include most fantasy/sci-fi/dystopian stories now?) I've also been reading more YA fiction, and while I'm still not a huge fan, I am developing some interest.

At any rate, in one of the latest series, Evan Angler has taken on the powers that be, recounting the desperate perils of Logan Langly, soon-to-be-loyal citizen of the new American Union. (That is, Logan is a soon-to-be-citizen until things go badly awry. Don’t bother reading, Angler says. You’ll only get dragged into trouble yourself.)

In Angler’s Swipe, the first book of the series, Logan is counting down the days until his Pledge. Like all his friends, he must go to the Pledge-Center on his thirteenth-birthday to be Marked.  The Mark on his wrist will allow him to travel, buy, communicate, visit the doctor—it will allow him to survive. The Mark will reflect his allegiance to the American Union.

Unfortunately, Logan’s older sister never returned after her Pledge. With everything happening around him, it seems as though Logan might just suffer the same fate.

While Swipe starts out a bit slow, by the beginning of Sneak, Logan and his friends have been trapped into a dark spiral of danger and confusion. His only hope seems to be inside the country’s capital, inside the most secure prison ever imagined. The only real challenge is getting there—and then finding it. No one even knows where it might be, or what exists inside the prison.  

When I picked up Swipe recently, the book felt like an interesting beginning, if a little disconnected. I wondered in a couple places when the action would start, but by the time I got through Sneak I had found plenty of action and was ready for more. A lot of books seem to follow a plot-line that reads powerful government/therefore revolution. Angler, in contrast, shows the development of a powerful government, producing to a counterculture, slowly fomenting into a revolution. I also really enjoy how Angler plays with the ideas of a “banned book,” an underground railway, and safe houses along the way.

The next book Storm doesn’t come out until May, but I will be curious to see then how the story continues then, in part just to see how Angler continues these ideas. Overall, though, I would recommend Sneak and Swipe as a good, Young-Adult dystopian story. (If that’s not an oxymoron.) Until then, if you dare, you might check out the first chapter of Swipe here, from Thomas Nelson

Friday, April 5, 2013


There are monsters everywhere. I found this one last night:

Maybe somebody let Farmer Giles' dragon out?