Saturday, April 28, 2007

My Favorite Day

David and Cheri April 28, 1984
Twenty three years ago David received his MBA from BYU. I graduated from Utah State with my M.Ed. A week later we were married in the Logan Utah temple on a gorgeous day by my uncle Albert with many of our family and friends there to celebrate with us. A few days later we piled our belongings into our two cars and drove out to the Washington, D. C. area. It was the one city we both had on our list of places we'd like to live. And the rest is history. Happy anniversary to the most wonderful man I know!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Maryland School for the Blind

This morning was my fourth annual visit to Maryland School for the Blind. April 26 is Miss Nancy's day at the school, (which has always been the day I have gone.) Miss Nancy is the woman who first started the children's show Romper Room, the first educational show for T.V.

It was first shown in Baltimore in 1953, and was later syndicated and franchised locally around the country--until 1994. [I was a big fan when I was 4 or 5 and almost got to appear on the show in Salt Lake, but I was in school by the time my name was drawn, and my brother Vic went--apppearing on the show for a week.

After the show, Miss Nancy volunteered and read to children at the MD School for the Blind up until her death. Today was the 10th celebration of Miss Nancy's Day. Miss Nancy's daughter and son were there.
Her daughter was Mr. DoBee. We also had an appearance from the Oriole Bird and an Oriole pitcher. The Vice President at Verizon is blind. He came with his dog. Verizon donated Braille books. His daughter, who is currently Miss Annapolis Teen also came and talked to the students.

I also read a couple books and sang with my guitar. I bring rhythm instruments for the children and they sing and play along. (I have a few drums, tamborines and maracas. To stretch my supply, I also used children's blocks that can be hit together, and filled film canisters with rice or corn for young chidren to shake.)

Donna, the librarian, saw my books in a catalog a few years back, and realizing that I am a local author, asked me to come. It has become a bit of a tradition now. James also did his Eagle project for the school--having people read some of the school's books on tape so the children can follow along.

The children have varying degrees of sight. Some have large, thick glasses. Some have walking sticks. Some walk on the arm of a teacher or aid. (The ratios of adults to students seems to be about 2:1.) Several are in wheelchairs because they also have other disabilities. They are all polite and attentive--especially to music. And they get excellent care at the school. The children live at the school during the week and take a bus home on weekends. For that reason, it seems to be a closeknit group and the teachers are very caring.

I also enjoyed talking with teachers and other adults about their children or class in light of my books and which might be helpful. As we talked about the skills that they want a child to learn, I felt that I was in the right place and glad that I could help.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Last Edit

I'm feeling a bit nostalgic as I just approved the last edit on the last book of the children's series I've written. My editor, Margie, reminded me that we have worked together for six years to publish these 14 books. It's been a rare opportunity to work with talented people and to feel that I have contributed something of worth. I hope you won't mind me recounting some highlights here.

* I began writing in 2000. I spend about a year writing and illustrating 12 books. It took me about a year to sign a contract with Free Spirit Publishing. [I was also offered 2 other contracts.] It was a little over a year when the first 2 books were published in Spring of 2003. I continued at the pace of about 2 every 6 months. I planned the scenes with the text. The books were sent to reviewers for comments and then Margie and I worked out the editing together. Meredith, the illustrator, then sent sketches which I critiqued along with Margie and Marieka, the graphic designer. Meredith then completed the water colors as we edited the questions and activities I wrote for the back of the book. The manuscript files were then sent overseas and the published copies came back about three months later.

* Over a million copies of the books (collectively) have been sold to date. This includes special order editions of over 500,000 books sold to a group who gives them to clients.

*Some of the people who endorsed the series were Mary Jane Weiss,consultant from Rutgers University; Sid Connor; Glenn Sciraldi; Joel Beckstead; Jay Monson and Steven R. Covey. [I was in turn asked to do an endorsement for Sean Covey's newest book, 6 Most Important Decisions.]

*I've seen the books appear on various websites such as the following: churches, libraries, schools, universities, autism groups, special education and gifted child groups, parenting, abuse trauma, educational curricula, psychologists, homeschoolers, a blog in Saudi Arabia, and even the Girl Scouts. One book appears at the bookshop of the United Nations.

* A special edition of 4 books was printed by Scholastic last December for preschoolers and kindergartners around the country to order from school.

*The series was reviewed by teachers and was a finalist for Learning Magazine's Teacher Choice award.

*Some of the books have been published in Portuguese, Indonesian and Arabic.

*Australia approved the books for their school curriculum.

*The books were named by Booklist as one of the 5 top programs for character development. They were named by another magazine as one of the top 5 series teaching character education.

*Five books mention or reference my books. (Reaching Out, Joining In; The Hidden Gifts of the Introverted Child; Learn More Now; Safe and Caring Schools; Jeff Herman's Guide to Book Publishers)

*I presented the books to the top administrators of the 14 districts in NYC for preschoolers. They were well received and are being implemented in schools there.

*I was interviewed for an article published in Working Mothers Magazine, and for local newspapers.

* I have done readings at several Barnes and Nobles, Borders and elementary schools in the area.

*I have signed books at 3 National Conventions in DC and a regional convention in Atlantic City, NJ.

*I read for the children at the Maryland School for the Blind. They presented me with two of my books in Braille. Next week will be my 4th invitation there.

*I attended a dinner in Washington for authors and was in the company of many children's authors, including my favorite, Tomie de Paola.

*A software program is currently being developed with the books for schools. The software will contain all the books and read them to the child (or they can read and turn the pages themselves.) Children will then answer a few comprehension questions at the end of each book. I will be writing the questions.

*Our local elementary school bought a set and Andrea would check them out and enjoyed telling people that her mother wrote them.

*My favorite recommendation: "It would be wonderful if these and the other lovely books in the 'Learning to Get Along' series could be dropped from the air by the thousands over every city and town throughout the world." --Catholic Parent Magazine

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Trading Spaces

Picking up James from the airport--now he's gone back

Every few months people come and go around our house. This past Fall James went to BYUI and was there with newlyweds Kara and Luke. Erika was at Towson. During the Winter James came home for his break. When he came back, Erika transferred to BYUI and she was out there with Kara and Luke.

So Erika's bedroom has been vacant --and clean :)--since January. And now for Spring/Summer James has just gone back to Idaho. [He also traded places with his friend Brian Tate. By coincidence he actually moved into the same bedroom and bed that Brian had in winter and Brian came back home. So Erika knew James' roommates before he did.] James is also trading places with Kara. As he goes out there, she and Luke are driving back to Virginia this semester to live with his grandma while Luke does an internship. When they come visit us they will get James' bedroom (also clean now!)

It seems different whenever someoone is gone. I usually have to think a minute when I set the table or we get in the car to go to church to make sure I have the right number. And it's been nice to see the ones who are away take care of each other. Kara and Luke had Erika and James for dinner on Sundays, and Erika is helping James with things like rides to the store.

Things will change again in a few weeks. Erika is at Rexburg for 2 weeks and then will spend 4 weeks touring 6 cities in Europe with her group. She'll be back here working in May. This fall, for one semester only, we'll have Kara, Luke, Erika and James together at BYUI. After that Kara and Luke graduate and James will go soon on his mission.

Though the older children aren't always home, I still seem to have a full agenda making flight and shuttle plans, helping with things like registration, arranging housing, packing, and more than occasionally moving money from the bank to various worthy causes.

Daniel, Julia and Andrea, though all still at home, each have their own exciting changes to look forward to. I know Daniel is looking forward to taking the car keys by himself to seminary in a few weeks when he gets his license. Julia has started running with some friends and Andrea has started up gymnastics again. Each of these changes in our family mark new growth, and dynamics. It's something I wouldn't trade.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

An Eggcellent Easter

This year Easter was our smallest ever. Even though this is Kara's 4th year of college and Erika's 3rd, they have been at home at Easter on previous years. Last year we had everyone at Deep Creek. We missed them this time. Only Julia, Andrea and I colored eggs-- but we had fun trying a new variation this time-- gluing colored string to the eggs.

Friday night we thought of our friends who were brave enough to wait all night in the snow for tickets to the White House Egg Roll on Easter Monday. I apologized to my kids that I had always felt it too daunting to take all of them as children to that event. Andrea was hilarious as she pretended to be me: "I have to take my children all the way down to Washington, and then I have to BRING THEM HOME!"

Saturday the kids hunted for plastic eggs outside, braving the freezing weather. Our grass hasn't been cut yet this year and it's pretty high. It made the hunt more of a challenge.

Sunday after church I had a lot of help with Easter dinner. The circular braided bread with cinnamin icing was a new favorite along with a roast, potatoes, asparagus and baby carrots, deviled eggs and strawberry shortcake. We read the Easter account in Matthew and John and watched a couple Easter movies together. I love Easter as a time of renewal, hope and new beginnings.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Band Champs

Daniel and Julia just got back from their spring band trip to Orlando with a day each at Epcot Center, Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios. However, we are told, the reason for the trip was to compete with other bands from around the country. Daniel and Julia are both in Symphonic Band which amazingly took FIRST place in their division and Concert Choir which also placed FIRST. In addition, Daniel is in Madrigals which placed FIRST, Men's Chorus which placed FIRST, and Jazz Band which placed FIRST. (In addition concert band, women's chorus and orchestra also placed FIRST.) That is some music program! Go, Reservoir Gators!