Traveling the States with Gage – Michigan

Gage goes to school Monday-Thursday and mornings are a time he usually is willing and wanting to learn a little, so I decided to start doing a little state work each three-day weekend.

Michigan: The Great Lakes StateExploring the States:Michigan, the Great Lakes State. We started by reading through the book and then I chose some  5-10 minute activities over the three days.  My goal is really just two activities  for each of the three days and then two books, this one and one more picture book.

Here’s what we did

mi(he really didn’t want to get his picture taken)

1.  Traced the state map, marked the capital and the cities where his grandma and grandpa live.  Write Michigan.

2. Colored the state map, state bird (robin) and state flower (apple blossom).

3. robin1Our friend Carley paints the bottom of his foot.robin2Perfectrobin3Add some paint and and and eye and you’ve got a robin!  (inspired by this pin)

4. Since we’ve been to Michigan many times to visit Jason’s family we started our very own Michigan photo album and listed the five Michigan cities has visited so far. We’ll have to get him to Lansing, where Jason and I were living when we got married.IMG_2708[1]IMG_2710[1]


5. We spent some time looking at pictures of our trip to the Woolsey Memorial Airport, named after Gage’s great-greeat grandfather, Clinton Woolsey.  I came across this recent blog post about the airport and Clinton. It’s an interesting read and it does not surprise me that my two guys have that risk-taking blood running through their veins.  If you want to read it you can here.  My profile picture is in front of the cabin that Clinton or his father Byron (can’t remember) built in Northport.

5. No books on Clinton Woolsey, but since he did have Charles Lindbergh in one of his flight classes and according to Time magazine he was at Clinton’s funeral, we read this book and were able to really see the airplanes and pilots of the 1920’s.  Gage liked the photographs.

Charles LindberghCharles Lindbergh by Lucille Davis.


Keep sending me ideas for your state – especially book ideas!

Our Ohio activities. Pennsylvania activities.  West Virginia activites.

The Magician’s Lie by Greer MacAllister

The Magician's LieThe Magician’s Lie. Finished 3-25-15, rating 3.25/5, fiction, 320 pages, pub. 2o15

The Amazing Arden is the most famous female illusionist of her day, renowned for her notorious trick of sawing a man in half on stage. One night in Waterloo, Iowa, with young policeman Virgil Holt watching from the audience, she swaps her trademark saw for a fire ax. Is it a new version of the illusion, or an all-too-real murder? When Arden’s husband is found lifeless beneath the stage later that night, the answer seems clear.

But when Virgil happens upon the fleeing magician and takes her into custody, she has a very different story to tell. Even handcuffed and alone, Arden is far from powerless—and what she reveals is as unbelievable as it is spellbinding. Over the course of one eerie night, Virgil must decide whether to turn Arden in or set her free… and it will take all he has to see through the smoke and mirrors.

from Goodreads

I received this from the publisher courtesy of She Reads.

Ada Bates, grew up in a rural midwestern town on the generosity of family.  Her mother chose a man for love and because of this Ada grew up intimated by boy and out of touch with any other family.  When given a way out, through newly built Biltmore Manor, tragedy strikes. How does Ada go from here to Amazing Arden success?  Virgil must wait an entire talk-filled night to find out.

I loved the time in Biltmore Mansion, and the appearance of man of manor, George Vanderbilt.  I loved Ada’s struggle. She discovered New York City at the turn of the century which is very cool.  She earned her fame by embracing her femininity and beating the crap out of a disgruntled man, also very cool.  There is a lot to like.

My husband loves magic.  He loves watching and reading about magicians and behind the scenes scoop.  I don’t share this interest and so, for me, this book didn’t hold my interest as much as I think it might his.  The detailed description of the acts will probably interest a lot of people, my husband included, but for me it felt like I skimmed most of that.  Even aside from the magic, Ada/Arden, while having a great story to tell, didn’t really have me rooting too much for her.  The story she weaved was good, but in her interaction with Virgil she was calculating and remote.  I wanted to know how her story ended, but I guess I just didn’t care if it was true or not.

A solid read sure to entice magic lovers.

Missing States Quiz – guessing closed

To go along with Gage’s US state studies, please fill in these book titles using the name of a state.

No Googling or looking at other commenter answers.  Yes, we’re going by the honor system 🙂  Play every week or just one time, you are always welcome 🙂  It only takes once to be eligible for a prize.

Leave your guesses as a comment. Good luck!!

1. The Hotel New Hampshire

2. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

3. Washington Square

4. A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

5. Gods in Alabama

6. Looking for Alaska

7. The Colorado Kid

8. The Kingdom of Ohio

9. One Morning in Maine

10. Bleeding Kansas


Last’s week’s Irish quiz here.

Mothering a special kid can be lonely and then sometimes it isn’t.

My dreams for the baby growing in my belly were the same as any other woman who has had the opportunity to create life.  I wanted happiness, success (in whatever form), friends, health, love.  Having an autistic child in our family did add a touch of worry.  I saw from a state away the toll it took on my cousin and her family and I wanted no part of it.  Fast forward a bit to a colicky baby who ends up in the ER on a ventilator before he’s four months old and then to an 18 month old who would bang his head on our tile floor repeatedly and so hard that I would call the doctor in fear.  Diagnosed with PDD-NOS (no longer an official DSM diagnosis but just means he tested on the mild side of the autism spectrum) at 2 years old, I was thrown from an already stressful place to one with more unknowns and burden than I’d ever known.  I cried every day, I read books and blogs, and saw doctors with a boy who could not sit still for even 10 seconds.  I was lost.

Jason and I had Gage late.  I turned 39 a week before he joined us and none of our friends had kids.  Okay, not true, we had two friends with kids and one had just moved back to France and the other we didn’t see more than every few months.  I had friends stop by in the first year, and Gage’s constant need for attention (not unlike many one year olds) limited my real-time with them. As I took Gage out to more public places we made some mom and baby friends and that was nice.  But Gage did need constant supervision and redirection.  I liken this more to an ADHD thing than to autism (not formally diagnosed, but that’s just a formality).

Fast forward two years and here I am still blogging even though I do not have time for it.  My day consists of getting him to school and two therapies, even on weekends.  I also need to find the right therapies (if any), therapists and schools and a way I can schedule them all.  After two years of the traditional therapies (ABA, OT, Speech, Social Groups, Swimming) I have dipped into the biomedical field more which means more extensive research than I ever thought this girl who hates science would ever see again.  Here I am at 1 am just finishing a 4o minute online conversation about the new supplement his DAN Doctor wants him to try.  I turned to a group of fantastic women who have tried everything and are willing to share their successes and failures.  Over 9,000 women in a closed group fighting for their kids.  I am still learning and reading and stressing and worrying.  For the first time we’ve found a probiotic that Gage can tolerate and the past few weeks he has been a happier, chattier guy.  That’s what makes it worth it.

I’ve had to go doctor searching in a way that parents with typical kids never will.  I have had to withstand questions on parenting choices and try not to alienate anyone who can help Gage.  I’ve been/am consumed.  It’s no surprise that a study showed that 80% of couples with special needs kids divorce.  To be honest, I consider date nights, even if it is just dinner and/or a movie, as therapy for Gage even though he’s home with the grandparents. He needs Jason and I to be united and loving and that is just as important to his  well-being as playing with his friends in social group.  But I am also the one who has to schedule and plan for these date nights/therapies.  I pay the bills (mostly on time), I clean (as little as possible, but still), I cook and do the grocery shopping for a dairy-free, gluten-free, mostly soy and GMO free kid. I basically keep this place running when Jason is at work earning the money for all of these doctors and therapies.  And all of this is on top of dealing with whatever crazy thing autism brings into our life that day, sometimes smiles, occasionally aggressive tantrums.

I’m not friendless, but I have little time for the friends I have.  And the ones that I had before, while still loved and appreciated, are so far removed from what’s going on.  My real life tribe consists of the moms I meet who are doing the same things with their kids as I am.  We get each other.  We get the daily struggles and stress, but we also understand that our time is not our own so often we sit with each other during therapy and send the occasional text or email until we see each other the next week.  I love these moms but they are just as depleted as I am.

All of this to illustrate why the book blogging community can still bring me to tears.  I know my mind, that now runs in 100 different directions at once, isn’t fully available to blog.  I keep doing it because it’s something I can do on my own time (ie the middle of the night) and I genuinely love the women that I have met over the past seven years.  The quality isn’t the same but the affection and friendship I feel for all of you who take the time to comment or email is so much more.  Last week, in the span of two days, I received THREE packages for Gage.  A Lola book from Kathy, two Texas books from Kay, and four atlas books and a gazillion stickers from Jill.  The support from you warms this mama’s heart and brings a happy tear to her eye.  Thank you for letting me share Gage with you and make up silly quizzes and write a little about the books that I still manage to read.  You are all a part of my tribe too and I appreciate each and every one of you who takes the time to stop by and say hi.  Thanks for bringing bookish friendship into my busy world 🙂


As You Wish:Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess BrideAs You Wish. Finished audio 3-12-15, rating 3.5/5, memoir, pub. 2014

Unabridged audio read by Cary Elwes, Christopher Guest, Carol Kane, Norman Lear, Rob Reiner, Chris Sarandon, Andy Scheinman, Wallace Shawn, Robin Wright.

From actor Cary Elwes, who played the iconic role of Westley in The Princess Bride, comes a first-person account and behind-the-scenes look at the making of the cult classic film filled with never-before-told stories and interviews with costars Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, and Mandy Patinkin, as well as author and screenwriter William Goldman, producer Norman Lear, and director Rob Reiner.

The Princess Bride has been a family favorite for close to three decades. Ranked by the American Film Institute as one of the top 100 Greatest Love Stories and by the Writers Guild of America as one of the top 100 screenplays of all time, The Princess Bride will continue to resonate with audiences for years to come.

Cary Elwes was inspired to share his memories and give fans an unprecedented look into the creation of the film while participating in the twenty-fifth anniversary cast reunion. In As You Wish he has created an enchanting experience; in addition to interviews with his fellow cast mates, there are plenty of set secrets and backstage stories.

With a foreword by Rob Reiner, As You Wish is a must-have for all fans of this beloved film.

from Goodreads

My husband loves The Princess Bride (most people do) and he regaled me with stories from the book since he listened to it first.  I think because of the fact that he loved it so much, my expectations were just a bit too high.  There are excellent stories here, but I also found much of the storytelling repetitive.

The listening experience was great.  Cary’s charm came though loud and clear and it felt like I was listening to him sitting around reminiscing about his first summer at camp with kids who became like family (well, except that one of the campers drank beer and wine and liquor pretty much constantly).  It was nice and there was not a bad word to be found. It was refreshing.  Actors and others associated with the movie also came in to read their contributions to the book.  Seriously, Rob Reiner seemed liked the only person that was capable of pulling this off. I have newfound respect for him.

As for the movie making stories, any fan of the movie or even of the movie-making business, is going to love them.  I was cleaning out a cabinet after Jason had gone ga-ga over the book and he was thrilled that I pulled out an actual VHS tape of  The Princess Bride, which is funny because it’s these VHS tapes that Elwes credits with success of the film.  Needless to say Jason found our long-forgotten VHS player and watched it 😉  I admit that I’m tempted to do the same.

This is a fun listen for fans.

Kiss Me, I’m Irish Quiz – guessing closed

How well do you know these Irish cuties?  I’m giving a list of ages and I want to see if you can match the actor to the correct age.   If you throw in the actor’s name I’ll gie you extra points.  I know it’s going to be tempting to cheat, resist!

No Googling or looking at otaher commenter answers.  Yes, we’re going by the honor system 🙂  Play every week or just one time, you are always welcome 🙂  It only takes once to be eligible for a prize.

Leave your guesses as a comment. Good luck!!

Ages- 31, 32, 35, 37, 38, 42, 54, 59, 61, 62, 64, 67, 74

1.64, Gabriel Byrne

2.35, Chris O’Dowd

3.38, Colin Farrell

4.61, Pierce Brosnan

5. 32, Jamie Dorman

6.59, Brendan Gleeson

7.62, Liam Neeson

8.31, Aidan Turner

9.54, Kenneth Branagh

10.37, Jonathan Rhys Meyers

11.42, James O’Mara

12.74, Michael Gambon

13.67, Sam Neill

Traveling the States with Gage – West Virginia

Gage goes to school Monday-Thursday and mornings are a time he usually is willing and wanting to learn a little, so I decided to start doing a little state work each three-day weekend.

West Virginia: The Mountain StateExploring the States:West Virginia, the Mountain State. We start by reading through the book and then I chose some  5-10 minute activities over the three days.  My goal is really just two activities  for each of the three days and then two books, this one and one more picture book.

I was fighting off a cold last weekend so I was a little uninspired, but here’s what we did.

1. Traced the state map, marked the capital, and wrote West Virginia.

2. Colored and painted the very intricate state map.wv


3. Colored a picture of the state animal, the black bear.wv2

4. Did you know that West Virginia is the only place you can find Cheat Salamanders?  We watched this video on Canaan National Park and spotted the salamander and the train. 

We read three great books.

5. John Denver's Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver & Kids Book Series)Take Me Home, Country Roads.  Adapted and Illustrated by Christopher Canyon.  The cd with the song by John Denver was included.  Loved being about to read the book and listen the music together.  Excellent representation of the state.

6. Looking Like MeWalter Dean Myers was born in West Virginia so we read Looking Like Me, written by him and illustrated by his son, Christopher.  This book was excellent in content and busy with illustration.  A great story that is sure to boost self-esteem.  It’s all about embracing all of the different things that you are, in his case: brother, son, writer, city child, artist, dancer, talker, runner, dreamer. It then encourages you to look in a mirror and find all the things that you are.  A great opportunity for me to help Gage realize who he is in all of his glory.  Definitely one I’ll be buying.

7. We Are America: A Tribute from the HeartWe Are America also by Walter Dean Myers and Christopher Myers was a more traditional book that showcased some of America’s historical periods. This was a bit of a stretch for Gage because the pictures didn’t much interest him and the poetry was beyond his understanding, but amazingly he sat through half of it at the first reading and even asked a few questions.  I think it would be a great book for him in a few years.

Keep sending me ideas for your state – especially book ideas!

Our Ohio activities. Pennsylvania activities.



An afternoon with D.M. Pulley, winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award

IMG_2606[1]I’ve always tried to attend author signings in the area but timing is a struggle.  I decided to make more of an effort because I always enjoy them and I like to support the local book scene (yes, Cleveland has a book scene ;)).  The Cuyahoga Public Library system is so good at bringing authors in to the libraries and last week I visited a branch 15 minutes away because I needed the time to myself (I could make up a better reason but honesty is okay here, right?) AND the local mystery-thriller looked just up my alley.

I haven’t read The Dead Key BUT D.M. Pulley (pen name) was so delightful at her first author talk that I am really looking forward to starting the book.  I’m not sure how many people were there.  When I sat down there were maybe 35 but who knows how many filtered in after that.  She was so outgoing, well-spoken, and prepared that the audience was charmed.  I heard more that one attendee say that it way the best author talk they had attended.  Hm, a few highlights?

*She beat out 10,000 other writers for the top Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.  The book took 8 months to write and almost 4 years to edit.  She was at her uncle’s funeral when she found out she had won, surrounded by family.

dm pulley*She graduated from Case Western Reserve University and went to work as an engineer, but she didn’t fit in with the culture at  work.  Her slides were fun 🙂

*She then went into forensic engineering, historical preservation. She showed some photos of her hanging from the highest buildings in Cleveland and I was impressed and frightened.  My fear of high open spaces made me antsy just seeing them on-screen.  She’s a gutsy woman with a very cool job.

*The book is based on her experience at an abandoned bank in downtown Cleveland.  When she got to see the basement vault in 2001 there were safety deposit boxes, both hanging open and locked shut, and this was the spark that led her to write the book after having her second child.

*After she won the Amazon contest she was contacted by a local photographer who had taked pictures of the vault before renovation.  One of those pictures was used for the cover and another is the one that Pulley said looked like what had been living in her mind all those years. A story waiting to be 3

*You can see pictures and more about the idea for the book here and see a short interview with her on the local news here.

IMG_2614[1]I am really looking forward to reading the book and would highly recommend seeing her in person if you can. She’s smart woman who appreciates the opportunity she’s been given.  Her local appearances are here but here’s the NPR link if you can’t make it to one.

So, has anyone read it yet?

Pi(e) Day Quiz – guessing closed

Saturday is Pi Day so I thought I’d see if you could guess these Pi(e) titles.  One doesn’t have pi(e) in the title but does have a great looking pie on the cover!

No googling or looking at other commenter answers.  Yes, we’re going by the honor system 🙂  Play every week or just one time, you are always welcome 🙂  It only takes once to be eligible for a prize.

Leave your guesses as a comment 🙂



1. The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie – Bradley

2. Tibetan Peach Pie – Robbins

3. The Apple Tree – Hall

4. Sneaky Pie for President – Brown

5. The Actor and the Housewife – Hale

6. Peach Pies and Alibis – Adams

7. Life of Pi – Martel

8. Ugly Pie – Solomon

9. Blackberry Pir Murder – Fluke

10. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Shaffer and Barrows

First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

First FrostFirst Frost. Finished 3-3-15, rating 4.75/5, fiction, 291 pages, pub. 2015

Book 2 of The Waverley Sisters

It’s October in Bascom, North Carolina, and autumn will not go quietly. As temperatures drop and leaves begin to turn, the Waverley women are made restless by the whims of their mischievous apple tree… and all the magic that swirls around it. But this year, first frost has much more in store.

When a mysterious stranger shows up and challenges the very heart of their family, each of them must make choices they have never confronted before. And through it all, the Waverley sisters must search for a way to hold their family together through their troublesome season of change, waiting for that extraordinary event that is First Frost.

from Goodreads

It was Garden Spells, Allen’s debut book, where we first met the Waverley sisters, Claire and Sydney.  Garden Spells is also where I fell in love with Allen’s light, magical touch.  I didn’t want the book to end. It was so easy to read, an enchanting southern town full of enchanted people and I felt that same warmth this time around too.  As much as I really like Allen’s other books, and I’ve read them all, it’s the Waverley’s from Bascom, North Carolina that really make me happy.  I want a magic apple tree and a special gift, I guess.  Who doesn’t?

Ten years after Garden Spells the sisters and their Aunt Evanelle find themselves settled into relationships and trying to find their way, especially Claire.  Claire is questioning her gift and the way that she’s using it, so she is ripe for someone to come along and shake her faith.  And he does.

I love that Sydney’s daughter, Bay, is a major part of this story, coming into her own as one of the mysterious Waverley women.  She’s 15 and knows her gift, only it has only made her high school experience miserable.  I love how she is willing to be different at such a young age.

I really can’t recommend these books enough. You could easily start with this one, but if you read Garden Spells first you’ll get so much more out of it.  I’m not usually one that enjoys sequels of favorite books, but this one satisfied me and I am only hoping for more!