Monday, November 30, 2009

Christmas tree -- already?

We got our Christmas tree yesterday, probably the earliest we've ever gotten it. Clementine helped pick it.
She was most helpful with the decorating as well.

Speaking of trees and Christmas, I got a cute advent calendar in Seattle the other day.
I loved the advent calendar as a kid -- my mom has one sewn by my grandmother, with pockets for candy, and my brother and sister and I had to take turns getting the candy. So we'd count ahead to see which days would be ours, and swap the candy around so we'd get what we wanted. It inevitably became the War of the Candy. Ah, memories . . .

And, oh, also spotted in Seattle:
Cute. No cupcakes were accosted by us. We had leftover pie waiting in the car and ate it with plastic forks before driving home to Portland!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Around the World With Mouk by Marc Boutavant

I still need to post about the National Book Award events but all week long I haven't been able to get it together to put up a long post full o' photos that somehow does justice to it all. Now I'm typing one-handed with a precious Clementine on my lap, curved like a little comma around my body, so I think I'll just put up a quickie post to rave about a picture book I got yesterday in Seattle:
Around the World With Mouk, by Marc Boutavant, pub. Chronicle Books.

I LOVE this book, so much so that I bought three copies -- one for me Clementine and two for gifts. It's a big colorful book of fun by French illustrator Marc Boutavant, whose art I'd only seen previously on stickers. His style is of the hyper-busy scenes crammed with silly detail that will make kids (and Laini) want to spend many long minutes on each spread. Kind of like Richard Scarry, but way cooler. In the book this little bear named Mouk travels around the world and each spread is a different country, populated by the indigenous species and with dozens of tiny speech bubbles that are both funny and educational, teaching about language, culture, nature and food of places like Madagascar, Finland, China, etc . Here's a spread (India):
And if it's not already cool enough, there are stickers! A couple pages of awesome stickers to put where you want throughout the book. I must confess, I'm just itching to use them. It will be a remarkable feat of self-denial if I manage to save the stickers for when Clementine is bigger! Ha ha!

Love it. I got another book illustrated by Boutavant at the same store -- All Kinds of Families --
-- and I'll be on the lookout for more, like this one:

I'll be back soon with NBA stuff!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Clementine in the Big Apple

Clementine was an amazing little trooper in New York. When we first found out about the award and knew we'd be traveling, I was anxious, because going to New York with a three-month-old is a bit different than going to New York without one. Especially when there are bookstore and library readings and ceremonies and a black tie dinner involved! Luckily, my mom was game to come with us and help out. Whew! Thank you, mom!
We went several days ahead to be tourists and give the little one some time to settle into a routine, and it's a good thing we did. The first two nights she was on West Coast time, which did not bode well for mama and papa sleep time. Oy. Once she got adjusted, though, I think she liked coming straight to bed with us, with no bassinet interlude, and she slept just fine. Here she is, quite the little queen in the hotel bed:
(Speaking of hotels, we stayed at the Thirty Thirty, which is a few blocks from the Empire State Building and is a great value for New York, if you're going and are looking for an affordable place to stay.)

Among the touristy things we did: the City Sights double-decker bus tour!
Each time Jim and I have been to NY we've been on very limited time, but the buses always look fun, and now we know they are. Great way to get an overview of the city, and we had unseasonably warm weather and very little rain. We got off to traipse around Greenwich Village and Soho and do some shopping. Because I'd been madly finishing Laini's Ladies before leaving, I didn't have the time to research stuff to do, so we mostly just winged it. What would you say are the best shopping streets in New York for fun, unusual shops -- not chain stores and not super-expensive clothing boutiques, that is. Soho has some good stores and street vendors, but mostly seems to be really pricey designer boutiques for $1000 jackets, etc, and that's not my thing. Bleeker St. in Greenwich Village was probably the best shopping we came across.

An apothecary's cat:
And an apothecary's doll (I'd have liked to buy her):
This was a great vintage toy store where we got rocket ship pajamas from the 1950s that will fit Clementine in, like, 4 years (we couldn't resist them!), and also some great nursery wall art cut-outs of a choo-choo train that I can't show you until the box arrives (we had to mail ourselves all our shopping, being already way over the limit with packing). That's just an assortment of Village shopping. We also got some great stuff from sidewalk jewelry vendors in Soho. Oh, and the holiday vendors in Bryant Park were fun too. Suggestions for next time?

Check out 30 Rock, lost in the fog:

We had dim sum in Chinatown with my best friend from when I was five years old and her beautiful family . . .

(See how the kids are eating hot dogs? That's a testament to how much they loved the dim sum :-)

We walked partway across the Brooklyn Bridge.
Jim saw an old friend too, and here he is, signing his book on the bridge!
The beautiful Woolworth Building, downtown:

We meant to go up the Empire State Building at some point, but didn't find the time, but we did jump off the City Sights bus in the East Village for some Indian food in the weirdly lit and tiny Panna II, with the Bollywood music a'blaring.

Clementine helped us sign at the amazing Books of Wonder . . .
and she crashed a sales meeting at Scholastic . . .
There she is with Sheila Marie, publicist extraordinaire.

Overall, it was easy seeing the city with a baby. We had to take the subway (though it's legal to take young children in cabs without a car seat, we of course didn't feel safe doing so), but the subway is super, if loud.
We just popped her in the bjorn and carried a minimum of gear: a pared down diaper-changing kit that consisted only of a few extra diapers and a travel-size pack of wipes slipped into Jim's [manly] shoulder bag, plus an extra outfit just in case. In case of what, you ask? Well.

Changing tables being few and far between, we perfected the art of the "lap diaper change," which is fine except that it is really a two-parent operation, especially when, um, there is poop involved. And you are in a tiny bathroom in a nice restaurant. And the poop has, um, traveled . . . far from its place of origin . . . all the way up to the shoulder blades . . . and you run out of wipes . . . and discover you forgot the extra outfit . . . ha ha ha ha ha! Yes indeed, if that had been a solo diaper change, it would have been tragic, but with both of us maneuvering, it was just funny, like we kind of wish we had it on video :-) Lap diaper changes were also effected in the ice skate rental shop at Rockefeller Center and in the dingy Times Square dining room of a KFC (no, we didn't eat there!), among other spots. When I did actually come across a changing table, at the New York City Public Library, I was so shocked I left my purse behind, complete with wallet, new iphone, and even a touristy envelope o'cash. It made it to the lost 'n' found just how I left, thank you New York.

At the library, Clementine got to be a wild thing.
Which was perfect, considering the feral sounds she's taken to making lately.

We met the famous lions . . .
Not to mention the famous bear . . .
Yes, the original Winnie the Pooh animals reside at the library, along with the original Betsy Bird, librarian, blogger, writer, goddess o' books:
And there are awesome murals in the children's room. Obzoive:

I think it would be wonderful to have an annual tradition of going to New York in early December for the lights and window displays and holiday shopping. Maybe this will be a first annual trip, who knows? Only next year will tell. Of course, I don't expect to have quite such a reason for going to New York again in late November as I had this time. No, I have not forgotten about the National Book Awards! All those events will be in the next post. This one is long enough as it is. Whew!

Oh wait, one last thing. We revisited the Mark Teague dinosaur at the wonderful Scholastic store in Soho, with Clementine on the outside this time! Now:
Six months ago:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Whew, we're home!

It's been an amazing week! I have so many thoughts and photos to organize, but I wanted to jump in here and apologize for the absence (I've tweeted a little, but forgot to say to check the sidebar for updates) and to follow up on that last post, wherein I was pinching myself with amazement that Arthur Levine was coordinating his tie to my hair for the National Book Awards ceremony!!! I mean, in what dreamland does that happen?

Apparently, in the same one that this happens . . .














hahahahahaha! How awesome is that????

Everything everything everything was completely amazing, and I WILL be back with more photos! In the meantime, huge congratulations to Phillip Hoose for his win, and to Claudette Colvin, who must be very gratified to have her tremendous story recognized in this way. And to my fellow nominees: it was so great to meet you all! And to the judges who selected my book for this honor -- Nancy Werlin, Coe Booth, Gene Yang, Carolyn Coman, and Kathi Appelt -- thank you from the bottom of my heart.

And now . . . back to playing catch-up (and in a few hours, getting H1N1 vaccines. Phleh.). If you've emailed me, please be patient. Though I was on the road with a new i-phone, I'm too spastic a one-thumb typer to have kept up with correspondence. I will get through the 500+ emails over the next couple of days :-)

And thank you so much for all the happy wishes. This has been an experience of a lifetime, and I love all of you here who were supporters of Lips Touch even before it had a shiny silver sticker on the cover. Mwah!

Oh, wait. Some linkies.

Winter Blog Blast Tour at Shelf Elf; interview with moi. Thanks, Kerry! I love your intro :-)

And Winter Blog Blast Tour interview with Jim at Seven Impossible Things; thank you Jules!

The Oregonian story on us from last Sunday. Thank you, Jeff Baker!

And the wonderful review of Lips Touch in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


If you had told me a few years ago that Jim and Arthur Levine -- Arthur Levine! -- would be picking out matching ties (to match my hair) for the National Book Award dinner, I would not have believed you.


That is one photo I can't wait to snap!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thank you

Thank you to everyone for your heartfelt condolences. I know this is something almost all of us share, the loss of a beloved pet. Reading all of your messages was really nice.

It's hard following up a serious and sad post like the last one -- it feels as though the follow-up ought to have some gravity too. I'd thought this would be a perfect time to attempt to put into words some of my thoughts and feelings on new parenthood. To follow a post about death with one about life. But I haven't had time to write that post. I will say this, though. A fun thing about having a baby that I'd never thought about is how it gives you an excuse to dance all the time. Wherever you are, if you're holding a baby, you're allowed to dance. To be honest, I never have the urge to randomly dance when I'm not holding Clementine, but with her in my arms: yeah. Who knew?

I've been busy trying to finish a new Laini's Ladies collection before going to New Yotk, and I'm almost there. Yesterday Jim had some kind of powerful urge to leave the house and started trying to lure me away from the computer to go shopping. (I have a husband who shops; I thank my mother-in-law for training him well!) Well, I held out. No, I said, I must finish my work. No no no. He tried every persuasive tactic; I held firm. He persisted.

Me (amused & a tiny bit annoyed): Stop it! Sheesh, you're acting like a kid.
Jim: No I'm not. . . . You are.


Me: Arg! Stop manipulating me.
Jim: I'm not. . . . But if you loved me you'd come.


Friday, November 06, 2009

A life of love

I'm so very sad to tell you that this week we lost our Leroy, our underfoot maniac, our grizzled old boy, our little love monster, at the age of 16.We are missing him terribly. Leroy had a way of making his presence felt like very few animals I've known.

He was a dog that wanted to have physical contact with his people at all times, if at all possible. That might mean putting his foot over your foot while standing beside you, or jutting his face into your lap while you're sitting on the sofa. It certainly meant trailing you from room to room, even curling up on the bath mat while you showered.

He was never quite so happy was when he was in the car with his people. He didn't care so much where he was going. He just liked for us all to be in close quarters, and if there were mysterious smells on the wind, so much the better.
This year he got a few good road trips in. You might remember Leroy's trip to California.

He also got a week at the Oregon coast, which included plenty of walks, and a commitment to never let a dead crab go unsniffed.

He was up for a walk in any weather.
And he was never ever off leash due to a perplexing dichotomy in his character. Though to people he was the sweetest dog in the world, other dogs -- as far as Leroy was concerned -- had no place on his Earth, let alone whatever street he happened to be walking on. Woe to any off-leash dog who ambled up to sniff hello to Leroy! Despite many reasoned arguments on our part that his life would be richer (he would get to go more places, sniff more things!), if he would just cease his efforts to destroy all canines, he never wavered. It was like a switch was flipped in his brain whenever he saw another dog: an ATTACK switch. Sigh. But with people? You never saw such a lover.

After the car, about his favorite place to be was crammed between the sofa and the coffee table.

He was keen on a good belly scratch.

In addition to several jumbo-size, mattress-thick dog beds around the house, any new thing to hit the floor became a potential dog bed.

Thanksgiving was a favorite day.
But Leroy did not have to wait for Thanksgiving for poultry treats. For the past several years, ever since his dog-sister Shiloh became ill, we have been in the habit of buying supermarket roast chickens for the dogs. We lost Shiloh a long time ago, but continued with the chickens. Leroy, spoiled boy, wouldn't eat a meal that wasn't fancied up with some meat.

I'm glad we got to spoil him as long as we did. It's just a sad fact that, no matter how much we love animals, their lives are short and we are doomed to loss. Many times in our lives, we will know this loss, but also this love. Not to diminish this love as an end unto itself, but I also think that loving and caring for animals helps to train us to love and care for people, and losing them is training too, for other losses that lie ahead. It's something I avoid thinking about as much as possible, loss. When my mind lands on it it instantly recoils, like a hand that has touched something hot. But loss and grief are a part of our lives, and just by loving someone or something you take a terrible risk that you might have to grieve them.

Of course, no matter what the risk, love is worth it. Life is about who and what you love, more than it is about anything else. And the purity of a dog's love is the finest example. Leroy's sweet face and his devotion were all about love. He might not have been a genius, but he was really really good at love. He had a long, full life -- lots of roast chickens and belly scratches and car rides and comfy dog beds and walks every single day and an owner -- Jim -- who was devoted to him right back, and who will miss him forever, as will I.

We love you, Leroy.