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November 25, 2015

Thankful for Books. Thankful for Libraries. Thankful for Family and Friends.

If you know me at all, you know that I love reading. I was thinking the other day, that of all of the many, many gifts in my life (and I have many), the gift of reading is one of the gifts I treasure most. I read every single day. I read to learn. I read to escape. I read to grow as a human. I read to understand.  I read to listen.
Image Source: School Libraries Matter: Beaverton

This Thanksgiving Break I will hunker down with my family and read by a fire. One of the books I will read is Amber Keyser's Back from Broken. Here is a beautiful and heart-wrenching article written by Amber that tells the story behind the story.

What will you and/or your children be reading over the Thanksgiving Break? School Library Advocates are collecting input on the School Libraries Matter: Beaverton Facebook Page. Please visit the site, "like" the site, and share what you're reading.

Speaking of libraries, if you know me at all, you know I also love libraries. I recently authored a guest post for the blog. I hope you will pop on over to their site give it a read.

Image Source: L. Monfils

Our family has a tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving early. This past weekend we had 32 family members sharing food, stories, and laughter around our plentiful table. I am so blessed.

I am also grateful for you, dear reader. Thank you for giving me a space to share my thoughts, share my ideas, and share my passion for learning and life.

October 15, 2015

Collaboration Station

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of participating on a panel with other KidLit folks at the Pacific NW Bookseller Association's Trade Show and Convention. The other participants included authors Jane Kurtz and Chris Kurtz, A Children's Place bookseller Billie Bloebaum, and Andrea Milano, youth services manager at the Lake Oswego Library.

The main topic of discussion was collaboration amongst authors/illustrators, booksellers, librarians (both public and school), and educators. We talked about a myriad of different types of collaborations such as:

and collaborations with organizations such as SCBWI

 We also talked about the issue of funding. Here were some funding ideas that were shared:

The panelists and participants were engaged and engaging. Many folks wanted to continue the conversation beyond the scheduled time. I offered to create a blog post about the topic, so that the conversation could continue, virtually. 

Please use the comment section below if you want to converse about this topic (and/or "meet" others who are interested in this topic). I should also mention a longstanding (but not yet very active) Facebook group about this topic, created a few years ago by fellow author, Deb Lund. It can be found at this link

What collaborations have you tried? What collaborations would you like to try? What are your questions or concerns relating to reaching out to various stakeholders? 

I am hopeful this conversation will "take off," but even if it doesn't, hopefully some of the ideas summarized in the slides above will generate inspiration for some authors/illustrators, book sellers, teachers and librarians. And if that's the case, I hope you will share YOUR inspiration and ideas below!

October 6, 2015

School Library Advocacy: An Update

School Libraries Matter: Beaverton Glog Summary
I spent much of last school year advocating for Strong School Libraries. This time last year, although each school in our district had a library media assistant, (LMA), not a single school had a certified teacher librarian. The district only had three certified librarians on staff, stationed at the district office and charged with supporting and serving 39,000 students and the school-based LMAs in 51 schools. That was an unacceptable circumstance and resulted in a passionate parent/community-led school library advocacy campaign, School Libraries Matter: Beaverton.

Our school district started off in a much stronger position this school year. We still have the three district-level librarians and all of our schools still have LMAs, but 15 schools now have LITTs (Library Information Technology Teachers). Although some of these LIT teachers do not yet have specialized library credentials or training, they are innovative, forward-thinking teachers, charged with fulfilling a job description that honors crucial elements of library services, such as information literacy and reading engagement. In addition, the school district now has a top-level official who is charged with overseeing school innovation from a teaching and learning perspective. This leader has a clear awareness of the value and importance of strong, fully staffed libraries. It's our hope (and understanding) that additional schools will gain LITTs in subsequent school years.

Our advocacy work is not done, but we have made important progress. I will be presenting a session entitled, "Library Evangelism 101" at the OASL Conference on Saturday, October 10th.  Although I will briefly reference our advocacy process in that session, some folks may want more details. For this purpose, I've created a Glog, (thanks to a remote tutorial by the fabulous Library Teacher, Craig Seasholes) that provides an comprehensive overview of our advocacy campaign.

You can find the Glog at this link: School Libraries Matter: Beaverton, Glog Summary

I would love to hear your own advocacy experiences. Please comment below or via a direct message using the contact form in the left sidebar.

September 8, 2015

Top Tips and Tricks for Signing with Your Baby or Young Child: Tip #4

Image Credit
Today's tip for signing with your baby or young child is, "Take Advantage of Teachable Moments."

One of the most effective ways to gradually weave sign language into your communication is to be on the lookout for teachable moments. If, for example, your child reaches for a ball, she is communicating with you that she wants the ball. This is a teachable moment. Take the time to label the word ball, verbally and in sign, then give her the ball. Say and sign the word several times as your baby explores the ball and looks to you for reassurance and information.

It's fairly natural to add labels when we communicate with babies and young children verbally. For example, think about what happens when the kitty walks into the room (or a bird perches on the porch railing, or a dog passes by when you are playing at the park . . . ). Your baby will likely look at the kitty (bird/dog), then look at you expectantly. Without even thinking about it, you will probably say something like, "That's the kitty. You like that kitty, don't you?" The only thing that's different when you are signing is that you would also sign the word, kitty/cat (or bird, or dog) during the conversation.

The main trick is that you need to develop a sign language vocabulary so you are "on the ready" when these teachable moments present themselves. As I mentioned in Tip #3, take a moment to think about what your child is most interested in (and/or what you see a lot of and/or do a lot of during the course of a day). This will help you narrow down some priority vocabulary words that match with your child's interests and activities.

Once you've narrowed down some vocabulary words that you want to focus on, start singing! Hands down, that's the easiest way to build your sign language vocabulary. I've written several posts about singing and signing. Click here to link to an article that's a good starting point on this topic if you need some guidance in this area.

Lastly, make sure the teachable moments you are taking advantage of do not have the makings for a power struggle. If your baby is especially eager to receive the ball, she is not going to be very happy with you if you hold back on sharing the ball just so you can sign ball. Likewise, if your baby is really hungry, he is not going to be very patient with you if you insist on signing more before offering each bite of food. Take advantage of teachable moments, yes, but keep the tone playful. If this proves difficult, start out by signing primarily during playtime, and then ease into other contexts.

So what are you waiting for? The next teachable moment is just around the corner. Happy Signing!

August 11, 2015

Call for Submissions: Easy Recipes and Go-To Meals

Image Source
I have long wanted to gather a collection of "easy-peasy," "in-a-pinch," "standard go-to" recipes/meals. Yes, I realize I can just do an internet search on these terms and find a bunch of ideas, but I want to curate a collection of meal ideas and recipes that real people (that's YOU!) depend on and actually prepare week after week, month after month. 

This summer I decided it's time to stop pondering this idea and actually get it done

Thanks to everyone who has contributed to the recipe collection so far; it's going to be great! You can get your very own copy if you add something to the collection before the September 30th deadline. Here is the link:

Oh, and if you want to be a real pal, please share this post with a few friends and/or out to your own social media contacts to widen the circle and expand the collection. If everyone who reads this shared it with just a few people, and each of those people contributed a meal, we would all have a really robust collection of easy recipes/meal ideas to choose from! 

NOTE: I've had some folks mention that some of their "go-to meals" aren't really "recipes" because it's something you put together without measuring ingredients because it's so easy, familiar, and routine for you. For example, "Crustless Quiche, Sort of" or "Chicken and Rice Scramble." Send me your take on those ideas, too! I will figure out how to include your creations in a way that others can (attempt to!) replicate. 

I've also had some folks point out that their "go-to meals" aren't necessarily "recipes," because a major ingredient is "a container of your favorite store-bought spaghetti sauce," or it's a very simple meal/dish such as chicken quesadillas, grilled cheese and tomato soup, breakfast for dinner, etc. Share those ideas, too (re: for variety sake, I'd love to add your collective list of go-to meals/dishes to my own list of "regulars").

To entice you to contribute SOMETHING, here is a sampling of some of the yummy contributions that have come in so far: 
Beef Stroganoff
Sausage Cheese Balls
Sausage Broccoli Black Bean Dish
Catfish Stew
Baked Ziti
Broccoli Enchiladas
Super Easy Stuffed Mushrooms
Crockpot Indian Butter Chicken
Macaroni and Cheese (Plus, Chicken Bacon Ranch Macaroni and Cheese, and Crock Pot Mac-n-Cheese)
Easy Breakfast Casserole
Hamburger Rice
Tortilla Soup AND Crock pot Mexican Soup
Best Broccoli You’ll Ever Eat
Tuesday Night Dinner
Easy Baked Egg Sandwiches
Year-Round Fruit Salad
Garbanzo Bean and Ground Turkey Casserole
Dutch Babies
Champagne Chicken
Five Fiber Casserole (Admittedly in Need of a New Name)
8-Can Taco Soup
Chicken Enchilada Bake 

Ready to Share YOUR Easy-Peasy, In-a-Pinch, Standard Go-To Meals? Great! You can do so in the comment section below, via a message using the contact form to the left, or by completing the Easy-Peasy form at the following link: 

If you contribute a recipe or meal idea by September 30, 2015, and you provide your contact information, you will receive a copy of the compilation when it's done. 

If you need more information or details, please take a look at my original blog post on this topic and/or comment below with your question(s). 

I can't wait to see what YOU'RE cookin! 

August 7, 2015

Seeking Submissions for Recipe Book

Although I own several cookbooks with "quick and easy" in the title, and I of course have access to Pinterest and Google, I have long wanted to gather a collection of "easy-peasy," "in-a-pinch" "standard go-to" recipes/meals that real people depend on and prepare week after week, month after month. You know, those tried and true recipes that you know by heart, and your family says, "Oh good, we're having XXX tonight!"
Image Credit

For example, I have a "goulash" recipe straight out of my Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup childhood that I can whip together in those in-a-pinch moments when dinnertime has snuck up on me, and I haven't given meal planning enough advanced thought. Admittedly, it's not the healthiest meal in my repertoire, (beware the sodium and fat counts!), but my family likes it (it's tasty, and familiar), and it's super easy to make (largely because I usually have all of the ingredients on hand, and I've made this dish so many times over the years that I don't need to look at a recipe book; I just make it.)

If I've signed up to bring you a meal for a "meal brigade," you will most likely meet my meatloaf, and if you invite me to a last-minute gathering or drop by unexpectedly, you will likely get to nibble on crackers and cream cheese with hot chili sauce. I have several yummy appetizer recipes up my sleeve, but this is the easiest appetizer I know of, and I almost always have the ingredients for this dandy dip on hand.

What are YOUR Easy-Peasy, In-a-Pinch, Standard Go-To recipes? Please share in the comment section below, or via a message using the contact form to the left. Even better, consider completing this Easy-Peasy form at the following link:

If you provide your recipe by September 30, 2015 AND you provide your contact information along with the recipe, you will receive a copy of the compilation when it's done.

Please feel free to share more than one recipe, and please feel free to share this post widely. I can't wait to get cookin!

June 6, 2015

Travel Tips From Dawn

Mexico, 1987

This summer marks the 30th year my husband, Sam, and I have been traveling this world and this life together. Here are some (poor quality!) memory photos of some of our early travels:

Scuba Diving in Cozumel, 1987

US Virgin Islands, 1990
St. Croix, 1990

River Dancing in Costa Rica, 1993

Chil-axing in Manuel Antonio, 1993

Spain, 2014
These days, we travel as a family of four.

We've learned a lot throughout our journeys together. After last year's trip to Spain, I reflected on how my travel experiences were relevant to my creative writing life.

As I prepare for this year's summer travel season, I thought it might be helpful to share the full list of "debriefing notes" Sam and I made after last year's trip.

I hope some of our learnings might make it easier for you to plan your own adventures:

-If a flight has been delayed, don't assume it will stay delayed.

-For a family of four, it is nice to secure two aisle seats. We either book one solo aisle seat and the bank of three seats directly across the aisle in the same row, or we book two sets of two seats, separated by an aisle in the same row. This allows us to separate the kids if need be, and still be able to each have an aisle seat and talk to each other.

-In terms of pacing the trip, stay in the "arrival town" a minimum of 3 nights so you can sight see AND relax (i.e. on second or third day schedule a low key beach day with few/no sight seeing "goals"), OR plan to stay in the arrival town for a shorter period of time, stumble around/sight see in a jet lagged stuper for one or two action packed days, then move on to the next place (that is intentionally more relaxing) and make a point to stay put there a bit longer. (Essentially, build in some down time days in the earlier portion of trip, either in the first town or second town).

-If it's hard to find lodging (due to festivals/holidays, etc), there will be other factors such as crowds and prices, that will influence our overall enjoyment of the location (i.e. take it as a signal that the town might be too crowded for our liking).

-Speaking of lodging, we are HUGE Airbnb fans. Here is the apartment we stayed in when we visited Barcelona last year, and here are the super cool places we're planning to stay in when we visit Italy!

-Spending a chunk of time in at least two diverse locations makes it feel like more than one trip (i.e. Barcelona and Madrid were vastly different, so it almost felt like we took "two" trips to Spain last year. Many years ago, we visited Greece and had a three night "layover" in Paris on the way home. That definitely gave the illustion that we had two entirely different European vacations in one year). 

-In most cases, two nights in any one place does not seem like quite enough time. Transition days are harder days. Better to stay put and get to know a place a little bit better than to push it to travel to some place you just "have to see" that may or may not be all it's cracked up to be. Enjoy where you are. Better to see fewer places and really connect with them vs. spending lots of days in transition. 

-Neighborhood restaurants are WAY better than over-priced touristy restaurants. If there is someone at the doorway greeting you with a menu, it's a touristy restaurant. Go back a few streets and listen for the loud laughter coming out of little restaurants. Those are the local spots. 

-Pack trail mix, dry cereal, baggies, plastic silverware, paper plates, paper towels, toilet paper and hand wipes. A light weight beach towel is much better than a heavy one.  A little bit of clothes line and clothes pins (and some liquid dish soap to wash clothes in) is worthwhile to bring. Cork screws and plastic glasses that travel with us for happy hours in the moment are a must. A small knife for cheese is nice to have (but don't lose it in carry on!). Nothing beats a nice beverage, fresh fruit, bread and cheese, and a good view. 

-Breakfast: In our room or on our rooftop: fresh fruit, bread/jam, cheese, yogurt, ham. Lunch: picnics while out and about during the day. Dinner: out.

-We value having a kitchen, but really the main part of the kitchen we use/value is the fridge (and freezer--because we bring gel packs to keep our picnic lunches cold).

-Printing out an area map (or a screen shot of a map) is helpful in orienting to new places (but each place will "make sense" after about two hours there).

-On reflection, the places/towns we seem to like the most have a river (or some other water feature). We also like old cities with old walls. 

-We also find ourselves drawn to small towns/villages (but remember to check the population of the "small town" and compare it to the population of other towns we've liked. What the tour books describe as "small" is quite variable . . . the population is a solid point of reference to help make comparisons/decisions).

-Be willing to "cut your darlings" (towns/sights to see) if they are too far out of the way from the other main stops for your trip.

-When choosing lodging within a particular town, convert the location to "minutes on foot" in relation to where we ideally want to be near before deciding if the lodging is too far/or close enough to our "ideal location." (Make that a key question when inquiring with hosts).

-It was really helpful to bring our GPS (loaded with map of country we are visiting . . . which we had to order/load ahead of time). This was more of a driving issue, and wouldn't be as relevant if you are not driving. 

-Bring Ebooks and a couple of real books. It's nice to have both options. Plan ahead and load library versions of travel books onto EReaders (though one hard-copy travel books is helpful to bring on trip for ease of navigating. 

-Take photos of key pages in guide books for day trips vs. lugging full guide book around all day. Take photos of maps (this also works for big signs at entrance of towns or major sights). 

-It is worth the additional effort to find lodging with internet access (internet cafes were not as easy to find/use as we hoped).

-Make use of the tourist office (maps, free internet, questions answered), but beware of our tendency to arrive into new towns during siesta when the tourist office (and town!) is closed. 

-Just because it fits you don't need to add it to the baggage. Heavy bags get very tiresome after the second cobbled road and third flight of stairs. Take only one carry-on sized bag and one small back pack per person (because it makes you pack light). You can still choose to "check" one of the carry-on sized bags to transport the liquid items that are harder to take through security.  Day packs are essential throughout the trip (pack them empty or use as "personal bag" for carry on).

-Little games like backgammon, dice and cards are nice to have on hand. Also, a small paddle ball set is fun to have for the beach. Sarongs make a nice, lightweight picnic blanket. 

I hope reading these travel notes gets you excited for new adventures to come! I encourage you to share your own travel tips below.

Happy Travels!