Friday, October 24, 2014

Hank Zipzer is Laugh-Out-Loud

                                              Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler: Hank Zipzer authors

         Hank Zipzer is a character invented by Henry Winkler – though I wonder how much of the character is based upon himself as he had struggled with learning though nobody understood that he had dyslexia but wasn’t diagnosed until he was in his 30’s.

         The first Hank Zipzer book that I read was “The Curtain Went Up, My Pants Fell Down” Hilarious.  I laughed out loud with almost every page.  
         I really liked how in this particular story, it is not the obvius talent put who play the leads.  The director picks those that seem to struggle – someone he can help mold into the part.

         Hank’s fifth grade teacher is named Ms. Adolf – I’m guessing a play on words, as she appears to be stern and unfeeling, but perhaps not quite Hitler.  Just his first name.
         In my mind, Henry Winkler does the narration for the character Hank Zipzer.  I think the voice of Principal Love twould sound like Ben Stein.

         I tried reading it to Jenna, but she’s just not interested and she has a marvelous sense of humor.  She just doesn’t identify with the character at all.

         Learning has always come natural and easy for Jenna.  She doesn’t feel pressure from others that she’s being made fun of – nor does she make fun of others.  She’s got a great gift of accepting others as who they are and never stereotypes another based on looks or behaviors.  Although she has ruled out bullies, she still treats them with respect.

         I didn’t have a learning disability.  I enjoyed learning things – at my own level.  I liked learning what I wanted to learn but for the most part did not enjoy what was being taught.  I had a tendency to tune things out and daydreamed entirely too much.  I was never a class clown.  More of the shy wallflower.  But I can relate to some of Hank Zipzer’s character.

         I like the series for a few reasons.  One would be the font size.  Because I don’t struggle with my failing eyesight.  Two, I believe all seventeen stories come in paperback (at least they have thus far) which is less weight in my backpack (good reason, huh?) and three, because it’s easy reading, marvelously written and really does put a smile of my face.

         Now that my school years are so into the past, I learn older I get, the more that I really do enjoy learning.  Many of the things I refused to learn in my youth have become more interesting as I age.  I also enjoy being entertained with Witty humor.  Thank you Henry Winkler for Hank Zipzer!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hartman: For All of your Contracting Needs

            No, I am not getting paid to advertise.  For heating and air conditioning I had always used Gils.  Gil comes out and gets the job done and no need to call back because the system works and they don’t leave glitches.  They’re reasonably priced – inexpensive even.  But it’s just a father and his son.  They don’t finance.

            We called Hartman when our furnace seemed to give out.  They had serviced our furnace before.  I hadn’t remembered, but it was Hartman’s paperwork tacked to our furnace that hadn’t been serviced since two years before we moved into the house.

            As I was waiting for someone to pick up, I started playing with a switch on the side of the furnace.  Apparently it had been knocked into last time someone had been in the closet to retrieve or return the card table or step latter.  The heat went on, but as it had been seven years since the heater was last serviced, I made an appointment and asked to get a bid for Central Air (Gils had given us one, but were quite booked during the summer and quite overworked I am guessing.)

Hartman’s bid was just a little above Gils – only they could finance – which could be done over the phone.  Sorry Gil.  I really do like your service.    We won't forget you.  You do a great job! But I just wasn’t comfortable paying it all up front at this particular time.

Hartman was to our house bright and early yesterday. Though our furnace and water heater were both working, Roland and I realized that their days were numbered as our furnace was 35 years old and our water heater was 15 – which I understand is 3-5 years longer than normal.  Mineral deposits may have kept it alive.  At the same time I think may have been solely responsible for sucking our water pressure as the water pressure we have now is so much better.  Who would have thought?

I never looked at our relic furnace and water heater as blessings before.  We have been major blessed that neither had gone out on us – or our tenants before us.

Hartman does plumbing, electrician, roofing . . . Last night the plumber was here making things right.  He told us what a good company Hartman is to work for.  Thus far, I don’t have any complaints.

Thank you Stetson, Julian and Jim for making a difference already.  Summer will be so much bearable.  And we will definitely use you again.  Especially for the electrical part, I’m certain – as we know only a few electricians and they are PRICY!!!  I bet they don’t finance either.  And you do seem more reasonable with your prices.

Could be more thorough with your communication skills, I think.  As with many big companies, often the right hand doesn’t know what the left is doing.  But everything has been resolved (at least we hope it has) and for that we are grateful.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Wind Has Knocked Me in a Coma - Journal Entry

I take Highness for a walk
He’s notorious for wanting attention
after we have all gone to bed
I want to wear him out
I’m already worn out

Roland and I are on the couch
watching Shark Tank
I suggest we finish watching
in our room
He let’s the dog out just before
he comes into the bedroom
to join me

“What are you doing
letting the dog out?!”
I think.
Now one of us will have to
get back out of bed
to let him in.
I can’t remember
which one of us
received that honor.

I am asleep
I missed the end of Shark Tank
I actually don’t remember
turning on the TV
maybe Roland did

It’s 2:00 in the morning
when I can hear Highness whining
“Go lay down!” I say
Sometimes that works

Highness ignores me and continues whining. 
I let him outside.
I have two pillows in my hand.
I sit on the couch in a reclined position.
I don’t know how long I have slept
when I hear Highness bark again.
He has stayed out longer than usual
How surprising
Especially when I consider that
he’d been out for five to seven hours
while I was away less than
fourteen hours ago.
Not to mention the twenty minutes or so 
when we had gone to bed

Roland wakes at 4:10.
He sees that I’m gone
and goes back to sleep.

On couch this morning. 
It is getting cold.
I decided to turn on the heat for Roland.
I don’t hear the click when I turn the dial.
I don’t check the clock.
It could have been 5:30 or 6:00.
I should have checked.

I stir on the couch
The wind is howling. 
I pull the afghan around me.
I think the heater is broken.
I get up.
I am in a daze.

I hear noise coming from
the TV in my bedroom.
I see that the light is on.
The door opens. 
Roland is fully dressed.
He says it’s 6:30.  Oh, shoot.
He was supposed to take us
to school this morning. 

Jenna has drama club
early in the morning and
he doesn’t want her left alone
before the school opens
That is why I have to go with her.

But Roland will be late
if he takes us all the way
to the school so I tell him
to go ahead and leave

Jenna is crying
because nobody had woken her up
and she believes she’s going to be late
and she didn’t get breakfast. 
None of us did.

I throw on a wrap
and grab my windbreaker for Jenna
to wear over her hoody
(which is not all that warm)
I grab a hat from my back pack
I should have grabbed one from Jenna’s room
as well

Before we head out the door
I grab an apple and banana
Roland hits McDonalds
before he gets to work
He wanted a hot chocolate
and they told him there’d be a wait.
I think he would just leave
except he already paid.

He doesn’t drink it
until he gets to work.
It tastes awful!
McDonalds messed up his order
Roland received a coffee
instead of hot chocolate.
He finds another
to give his coffee to.

Jenna and I wait for the bus.
We wait and wait and wait.
Jenna cries
as she believes she will be late
She will be if the bus is as late as it had been
last night.
We’re not going to be late.
The bus finally comes
We arrive at the school
fifteen minutes before drama club starts

My wrap blows in the wind
I am reminded of the tail end of

though my cloak doesn’t 
wave that long

I make three bus transfers
I am home by 8:30.
I turn on the TV to watch
“Dancing with the Stars”
I missed two dances
because I was asleep.

Roland calls me and relates the
events of his morning with McDonalds
Says he’ll return for lunch
and report to the manager
It’s a short day and so I leave the house
to pick up Jenna
I am wearing my windbreaker and wrap
and hat and scarf
because the wind is loud
and howling like this morning
not as cold though
but I don’t notice until I have passed
the house next door.

I remove the wrap and scarf
and return home so that
I don’t have to carry them on the bus
Before I get to the school
I have removed my hat
I pass a house with a windmill
Funny I have never noticed before
Today the wheel is spinning hard and fast
So fast it just might come off

The bell rings just before I sit down
at the bench
Jenna is playing on the playground
but does come eventually
I ask if she would like to catch the bus
in front or behind the school
she chooses front because
she needs to run inside the school
for a few moments

We notice Marvin out on the lawn
waiting for his grandfather
When we exit the school
Marvin is still waiting
It is a short day
Perhaps grandpa has forgotten
I asked Marvin if he would like me to call his grandpa
But he doesn’t know grandpa’s number
And I don’t have my old phone
Where I have grandpa’s number stored
I ask Marvin if he would like to go to the office
to call his grandpa or maybe
we could just walk him home.

I choose to walk around the school
rather than cross the field
(though it takes longer to go around)
That way we can look for grandpa’s car
in case he is on his way.
Marvin believes the sidewalk is a better choice
and faster than crossing the field.
It's not.
I don’t know why grandpa drives around to pick him up. 
His brother Isaac always crossed the field.
I wonder if Marvin has been bullied
and maybe that is why.
Or maybe it was expected last year 
because Marvin was just in half day kindergarten 
and is just used to being picked up

As we approach grandpa’s house, I notice
that his car is gone.
Marvin thinks that grandpa has gone to the store.
I hope that is where he is and
not at the school searching for Marvin.
Jenna and I continue to the main road to catch our bus.

We get off at the corner and grab
a late lunch at Burger King
before we continue our walk
to our house
I start dinner
Roland calls to say he’ll be late
He’s not hungry anyway.
He gives Jenna a coupon for a
Free smoothie or frappe from McDonalds.
She is off school for the next two days.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath

My latest book review is Everything on a Waffle by Polly Horvath.  

Everything on a Waffle is a Newberry Honor.  I didn't used to like Newberry books.  But I really like this one. I suppose one reason why I choose juvenile over adult or young adult is the font size. 

Recently I had placed holds on one of each.  For the latter two, I am able to see the words better with a magnifying glass.  I prefer not reading with a book in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other.  And with the mornings having become darker, small fonts require more light if my eyes must read them.

 Everything on a Waffle is told in first person from Primrose’s point of view.  Primrose is an eleven year old that lives in a Coal Harbor, a small town in town in Canada (though it doesn’t specify which providence.) in the custody of three different guardians.

Initially she’s left with Miss Perfidy who often sits for Primrose – though, as the book starts out, becomes for an extended time and not just while mom and dad are out for the night.

Primrose’s father is a fisherman who is out during a storm.  Her mother, worried about the conditions of the weather, leaves Primrose to go in search of him to bring him home.  Both are lost at sea.

Primrose takes us on an adventure from the persnickety old lady to her Uncle Jack to a couple who live in city not as near to Coal Harbor as she would like.

I love the wit and humor in this book.  In one chapter she tells about being hit by a car and then waking up in the noisy hospital wondering if she might be dead.  She shares this thought: “This must be hell, I thought, because in heaven surely they try to keep the noise down.”

She also describes her last foster couple (who are short, plump and round as “look[ing] like a couple of kindly old hard boiled eggs”

At the end of each chapter, she shares a recipe – though most without exact measurements.  There is one she shares with two alternatives: The correct way, which is good, and the kind that you might choke down just to be polite:          “If you prefer Miss Perfidy’s tea biscuits, double the baking soda and leave out the vanilla.”

I also liked reading her profound thoughts:

“I was [grateful;] not just for their return but for their absence too, and where it had taken me and who I had met there.  I would never go home again in quite the same way, but that was okay, too.

“. . . I left parts of myself some places and found others unexpectedly . . .”

I wish all books could touch me in such a positive way.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Three short posts

            I’ve had a hodgepodge of thoughts off and on throughout the week (although it’s been longer than that since my last post)

            None of my thoughts seem to connect – though I suppose if I worked at it I could make the sentences flow to connecting.  But I’ve decided that I will just enter three short posts.  Four if you count this one.  Which I don’t.

Too Much Time on His Hands

       For the past three years or so, Roland has been working as a recruiter for students to take online courses.  His title wasn’t recruiter though.  I forget what it was.
            When he first started, those in his position were responsible for having at least two people start per mod (don’t know if the three letters are abbreviations for something or if it’s spelled differently – but it means every six weeks to eight weeks when the classes start for each major) and somewhere along the line it was raised to three and then four and then six.

            My brother-in-law, Bill, had worked there just a few years before the stress pushed him into looking for another job.  He put in his notice before the requirement was bumped to six.  The company wasn’t happy with his decision and wanted to make an example out of him.  The company also has a 300% turnover (what does that tell you?)

            So ever since the requirement was bumped to six, I would often hear: “I could lose this job by the end of the mod” Roland had only four possibilities before we’d gone on vacation.  He expected to be let go after we returned, but miraculously he was able to stay until the next mod.  He was short.  But they didn’t want to lose him and have him working for the competition (which Bill has done) and so offered him a less stressful position for less pay.  To me it’s worth less money to see him not stress all the time.  Only I think he may be bored.  He’s able to think.  He thinks that means he’s slowing down.

            Our bishop won’t be calling on him to meet with him once or twice a week or delegate this assignment or that.  More free time.  What will Roland do?

Saying Hello and Good-bye to Autumn

Whereas autumn seemed to linger for several months last year, I believe that the cycle will be over all too quickly this year.

I had heard the mountain trees had started turning in August.  But as for my view of Salt Lake City valley, the trees (or the majority of them anyway) did not start turning until last week.

            There are still many green trees that haven’t handled the chill in the same way as those that are already starting to lose leaves.  What?  The ones that started turning last Monday are now shedding their leaves for the winter? 

            Toward the end of the week, I did notice more that were turning.  This morning I saw radiant beauty of yellow and orange golds, one tree that was undressing and still a wide variety of green.  I’d like to see them radiate color before the winter brings snow – if it brings snow.

            I heard that it had started snowing in the mountains earlier than it has in the past.  I don’t know.  I don’t seem to go to the mountains as much as I used to.  And yet I’m so close to them. 

            Weather is peculiar!

Saturday Went Well

            I actually received quite a few compliments on how well Super Saturday went and how many enjoyed themselves.  That’s nice.  But I really can’t take credit for any of it – except perhaps the date change. 

            I thought the first activity I was in charge of had a better turn out – but maybe it was the same.  I didn’t interact the way I had with the first. 

            We had four stations – two tables with fabric and sewing machines; two tables that held blocks and paint; my station was a single table which held journals, journaling ideas and hand-outs; was it two or three tables spread out for the popcorn ball demonstration?

            The older sisters watched as Sharon demonstrated how she makes popcorn balls.  We had 8 – 10 sisters signed up for the blocks and a couple of stragglers who hadn’t signed up for anything gravitate to the potholders.

            I had brought a sewing machine in addition to Pamela and Scarlett bringing theirs.  Unfortunately, I did not have the hookups with mine.  I just assumed everything was in the box.  Even when I took it out, I wasn’t thinking that it would need a plug or pedal.  (So why do I even have a sewing machine? you ask.  I obviously don’t bother with it if I’ve had it in a box.  The truth is, I don’t sew, but Roland’s mother does.  We had it for her)

            Kristin went home to get her machine.  I think we had three sisters sewing potholders.  Scarlett, Lisa and Mary came to my station while I rattled on about journal keeping.  Natalie had her ipad and went around taking pictures of the various activities – which I am very grateful for.  No one had asked her to.  She just did it of her own incentive.  She posted the activities to facebook.  I am so appreciative to her.

            I’m appreciative to my whole committee actually.  They all pitched in and helped set up.  Pamela had had this great calling before me and so volunteered to assist with Super Saturday, as she would have done had she still been in this position.  And Sharon says she’s full of ideas.  I don’t think she wants to be on the committee though.  She starts her day very early and ends it before our meetings our wrapped up – or so I believe.  She pushes herself and then gets tired.

            I was sad to have missed the bishopric wives luncheon.  I knew it would be my last.  Roland was released from being a counselor.  Actually both counselors were.  Roland has been called to a stake position.  He’ll be starting his new calling this next Sunday, I guess.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why Learn Algebra?

            I get needing to know the basics of math.  I have multiplied or divided fractions when I doubled or halved a recipe.  I used addition and subtraction (mostly subtraction) when dealing with finances.  I have even measured things accurately. I get the basics and I do and have used them in real life.  Anything beyond the basics have been useless except for two times since graduating high school.

            The two situations in which I’ve been required to understand beyond basic (Algebra comes to mind) came when my children were taking math courses in school.  Tony used to milk his sessions.  It would take hours just to do one problem.  He didn’t get that if he would just do it instead of trying to get me to re-learn and do his assignments, he could have been done so much quicker.

Actually I have had hang-ups with algebra my entire life.  I think I would have been okay doing year round school.  With three months of summer vacation and no homework, I never did retain what dad had explained to me the year before.

Dad was a math nerd, actually.  He thrived on it.  Oh, yuck!!!  None of his kids had it in their genes to love math the way he did.  We all use the basics – but I doubt that any of us have ever dealt with algebra except to assist with homework so that our children in turn can help their children and so forth.

            When Jenna was too young to know any better, I had convinced her that math was/is fun and that she would love it – which she did.  From 2nd- 4th grade she basically did her math homework without my assistance – which was great for me.  By third grade I was at a loss just looking at her papers.

Multiplication has given her problems.  And she absolutely hates division.  Division, on the other hand, had always been my favorite (I mean if I absolutely have to pick a math favorite) and hated multiplication the most (which is ironic as you need to know how to multiply in order to divide) and so for the last two weeks I have been explaining the technique – which I’m sure that she gets but seems to experience ADD each time she does it – though it still doesn’t take near as long to do her entire paper as it did for Tony to do just one problem)

Unlike Tony, Jenna LOVES algebra.  She thinks it’s fun to create and do problems.  (I was hoping my father’s genes would skip a generation - perhaps they have)

Not long ago, Randy was taking a monster algebra class through the college.  At least Jenna’s problems don’t require as much paper as his did.  He must have gone through one notebook per class assignment.  That’s gross.

In order to better understand what it was that he was doing, he felt the need to explain, making Jenna and me his pupils.  She thrived on it.  He didn’t think she totally got the concept, but said she was getting the right answers.  I was, too.  I just wasn’t enjoying it.  But actually, neither was Randy.

There seems to be only a handful of people who not only get algebra and trigonometry and calculus, etc. but thrive on it like it is the most awesome thing ever.  Great for those people.  Kudos to them for having that desire.  But leave me out of it.  I don’t wish to rack my brain with symbols and results that are basically meaningless to me just so I can relearn it to teach my own children.

I have a friend who majored in math (who does that?  What do you even do with a math degree?) and had all four of his boys memorize their times tables before they were six.  All smart.  All knowledgeable – not just about math but politics and current events and are basically brilliant people.  Surprisingly they’re not boring – often times their topic of subject doesn’t interest me, but I have enjoyed hanging out with them on occasion.

Anyway, my own personal philosophy is that all most real people really need is the basics and the rest is there for those who truly want to learn it, but no one should be forced just to keep those math majors in the business of teaching math or whatever detailed jobs may be offered to the mathematical minded.  I just don’t get it.  I certainly don’t thrive on it.  Even the game of Monopoly is not fun.  Too much math involved.  I’m grateful that Jenna believes it’s fun.  She likes math.  She also enjoys going to the dentist.  I honestly can’t decide which I think is more painful.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014


I do like the weather we are currently experiencing.  But it is strange. 


            I left the house early yesterday. I had wanted to stop off to pick up some trouser socks that I’ll need to start wearing.  When I left the sun was shining.  I had stopped to take off my jacket and put on Roland’s safari hat (recently purchased at Hogle Zoo) and removed it along with my sunglasses before I got to the store.

            As I waited for the bus (so that I could continue on to the school) I took out a book to read. As I was reading, I noticed that light drops began to fall – not enough to concern me if the book had been my own – but it’s a library book.  I’ve already purchased more lost and damaged books than I care to admit. I’d rather not have to make a purchase for replacement anymore.

            The skies were weird.  Blue sky with puffy white clouds mixed in with shades of grey threatening to rain.  I tried to capture what I saw, but the picture doesn’t do it justice (does it ever)

            By the time I arrived at the school, it was just too wet to read – unless maybe I had had my umbrella – which I didn’t. 

            The books I am currently reading are “Cookies to Die For” by Dene Low and “The Storybook Legends” by Shannon Hale.

            “Cookies . . .” is the one I read while on the bus. It is an adult novel (that’s right – adult.  Are you impressed) a mystery-comedy if you will with a flavor of LDS lingo and Mormon culture.  

            Thus far Jane (the narrator) has been kidnapped by two thugs whom she calls Beard and Kid.  She doesn’t know why they’re in her home or what they want with her husband – but he is out of town – along with her boys and dogs.  But she does have neighbors.  Unfortunately for her, they are all at Church.

            Beard finds her neighbors more than annoying as they are constantly calling to find out why Jane is not at church.  Or if they can stop by or pick her up or visit, etc.  Meanwhile, Jane is still wearing her yellow scouting shirt from the previous day.  Right now it is stained with tomato and she thinks it might look like blood.  It is the middle of the night and they have left her house and are now at the auto parts company where her husband works (I’m really not that far into it)

            “ . . .Legends” appears to be part of a series called “Ever After High”.  I wonder if Jenna will want to read more from the series.

            Jenna and I do not have to have this one read until we meet in November.  It’s for the mother/daughter group that we attend.  We’ve already read the one for October.  Jenna was hoping to start on the one for May.  But I think we should do them in order.

            Actually both of them seem to have a similar theme – that is to retell fairytales from another point of view.  In this case it is two daughters: Apple White – daughter of Snow White (though I wonder why Apple’s last name would be White and not Charming for her father?) and Raven, daughter of the wicked queen.

            In the book each has completed her first year of school and has entered the second.  In the second year students are expected to sign the book of legends and follow the story the way the parents have.  Only Raven does not wish to be wicked. 

            The students have returned from summer break, and Raven is happy to see that she’ll be sharing her dorm with Madeline Hatter – who she considers to be a fun crazy type person.  But Apple has just made arrangements for the two of them to room together. 

            Last time we read, Raven had just been handed her schedule, and though she tried to make some adjustments, the headmaster wouldn’t allow it.  Jenna and I both love reading fairytales that have been rewritten in a different way from the same old, same old.

            In May (though I suspect we’ll be reading before Christmas) we will be discussing the book “Rump: The True Story of Rumplestiltskin” by Liesl Shurtliff.  I placed a hold at the library, but it hasn’t been set aside as of yet.  I don’t know why.  The West Valley Library has a copy on display.  But as I am not a gifted speed-reader, and the “Legends” book has more than 300 pages, I’m really not in a hurry to check out another book when I have less than two weeks left on the other.  I may have to renew it – or wait until November to finish it.  

          I will be writing another review.  I've already written reviews on some of the books that we'll be reading this coming year.