* Nick Hall in “Mind’s Eye”


The Nick Hall thriller series by Douglas E. Richards is a winner!  But how do I describe this intense page-turner without giving away too much?  I can say that Richards has created a likeable and resilient protagonist who finds his world tipped upside down and turned inside out.  Nick Hall has been through hell and continues to face earthly devils who would destroy him without breaking a sweat.  Nick stumbles his way into relationships with a resourceful woman, the head of a military PsyOps division, and computer geeks.  As he runs for his life, you will be urging him onward, hoping that somehow he’ll stay sane and survive.

Richards has done his homework- and more- on technology, love on the run, and supervillians.  Of course, with his background in microbiology and genetic engineering (with mutant viruses named after him), Richards knows what he is about.  The premise underlying “Mind’s Eye” is quite unusual but compelling.  I never had to suspend disbelief because the characters themselves struggle to believe what’s happening.  As Nick and Megan wind through this labyrinth of suspense, they ask and answer all my questions.  If you love thrillers, if you want to witness a battle with humanity’s destiny at stake, “Mind’s Eye” will satisfy!

* What is homework?

To my nephew, Isaac, homework is “tor-tradition,” meaning torture + tradition.  See?  He has some math sense and lots of common sense.  Poor Isaac.  As third grade has shifted into hypermode to prepare for the end of grade tests, he has been left dangling. There’s not enough time for remediation after school, not with the tor-traditional piles of homework.  Fortunately, he has a flexible teacher who is now willing to let him move through the multiplication.com system of learning his times tables.  After months of trying more traditional (and yes, torturous approaches), I switched to Alan Walker‘s language- and association-based approach.  It has paid off bigtime for Isaac, providing him with a dose of much-needed confidence.  But is it too little and too late?


Isaac would benefit from a formal educational and psychological evaluation.  He appears to have serious weaknesses in auditory processing skills, along with attention, working memory, and long term memory issues.  His success in reading fluency camouflages many of his weaknesses.  Sometimes both teachers, parents, and kids think everything is fine if you can read above grade level.  Ouch.  Try giving Isaac multistep directions and watch the confusion.  And like many twice exceptional kids, Isaac’s mental energy has been fried to a crisp after half a day of school.  His teachers report that he spends his afternoons in silence, never responding and apparently inattentive.  At home, he screams and bangs his head when it’s time for homework.  Torture indeed.

I don’t think it’s too late for this sweet kiddo.  He is eager to learn, responds well to instruction in incremental steps, and has enough curiosity for an entire classroom.  And he can do a perfect Patrick or Spongebob imitation.  Isaac can go far, especially if a certain tortuous traditions can be axed.

* Water crisis over!

Whew!  After our city had declared a state of emergency due to a fluoride issue-water main break, we are now back to taking showers and flushing toilets.  How much we take water for granted!  I had to tape off the faucets because I automatically reached for one all the time.  Who knew I washed my hands so much?  What an adventure we had Friday evening with about 25 folks in our home group, sharing toilet tanks that had to be filled by hand.  We resurrected Jerry Brown’s poem (governor of California during a serious water rationing period): Yellow is mellow, brown goes down.

The water crisis was a relatively brief and local one, but tens of thousands of us descended on nearby counties in a desperate hunt for bottled water.  As I waited in line with my own cart packed to the gills with food AND water, I asked a guy in the next line if I could take a photo of what we were all doing: emptying Durham County of its bottled water.


We are blessed and spoiled with our clean running water.  And our electricity and abundance of grocery stores.  And the money to shop.  And the freedom to worship.  Our entitlement goes deep.  I read angry Tweets about living like a third world country.  Oh, the very idea!  Seriously, I have no idea how wretched that would be.  I’m just glad that we had working toilets when the kiddos arrived last night and running water for our Super Bowl event (pun intended).

Now enjoying our blessings and trying to figure out how to store gallons of water….

* Cats in literature

You must check out the Bluebird‘s post for the cleverest connections of cat photos to literature.  My faves are “Macbeth” and “Little Women.”  Teachers could use this idea to spark interest, compare-and-contrast, and book conversations!  The one below is “Bambi,” of course.

via Happy Caturday — literary edition — bluebird of bitterness

* Three Things Thursday

I love Nerd in the Brain‘s weekly blogging challenge to add thankfulness to my blog.  This week has been a challenge but there’ve been some great points, too.

Number One:  Fire in the Hole!  I did not set fire to a student, myself, or the classroom when we did experiments on the element carbon.  Yes, it was close, but no cigar!


Number Two:  How old are you …?  Birthday cakes are just an excuse to play with matches, especially when the kiddo has double digit candles.  Whee!


Number Three:  Tooth Fairy Time.  At my age, I don’t want to be losing teeth, but how adorable when it’s your baby teeth!  This sweetie is losing the other top front tooth now, so I wonder how she will eat and speak!  Somehow we all survived this.  And some of us got rich in the process.


* Stunning Greenglass House

Greenglass House is a children’s mystery, probably enjoyed most by upper elementary kids and middle schoolers.  Written by Kate Milford, this book goes far beyond the realm of mysteries and suspense in its development of characters and heartfelt emotion.  The story takes place during Christmas break at an ancient but gorgeous “smuggler’s” inn, occupied and operated by the Pine family.  Greenglass House is as much a character as the people, with its huge, mysterious stained glass windows and shady past.  Milo Pine, a 12 year old, is looking forward to a quiet vacation with his parents when when an odd assortment of individuals arrive unexpectedly at their inn.  Milo’s world is tipped upside down when he meets Meddy, a stranger who initiates a roleplaying “campaign” to learn more about these peculiar guests.  Milo and Meddy are both strong-willed individuals who couldn’t be less alike.  Their interactions are priceless.


Milford is a master of layering themes and creating complex events which force characters to confront their motivations and fears.  For instance, we learn that Milo struggles with issues related to his adoption and the reaction of others to his appearance (he’s of Asian descent with white parents), torn between loyalty to his loving parents and a desire to know more about his biological family.

Milo and Meddy have no idea what their campaign will uncover and believe me, you will be shocked.  But the tenderness and healing, along with wild and wooly events, will keep you riveted to this book.  A word of caution: If you are reading this aloud, be prepared to cry in front of your kiddos.  The ending is truly amazing.



* Jessica Daniel, clever detective

I just finished reading the third of Kerry Wilkinson‘s Jessica Daniel series and can’t wait for the fourth (and final- for now).  Wilkinson, a British author, has written real winners with this series.  The Killer Inside is a clever thriller with believable characters and no need to suspend disbelief.  Jessica Daniel is a detective who just won’t give up;  she is passionate about justice and has such a clever mind.  Wilkinson has created a strong young woman with a fairly normal past and present.  She faces many challenges in The Killer Inside, including apparent random serial murders occurring in locked homes, along with other professional and personal issues.  I couldn’t stop reading and was thrilled to discover the rest of the series.  Plus, I identify with her approach to paperwork: falling stacks of paper but she knows where everything is.  Read this book and you’ll be hooked!

The Killer Inside.jpg

* Chocolate in any tone…

… is yummy!  Gotta love the color beaver.  And this fudge is good for you- naturally sweetened, organic cocoa, and everything.  This is my post for Jennifer Nichole Wells’ Color Your World challenge.

beaver-2 beaver-3

* Black as night

After our recent snow event, a lot of us headed to car washes to remove brine and grime.  I sat in my car, enjoying the view and relaxing after a long day.  Yeah, my life is full of adventure.  Here is my entry for black in Jennifer Nichole Wells’ Color My World challenge.