World of Julie

World of Julie

Mom on the edge.

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Photos: this week

The work around here continues to be colored by my knee. Apparently you don’t just have ACL surgery and then hop up the next day to do the hustle. It takes six months before that can happen (and then another six months of intensive dance lessons from Leif Garrett). And so, two weeks (and change) later, I am off crutches, but still in the giant knee brace, which renders me slow (and on stairs, slower).

So I’m still sleeping in the library off of our living room (note: this is an actual room; I’m not sleeping in the Little Free Library). Which makes it really hard to put the books back on the shelf, so the library floor is now taken up entirely by a mattress and huge drifts of books.

ACL surgery = many more messes (and ironic book placement) | World of Julie

We put the bathtub (tiny tiny bathtub) in our upstairs bathroom-to-be (tiny tiny bathroom-to-be). Progress!

Henry in our new tiny bathtub | World of Julie

Zuzu likes to take the camera and take 48 photos of toys she wants from a catalog, 22 photos of her feet, and 14 super-close photos of her own face. Dave swears she looks exactly like me in this one:

Zuzu, self portrait

And here’s one where she doesn’t look so serious:

Zuzu, self portrait

And with this post I further cement my role as The Blogger Who Isn’t Afraid to Show Her Messy House or Her Crusty Children.

New Review on Brain Burps: Dear Flyary

You know how sometimes you just kind of randomly grab books at the library, and don’t really screen them until you get home? Sometimes I do that and get weirdos that I quietly hide back in the library bag. And sometimes I get books like Dear Flyary, which are so cute and silly and surprising (and sometimes I use the word “sometimes” too much). This book is the diary (or, well, “flyary”) of an adorable alien named Frazzle, and it takes a moment or two to get your head around Frazzle’s galactic vocabulary, but author Dianne Young does such a brilliant job of writing it just on the edge of comprehension. Ok, that doesn’t sound like a compliment, but what I mean is, she uses alien words, like “noteymaker” for an instrument, that are foreign enough to sound strange, but close enough to be understandable, so the whole reading does seem like you’re reading another language, but it’s a language that you somehow are able to speak. Listen to my review — I read a few sections, and you can get the idea of what I mean!

Plus, look at how cute Frazzle is with his one giant eyeball!

You can see information about this episode here, or you can get it right in iTunes here. Enjoy!

Awesome Book: Unusual Creatures

Unusual Creatures by Michael Hearst | Review on World of JulieWhen the book Unusual Creatures: A Mostly Accurate Account of Some of the World’s Strangest Animals by Michael Hearst showed up in our mailbox, Henry (my nine-year-old) yelped with delight. He’s obsessed with animals, geography, and weirdness, so this book seemed tailor-made for him.

However, he’s apparently working through a cynical period, so, after looking through the book for a few minutes, he said, “Yeah, I wish there were more animals I didn’t know about.” Well, excuse me, Mr. Know-it-All (note that I didn’t say that out loud; seems like sarcasm breeds cynicism, yes?).

Well, the book looked pretty cool to me, but I left it on the table and walked up to my room in the attic to fold laundry.

Over the next hour, Henry probably burned 1000 calories running from the dining room to the attic to relay amazing facts. “The hagfish can make enough slime in five minutes to fill five 1-gallon jugs!” “The blue-footed booby’s nostrils are permanently closed!” “A baby echidna is called a puggle!” “The star-nosed mole is the fastest-eating mammal!” “A platypus bill is not recyclable!”

So it turned out he liked Unusual Creatures after all. And why not? Every page is a new wacky animal, complete with drawings, biological classifications, and geographical locations (with map). Some pages have crazy facts, some have poems, some have a list of multiple choice questions, and some have lists of facts that all seem ridiculous but are under the heading “True or True?”

This book can be very silly (see above: poems, and the fact about a platypus bill not being recyclable), and that makes it even better. The only thing that might make this book even better would be if there were photos of the animals, but there’s a pleasing, old-school-textbook feel to the drawings, and it definitely gives the animals a nice continuity. Really, I don’t see how you could go wrong with a book about incredibly bizarre animals, all of which are real, with a bunch of crazy facts about them.

You know how they say that, for instance, every 3-year-old has OCD? Or that, if you met an adult who acted like your 4-year-old, they’d be clinically insane? I think all 8-10 year olds think they’re trying out for some kind of Jeopardy/Trivial Pursuit Quiz-a-thon. So, basically, if you have a 4th or 5th grader to buy a book for, this is the one you should get. They’ll love you for it.

Here’s the book trailer, to get you in the mood!

Little Free Library in the News!

Our Little Free Library has been getting some press!

Telly Halkias wrote an opinion piece in the Portland Press Herald.

The local free paper, The Sentry, featured us in a great article.

And the fabulous Carter Higgins wrote about us on Design Mom!

Thanks so much to all our supporters! Stop on by and I’ll hook you up with a book!

New review: Cecil the Pet Glacier

Cecil the Pet Glacier by Matthea Harvey, illustrated by Giselle PotterDo you really need me to sell you on a book called Cecil the Pet Glacier? Plus, look at that cover — Giselle Potter’s illustrations are lush and rich, somehow simple and complex all at once. I originally picked this book up because Giselle Potter is the illustrator; her The Year I Didn’t Go to School was honestly some of the inspiration in our year of homeschooling (not that we went to Italy and became puppeteers, which is what happens in that book).

This week Katie talks all about Pinterest (ok, that was a link to my Pinterest boards, you can check out Katie on Pinterest here). She’s doing a free (free!) webinar all about Pinterest tomorrow (September 20) at noon. Listen to the podcast to hear more, and you can check out the info on the webinar here and  sign up for the webinar here.

There’s also a Julie Hedlund gratitude segment, as well as my review. Did you see how I was the featured author on Julie H’s site yesterday? Thank you so much to everyone who commented, and especially to those of you (including Julie H) who said that my reviews make you want to run out and buy the books. That’s a huge compliment, and it was a colossal ego boost. Thank you, everybody!

You can see more about the podcast episode here, or listen in iTunes here. Thanks!

Torn ACL Leads to Uncute Fashion Choices, Public School

As you know, I hurt my knee a few weeks ago.  It turns out I tore my ACL, which is a common injury among athletes, apparently. Also a common injury among dogs, according to Brook Gideon. I am neither a dog nor what one might call an athlete (although I’m super athletic in my head). Just unlucky, I suppose.

The nice thing is, I guess, that it’s such a common injury that the medical establishment knows what to do. Some people don’t do anything about it, and just work on getting stronger. I can’t really walk, so I’m opting for surgery. On October 1 I’ll have allograft surgery (allograft is a euphemistic medical term for “putting a dead person’s ligament in where yours used to be”).

Being on crutches is a pain. You can’t really carry anything. I’m kind of crutch-walking now, so I can maybe carry something, very slowly, if I shove one of the crutches into my armpit and hold it there. For the next three weeks I am working on regaining my full range of motion (I can’t straighten my leg, and can barely bend it) and putting weight on my leg.

It also turns out that my wardrobe is not at all suited for a knee injury. I mostly wear skirts. You can’t wear a skirt if you’re lying on a table with your knee bent, having a medical professional mostly looking underwearward. I have one pair of decent shorts, and I mostly only wear them for hiking or biking or house renovating. I do not look cute in hiking shorts. Not awful, mind you, but not really like I’m paying attention. Not that it’s about that. At all. It’s just: isn’t September all about dusting off tights and scarves? Not about hiking shorts. June is about hiking shorts.

Goodbye, cute skirts, I'll see you when my knee heals | World of Julie

Oh skirts and dresses, I miss you.

The worst part is truly that our bedroom is in the attic, and, because we’re renovating our second-floor bathroom, the only bathroom is on the first floor. So I now cut off liquids (for me) after 6 pm, like I’m a 4-year-old giving up nighttime diapers or something.

So many stairs. Crutches are hard. | World of Julie

This is the SECOND set of stairs I have to ascend to get to my bed. It takes me a good five minutes to get all the way up there.

The other thing that has been happening, for a few months now, is that we’ve been going back and forth about whether to keep homeschooling. I love it, and we all love it, but it was also causing a LOT of stress. A few days before I hurt my knee, we found out that we could maybe send the boys to one of the “better” schools in our town. We were still debating, and then I tore my ACL, and we figured we might as well apply. Our feeling was that, if they got in, that’d be good, but if they didn’t, that’d be ok too. And they got in.

So today marks one week of school. So far it has been really, really good. Both boys are making friends and love their teachers. Henry’s teacher seems to be book-obsessed (though are there 4th grade teachers who aren’t?) (not that they’re all Colby Sharp or anything, but I would imagine every 4th grade teacher loves books), so that suits book-obsessed Henry. Eli’s teacher is sweet and kind, and about two inches taller than he is.

We didn’t really tell them that we were viewing this completely as a trial, and if they hated it, we’d pull them out. I mean, they knew, I think, but I didn’t want them to go in wanting to hate it. But they don’t hate it, at all. Eli is still not completely sure (“She made us do the hokey pokey. Do you have any idea how embarrassing that is?”), but Henry is clearly loving it, all of it, from kickball to multiplication worksheets.

Eli’s mood about school increased 1000-fold on day 3, when he got a love note:

My first grader Eli's love note | World of Julie

So, to sum up: I’m ok. Tore my ACL. Can’t quite walk, but I’m working on that, and I’m hoping to be walking and driving by…what? November? I’m feeling surprisingly vain about my inability to wear skirts and cute shoes. And the boys are in school, and that’s ok.

yellow Camper platforms, red Miz Mooz heels | World of Julie

Goodbye for now, cute shoes. I'll see you in the spring.

Super cute alert: Kimochis

Kimochis = cutenessKimochis are so adorable I want to squeeze the bejeebers out of all of them. Including the books (it is totally ok to hug a book).

Which I think makes me Huggtopus, the octopus who sometimes gets a little overexuberant with her enthusiastic hugging.

Kimochis are cute little dolls with feelings, and there are picture books to go along with them, Bug Makes a Splash, Cloud’s Best Worst Day Ever, and Cat’s Not-So-Perfect Sandcastle (disclaimer: we received these books and a mini Bug as free review copies). You can go to the Kimochis website to see the critters in all their ridiculous adorableness.

Now, listen: I am not generally a fan of messagey picture books, or ones that are obviously trying to get kids to think something in particular. Sure, all picture books are probably trying to get kids to feel something in particular, but I back away from books that seem to be all, “HELLO CHILDREN! FEEL THIS, PLEASE!”

So I was a little nervous about Kimochis. Would they be hitting me over head, telling me how my Feelings were Ok?

Bug Makes a SplashSo: yeah. There is the definite sense that, you know, if you give a shy kid Bug, then it might help that kid to feel braver, since Bug is shy, and does things to feel braver. But before you get all gaggy, you should know that these books, and critters, and just so darn cute that you have to forgive them for talking to you about Feelings. As soon as we pulled our Bug out of the package, all my kids passed him around and cuddled with him (and then, well, fought over him, which is a Feeling he doesn’t really address). I will also say that the illustrations in the books (by Hanako Wakiyama) are FABULOUS — sweet and spare and totally fitting the books.

And as we were sitting there, reading them, I decided to get over myself. Not every book can be quirky and odd and hilarious (if they were all Chloe and the Lion, then Chloe and the Lion wouldn’t seem so remarkable).  Also it occurred to me that we’ve been doing a bit of a Berenstain Bears marathon lately, and The Bears are nothing if not messagey.

And you know what? My kids love Kimochis. They think they are adorable, and they think the books are fun. Each book seems to have a silly part, and a sweet part, and a part that makes them kind of quiet and contemplative (likely thinking, “Yeah, I remember when I went totally nutbar just like Cloud is doing”) (which is kind of the point).

The website has some info for educators (including downloadable handouts for using Kimochis with autistic kids). I think these could be extremely useful in the classroom, where books about feelings (and controlling inappropriate ones) are even more needed than at home, I imagine, and Kimochis would be a welcome change from Bobby Bear Gets Angry and Hits Things Sometimes (ok, I just made that up, but I’m sure there are books like that).

Here’s my quick-and-dirty lowdown: get Bug Makes a Splash if you’ve got a shy kid, Cloud’s Best Worst Day Ever if you have a kid who sometimes gets giant angry feelings, and Cat’s Not-So-Perfect Sandcastle if you’re dealing with a little perfectionist. And definitely get the accompanying stuffed animal, because they’re adorable.

And, finally, here’s a video about Huggtopus. Because it’s so cute:

Review on Brain Burps: And Then It’s Spring

And Then It's SpringOh boy, this is a good book. Which you’ll figure out after hearing my near-rapturous review. This book manages to pull together sweet-sad poetry and humor in just a few words, and the words are perfectly matched with Erin Stead’s illustrations.

What I didn’t mention in my review is that the first few times we read this, each reading took (or, well, seemed to take) about six hours, because on every page, Ramona would scream, “DOG! TURTLE!” So it went sort of like this: “First you have — DOG! TURTLE! — brown, all around — DOG! TURTLE! — you have — DOG! TURTLE! — brown…” But these are the dangers of reading anything to a 2-year-old, and I have to say that “And Then It’s Spring” held up beautifully despite repeated interruptions.

You can check out more info on the podcast episode here, or go straight to iTunes here.

And yes, the podcast episode happened almost a week ago, but we had lovely guests, and then I hurt myself, so things are a little behind schedule here at World of Julie, sorry.


In a flurry, rushing to get things done, always rushed, I stepped out of the shed carrying boxes of camping food and SNAP! (BAM? WHOOTZ? some kind of comic book sound for sure) my knee buckled and camping food went everywhere (flying marshmallows!) and I was in the dirt, helpless. Good thing I have all these kids to bring me ice and clean up the cans of baked beans I’d thrown asunder. Dave came home ten minutes later and helped me hobble inside.

That was Friday night. The doctor on Saturday said I’d done something. It might be a tear, but we’re hoping for a sprain, she said. Though later it occurred to me that I’ve never heard of anyone having a sprained knee. Have you? So I’ve got to go get an MRI this week and see what I did.

Until then: crutches, ice. Less frequent internet communications since I’m on the couch.

The Little Free Library is a week old

First I want to tell you about how happy I still am about our Little Free Library. You know, you have this idea in your head, and it seems like a great idea, and then you make your idea, and put it out there, and then there’s that panic, the feeling that maybe it was a huge mistake (is it just me? that cycle of thought happens about 100 times a day for me). So we put up the Little Free Library, and…

It has been awesome!

The first day there was almost a 75 percent turnover in books. Books were flying in and out of there. It was so fabulously gratifying. These have been my most favorite exchanges:

  • Two 8-year-old girls, riding by on their bikes, who stopped and said, “Let’s play bookstore, and pretend this is a bookstore where we can get books!”
  • An 8-year-old boy running (RUNNING) to the Little Free Library first thing in the morning, flinging open the door, and taking out a book, saying, “Phew! It’s still here! I had to get it before anyone else did!”
  • Best of all: the 12-year-old boy who declared, “I don’t like reading” when I told him he could take a book, who then, the next day, came back and took out “The Way Things Work, Volume 2″  (not the David Macauley one, but this vintagey thing we had kicking around), declared, “I found a book I like!” and then held it to his chest like he’d found treasure.
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