Crazy Mom








Weird day. Hot day. When I left the library it was 111°.

I have 57 shelves left in the library to do, not counting the nonfiction section. I’m back to being a little discouraged. I’ll do the best I can, and that’s that. I’ll work on nonfiction when school resumes, minus the Who Is/Who Was books. I created records for those before school ended, since they are so popular with the kids.

Nico had his appointment with the allergist. It was okay, except for the part where I felt like a crazy mom. There was a part of me last week that thought Nico threw up because he ate too many cherries (Occam’s Razor, and all that). His allergist believes this is the case. He feels I’m overly attuned to Nico’s reactions to food (rightfully so, he was quick to add) and that on Wednesday everyone jumped to the wrong conclusion because of his history. Diagnosis: he ate too many cherries. “If you look at the serving size of cherries, it’s probably five,” he said.*

He didn’t just jump to the conclusion that Nico ate too many cherries. He first considered oral allergy syndrome, so we scratch tested him for the most common cross reacting allergens. He was positive for a number of molds and olive, but not birch, grass, or ragweed. At the end of the appointment he had blood drawn to check for a rare, very unlikely, cherry allergy.

I’m fine with his doctor thinking I’m overreacting because, if I look at it objectively, it would make sense. Any parent is within their rights to freak out if their child goes to the hospital with a severe allergic reaction at two and eight years of age. But he still can’t tell me what happened in Lake Tahoe other than he thinks it was a misdiagnosis, and that bothers me. When I showed him a patch from an allergy test in April that never went away, he could only explain it as an unexplained immunological event.

Dude, give me something. Anything! I’m a doer and a fixer, so all this “unknown” this-and-that is making me feel crazy and childish. Like, I’m freaking out over nothing.**

Also, maybe don’t say, “You carry an epipen with you at all times, so you always have a plan B.”


*The serving size is twenty five cherries, but I’m assuming that’s for an adult.

**Nico is a champ. He doesn’t complain and doesn’t let anything get him down for long. His attitude is “Oh well, won’t eat that anymore!” While I appreciate his carefree attitude and wish I was more like him, I still want to figure out what, if anything, happened last summer. I don’t want to restrict his life or take away foods if it’s not necessary, and all the blood tests now say it’s not necessary.

Organizing the Library

Books, dining room

I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think this will be my third, and last, summer working in the library! Hurray! I have the library management system I’ve always wanted (Follett Destiny) and I’m purging my way through the books in the collection. With a little hard work, I should have the library where I envisioned it four (!!) years ago.

Each year I get more aggressive and demand more from the library. At first, I was happy to have the books sort-of grouped by genre, which was a controversial move on its own. In fact, I can’t believe I was so bold to go in there my first year and move everything around like that, as a volunteer. Last year, I started purging. I focused on getting rid of anything ridiculously out of date, like the many sets of encyclopedias from the 1960s-1980s. Our former principal requested that I keep the most recent set, so I did. I also donated any book without a dust jacket, which was an alarming amount. I figured out that a librarian from many moons ago decided to save money (or time) wrapping hardcovers by just removing the dust jacket from the book. Brilliant! Such a shame you can’t tell what the book is about without the dust jacket.

This year, I’m waging a full-on organization war. I have to enter in every book in the library into the new system anyway, so I figured this was my time to really and truly cull the collection. I used to keep many books I should have donated because I was afraid to get rid of something or the shelves looking bare (or getting in trouble), but as I bought more books and became better at asking for donations, I quickly realized that space is at a premium in our small library. I don’t have room for four copies of the Junie B. Jones and Magic Treehouse series. I especially don’t have room for Clare Darcy’s Elyza, a regency romance about a tomboy who gets caught up in London society. Elyza could be the most charming book ever written, but I can’t keep a book that was last check out in May of 1994.

Books, rainbow

Here’s a lousy picture of what I hope will be an amazing outcome. I narrowed the genres down to 14, and each one has its own color. This is the first batch of books I finished a few weeks ago. I have a few shelves completed now. The young adult section for the 7th and 8th grades will look the same, with the addition of call numbers that start with YA.  Now, when a student wants to find an action adventure book, they know to look for a green label. General fiction is blue, humor is yellow, and so on. It should help kids self select better and expose them to books they may have otherwise ignored.

It’s not a perfect system, but each stumbling block has a solution. At first I agonized a bit about separating an author’s body of work (Kate DiCamillo and Avi will be all over the library) but then I realized it was a perfect opportunity to encourage the students to avoid ruts and try something new. If Kate DiCamillo can’t bear to write only fantasy, students shouldn’t aim to read only fantasy. I might have to turn this into a scavenger hunt/reading challenge, where the winner figures out which author has the most diverse output.

Between culling, data entry, wrapping, and affixing labels, each shelf takes me about two hours. I have somewhere between 40-50 shelves left to go. I stopped counting after 40 on Friday because I was feeling very, very discouraged. But, that was before I timed myself this weekend, and knowing how to calculate the length of this project is making me feel much more optimistic. I’m going to be back tomorrow with the final count of shelves left and more progress pictures.

Consider this one of my summer William Morris Projects. (Never did find another quote I liked as much, btw.)

The Pits

Epipen Bag

Yesterday I posted this picture on Instagram with the following caption.

Nico is okay with having a nut allergy. He has no desire to eat nuts! It’s one of the few good things about remembering what anaphylaxis feels like. Occasionally, though, he gets down. Usually this coincides with school activities and food made in nut facilities. Holidays (Halloween, Easter) are okay because he knows we’ll have something just for him that he can eat. Anyway, long story wrapping up, I was shopping for teachers’ gifts when I saw this doodlecase. He had a great time decorating his own epipen bag, which I now keep in my purse. Still on the lookout for a cute, boyish fanny pack he can carry on his own. The mini messenger bag we got him kept getting left behind!

Then I gave Nico a generous bowl  of fresh cherries I bought the day before. I debated taking a picture of the bowl and making a comment about how I never eat cherries thanks to that scene in Witches of Eastwick, but then thought to myself, Jules, no. No one cares why you don’t eat cherries, you 2016 over-sharer. I skimmed Instagram for pictures tagged #epipen instead.  I wondered why some people were using the tag when the picture had nothing to do with allergies. I googled it, came up with nothing. I decided I didn’t need to keep up with everything 20-29 year olds do these days. (I admit I’m still curious.) I told the boys to get in the car, we were taking Mikey’s friend home.

Twenty minutes later, with the friend dropped off, we were on our way home. Mikey and I talked about how we were going to relax when we got home. Nico, sitting in the front next to me, said nothing. I looked over and saw him hunched against the door. I asked him to look at me, and he did. His cheeks were pink; he looked terrible. “I don’t feel well,” he said.

“Like you’re going to throw up?”


I pulled off at the next exit and made it to a driveway of a car rental office. I told Nico to walk to the trash can and see if he could throw up. I told Mikey to go inside the rental office and ask for a trash bag. I cleaned out the back seat of comic books so Nico could lay down if he needed to.

Nico never made it to the trash can. But once he vomited (vigorously) he turned around and said he felt instantly better. This is why I don’t eat cherries, I thought. They’re the puke fruit.

The boys got back in the car. I gave Nico the bag Mikey got for him and asked him how he felt. “Much better. I won’t throw up again.”


I tried to get on the freeway, but missed the turn when a larger truck wouldn’t let me in. I took side streets. At a red light, I looked back at Nico. He was quiet but calm, staring out the window. I noticed him scratch his armpits.

At another red light, I saw him rub his face and scratch his forearm.

At another red light, I picked up my phone.

Screenshot 2016-06-15 21.56.22

I felt like the worst mother in the world.

We were next to his allergist office, which is next door to the urgent care. I pulled into the parking lot. I got out of the car and checked Nico’s trunk, his back, his face, tongue, eyes, ears, palms of his hand. Everything looked normal, except for his cheeks which were just the slightest bit pink. Already less pink than earlier. Whatever was going on, it was nothing like what happened in July. We would be okay. (I just reread that post. Yuck. My fear oozed out of every word.)

The doctor wasn’t in, so they sent us to the urgent care. They treated us very well and said that whatever happened, it wasn’t severe–thanks in part to Nico turning into a cherry firehose in the driveway of Enterprise Rent-A-Car.

“Good job puking, dude,” said Mikey.

They couldn’t give Nico Benadryl at the urgent care because it was red, and the pediatrician didn’t know if it had cherry flavoring or color. I went to two pharmacies before I found a dye-free, bubble gum flavored Benadryl. Cherry is a top seller!

“Call his allergist first thing in the morning,” the pediatrician said.

If you read this at or around 8:30am PST, that’s what I’ll be doing: calling Nico’s allergist. What’s so bizarre is that we recently had him tested. His results were so low for nut allergy* that his doctor requested all of Nico’s medical records from Nevada (hospital, ambulance, urgent care). “It great that he may not be allergic to nuts,” he said. “Not so great if we can’t figure out what triggered the event in Lake Tahoe.” His hope is that Nico was never in anaphylactic shock, but just had a really, really bad hive reaction and everyone panicked. In my heart, I know that’s not likely.

I’m hoping he ate too many cherries and that his stomach was just a little upset. I’m clinging to the old medical adage about hoofbeats and zebras.

*Nico did test off-the-scale-positive to a formaldehyde releasing preservative. More on that soon.

The Chocolate Fever Party

Chocolate Fever 1

The end of the school term is fast approaching, which means it’s time for me to party with the first graders. Last year we had a Mercy Watson party after we finished reading the entire Mercy Watson series. This year we had a Chocolate Fever party inspired by the book by Robert Kimmel Smith.

Chocolate Fever is about a little boy named Henry Green who loves chocolate. He eats it morning, noon, and night with his parents’ permission because he’s healthy and…they’re negligent? Anyway, Henry’s life is going to plan until one day in class he discovers a bump on his arm. The bump starts spreading, and soon he is covered in chocolate-scented bumps. At the hospital it’s discovered that his bumps are made of pure chocolate, making Henry the first known case of Chocolate Fever! Henry runs away from the hospital, catches a ride with a trucker named Mac, and gets hijacked by a couple of incompetent wise-guys. He’s saved when all the dogs in the county catch his chocolate scent and break into the cabin where he’s being held hostage. Then, before going home, the trucker makes his delivery to a candy store and there they discover the antidote to Chocolate Fever: vanilla.

The book encourages the kids to show moderation in life and has other lessons on courage, caring, and prejudice. The books if from the 70s, so a few parts will shock or confuse the kids.

Shock: hitching a ride with a stranger. The kids almost fell out of their chairs in horror. “DANGER STRANGER, MRS. KENDALL! DANGER STRANGER!” My favorite: “The chocolate made Henry crazy, Mrs. Kendall!”

Confuse: the hijackers steal Mac’s truck because they think it’s full of furs (it’s actually full of candy). The kids did not get why anyone would want a truck full of furs.

“Furs, like animals? So it’s a truck going to a pet shop?”

“No, a fur is a type of coat made from animal fur. It’s just the fur of the animals. People used to wear them in the winter and they were very expensive.”

“People wore dead animals?! Cats? Did people wear cats? Why would you want to wear a cat?”

“Nobody wore cats but, yes, people have stopped wearing furs because it’s pretty sad. We can fill the truck with something else…”

“Can we fill the truck with iPads? I would steal a truck full of iPads.”

Other things they didn’t get: pay phones, walking to school, judging someone by the color of their skin, and eating chocolate ice cream for breakfast.

Chocolate Fever 2

Chocolate Fever 3

If you are going to have a Chocolate Fever party, do it because you know most kids love chocolate and the treats are tasty and easy to source. Don’t do it because the decorations will be cute. If you stick to the book, your party will look like Brown Town with a handful of (brown) dog erasers. One 8th grader passed by as I was setting up and said, “Mrs. Kendall, why is everything so brown? It’s just so…oooh, yum! Is that chocolate?”

So, yeah. Something to think about. A good librarian may not plan her read alouds based on how the party will look at the end, but technically I’m not a librarian, so I’m good. I already have next year’s book picked out (it’s another series) and the party is going to be awesome.


A Slave, a Caliph, a Vampire, a Swimmer, and One Very Twisted 7th Grade Class

The great thing about reading young adult literature the way some people approach eating more greens is that when something is good, it is surprisingly good. Like: no way, there’s broccoli in this? Do I like broccoli now? Check me out, liking broccoli! I become inspired to try more.

This is what happened. I was started eating the greens and finished something really satisfying. This happened not too long after finishing another equally great book. I realized I can do young adult, especially when the books have imperfect characters. I love male protagonists. I am almost never ready to face the crucible of paranormal romances. Ancient civilization settings and retellings are my weaknesses.

Here’s a few I’ve read in the last few months.


4.5 stars. Maybe 5. So, so great. Tahir had me at “inspired by the Roman Empire.” Public Radio International described it perfectly as having “the addictive quality of The Hunger Games combined with the fantasy of Harry Potter and the brutality of Game of Thrones. I can’t put it in the library–I don’t think, need to discuss with principal–but I’m still happy I read it. So many fabulous talking points with teens, if only I had the chance! This is one I’d immediately approve as a high school librarian.

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I could not finish this book. It had everything I dislike about young adult literature, which disappointed me tremendously since going in I thought I would love it based on all the tropes it hit. 1) The insanely beautiful female protagonist who had no idea she was beautiful, despite the boys clamoring to be with her. She was also smart, funny, witty, shrewd, loyal, had hair of onyx, skin like velvet, and was a wonderful daughter. Did I mention she might have incredibly strong but long-hidden magical powers? 2) The moody male protagonist who was just misunderstood. He murders women, but he does it for the greater good. She’s totally going to fix him. 3) Love triangle. Of course who childhood friend has been in love with her all this time. She kind of sort of likes him back, but it’s all so confusing. Decisions, decisions. 4) Adults? What adults? 5) Heavy handed symbolism and imagery, bizarre themes. Shahrzad has onyx hair. Khalid has gold eyes. His competition, the childhood friend, has silver eyes (yes, she really did). You could make a drinking game out of the number of times she references a jewel or mineral.

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This book popped up as a recommendation on GoodReads because it had over 3 million in sales and glowing reviews. I didn’t pay much attention on Amazon or I would have immediately realized it’s self published. I have no problem with self publishing and have read some great books that way, but this isn’t one of them. I’m giving the book one star because it takes guts and perseverance to write and publish a book.

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YG recommended this book to me, and I loved it. Add this one to my dream high school library. Chris Crutcher writes with a confidence and familiarity that suggests a prior career working with young adults. The angst–there’s always angst–isn’t maudlin or sentimental. The Good/Bad Guys were a bit one dimensional and the ending juddered to a stop with red bows streaming, but it wasn’t anything intolerable. 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4

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Even the young adult books are dark in Denmark. This is the book I spoke of the other day on Facebook. This book, an existential, modern-day Lord of the Flies, was insane. It was edgy and disturbing and thought provoking, so of course I loved it. It was a Michael Printz Honor book 2011 but, though already hailed as a classic in Europe, it’s been poorly received in the United States. We like our 7th graders to moon over classmates and make awkward social decisions. We don’t like them doing…that. Seriously, this book is not for the faint of heart. My favorite hate-it review is this one. That is one pissed of grandma.

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