Monday, July 30, 2012

Look who made the centerfold!

Guess who made the centerfold of Highlights for Children? Yes, me! (Get your mind out of the gutter, it's not that kind of centerfold; I write for children, people.)

Highlights for Children (Sept. 2012) used with permission.
Image copyright Michael Cameron, NOAA.

I can't show you the whole thing, but see that by-line? Off to the right there are staples (well, you can't see them, and since my son absconded with the magazine, I can't retake the image, but trust me, there are staples). Definitely staples... as in the staples that hold everything together and signify the center of the magazine. The staples that cause a magazine to fall open more often to the center spread than any other page (once the little subscription card thingies are torn out).

I am so, so thrilled to have my first Highlights article "drop" (I'm trying to pick up the lingo; still not sure I'm using it right). Doesn't that sound as though stacks upon stacks of the magazine, balanced precariously upon a hinged platform, suddenly find themselves in free-fall as the platform falls away? I imagine they plummet down long, windy Willy Wonka's factory-like chutes that divide and subdivide until each magazine plops into a kid's mailbox.

The kids race out to collect the mail, jump up and down when they see that lovely red Highlights banner, and speed inside to read it from cover to cover. Or maybe that's just my kids. And me. Not now (well, yes, now, but not ONLY now). I did it back when I was a kid, too. Highlights was my favorite magazine, and I never dreamed I would be published in it (well I did, but not way back then).

So that's my big news for the week. I'm still all smiley about it, and absolutely in love with the photos they chose, all taken by a friend of mine, Michael Cameron of the NOAA National Marine Mammals Laboratory Polar Ecosystems Program. The man's got some talent, no?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Overcoming the sloth

This sign pretty much says it all:

That's me--second from the right (on the sign!)

It describes my current ability to function to a T. It's 105 degrees F (40.5 C) outside, with a heat index somewhere above that, the kids are bored, stuck inside and ready for school to start, and I have articles to write. I couldn't even get this post up by my usual time.

What I really want to do today is this:

Isn't he adorable? This is the two-toed sloth
we found near our hotel.

But what I AM going to do today is hammer away at my growing list of WIPs, pitch an idea I've been working on to a lovely editor, and put a dent in my to-do list. Then I'm going to escape to the basement with the kids to hide out until the sun goes down.

What do you do in the dog-days of summer? (And why are they called that, anyway?)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Adventures in the Rich Coast

As promised, more about Costa Rica! You know how a perfectly delightful vacation gives you nothing to talk about? "Yeah, the weather was great, everything went as planned... uh, I got sand in my swimsuit." Not much there.

Well, most of our trip was perfectly delightful--we saw dozens of species of birds (including white-ruffed manakins displaying on their arena, a pair of mot-mots, and a toucan).

Either a Passerini's tanager or a Cherrie's
tanager (that's his bright red back;
he's looking away from the camera).

We had a two-toed sloth and a troop of capuchin monkeys hanging out right by our hotel.

Capuchin, right overhead. The whole troop
went within a few meters of us.

And we received some warning head-bobs from the resident ctenosaurs and basilisks. There were tons of animals, which was what we wanted to see. It was great!

Ctenosaur (not an iguana!).
These guys are big--up to a meter in length

We spent a day at the base of the Arenal Volcano, swam in the hot springs, and enjoyed our first tropical downpour. Then it was off to Monteverde via the van-boat-van.

Arenal as seen from our hotel. We were told
we'd feel rumbles from this active volcano,
but it was quiet while we were there.

The van-boat-van is touted as the quickest way from Arenal to Monteverde. By taking us across the lake, we could avoid the windy mountain roads and shave hours off our trip. Sounds great, doesn't it? The first van ride was a quick jaunt around the volcano to the lake shore. We lucked out with a rain-free trip across the lake.

The calm before the storm (-y drive).
Lovely, isn't it?

So far so good.

When we got to the other side, the driver told us he couldn't take us the normal route--the roads were too slippery. Too dangerous. So he'd have to take us the long way around.

Now, in my mind (and in my experience driving in the Rocky Mountains), the normal route involved a rutted, rocky, single-lane unpaved road. The rains made it wet and muddy, so we couldn't go that way. Surely that meant we would be taking paved, less-steep roads instead, right?

Not so much.

We spent nearly three hours jostling around the inside of the bus, racing down bumpy hills at breakneck speed only to skid to a halt as we careened around a bend into
a herd of cattle...
or an ox-cart...
or someone on a motorbike...
or a stray dog...
or a big patch of mud. 
At one point the wheels began spinning in the mud, and I had visions of us pushing the bus to get it unstuck. (Uphill, of course, and did I mention it was raining the entire time?) At the last second, the wheels found traction and we lurched ahead.

I grew up in the mountains, so I felt surprisingly at home during the whole excursion. Beloved Husband, on the other hands, had to periodically pry his hand from the seat in front of him, just to get some feeling back in his fingertips. But he was a champ.

We made it to Monteverde as the sun set and the rain cleared. I haven't seen that many stars in the night sky in a very, very long time.

It was worth every minute of the drive. (Beloved Husband might disagree.)

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pura Vida

First an update: the bats fully recovered and are once again free to hang from tree branches, pretend to be leaves, and generally try to avoid the resident blue jays.

Exciting news! My latest article is currently one of the features on Science News for Kids. Wonder what it might be like to walk down the street of a future city? Come take a peek.

I was also interviewed by Diane Kress Hower as part of her Passion for Picture Books series. Thanks, Diane!

Lots going on, though I haven't been here to post about it. I've spent the past two weeks travelling in Costa Rica with Beloved Husband. What an amazing country!

We even saw a tree bat swinging wildly from the branch of a tree (made me think of our bats). It's the perfect camouflage: just another fluttery leaf up among branches full of fluttery leaves. Except for the whole lack of breeze issue, which, uh, pretty much draws your attention to the fact that something is swinging wildly from the branch of the tree, and it's definitely not a leaf. As far as we know, it was not picked off by a roaming scissor-tailed kite, although we saw quite a few as we zip-lined through the cloud forest canopy.

I'll have stories and photos, but I'm still in recovery mode, so... not today. Instead, I just have a few quick pictures. Can you find the flycatcher, hummingbird, and woodpecker?

Wishing everyone a wonderful Fourth of July, and hoping everyone affected by the storms along the east coast is staying cool.