What’s The Ten-Year-Old reading this week?

Dragon Rider by Cornelia Funke
The wonderful thing about moving is that unpacking the books slowly gives books that were overlooked at the previous home a second chance at capturing The Ten-Year-Old’s imagination.

I had first purchased Dragon Rider for The Ten-Year-Old when she was a mere Eight-Year-Old, because a) Cornelia Funke and b) dragons.

I assumed she’d adore it. A young silver dragon befriends a lonely boy, and together the two set off to find the mythical world where dragons and boys can live in peace. Along the way they encounter all sorts of curious creatures, and go up against a dastardly villain determined to thwart their peace-having plans. There’s even an orange cat on Firedrake’s back. What could be more perfect?

The Eight-Year-Old started it, but it didn’t capture her fancy, so she shelved it again. Periodically over the past couple of years, I’ve proposed to her that she give it another try, because a) Cornelia Funke and b) dragons. But she’s always had something more interesting (or so she thought) to read.

But thanks to the contrivance of happenstance, Dragon Rider was one of the last ones to get packed before we left Chicago and one of the first to reappear after we arrived in California. So The Ten-Year-Old picked it up again, because a) bored and b) dragons.

Spoiler alert: She can’t get enough of it now. She’s reread it several times over the past three weeks. “I just can’t believe it, Mommyo,” she told me this morning. “But I notice something new about this book every time I read it.”

I can not wait for her to discover Inkheart.

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Remaining Box Count: 

  • Downstairs: 31
  • Upstairs: 90
  • Garage: Tons
Posted in Reading, Reviews: Books, What the 10yo is reading | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Wordless Wednesday

Photo: Shala Howell

One of my neighbors has the most marvelous rose garden. It reminds me of the rose bushes my mother used to grow behind our house in Dallas.

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Remaining Box Count:

  • Downstairs: 41
  • Upstairs: 102
  • Garage: Too many to count


Posted in Nature, Out and About, Wordless Wednesday | Tagged | 2 Comments

“Is there an official landing pad for UFOs?”

Stopping at the Bonneville salt flats on our road trip to California naturally got The Ten-Year-Old thinking about alien planets and the beings that travel away from them.

“Mommyo,” she asked when we were back on the road. “Is there an official landing pad for UFOs?”

I have often boasted that I’m comfortable googling anything. But I’ll admit I was little worried about asking this. Somehow, inquiring about UFOs on the Intertubes just doesn’t feel as safe as asking Dr. Google whether the iron in squirrel’s teeth makes them rust.

(Ironically, I was able to find an answer to the UFO landing pad question on the first try. Multiple searches later, I still can’t figure out whether squirrel dental hygiene issues include rusty teeth. I assume the answer is no, due to the rust-proof properties of enamel, but I can’t even find confirmation that squirrel teeth are orange because they contain iron. And that seems like a basic fact I need if I’m  going to answer the question “does all that iron make squirrel teeth rust?” I may have to deploy a librarian to figure this one out.)

Anyway, you’ll be happy to know that there are lots of official UFO landing pads lurking about.

The World’s First Official UFO Landing Pad and Center (St. Paul, Alberta, Canada)

The UFO landing pad in St. Paul, Alberta. Photo courtesy of the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce, via Atlas Obscura.

According to Atlas Obscura, the world’s first UFO landing pad was built in St. Paul, Alberta in 1967. It features a stone map of Canada in case the visitors need directions to Ottawa, and boasts a time capsule designed to be opened on the landing pad’s 100th anniversary in 2067.

The center also maintains a toll-free hotline in case a UFO gets lost on the way to Alberta. People who spot UFOs wandering off somewhere else are invited to call 1-888-See-UFOs (1-888-733-8367) to report them.

The Palacios Municipal Airport (Palacios, Texas) 

Not to be outdone, the city council of Palacios, Texas issued a proclamation on October 19, 1973 formally granting UFOs landing privileges at the existing Palacios Municipal Airport.

In announcing the proclamation, Mayor Jackson of Palacios, which is located on the Texas Gulf Coast between Houston and Corpus Christi, somewhat inaccurately said, “It just occurred to me that no one has ever made those little fellas welcome. So we – the Town Council – issued a proclamation to make it official.”

Article announcing the UFO fly-in day at Palacios Municipal Airport in the Denton Record-Chronicle, October 19, 1973 (p. 3)

Urantia (Del Rio, Texas)

Del Rio businesswoman Barbara Petsch, who ran Dilly-Dilly Art & Gifts on Highway 90 West, thought welcoming UFOs to Texas sounded like an excellent idea. She and two of her closest friends started Skylight 606 to construct a UFO-theme park named Urantia outside of Del Rio, Texas. The theme park was never finished, but the group did complete a 60-foot circular concrete UFO landing pad in 1977. The area is closed to the public now, but you can still see Skylight 606’s landing pad on Google Maps.

The UFO landing pad built by Skylight 606 in Del Rio, Texas. (Image: Google Maps.)

The Nunes Sand & Gravel Pit (Hutchins, Texas)

After considerable thought, 73-year-old Wesley Nunes decided that it would be a fine thing to build an octagonal UFO landing pad of his own just outside of Dallas, Texas. In 1992, he converted a patch of his 120-acre sand and gravel pit in Hutchins, Texas to a concrete landing pad. Mr. Nunes died in 2006, but his landing pad endures. Again, since it’s on private property, your best bet for viewing it is a trip to Google Maps.

Wesley Nunes’s landing pad just southeast of Dallas, Texas. (Image via Google Maps.)

The UFO Landing Pad and Star Visitor Sanctuary on Hawaii’s Big Island

According to the Wall Street Journal, The Lawful Hawaiian Government, an independence group working to restore the old Hawaiian Kingdom, has an official UFO landing pad all its own. The UFO Landing Pad and Star Visitor Sanctuary is located on a field of lava on Hawaii’s Big Island.

No doubt there are more UFO landing pads lurking about, but since I’m not actually in charge of writing The Star Visitor’s Travel Guide to Planet Earth, I’m going to stop there.

Just out of curiosity, where’s your favorite UFO landing pad?

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Test post: Google+ & WordPress in a spat

Once upon a time, when I posted something on Caterpickles, it appeared automatically on my Google+ page as well, properly marked for public consumption.

This morning, I noticed that my Caterpickles posts were all still showing up on Google+, but instead of being publicly viewable, they were all viewable only by me.

Well, that’s not very helpful. After all, I already know that my book’s out, that the Utah salt flats are a weird alien landscape in the middle of the western half of the U.S., and that it’s hard to find good science fiction featuring not-terribly-scary aliens for ten-year-olds.

The point of sharing with Google+ is tell other people all that. Apparently, the key to fixing it is to disconnect Google+ from WordPress on your WordPress site, and WordPress from Google+ on your Google+ profile, then reconnect the two again from the WordPress side.

I can’t tell if this worked. So I’m writing up a quick post to test it.

Fingers crossed.


Well, that seems to have worked. Now to reshare all those old posts which were marked private so that they can actually be public. Sadly I’m afraid I’m going to have to type up a new version of them manually, as simply resharing them as a public post doesn’t seem to be working. Anyone have a better way?

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

What’s The Ten-Year-Old reading this week?

Our books are mostly still packed up in boxes. Fortunately, The Ten-Year-Old’s new fifth grade teacher keeps an ample supply in her classroom, most of which are new to The Ten-Year-Old. Even better, when the kids at lunch aren’t gossiping about the weird things their parents do, they’re talking about the books they’re reading.  Both of this week’s books were recommended to The Ten-Year-Old by kids in her class.

Only You Can Save Mankind (The Johnny Maxwell Trilogy, Book 1) by Terry Pratchett

What the book’s about: Twelve-year-old Johnny Maxwell is about to conquer the final level in the computer game Only You Can Save Mankind, when the aliens abruptly surrender. Instead of disintegrating the last alien ship, Johnny accepts their surrender, and ends up offering sanctuary to the remnants of the Galactic Horde. That’s when the dreams begin. In his dreams, Johnny finds himself on the alien ScreeWee ships, protecting the ScreeWee from the human gamers trying to hunt them down. Could the aliens be real? Is this really just a game?

Why The Ten-Year-Old likes it: “Awesome story line, and I love how he ended it. The ScreeWee felt really human. They felt like they have real emotions. I can’t get them out of my head. In fact, I fell asleep thinking about the ScreeWee captain last night.”

Who would enjoy reading this book: Anybody who enjoyed Star Wars, Terry Pratchett, or a good storyline.

The Egypt Game by Zilpha Keatley Snyder

What the book’s about: April Hall doesn’t seem like the sort of person Melanie Ross would want as a friend. But when she discovers they both love ancient Egypt, she decides to give April a chance. The two girls commandeer a deserted storage yard for the Egypt Game. They meet in the yard to wear Egyptian costumes, hold ceremonies, and develop a secret code. Over time, their little squad of Egyptians swells to six. It’s just a game, a bit of harmless fun. But when strange things start to happen, Melanie wonders if she and April have taken the Egypt Game too far.

Why The Ten-Year-Old likes it: “I like how it’s these kids setting up this game. I was thinking about doing it at home with some of our big boxes. They pretend they are ancient Egyptians, they tell stories, they have the goddess Isis and the goddess Set. It’s insanely funny and ingenious, but probably best if you just read it.”

Who would enjoy reading this book: Anybody who likes Ancient Egypt or just likes a good storyline.

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Posted in Reading, Reviews: Books, What the 10yo is reading | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

We have landed!

The Ten-Year-Old explores the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. (Photo: Shala Howell)

After a week of driving and a couple of weeks of furious unpacking, Caterpickles Central (California edition) is finally in a state to allow for regular blog updates.

We saw many amazing things on our road trip, but my personal favorite were the Bonneville Salt Flats just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. I was completely unprepared for the sight of them. (If Mark Kurlansky talked about the salt flats in Salt, I certainly don’t remember it.)

The ground looked like it was covered in snow, it crunched like it was covered in snow, but somehow we were warm enough in short sleeves. I’m still having trouble processing it. So. Much. Salt.

Naturally, we passed a Morton’s salt processing plant on our way out of town.

Lots of other things to tell you about our road trip, but I’ll have to spool it out over a few posts. Writing words in sentences is hard. Especially when there’s a towering stack of cardboard just outside my door waiting to be dealt with.

So long for now.

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Remaining Box Count:

  • Downstairs: 50
  • Upstairs: 116
  • Garage: Too many to count
Posted in Miscellaneous Musings, Nature, Out and About | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Hey, my book’s out!

We interrupt our move to California to let you know that the first installment in the Caterpickles Parenting Series is finally available.

What’s That, Mom? uses the proven case-study format to help parents get their children outside and asking questions that promote curiosity. Written for real-world parenting, this book is short and sweet, designed to be read and used as a field guide with tips that parents can put into action immediately.

Woo-hoo! It exists!

Even more exciting, What’s That, Mom?: How to use public art to engage your children with the world around them… without being an artist yourself is the number 1 new release in the Parent Participation in Education category. How amazing is that?

Seems like a great time to say thank you to everyone who helped make this book and its successful debut possible.

I can’t wait to hear what you think of it!

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Posted in Caterpickles Books, Out and About, public art | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Wordless Wednesday: Little Dude

(Photo: Grandpa Howell)

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Sky Watch: Total Solar Eclipse August 21

Readers in North America who have been hiding under rocks, there’s a total solar eclipse headed our way on August 21. DO NOT look at a solar eclipse directly. You will go blind.

Watching the Eclipse Safely

Instead, you’ll need to either buy some eclipse glasses (which I hear are in short supply), or make a pinhole projector. Making a pinhole projector will take some advance planning, but not much. Fifteen minutes should do it.

How to make a pinhole projector in 15 minutes or less, using stuff you have at home

Lots of other people have posted instructions on the web for how to make one of these, so I’m not going to duplicate their effort. Instead, I’ll just share some options:

Happy viewing!

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Posted in Experiments, Nature, Out and About, Science | Tagged | 1 Comment

Caterpickles Central Update: Our time in Chicago is winding down

(Photo: Shala Howell)

Caterpickles Central is packing up shop and heading west again. This time to Northern California. Moving day is in mid-September.

Posting will be spotty over the next month or so, as we shut down the Chicago version of Caterpickles Central and open up the new one in the Bay Area.

We’ll miss you, Chicago. We’re so glad we got to spend one last glorious summer with you.

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Posted in Miscellaneous Musings | Tagged , | 2 Comments