Visiting a sweet suite at Arrowhead

It felt like old times as I loaded up my cameras and followed the Operation Breakthrough kids onto the field at Arrowhead Stadium where they met up with their buddy Travis Kelce. The kids were treated to pregame meet n greet with Kelce and several of his teammates who shook hands and gave away gloves they had signed. Then we went to Kelce’s suite and watched the game. Sweet! My photos appeared on the blog for Kelce’s foundation, which supports Operation Breakthrough, an inner-city daycare.

https://wordpress.com/post/photomomentskc.com/945

 

Operation Breakthrough has my heart

I have so much fun working with the children at Operation Breakthrough, and my good buddy, Jennifer. The kids there are bright and beautiful and curious. Oh, so curious! I shot the photos for their fundraising brochure this summer to fund the summer school agers program. Then I went to their talent show to photograph their performance. What fun!

I wish I had a million dollars so I could give the daycare everything they need for their kids. I’ll have to settle for donating my time and photos so others can be generous. I hope sharing these smiles brings them many donations.

Banding a teeny tiny hummingbird

Published in The Kansas City Star, Star Magazine, Story and Photos by Mary Schulte.
If the hummingbirds flitting around your feeders seem to resemble golf balls these days, it’s not your imagination. September is peak migration time for the tiny birds — they’re stocking up on nectar and small bugs to double their body weight.
That’s not saying much since they weigh only about 2.5 grams, but by the time they leave on their trek to Mexico, and Central and South America, they will weigh more than 5 grams or about an eighth of an ounce.
“I tell people they weigh as much as a penny,” says Sarah Driver, a certified master bander from Ozark, Mo. Although a master bander is a volunteer job, Driver has official certification from the US. Geological Survey Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, Md., where she files her reports. Information from banders helps scientists track the migratory paths of the birds.
Driver says she needs about 200 pounds of sugar each summer to keep her 20 feeders stocked. During peak migration season — late August through mid-September — she puts out 3 gallons of sugar-water daily. The birds feed about every 15 minutes during daylight hours.
Hummingbird nectar is made with a ratio of 1 cup sugar to 4 cups water. It’s not necessary to boil the water; hot tap water dissolves the sugar well, Driver says.
“The hummers like it chilled,” she says. “They’re like anyone else, when it’s a hot day, they like a cool drink.”
The Kansas City area is a handy stopping place for hummers that travel from as far away as Alaska, as they head to more tropical climates for the winter.
“We have some nesting birds who are here all summer, but we also have some that migrate through,” says Alan Branhagen, director of horticulture for Powell Gardens. “The drought has been hard for them; they’ve been using our feeders a lot.”
Powell Gardens has several feeders and plants in their hummingbird and butterfly garden near the visitor’s center. 
“We will have hummingbirds here through September and into October,” Branhagen says.

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Children’s book author Jeanne Birdsall visits KC

Hey, kids, warm up to summer reading with these 10 titles 


MARY SCHULTE, The Kansas City Star
PUBLICATION: Kansas City Star


SECTION: books

DATE: May 3, 2015
Cracking open a new book in a favorite series is like saying hello to an old friend.

So fans of the Penderwick family will be happy to know that the latest installment by best-selling author Jeanne Birdsall is out in time for summer reading.

With a nod to Children’s Book Week beginning Monday, we spoke with National Book Award winner Birdsall during her recent stop in Kansas City to promote her latest, “The Penderwicks in Spring.” The middle-grade novel is among the 10 new books we’re recommending for children to read when the school year ends. Find that list below our interview.

“It’s so beautiful here,” Birdsall said as she sat on the Country Club Plaza, marveling at the lilacs and dogwood blossoms. “Spring hasn’t even arrived in Massachusetts yet.” She lives in Northampton, a haven for children’s authors and illustrators, such as picture book writer Mo Willems (“Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!”), Leslea Newman (“Heather Has Two Mommies”) and Lisa Yee (“The Kidney Hypothetical or How to Ruin Your Life in Seven Days”).

“My book truly is about spring. It starts with one of the characters stomping away the last snow.” That character, Batty, is one of the four original sisters in the Penderwick family, who have been joined in this fourth novel by a stepbrother, Ben, and 2-year-old red-headed princess Lydia.

Batty was only 4 years old in the first novel, “The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy,” published in 2009. The series has gone on to sell more than 1 million copies. Now Batty is turning 11, and the story mainly focuses on her, although her teenage sisters Skye, Jane and Rosalind, also appear. Birdsall is hesitant to pick a favorite, but she will admit she’s most like Batty.

“I’m a private person,” she said, “but my shyness and stubbornness are very much like Batty.”

Interview with children’ book author Jeanne BirdsallChildren’s book author Jeanne Birdsall talks about her fourth novel for middle grade readers, “The Penderwicks in Spring.”

Birdsall didn’t begin her writing career until she was 41, despite wanting to be a writer from the age of 10. The Penderwicks have been described as a modern-day version of “Little Women,” which Birdsall considers a compliment. “Every decision I make as a writer goes back to the kind of reader I was. I think all of my days of reading were just preparing me to be a writer.”

Even though the carefree days of spring are the setting for the novel, there are elements of darkness and depression. Batty discovers a secret that crushes her very soul, plus she believes that she is somehow responsible for the death of her beloved dog, Hound. Birdsall takes care to explain the character dynamics so that readers who have not read the first three books won’t feel lost. Her writing style is easy enough for the middle grade audience, but the deeper story will appeal to older readers and adults, too.

The novel should be in high demand for summer reading lists.

More recommendations

“Mustache Baby Meets his Match” by Bridget Heos with illustrations by Joy Ang (ages 3-5; Clarion Books; $16.99). Local author Heos brings back Mustache Baby for a playdate with bearded Javier. The playdate turns into a showdown as the competitive babies wrangle to see who’s the hero and who’s the sidekick. Fun illustrations and exaggerated facial hair will delight young readers.

“Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer,” by Kelly Jones with illustrations by Katie Kath (ages 8-12; Alfred A. Knopf, $16.99). The chickens are more than unusual, they have superpowers! Written in the form of letters to a dead uncle and grandmother, this book features a feisty 12-year-old named Sophie Brown, who is forced to move to her great-uncle’s farm when her father loses his job. And then she meets a bantam white leghorn with a perpetual scowl. Hopefully, debut author Jones will write some sequels.

“Monkey and Elephant and a Secret Birthday Surprise” by Carole Lexa Schaefer with illustrations by Galia Bernstein (ages 5-8; Candlewick Press; $14.99). The third book in this early reader series finds Elephant struggling to keep Monkey’s birthday a secret, because Monkey does not like birthdays. With this fun twist on the surprise party, kids will relate to trying to keep a big secret.

“Izzy Barr, Running Star” by Claudia Mills with illustrations by Rob Shepperson (ages 5-8; Farrar Straus Giroux; $15.99). This early reader is the third in the Franklin School Friends series and features Izzy and her buddies Kelsey Green, reading queen, and Annika Riz, math whiz. Izzy is getting ready for the third-grade field day and the citywide 10K, but she has some major obstacles. Izzy deals with a stepbrother who appears to be her father’s favorite, and the coach’s daughter, Skipper, who desperately wants to beat her.

“Humphrey’s Creepy-Crawly Camping Adventure” by Betty G. Birney with illustrations by Priscilla Burris (ages 5-8; G. P. Putnam’s Sons; $14.99). The original Humphrey series about the classroom hamster targets readers 8 and up, and this Tiny Tales version for younger readers carries on the adventures of the squeaky classroom pet. Humphrey goes home for the weekend with Heidi and joins the girls for a backyard campout. Trouble arises when Heidi’s classmate, Richie, has the boys over for a campout right next door. Beginning readers will enjoy finding out who gets scared most.

“Marilyn’s Monster” by Michelle Knudsen with illustrations by Matt Phelan (ages 3-5; Candlewick Press; $15.99). Delightful illustrations of whimsical monsters populate this picture book about a little girl desperately trying to find her monster. Problem is, her monster is supposed to find her — that’s just the way it works.

“Queen of the Diamond, The Lizzie Murphy Story,” written and illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully (ages 5-8; Farrar Straus Giroux Books; $17.99). Summer means baseball, and this story about a girl in the 1900s who wouldn’t accept that girls couldn’t play the game is inspirational for fans of all ages. Her skills earned her a place on the team, and her persistence earned her a paycheck. In a note at the end, the author mentions that Lizzie even got a single off the great pitcher Satchel Paige.

“Last Stop on Market Street” by Matt de la Pena with illustrations by Christian Robinson (ages 3-5; G.P. Putnam’s Sons; $16.99). A beautifully illustrated book reminiscent of the style of Ezra Jack Keats features a young boy brimming with questions for his grandma as they travel across town on the bus. She gently helps him see the beauty in his life and his surroundings, despite the rain, no car and no iPod like his friends have. When their stop lands them at the soup kitchen, it’s a reminder to be thankful for what we have and to look for the beauty in the people we see.

“Naptime With Theo & Beau,” written and photographed by Jessica Shyba (ages 3-5; Feiwel and Friends; $16.99). Toddlers and puppies — nothing could be cuter. So if you or your toddler have a meltdown day, curl up with this book and get ready to smile, and oooh, and aaaah, over the preciousness of a boy and his pup. The Adoption Story at the back of the picture book encourages adoption of rescue dogs, which Beau is — friends for summer, friends for life.

Published Children’s Books

books

The Final Four: All About Basketball’s Biggest Event Capstone Press

Who Do I Look Like? Scholastic

Newts and Other Amphibians Scholastic

Ants and Other Insects Scholastic

Monkeys and Other Mammals Scholastic

Parrots and Other Birds Scholastic

Piranhas and Other Fish Scholastic

Snakes and Other Reptiles Scholastic

The Amazon River Scholastic Rookie Reader

The Great Salt Lake Scholastic Rookie Reader

The Minotaur (Monsters Series) KidHaven

Sirens (Monsters Series) KidHaven

The Dover Demon (Mysterious Encounters) KidHaven

Helen Greiner (Innovators) KidHaven

Eva Longoria (Overcoming adversity, sharing the American Dream) Mason Crest Publishers

 

Chewbacca at KCDC

 

 

 The Official KCDC Wrap UP

The Stackify booth at the Kansas City Developers Conference lured a steady stream of participants eager for a free massage or a turn at the beanbag toss game to win a “Developers against Humanity” card game. They left the booth with an appreciation of the free software, Prefix, but we gained a deeper understanding of the challenges that developers face in their day to day jobs.

More than 1,500 developers from the Midwest gathered at KCDC for the two-day event to hear more than 80 speakers and pick up some tips and learn new things they could implement in their positions. We had some great conversations and are excited to share just a few of the conversations from the developers who came by the booth.

We love developers and we love Kansas City. That makes the Kansas City Dev Con a killer combo for us. Boon and all the organizers did a fantastic job this year. For those that missed out on our Prefix can toss game with Chewie or the Jedi chair massages, maybe we’ll bring them back next year. When asked about the day-to-day challenges he faces in his job, Matt Breitkreutz, a web applications engineer at Children’s Mercy Hospital responded.

 

Matt Breitkreutz from Children's Mercy Hospital Web Applications engineer

“We have communication gaps and expectation gaps. We have a backlog of work and any resources that help us solve that we’ll look at.”

 

 

 

We also had the opportunity to talk to many .NET developers that hadn’t yet tried Prefix, our free .NET profiler. After learning more about Prefix at the booth, Rebekah Patterson, a .NET developer with NIC Inc., said she had heard about the free program but wanted more information.

“We need solutions to help us analyze the problems,” Patterson said. To help her build a better developer career, she tries to learn about the newest apps and software.

 

Rebekah Patterson, a .NET developer with NIC Inc.

“I like coming to conferences like this. I take classes and look at websites, and I’m always trying to stay current on what’s new.”

 

 

Michael Jones listened to Jordan Crowder explain the object of the beanbag toss game—to knock down the stack of cans while wearing blacked-out glasses, similar to the difficulty of trying to find bugs in code without being able to see them. Then Jones tried his hand at the game and knocked down the cans. The software developer at NIC Inc. said building better performing applications is important to him.

“I like the idea of Prefix, it helps you verify that you coded correctly,” he added.

xguntupalli_3350

While Sneha Desai, a software engineer at Cerner, listened to Shimmens talk about Prefix, her co-worker Vamsi Krishna Guntupalli tried to knock the cans down with a different challenge, wearing a Chewbacca mask. He was able to hit the display after a few tries, and took home a copy of the card game. Not to be left out, another Cerner developer Kiran kumar Vuyyuru also tried on the mask and knocked down the stack.

The consensus among conference attendees who stopped at the Stackify booth was summed up by Desai after she gathered information about Prefix.

“This is pretty innovative,” said Desai. “Massage and a game, very nice.”

Tollbooth book creators at Lit Fest

An invitation to the tollbooth; Norton Juster, Jules Feiffer and the
prolific Jane Yolen among authors at DNA Lit Fest.

Reporter: MARY SCHULTE

Publication: THE KANSAS CITY STAR
Edition: METROPOLITAN
Section: A+E
Page: G8
trio    
       For Norton Juster, the DNA Children’s Literature Festival on March 28-29 will be like old home week.
       Two of his buddies, author Jane Yolen and illustrator Jules Feiffer, will gather with authors and illustrators Linda Sue Park, Kate Feiffer, Laurie Keller and Giselle Potter for the 12th annual conference on children’s books, sponsored by the Reading Reptile.
       Juster and Feiffer have a long history as friends and as creators of the classic The Phantom Tollbooth, which was published 47 years ago and still enthralls readers today with Juster’s pun-filled writing and Feiffer’s line drawings of young Milo.
        “Some time ago, during a talk with students, one little boy asked if I thought my book was going to be around for 45 years, ” Juster said in a recent phone interview from his home in Amherst, Mass. “I said I wasn’t sure it would be around for 45 minutes! Somehow it struck a chord with kids.”
        The book came about when Juster and Feiffer were living in a decrepit apartment building in Brooklyn Heights — Juster on the fourth floor, Feiffer on the third.
        “I pace when I write, ” Juster explained. “And it drove him crazy! He finally came up to see what I was doing. He looked at the story and a couple of days later he brought up some drawings for it.”
        Milo, the boy who travels through the tollbooth, is based on Juster as a child. In the book Milo is introduced in the first chapter:
        “When he was in school, he longed to be out, and when he was out he longed to be in. On the way he thought about coming home, and coming home he thought about going.”
        The more Juster wrote, the more he recalled about his childhood and how out of sorts he felt.
        “I was the weird, discontented kid who didn’t understand why they were stuffing all this information into my head, ” Juster said.
        “But you must ask me about my influences. I had two primary influences. One was my aunt, who every Christmas and birthday gave me an Oz book; there were many more than just the wizard one. … And the Marx Brothers. I was at the perfect age when I was seeing their films. They were full of nonsense and fun.”
    
        The word play in his book can also be traced to his father.
        “My father drove me nuts with puns. Only later did I appreciate the cleverness and think, ‘Hey, this is fun.’ “
        For Jane Yolen, the fun is in writing every day.
        “I write all the time, ” she said in a phone interview from her home in Hatfield, Mass., just minutes from Amherst.
        “We writers keep a close eye on each other, ” she said of her 30-year friendship with Juster. While he recently reignited his children’s book writing career, after retiring from decades of running his architecture firm, Yolen has written an incredible number of books
during her 47-year career as a children’s author.
        Called the “Hans Christian Andersen of America” because of her many fairy tale books and collections of fairy tales, Yolen also has penned science fiction stories, picture books about dinosaurs, novels aboutwizards and dragons, and poetry.
        “I added them up the other day, ” Yolen said, when asked for a specific number. “I have 303 books published or under contract. So, that breaks down to about 270 published and 33 or so under contract and in the works. Some aren’t written yet, but they’re under contract. I have eight books coming out this year.”
 
        Yolen comes from a family of storytellers, one of the topics she plans to discuss with the students at her sessions in the DNA conference. Her mother was a writer, her father was a writer and two of her three children are writers.
        “Books were always important to us. Writing is like the family business. I fell into children’s writing though. I took a piece to an editor as an adult book and was told it should be a children’s book. I had been a journalist and a poet, so I decided I needed to go to a class to learn about children’s writing. My first book that sold was nonfiction. In the class I wrote my second children’s book, and it was in rhyme.”
        Yolen has co-written a dozen books with her daughter, Heidi Stemple, and said they write in rhyme more easily than in prose. They are currently working on a rhyming book that developed from a comment an editor made.
        “We’re about halfway done, ” Yolen said. “It’s gone in three different directions already. I write a little bit, then send it to Heidi and say, ‘Your turn.’ “
        That family collaboration will be her topic of discussion with the children at the DNA festival, but what about her speech for the adult session on Saturday?
   
        “Being a professional writer and what that entails, ” she said emphatically. Then she added with a laugh, “But of course, I haven’t written it yet, so if I tell you, I’ll have to kill you.”