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This blog is for kids and parents who love to read. Any topic relating to the themes of the author's book, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P Badilly: Costa Rica will be covered here. This includes books, reading, travel, Costa Rica, plants and animals, conservation and more.
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1. A Special Afternoon in North Broward County with Soref JCC After Care Programs

Last week I visited two after school programs in North Broward County run by the Soref JCC After Care Programs. I was overwhelmed by how welcomed I felt, by the dedication of the staff and the behavior of the students. Good leadership = good students! These were large crowds – about 80 students in each presentation, yet you could hear a pin drop in those cafeterias where I presented my program.

In addition to the attentiveness, I was treated to some of the best questions I’ve been asked. “Where did you get the information to write your book?” “How did you sew your costume?” “How can I learn to draw with watercolor pencils?”

 

Dancing to “Granny Wears a Wig.”

Big group photo!

A surprising number of students knew that it’s the wings of the hummingbird that make that buzzing sound.

The biggest ooos and ahhhs come when I show the children my watercolor pencils.

And then I show them how water magically turns these pencils into paints.

A Big crowd!

Some new Lilly Badilly fans!

I’d like to thank Sharon Schwartz from Soref JCC for inviting me to present and to the friendly, caring Site Directors, Ms. Angel, Ms. Nancy and all the assistants who help me carry books, maps and other stuff! Thank you also to the wonderful, curious students who made this such a special day! Remember to KEEP READING and WRITING! I hope to see you all again some time.

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2. Children’s Writing Workshop at Fairway Park a Big Success!

Today I conducted a simple writing workshop at Fairway Park in Miramar, FL. This was my fifth visit to the park’s after care program as a teaching artist. With the first group of 30 kids, ages 5-8, the children wrote 1-3 sentence stories entitled, “My Best Day Ever” and drew pictures to go along with their stories. Then they read them out loud to their peers. There were lots of spelling questions, and one impressive six-year-old boy seemed to know how to spell just about every word. Stories included themes about Disney trips, Christmas day presents, birthdays, family outings and getting good grades at school.

Kindergarten through second graders

This adorable five-year-old’s handwriting was perfect, as was his grammar and spelling for his birthday party Best Day Ever story.

 Sharing his artwork of a bus with superpowers with the group

Time to show off their hard work!

With the older group of 35 children, ages 9-13, the assignment was to write a letter to someone they know who has had a positive influence on them. First I read to the group a personal letter of thanks I wrote to my late grandfather as an example and so they were not the only ones pouring their hearts out.

I am happy to report that overwhelmingly the children wrote thank you letters to their parents and a few to teachers,- a few with impressive detail. Some were so incredibly thoughtful, I’m sure it will bring tears to the recipients’ eyes. It takes courage to stand up and read a personal letter to a large group of peers – especially at this age – and I’m proud of all who did!

Concentration!

Some lucky people will be receiving this kind, thoughtful letters!

A letter from a nine-year-old boy to his dad

What I learned today is that children want to be good writers. Some decided not to read their work out loud, and some others wanted me to read for them. All the children listened to the stories being read by their peers with respect. What surprised me most is that the children were excited to write by hand, although all printed and none used cursive.

The message I left with the children is, “Reading is the number one factor in determining your financial success in the future. The only way to become a good writer is to read a lot and practice writing a lot. Any worthwhile writing requires numerous revisions. No matter what career you choose down the road you’ll be a lot more successful if you are a good writer. Read what others have written and decide what you like – or don’t like – about it Then get inspired to write something amazing yourself.”

What a rewarding and fun day we all had. A big thank to Site Supervisor Randy Kaiser for inviting me back to visit today and to the dedicated teachers there who keep the children focused and learning. I look forward to another visit with Fairway kids!

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3. Time for a New School Year of Author Visits

I’m excited to start a new year of school author visits, returning to some I’ve visited before and many new schools and aftercare programs. In anticipation of this season, I’ve spent a great deal of time updating my author visit materials and presentation. I’ve got a pile of new posters I’ve hand-painted too. Check them out!

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

© Copyright by Debbie Glade – Cannot be copied or used without permission

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4. Three Memorable Visits to United Cerebral Palsy After School Programs

I was invited to visit three separate After School Programs this week for United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida. This generous organization serves over 1,800 children and adults in South Florida with Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, autism, spina bifida, prematurity, hearing, intellectual disabilities and speech delays with a variety of programs such as occupational, speech and music therapy, skills courses, respite care, counseling, after care and much more.

I discovered that most authors decline invitations to visit organizations that serve those with special needs. I suppose it is because they feel their books are not geared toward that type of audience. I was happy to visit these children knowing  they would simply enjoy listening to my cartoon voices, looking at the colorful pictures and dancing to the music. Some may not understand the story I am telling, but that’s not what enrichment is all about.

All the participants enjoy my world map and were proud to use the pointer to show others where their favorite places are in the world.

We learn about the animals of the Costa Rican rainforest.

The kids cheer when I tell them the book is recorded on CD with music and sound effects, and of course they want to know all about the story.

What I realized this week while spending time with the program participants is that they teach us how to live in the moment and be truly happy from the inside out. Dancing is the best!!!

And they sure like to give great hugs!

Teacher, Mr. Albert wanted to get in on the hug action too! LOL!

Ah, learning about the magic of watercolor pencils!

The teachers and assistants who work in the UCP After School Programs are equally as inspiring as the children. Their energy, dedication and love for what they do are truly remarkable. I wish to thank Allyson Nanny for inviting me and Site Directors Pat McGee and Lakeya Hariott as well as all the other wonderful staff members.

For more information about UCP programs, be sure to visit the United Cerebral Palsy of South Florida website.

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5. Two Years. 2,000,000 steps!

Celebrating a Milestone

This weekend I’m celebrating a milestone. Two years ago I began running on the steps in front of my local courthouse. In these two years I’ve run up and down about 2,000,000 steps – between 3,400 and 5,600 steps per day, depending on how I feel and what the weather is like. On my 53rd birthday in October I challenged myself to run 10,000 steps. I did it in one hour and 38 minutes!

 

Why I Love Running Steps

Running steps more than anything is meditative.  I walk about a half mile from my house to the courthouse, through my alley and down a semi-busy street. I watch the sun rise every morning, listen to the birds chirping, often flying overhead. I pass by morning glories opening and alley cats that scamper as I approach. I arrive at the courthouse while no one else is there, except for the security guards. I count the number of laps I do up and down, which I like to call “innings.” I don’t really focus on counting, it just happens naturally and keeps my mind light and free.

I live in Miami, so it’s hot here – really, really hot and humid. That adds to the challenge of keeping up my energy. But it also allows for a really good sweat, providing that feeling that I’ve sweat out the toxins and have accomplished something worthwhile.  It may sound crazy, but the hard work is worth the euphoric feeling you get when you’re finished. I leave with happy, positive thoughts. Running the steps is free. No club membership! Plus it doesn’t take much time – about 45-minutes of time from start to finish.

I run barefoot because shoes cause injury to my feet and knees. Here I am running the Rocky Steps in Philly.

 

 What Motivates Me to Run

When I was a child I was always the last one chosen for sports teams whether at school or at play. I wasn’t an athlete; in fact I couldn’t hit a volleyball over a net, hit a baseball or golf well. But as I got older I realized that not being athletically inclined didn’t mean I had to be unfit. My father passed away when he was 40 from a heart attack and my mother had two forms of cancer suffering for 9 years before passing away at age 70.  I can’t change my genetics, but I realized I could get and stay fit, eat right and do what I can to stay healthy. Thinking about my parents’ health challenges motivates me every day. I live by my motto, “Shut your pie hole and move your ass!”

It’s Not Discipline

In the beginning, running steps was really challenging. I was already doing aerobics for years at home, but running up and down steps is really a strenuous workout. It took a lot of self-talking to get up and out of the house early every morning. But then after a few months, gradually I began to look forward to going. Now I can best describe running as a habit. It’s sort of like getting up and brushing your teeth. You just do it. I do have sluggish days when I just don’t feel like running, but I go anyway. My husband calls those “bonus days,” because although your time may be slower or your step numbers may be lower, you went out there and did something on a day when you just didn’t feel like doing it.

A white layer cake I made to celebrate.

What Running Has Taught Me

It’s wrong to label yourself in any negative way. “I’m not athletic,” “I’m too old,” “I’m uncoordinated” or “I don’t think I can or should do this or that.” Running has taught me that I can have as much energy as a 25-year-old, and that if I can stick to something athletic and challenging, then I can transfer that success to other areas of my life. The only boundaries are the ones we put on ourselves.

 

 

 

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6. A Stellar Day at Overtown Youth Center

Today I had a fantastic author visit at the Overtown Youth Center in Miami, FL. Last year some very caring people donated funds so my books could go to children who could most benefit from them. So I was thrilled to be able to deliver 100 books to this outstanding organization.

Since 2003, the Overtown Youth Center has provided a variety of youth enrichment programs to foster learning and empowerment in inner-city children who may not otherwise have these resources available to them. Among their programs, they offer academic support, after school services, summer camps, creative arts, physical fitness and nutrition programs, family activities and more in a beautiful facility in Overtown.

Elementary Program

The elementary school kids learned about the process of making a book, what inspires an author and about the plants, animals and climate of the rain forest.

Introductions by TK Pratt, Overtown Youth Center Community Relations Coordinator

Learning about how we recorded the book on CD

How my grandparents inspired me to create the characters Grandma Nellie and Grandpa Willie in the book

Learning why stick bugs are at risk in the rainforest

It may be gross, but we learn that birds are responsible for planting trees because they poop out seeds they eat!

A group celebration with just some of the many elementary students who each get a free book

Group hug!

Middle School Program

These kids, who are all interested in writing learned about the difference between traditional and self-publishing, writing inspiration, the importance of reading, geography literacy and how to stay fit and have energy if you want to be a visiting author.

Discussing countries I wrote about, including Madagascar, as a travel writer for cruise lines

Answering questions about what it takes to be an author

Showing off some of the benefits of my hard work as a stair runner

Challenged to do some men’s push ups

Middle school students who love to read and write pose with their Lilly Badilly books

I want to thank TK Pratt for inviting me to visit and welcoming me with open arms. The elementary students helped me drag big maps and five big boxes of books out of may car, and they did all the heavy lifting for me! All the children were so kind and respectful, it was a total pleasure. Also a big thank you to teacher Diana Gibson, who was so supportive of my program with the middle school students. There are some amazing programs available for children in my South Florida community, and Overtown Youth Center is at the top of the list. I look forward to another visit soon!

 

 

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7. Set a Thanksgiving Table

I set up my dining room 10 days before the holiday, because I have a lot of people and a lot to do before Thanksgiving in between working. Some years, I set a very formal table, and this year I was in the mood for a more rustic look. I make all the food from scratch and choose to shop at many different markets so I can get the highest quality foods possible.

I’m having 12 guests so I need 2 tables. This is the main table.

Chocolate turkey pops are the place cards, set on top of my granny’s English china from 1945.

Second table pushed against a wall leaves plenty of walking room and seating for 4 more.

Gotta have a horn of plenty!

Buffet table right in the dining room so it’s easy to get up and get 2nds or 3rds! I use boxes under the table cloth to raise the back row of food. You can get a lot more on the table that way, plus it’s easier to reach the back food and it looks nicer. I put notes inside each plate/bowl so I know what goes where.

 

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8. Hike at Big Cypress National Preserve

My family loves the great outdoors, and we are so fortunate to live in South Florida near The Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Yesterday, my banker husband had the day off for Veteran’s Day, so we ventured out to Big Cypress for an off road hike, which proved to be quite interesting!

We hiked a 5-mile loop

My husband signed us in as hikers at the entrance to the trail

A construction worker at the entrance to the trail was feeding a baby gator some bread. Not supposed to feed the gators!

Open wide!

Some critter ate this snake for lunch – all except the bones and the head

This vulture had his eyes on me as he did not like the sound of my Nikon’s shutter

Gorgeous White Peacock Butterfly (Anartia jatrophae) posed for me

Feeling adventurous, we took the Red Trail, the one less traveled.

Pine cones at their fall peak

Bobcat tracks perhaps?

Bear scat! Oh no! Is he watching me?

Woodpeckers thrive here with all the dried wood!

Yours truly, after sliding through a muddy trail with many signs of wildlife – bear, deer, bobcat and more

All photos © copyright Debbie Glade. You may not use them without permission.

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9. Kindness, Love and Caring – Kingdom Academy of Miami

This morning started the best way it could possibly start – with an author visit to Kingdom Academy in Miami. When I got out of my car, one of the parents (from Costa Rica!) recognized me from the photo in my book and had many kind things to say about Lilly Badilly. I walked through the front door and was greeted by one friendly staff member after another. And they’re not being nice, just for the sake of politeness – they are truly happy, caring people, and so are the students I met. You know you are at an excellent school when the teachers all have smiles on their faces, are gentle and kind to the students, have a creative and competitive curriculum and the students are incredibly well behaved. Kingdom Academy is one awesome place to be!

Kingdom Academy is housed in a bright, clean, new building and the classrooms are big in size – but the number of students per class is not. I was extremely impressed by all the beautiful posters in the halls with terrific messages the children made!

 

My presentations were in the cafeteria and it was so refreshing to see all the nutrition posters and healthy eating tips on the walls! It’s so important to educate our children about what they are eating- just as essential as reading, writing and arithmetic!

 

Let the presentations begin!

My first presentation was to the younger students PreK-1st grade, and they sure had fun dancing with me and laughing at my Lilly Badilly voice. Everyone was wearing a costume of their favorite character from a book, and boy were they cute!

Incredibly polite behavior makes for a perfect author visit. Everyone gets to listen and learn!

Ultra smart 3rd grade class had really creative costumes and questions.

Nothing like a spider to get everyone’s attention!

You can just tell this is a group with perfect behavior! No whisperers or squirmers among the crowd!

What an honor it is to have the children take home Lilly P. Badilly!

Lilly with Curriculum Specialist Elena Navarro

Thank you Elena Navarro for inviting me to your school and for being so well organized, friendly and accommodating! It truly was a special day. Also, thank you to all the welcoming staff, teachers and students. I hope to visit Kingdom Academy again soon just to say hello.

 

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10. What a Way to Spend a Birthday!!!

I visited the administrative office at Martin Luther king Jr. Elementary when I arrived to check in as a visitor and was greeted by Roz, a very friendly receptionist. I told her it was my birthday today, and she and a parent in the office were so kind, wishing me a very Happy Birthday. Roz even sat in on part of my presentation! Thank you, Roz!

Imagine 60 ultra energetic kids singing Happy Birthday (as loud as possible) in a an echo-filled theater. Wow! Pure joy is what I felt as the After School Program students of Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Lauderhill, FL did just that for me today. And to top it off, the little ones were wearing Halloween costumes. So cute!

The new cafeteria/theater building at MLK Jr. Elementary is gorgeous – the nicest one I’ve seen at any school.

Learning about the word “inspiration” and how authors come up with ideas for their stories.

We all danced to “Granny Wears a Wig.”

Lots of oos and ahhs about how beautiful watercolor pencils are and how magical it is when you brush water on them.

So many terrific questions! Are insects the most colorful animals? Are there any lions in the rain forest? What gave you the idea for the story? Is an author a real person?

I want to thank Jane O’Connell from After School Programs for inviting me to MLK Jr. Elementary School , and ASP Site Director Ms. Keshia Halls for welcoming me, helping me with my equipment and taking photos. The entire After Care staff were all very welcoming and did a great job ensuring the students were paying attention. There’s nothing better than speaking to a group of curious kids, who are interesting in learning, and the kids here at MLK Elementary are truly awesome. I loved seeing all those smiling faces on my birthday, and the sound of them singing to me will stay with me for years to come. I hope to visit the school again some time in the near future.

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11. It’s My Birthday!!!!!

 

It’s October 24, 2013, my 53rd birthday. How did I get to be 53 already?

I won’t let the fact that I wasn’t all that cute of a baby or the fact that the shape of my head has significantly changed in my old age get me in a bad mood, because today is my birthday! Oh gosh! Look at the little purse I was holding!

Well, I started my day with a hug from my best friend, Darwin, an 84 lb. pure bred standard poodle. He knew it is my birthday!

I checked my emails and the first one I read was from my daughter (who is away in college), who wrote me the best letter wishing me a Happy Birthday. Then I logged into Facebook and saw a bunch of birthday wishes from other friends and family, which is really the best thing about Facebook – getting birthday messages from people who would never bother to wish you a happy birthday if it were not for Facebook telling them to do that. Don’t you agree? At about that same time, my husband of 25 years woke up and got up to give me a big hug and told me what a “young 53 year old” I am and he is well aware that I am strong enough to kick his ass if need be. What older-than-middle-aged-woman wouldn’t love hearing that on her birthday?

Then I put my workout clothes on and walked to the courthouse steps. On my way down my alley, the pigeons that usually sit on the roof at the courthouse flew overhead, circling. It was as if they knew it is my birthday!  I saw Johnny, a man I see walking most mornings on my way to the courthouse. He always wears a clean, white, short sleeve t-shirt and navy blue shorts and a captain’s hat. I told him to put out his cigarette (he had recently told me he started smoking again after quitting five years ago).  I told him it is my 53rd birthday today and I was on my way to the steps to workout, and he told me his best friend used to run five miles every day, and when I asked him what that friend is doing now, he replied, “Nothing. He is dead. He died at age 54 from a brain hemorhage!!” Well, I guess I deserved that since I told him to put out his cig, but I certainly didn’t let that bother me or the fact that he blew smoke in my face. It’s my birthday!

At the courthouse, I ran 53 innings (get it? 53rd birthday!), which equates to 2968 steps. (On Sunday I ran 10,000 steps in celebration of my birthday, so today I could take it a bit easier today.)  The pigeons arrived in the middle of my workout and positioned themselves in some interesting flying formations overhead. I was sure they knew it is my birthday too. I decided to tell every employee and courthouse goer who walked by as I was running that today is my 53rd birthday. This resulted in 50% of the people looking at me like I am a crazy woman and not responding and the other 50% reluctantly saying, “Happy Birthday” and also looking at me like I am a crazy woman. I was wearing purple leggings and a hot pink shirt, and I run barefoot. I also had my kitchen broom leaning up against the steps because I needed to sweep rainwater off the steps before I could run. This may explain the strange looks I got from strangers. But I did not let this bother me, as it is my birthday! I didn’t even care when a truck drove by me and a man yelled out some obscenities about body parts.

Then I came home and made myself a delicious coffee drink with melted chocolate in it and walked my dog. I rarely drink coffee because I don’t like it unless it is loaded with cream and sugar. Plus it makes me crawl out of my skin. I didn’t get upset when it started raining, even though there was no sign of rain clouds up above, because it’s my birthday. When I got to the bottom of my coffee drink, I pleasantly discovered that the chocolate I melted resolidified and sunk to the bottom. Eating that was pure heaven.

By the time I got home, it was raining pretty hard. I chose a book to review that was totally awesome called Ike’s Incredible Ink. It inspired me to be creative today, my birthday!

Now I am going to soak in a hot tub, followed by a lunch consisting of chocolate, because it’s my birthday. Then I will put on my millipede costume, load up my car with books and props, and drive to Lauderhill, FL where I have a 1:30 p.m. author visit with my book, The Travel Adventures of Lilly P. Badilly, for 60 elementary age children. You better believe I am going to tell them it’s my birthday!

 

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12. Reach for the Stars: A Visit with Starlight Cove Elementary’s After School Program

Starlight Cove Elementary in Lantana, greets students and visitors with this awesome artwork

My author visit presentations were held in the cafeteria/theater of the school. Outside the doors was this sign, proof that the students were taking the rainforest theme seriously. I love it when a school uses my visit for creating further learning opportunities. And there is much to learn about the rainforest!

The children made this colorful poster of the rainforest. :)

Gotta smile when you see the monkey on stage! Perfectly fitting as we talked about Howlers and how much territory they need in the rainforest

And it’s always nice to receive a special welcome. Thank your for that homemade sign!

The visit included two presentations. The K-2nd graders of this group asked some of the best questions ever presented to me:

  1. “How do you actually start writing a book? I mean, how do you choose your first words?”
  2. “How is a book cover actually made and how do the pages stay together in there?”
  3. “Does being an author make you rich?”

Notice the rainforest leaves lining the stage

The older students were quite taken by the fact that the Rhinoceros Beetle is the strongest animal on earth, able to carry 850 times its weight on its back. “If you drop a brick on it, will it survive?” one asked me.  Well, I suppose it’s possible. They also loved hearing about leaf cutter ants and were shocked when I told them how huge the queen ant of a colony can be.

I always seem to look pretty silly when singing in my Lilly Badilly voice

Showing the students my grandfather’s paintbrushes which are more than 35 years old

Several students came up to me after the presentations to tell me they cannot wait to write their own book and paint with watercolor pencils. They all seem to love the magic of how the pencils turn into paints with just a little bit of water. One boy told me maps are his favorite things, so refreshing to hear!

I so appreciated the terrific, respectful behavior of these students. There were no interruptions, so everyone got to hear what I was saying. I am excited for these students to read my book, listen to the CD and continue to learn about Costa Rica and the rainforest. The after school program at this school was so well staffed and the children here are so fortunate to have the opportunity to learn something fascinating and fun after school every day.

I’d like to thank After School Director, Christian Carerra for inviting me to the after school program. Also, I received a warm welcome from Ms. Gabby, who helped me bring my bulky, lightweight props inside in strong winds, which is no easy task. Ms. Shelby helped me lug them back out to my car and Ms. Jennifer assisted me with the book signing. Thanks to all!

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13. Smart Books for Smart Kids Halloween SbookTACULAR Giveaway!

Please visit my book review site to enter to win free Halloween themed children’s books.

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14. Super Energetic Author Visit at Binks Elementary

I learned something interesting as soon as I walked into Binks Forest Elementary School in Wellington, FL. The school and the area surrounding it got its name “Binks,” because it was the nickname of the man who used to own the land there. I also couldn’t help but be impressed with how helpful the staff was as soon as I opened the front door. Several smiling people helped me drag my books and props in and out, and they couldn’t be any friendlier.

Well to say the least, this was a very special author visit, as I did two presentations with 500 students in each group! Talk about an energetic crowd!!! You never know what will get kids going, and every author visit I do is different. Well, when the 2nd-5th graders learned that many trees are planted by birds because they poop out the seeds, this caused a hilarious uproar that lasted some time. Naturally it put a huge smile on my face.

With the school’s terrific technology I was able to show my animal posters on a big screen so the crowd could see them better. I was asked some terrific questions about those animals, and one 4th grader let me know he had just been to Costa Rica, where he saw a Howler monkey!

One of the highlights of this visit was telling the children that the paintbrushes I used for my illustrations belonged to my grandfather, and I’ve kept them for 30 years. They sure do love watching the magic of watercolor pencils blending with just a touch of water on a brush.

The students are always shocked when I give them statistics on how “Geography Illiterate” Americans really are. I encouraged them to ask for a wall map for the holidays or their birthday. They’re very affordable, and oh so fun to look at and learn about the world.

Media Specialist Sharon Wedgworth absolutely loves her job and it shows! Her library is big and inviting and the students are welcome to browse the shelves at various times throughout the day. She works with readers of all levels and comes up with creative ways of motivating reluctant readers.

Tell me you wouldn’t want to linger in this library for a few hours! Notice the pile of Lilly Badilly books on the table I autographed.

Binks Forest Elementary’s music teacher, Devon Heinrichs has an incredible music program and provides the children with live performances from every genre of music. His classroom is full of interesting instruments, and his students are so fortunate to benefit from his passion for music. It’s teachers like Mr. Heinrichs who can inspire a child to master a musical instrument or sing like Broadway star. And we all know how much music ability and math success go hand in hand.

Music is not the only wonderful part of the Fine Arts classes at Binks Elementary. Check out these impressive painted self-portrait tiles made by students a few years back.

There are many aspects to being a children’s book author that make it so fulfilling. Without a doubt, one of the best parts is visiting a harmonious school, where the teachers truly care, the parents are hands on, the students are curious, and the resources are abundant. Binks Forest is one of those schools, and how lucky these students are to have the privilege of attending!

Thank you Mrs. Wedgworth for inviting me to your school and putting together such a well organized event. Thank you, too, to all the teachers I met, who were so kind and welcoming.  And of course, I must express my gratitude for 1,000 beautiful, smiling, giggling children, who were eager to learn and who told me how much they enjoyed the visit.

 

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15. Back, for the Fifth Time!

Tonight I returned to Liberty Park Elementary for my 5th author visit!

Liberty Park Elementary in Palm Beach County is passionate about books, so it’s no wonder that students and parents love to flock to their beautiful library for Literacy Night. Tonight’s theme was “Reading Oasis: A Cool Place to Discover Hot New Books!” What was really cool about this event is that parent volunteers came to read books to the children in different classrooms.

Tonight I spoke to a classroom full of very curious and perfectly behaved fourth and fifth graders. It was a nice, small group so we were able to interact a lot. It never ceases to amaze me how much the children know about animals and the environment. They even knew definitions to vocabulary words that even surprised their teacher!

What seems to interest the students the most wherever I go is learning about how watercolor pencils work as I run a wet paintbrush through the colors and they see how they blend together. The beauty of speaking to this age group is that they can understand more about the process of publishing a book, and I love to share that experience with them. They were also eager to get up to the maps and play the geography game.

Where is the Gulf of Mexico and what is the name of the hurricane that devastated New Orleans?

I’ve been to so many schools in the past five years and I can tell you that Liberty Park is outstanding. This is a school with such dedicated teachers and administration. You can sense that in the way everyone works together and strives for excellence in teaching their students. The library is beautiful, much like a classy book store, and the lovely classrooms are perfect settings for learning.

I send a big thank you to Media Specialist Michaelina Oliva, who worked so hard to organize tonight’s event and invite me back to the school for the 5th time! She makes me feel so special and welcomed, and I so appreciate it! It takes a lot of planning and physical work to keep a library like that updated and also to put together a big literacy event such as this one together. Another thank you goes to fourth grade teacher, Ms. Ali was so kind and even helped me drag my big maps back to the car. I’d also like to thank Principal Joseph Schneider, who is the most friendly and hands-on principal anyone could ever ask for.

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16. Gluten-Free Banana Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Many gluten-free baked foods taste funky to me.  This one is delicious through and through. I include links to the brands I used, so I cannot testify to the outcome if you substitute these for other brands.

Ingredients:

  • 3 large ripe or 6 extra small ripe bananas (FYI-I Live in Miami so we grow the small ones here)
  • 3/4 cup All Purpose Gluten-Free Baking Mix (I got mine at Home Goods on a fluke but you can buy online)
  • 1/4 cup Raw Coconut Flour (Can buy at Whole Foods)
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick of butter (No margarine!) Melt in microwave for 40 seconds.
  • 1 cup chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If you have a convection oven, set it to the bake/convection combination setting. Spray 2 muffin tins liberally with baking spray. I use Baker’s Joy. Or you may use butter anf gluten-free flour to coat. You don’t need an electric mixer for this. You can just use a whisk.

In large mixing bowl, mash bananas well with potato masher. Add eggs and mix well. Add melted butter slowly so you don’t cook the eggs. Add brown sugar and mix well. Add vanilla. Combine dry ingredients – flour, coconut, salt, baking powder, cinnamon. fold into wet ingredients. Mix in chocolate chips.

Spoon in muffin pans. I put batter all the way to the top of opening so they bake with a nice big muffin top. (This is the only place in life where a muffin top is a good thing!) This recipe will make between 16 and 20 muffins. Bake until tops are light brown, from 20-25 minutes. If you have a convection oven, they will bake faster so check after 15 minutes. Cool on a rack. Eat when it’s still warm! These freeze well.

 

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17. Check Out my New Website

I am proud to announce my latest venture! I have created a brand new website called Smart Books for Smart Kids. Here I will review non-fiction books for all ages and select picture books that teach. Also look for author interviews, articles, book lists and more.

To learn more about the website, click on the pages listed about the header. Thanks!

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18. Thank You MLK, Jr.

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the MLK “I Have a Dream” Speech, I think about the many schools I visit as an author in low income, African American communities and Hispanic Farmworker communities, and I realize we have a long way to go. If racists could experience what I have over and over again, they could no longer be racists. Close your eyes and you cannot discern color or wealth. Listen to the children’s questions, dreams, fears and hopes. They’re the same no matter whether you are at a school for the affluent or at a school with 100% subsidized meals. There are curious kids, kids who hug me, shy kids, misbehaving kids, geniuses and learning disabled kids everywhere I go, no matter the income, no matter the race, no matter the nationality. I’ve discovered the best way to do my part to combat racism is to not tolerate it. I encourage you too to speak up every time someone makes a racist comment. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way yet to go. Thank you MLK for having the courage to speak up. . . .

“When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every tenement and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr. “I Have a Dream” speech, August 28, 1963

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19. For the Love of Pop-Up Books

I am very excited about my interview with paper engineer extraordinaire, Bruce Foster. Read the interview here. If you love pop-up books like I do, you will be in awe of the painstaking process it takes to make a book like America’s National Parks: A Pop-Up Book.


© Bruce Fosster

Bruce Foster with a pop-up of Grand Canyon National Park

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20. 37 Days Left

There are 37 days left of my Lilly Badilly Literacy Project. Let’s make it happen!

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21. It’s National Teacher Day!

This entire week is dedicated to Teacher Appreciation, and today is National Teacher Day! As an author who has met so many teachers, I have often thought about how much I appreciate all they do. The responsibility of a teacher is far far greater than the recognition or pay. If you think about how much teachers can influence their students, thus helping them shape their futures, it really is remarkable. I’m not saying that all teachers are outstanding, but I do believe that the vast majority care about what they do and set out every day to make a difference in children’s lives.

So go out and thank a teacher today!

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22. In the Sand

On a recent trip to Fernandina Beach, I took photos of different textures in the sand:

Portuguese Man-O-War

Seafoam

Crab

Perfect footprint

My dog Darwin’s huge foot prints

Shells

Jeep tracks

Darwin’s shadow

 

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23. Lilly Badilly Literacy Project Wrap Up

There are only 6 hours left in my Lilly Badilly Literacy Project. I did not meet my goal, but I am thrilled to have raised enough to give 300 books and CD’s away to needy young readers! I am so looking forward to the author visits.

Thank you everyone for your support!

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24. This is Why I Do This

Pure joy = being hugged by a group of 40 happy K-1st graders who have all made me gifts!

Yesterday I was reminded that being a children’s book author is a privilege to be treasured. I visited two After School Programs Inc. in SW Miami-Dade. As I stood before all those smiling faces who had been reading Lilly Badilly and listening to the CD for a few days before I arrived, I could feel their excitement and eagerness to learn. Kids are indeed like sponges waiting to soak in the world around them. And when they read my book and listen to the CD before I arrive, it makes the author visit all that more special.

I love it when the kids are eager to ask questions and share personal stories, and the behavior of these kids was PERFECT!

For starters, After School Programs, Inc serves thousands of children daily in Broward, Miami-Dade, Collier and Orange Counties. I instantly felt connected to the local Program Director Nikki Elliot, who hired me to do the author visits. Her energy, dedication and vision for educating the many children in the After School Programs is to be highly commended. She travels through Broward and Miami-Dade Counties from end to end every week, ensuring that the teams have what they need to thrive. She is a wealth of terrific ideas and realistic solutions. Likewise, the Site Directors, Ms. Moorley and Ms. Clark, running the programs at the two schools I attended, were wonderful too. The grant-based resources the organization provides, offers children in our communities opportunities that may not be available otherwise to learn and thrive. I love the fact that After School Programs uses their time with the children to educate them beyond the general school day, yet in a ways that are also entertaining and enriching.

The children love it when I show them the paint brushes, given to me many years ago by my late grandfather, I used for my illustrations in the book.

I’m disappointed that there’s more negative than positive information in the press about education in Miami-Dade in general. From where I stand I see dedicated, caring and patient teachers and aides in our schools, camps and after care programs, who work tirelessly to educate our children and ensure their safety. Teachers and administrators obviously cannot control the home environments of the children, but they can and do work miracles; I see it all the time. If only our residents could experience what transpires where children are being educated, they too would be more appreciative of those who care for them on  a daily basis and discover that there is a whole lot of good out there.

Highlights of the day included dancing and shaking our booties, being asked by a 2nd grader how I got so famous (I wish!!), being given stacks of hand drawn thank you notes and Costa Rica illustrations by the students and being treated to an excellent performance of one of the songs on my CD by four children. I also had an opportunity to share some ideas about how to read more and practice writing, in creative and fun ways.

I was presented with piles of thank you notes and illustrations I will cherish for years to come!

A proud student shows me her special thank you card.

Four darling students perform a song they learned by heart from the Lilly Badilly CD entitled “I’m on my Journey.”

So this is why I get out there, dressed as a millipede and do author visits whenever I can. These kids are our future, and I’d say our future is looking bright.

Many thanks go out to to Nikki Watkins for inviting me to visit the After Care Programs, to Julia Banks from West Perrine Park for recommending me to the After Care Program, to Principal Wright and Site Director, Ms. Moorley from R. R. Moton Elementary and Site Director and teacher, Ms. Clark at Beckford/Richmond Elementary. Thank you so much for  making me feel so welcome and giving me the opportunity to speak to your wonderful students!

 

 

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25. Get Motivated as Fall Approaches

Running the Rocky Steps in Philly

Even more than January 1st, I look upon the day after Labor Day as the first day of my “new year.” Children are gathering new school supplies, leaving them with that wonderful feeling of a fresh start. Along with them, I feel like starting over too. But it’s not always easy to get motivated. I am disciplined with my healthy diet and workouts, but there are other areas of my life that need some motivation. For that I’m going to take what I’ve learned from what I’ve accomplished and apply it to these new uncharted territories.

  1. Make a list of reasonable goals, but not too many.
  2. Research meeting those goals. (For example: You want to lose weight. First check the BMI Index to see what a healthy weight for you would be.)
  3. Write down the final goal, but also break it into steps. (For example: Lose 30 pounds by Christmas. Lose 8 lbs per month, 2 lbs per week.)
  4. Research and write down your plan to achieve your goal. (For example: Do 5 45-minute aerobic workouts per week. Introduce more fruits and veggies to diet. Omit fried foods, cut way back on sweets. Drink more water. Stick to 1500 calories per day)
  5. Share your goals with a friend or family member and ask them to be a stickler about checking up on you. Sign a document stating what you plan to do to reach your goals by a certain date so your partner can hold you to it.
  6. Surround yourself with the tools you need to get the job done and get rid of the things that might prevent you from reaching those goals. (For example: You want to lose weight so you stock your fridge and pantry with fresh, whole foods and lots of fruits and veggies. You get rid of the junk food and sweets. You make a small investment in workout videos or join a class.)
  7. Find what motivates you best – either positive or negative. (For example: I run the steps 5 times per week, 1 million steps per year. Every day I wake up and feel like staying in bed. I motivate myself to get up and do it by thinking of my parents, who both passed away prematurely from bad health issues. That motivates me to fight my bad genetics and get moving and stay healthy.)
  8. Track your progress and celebrate your accomplishments, both big and small. (For example: There are days when I get to the courthouse steps and just feel lethargic or have an injury and struggle through the workout. I may do less repetitions, but I still go out there and do it. Then I celebrate that despite my lethargy, I did it anyway.)
  9. Concentrate on the benefits. (For example: I am 52 years old and weigh the same as I did in my 20s. I am right on target with my weight on the BMI Index. I can wear skinny jeans. I have a lot of muscle and a ton of energy. I look younger than most people my age.)
  10. Remind Yourself of the Consequences of quitting. (For example: If I quit this new habit of running steps, I will turn to mush and gain weight and have health problems. I will look back and remember how fit I used to be and will be so angry at myself that I didn’t keep it up.

Like everything else positive you set out to accomplish in your life, you’ve got to have a plan and find out what motivates you to get it done. If you fall off track, it’s not the end. Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and remind yourself of the incredible benefits you will have when you reach and maintain your goals.

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