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1. She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

And so, the wheel turns. My eldest has moved to college. Although my Lovely Wife (LW) tells me we have to keep her room intact because she will still come home, I remember that I never lived at home after I left for college. I am somewhat sad about that, but we’ve been prepping for this and hoping she would take flight someday. It’s just hard to watch the baby condor drop off the ledge knowing the perilous plunge that awaits.

I’m taking it pretty well, actually. LW, not so much. Everything in the house seems to remind her that one of her babies has left the nest. Tears, oh there have been tears. I don’t understand tears, nor do I deal with them very well. I remind LW that she’s always got me… forever…  Somehow, that doesn’t seem to help.

After moving our collegian, we had to take our little patient in for treatment where she and mom stayed a few days. While they were gone, I happened into the pantry and realized LW must not have been there since baby condor left. If food packaging could form a face, every piece of junk food in there conspired to draw our missing daughter – even to me and I’m oblivious to the most obvious of things.

This was bad! I couldn’t let LW see this, she would cry for days. It all had to go, but the cheapskate in me said I also couldn’t throw out all of the food. Only one option remained. A 24 hour binge of Munchos and Dr. Pepper.

Have you ever read the nutrition label on those things? DON’T! You can gain 3 pounds just from holding the bag too long. They don’t list things by proportion, otherwise the label would read something like this:

Lard 70%image

Air 27%

Salt 2.5%

Potatoes 0.5%

How they bond the ingredients I will never know. Anyway, I polished off the first bag for breakfast and washed it down with three Dr. Peppers. I checked the remaining inventory and was disheartened to discover that LW must have decided to stock up to try to lure the girl to forsake college and stay with us. Either that or she suspected a Y2k15 disaster and wanted to be prepared. Our pantry was like a saferoom.

This is where having many offspring should pay off! I enlisted the help of the remaining children. When I explained the dilemma, I got more “Oh, Dad” eye rolls than the average game of nine-ball. One took a Dr. Pepper before she left, so I was down to hoarder’s surplus minus one. Alone, I dug in for the day.

In the late evening, I was sure a trip the emergency room was in order. The pantry was reverting back to a faceless state, and my stomach was screaming something in Idahoan. I was sweating a substance that looked like maple syrup, which can’t be good. I put in a call to Poison Control where a kind gentleman told me there was no known toxicity in the combination, but urged me to go to the hospital if I felt light-headed. That’s the last thing I remember before passing out amongst the crumbs of the last bag.

When I came to, it was time to go and pick up LW and the youngest. I used the shower squeegee to remove the syrup-sweat and when I arrived, they were ready to go. The trip home was uneventful, I successfully hid the tick and slurred speech caused by sugar intake. While I was unloading the car, LW stopped me.

“Where are the snacks for the party?”

I shrugged my shoulders and grunted. I didn’t ask ‘what party’, I’m sure I’d been told.

“The pantry was full of them.”

“I dunno,” I replied without making eye contact.

“Well, we need more for the party Saturday. Can you go to the store?”

“Uh, sure.”

They say never go to the store hungry. I went full! And I bought $57 worth of Dr. Pepper and Munchos, feeling bloated and quite resentful. Even after all the sweets, this was a bitter pill to swallow.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

7 Comments on She Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, last added: 8/21/2014
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2. To Kylie, the Strongest Person I Know

What is strength? I don’t mean muscular strength, I am wondering about the use of the word to describe a mental and emotional strength. Strength of the heart.

The dictionary defines strength as moral power, firmness, or courage.

I’ve recently seen several quotes about strength. This one stands out:

You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only option.

-Author unknown

We quote scripture to help us with our strength. Beautiful verses come to mind such as:

But those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 43:1

&

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

I have been given many more. We read them in times of need and feel their comfort. I don’t mean to minimize the impact of the Word – it is all-sufficient. But it isn’t always a quick band-aid overcoming the darkest struggle. Slap this on and feel strong, as it were. I wish it were that simple. In the best of circumstances, most of us need to be reminded time after time before things sink in.

While the concept of strength might be an easy one for you, it has troubled me of late. You see, I am trying to care for my daughter who is fighting cancer. Actually, to be honest, right now she is fighting the chemo that is fighting the cancer. She is only twelve and should never have to deal with any weight so difficult. This road would buckle the knees of some of the world’s strongest men, yet she trudges on.

She puts on a brave face and true to her nickname, smiles to most. But at night, with her mother, her sisters, and me, she often falls apart. The thing I hear from her most often is that she isn’t strong enough – she can’t do this. I wish there was something I could tell her to change her situation, but I can’t. There is no choice, no option, no plan B. The chemo regimen must go on. I wish I could break her cycle of self-doubt, but it is her cycle. I can’t change it. I can only encourage and hold, assuring her of my presence and love.

That leads me to my present dilemma: What is strength? Does she have it? If not, where can she find enough to continue when there is no other way?

I think back over her history and wonder if she’s had to rely on strength in the past. She has run two 5k races with me and had to reach down deep to finish each one. That took some strength – but not the kind I am looking for. I need her to have strength to say, “This life is worth living and I will fight for it.”

*     *     *     *     *

My wife has been asking me to add a picture CD onto her computer so she can look at them. After putting it off for too long, I finally complied. The pictures I saw reminded me of simpler times and I enjoyed scanning them as they flashed across the screen. They were from our school’s play, Anne of Green Gables, in which Kylie had a part. She barely made it through the performances because of the pain in her leg caused by the cancer soon to be diagnosed.

Wait… what are you showing me, God? Is that strength?

Back up – let me look again.image

I see a little girl who was crying herself to sleep every night due to a growing tumor inside her knee. Yet in these pictures she is singing, moving, dancing, and hiding the pain behind a range of her character’s emotions so she wouldn’t disappoint in the show.

I see a little girl who wouldn’t stop dancing until the director forced her to use crutches in the final two performances – and she was mad about that!

I see a girl who collapsed after the finale and couldn’t attend the cast party because the pain was simply too great.

Isn’t that smiling little girl playing a part on stage the same one who lay in a hospital bed in a medication-induced sleep just a week after the curtain fell?

When told she had cancer inside of her, instead of crying out in anger at God, isn’t this the girl who simply said “God must have a great, big plan for me”?

Is that precious, animated child the same one who, when she began to lose her hair to chemotherapy, decided shaved it herself to deny cancer the pleasure?

That is incredible strength! Undeniable strength.

What about now? If we agree that this girl is a strong girl, has four months of treatment changed her? How would a strong person face chemotherapy? Should she charge in, laughing in the face of the toxins that wreck her little body time after time?

Or is it okay to cry, yet move on?

Is strength found, not in the tears leading up to a hospital stay but in the gritting of her teeth when she allows the nurse to access her port one more time, knowing what will soon flow into her veins?

How much resolve allows a transfusion that scares her to death without saying a word?

What measure of courage is there in quiet submission to a treatment that is nearly as bad as the disease?

An immeasurable amount!

The frail body of my daughter holds enormous strength and when this treatment is over, I pity the boy who would try to hurt her or the obstacle that would stand in her way.

I have always been big and thought myself strong. I have pushed large objects and run long distances. Yet I realize I am weak in comparison to my frail, eighty pound daughter, who day after day pushes on through this hell.

She is my hero.

Every morning that she wakes up and greets the day adds to her resolve. There may be tears, angst, cries of terror, and fits of rage – yet every day also contains smiles, kisses, hugs, warmth, joy, praise, and enough laughter and love to beat back at this enemy on her terms.

Oh, she is strong!

My little girl is strength personified, even if she can’t see it.

 

sometimes


Filed under: Dad stuff

5 Comments on To Kylie, the Strongest Person I Know, last added: 8/18/2014
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3. A Call to Tech Support

The wifi in my eldest daughter’s laptop died recently. Being the home’s Chief Technology Officer, I worked through the handy troubleshoot on the system which told me it was working perfectly. Of course, the inability to connect to the internet and the distraught look on my poor daughter’s face told me it wasn’t. No worries, I bought a USB dongle and she was up and running.

Little did I know that my trouble-shooting skills would soon be needed again. A week ago, she informed me that her dongle wasn’t working. Of course, at 11:15, my system was shut down, so I didn’t pay much attention and went to bed. When I awoke, I realized it wasn’t her computer – there was a wholesale internet outage in the house!

I think that is mentioned in Revelation, isn’t it? The Mark of the Beast and the inability to access High-Speed Wireless is in chapter 13, if I remember correctly. I looked outside and it didn’t appear the Battle of Armageddon had begun yet. A check of the beds told me the wife and kids were still here, so the rapture hadn’t left me behind (Whew!)

But I still had no internet.

This has happened before and I fixed it. What did I do? Oh yeah, I unplugged it and it rebooted itself. So I pulled the plug and let it regenerate. Unfortunately, the light blinking was still red long after power was restored. So I called my ever-helpful internet service provider and got stuck in the web of automated attendants who sound helpful, but are very patronizing. Don’t they know I am the CTO? That should give me some status, I would think.

My biggest problem wasn’t the self-righteous know-it-all computer voice on the other end of the phone, it was the fact that my cell phone service is spotty in the basement where the router resides. So I put the phone on speaker and listened as best I could. Like a rat pushing through a maze, I found the tech support cheese after seventeen minutes and the new, smarter sounding Tech Support Weenie voice tells me we are going to have to restart the system.

TSW: I will now tell you how to restart your system. This is a medium level procedure and will take approximately 3-5 minutes.

Okay

TSW: Can you see your internet router?

Yes

TSW: Please find the power cable on the back of the router and say yes when you’ve found it.

Got it

TSW: I didn’t understand you.

Er…  Yes

TSW: Trace the cable to the electric outlet. Unplug the cable and wait 10 seconds before plugging it back in.

Well, that’s what I did before, but okay

TSW: Did this solve your problem?

NO!

At that point, my spotty cell service affected my ability to clearly hear the next steps in the process. What I am pretty sure it said was for me to disconnect all cables, kick the box across the room, plug it back in and see if any lights were blinking. Repeat until no lights function.

Done!

After I hung up, I went to work early and left this note on the floor:

936051_10152553265964675_8432536674832206132_n

 

The good news, there is free wifi at the hotel, but I really wish they would call.


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

6 Comments on A Call to Tech Support, last added: 8/5/2014
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4. Reading Online: How will it affect developing readers?

I read with interest a recent New Yorker article, Being a Better Online Reader by Maria Konnikova, and I would love to explore my thoughts on this article. We all are reading much more online than we did ten years ago, but how is this affecting the way young children are developing as readers? How is this affecting the way teachers and librarians help students learn to read, discover a love of reading, and develop their critical thinking skills?


Over the past several years, I have observed these changes:
  • most adults read for work online -- mainly on desktop or laptop computers
  • many adults read for pleasure using digital devices, like the iPad, Kindle or Nook
  • most children (ages 7-12) read primarily print books when reading for pleasure or school
  • students are learning to research online, starting at about age 8-9
  • standardized tests are shifting to online assessments
I feel very strongly that if we are going to start assessing students online, then we need to provide specific experiences and instruction for reading online. Explicit instruction is crucial -- it is unfair to assume that our children are "digital natives" and learn through osmosis how to read online. If we make those assumptions, we will simply reinforce the digital divide that is created by unequal opportunities and access.

Konnikova points out that the way we read online is different than the way we read in print. She steers clear of passing judgment, but rather ponders how this affects the way we acquire knowledge. Konnikova writes,
On screen, people tended to browse and scan, to look for keywords, and to read in a less linear, more selective fashion. On the page, they tended to concentrate more on following the text. Skimming, Liu concluded, had become the new reading: the more we read online, the more likely we were to move quickly, without stopping to ponder any one thought.
I would argue that this skimming is an essential skill for coping with the huge amount of information we have to sift through online. We need to teach our students how we skim effectively. But we also need to talk with them about strategies for when we discover a nugget -- how we need to consciously slow down to digest the information.

Later, Konnikova looks at research that has explored this point -- that we need to teach our students explicit online reading skills:
Julie Coiro, who studies digital reading comprehension in elementary- and middle-school students at the University of Rhode Island, has found that good reading in print doesn’t necessarily translate to good reading on-screen. The students do not only differ in their abilities and preferences; they also need different sorts of training to excel at each medium. The online world, she argues, may require students to exercise much greater self-control than a physical book.
I have noticed this with my own daughter, whose high school is now one-to-one iPad. She likes reading her English texts online because she can annotate them well, but she prefers to read in print if she is just absorbing and enjoying a book.

Schools must specifically teach students in 4th grade and above how to apply their reading skills to digital reading. Starting in elementary school, they need to practice researching online and teachers need to talk about how this might be different from reading a print book. It is essential that our schools invest in technologies, so that teachers and students can learn these skills. But I would also argue that it's essential for schools to invest in librarians who understand this intersection between reading, information and digital experiences.

Adults often ask me if kids will continue reading print books. I believe the answer is absolutely yes. First of all, there's access and quantity issues. Children in first through third grade need to read 10-20 short books every week. They want to browse through physical copies. Schools, libraries and families need access to inexpensive paperbacks. Even highly digital affluent families are reluctant to continue purchasing ebooks at this rate.

I would also argue that there is something more tangible, more comforting, more reassuring for young kids holding print books. Konnikova quotes Maryann Wolf, author of Proust and the Squid, as saying “Physical, tangible books give children a lot of time." Young children need that time. Families need that time.

It is interesting that I read this article online, following a link suggested by KQED's Mindshift blog. But I returned to it several times, reading it in different chunks, rereading it, skimming it again. This type of repeated reading might be what our students need to get comfortable doing, taking the time to dive into ideas and ponder them.

As you watch your children and your students, are you noticing that they are reading digitally more than they were a few years ago? Is the way they are reading changing? The digital world certainly brings more opportunities within easy reach for many students, but how are we preparing them to take advantage of those opportunities?

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

0 Comments on Reading Online: How will it affect developing readers? as of 8/5/2014 3:24:00 AM
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5. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Rookie Mistake, last added: 7/29/2014
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6. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

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7. All our books are now on Kindle Unlimited

beecover

Just announced today Amazon has a new subscription service for e-books called Kindle Unlimited.  For a flat monthly fee of $9.99 you can enroll and download up to ten e-books at one time.  When you are done, just return them and then you can download more.  We know young children can be voracious readers and we are excited about the opportunity to reach new readers with this program.  Now parents can download books for themselves and load up on some quality children’s books too for one low price.  There are over 600,000 titles currently available and they can be loaded onto any device.  What a bargain!

 

Try the new Kindle Unlimited FREE for 30 days HERE

 

MonstersHaveMommies


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8. Dangling Feet & Screws by the Pound

Nearly every winter I have had to trap a flying squirrel or two in my attic and send them packing. Fortunately, I have a walk-out attic easily accessible from my 13 year-old’s closet. When she was an infant, I went on a hunting excursion and learned a valuable lesson – Don’t walk on rafters in socked feet. Yup, I slid right off the rafter and ended up perched on a 2×10 with half of me in the attic and half of me in the family room. Two of my kids and my nephew were watching a Christmas special and all three instantly yelled, “We didn’t do it!” to my lovely wife who stood looking up at my dangling feet.image

I’m not sure if I caught the little critter on that trip, but it did force a trip to the hardware store where Hershel works. Hershel is the best. He’s a little old guy who is slightly stooped from years of hard work. He can fix anything better than anyone who comes in the store, but he is never condescending about:

  • a) your lack of knowledge or
  • b) your stupidity for breaking whatever you came in to fix.

Hershel: Morning Mark, what can I do for you?

Me: I need some drywall.

Hershel: Big project? (His eyes light up! He loves big projects – not only because of what he can sell you, but he also lives vicariously through his customers’ building experiences.)

Me: Nah, actually a really small one.

Hershel: Well, the smallest we’ve got is 4 x 8. They’re in aisle seven. Follow me.

I don’t follow and he notices.

Hershel: What’s the matter?

Me: Nothing smaller? (I look down and estimate the size of my feet, adding an appropriate amount for overage.)

Hershel knows instantly: Where’s the hole?

Me (eyes still low indicating appropriate shame): The den.

Hershel doesn’t flinch or betray just how dumb he thinks I am. Telling me how much patchwork I have in store, he leads me to drywall area and loads me up with tape, mud, sandpaper, screws, and ceiling paint.

Hershel: Once Betty checks you out, go round back. Beside the dumpster, we’ve got lots of broken pieces of sheetrock. You just pick one out and take it with you.

Me: But I really only need about four screws. You sure this is the smallest size?

Hershel: We sell ‘em by the pound. That’s just one pound – smallest we got.

I wondered what genius came up with selling a countable product by volume, but yielded to Hershel’s judgment and headed home. A few days of work and the hole was patched – good as new!

This all leads me to the 4th of July weekend. We are updating the 13 year-old’s room, making it more teen and less little girl. This necessitated a few trips to the attic to store things. You guessed it, I missed a rafter.

Can a house really be considered a home until you’ve broken through the ceiling… twice?

A trip to the store. Hershel, slowed but still knowledgeable and helpful, stood leaning against the wall as I entered.

Herschel: Hey there, Mark. What can I do ya for?

I’ve long gotten over embarrassment over mayhem and destruction I’ve caused in my home. I confidently replied: I need some drywall.

Herschel: Where’s the hole.

Me: It’s in the garage this time. I’ve got the screws leftover from the last time and I don’t need your mud and tape because I don’t care how it looks. (I look at him pleadingly).

He knows what I want, laughs, and says: Sure, go round back and get you a piece… and be more careful next time.


Filed under: Dad stuff

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9. Introducing BookPeople’s Modern First Library

Modern First LibraryI wrote in my newsletter last week about my new project with BookPeople. “Our hope,” I wrote, “is that by leveraging the longstanding popularity of Margaret Wise Brown, for instance, Modern First Library will get more great new books representing an increasingly broad swath of our society into more homes and into more readers’ hands. If this grassroots approach works, we hope that other booksellers will emulate it in their own communities and that it will encourage publishers to create and support more books reflecting the diversity in our world.”

Today, I’m pleased to share the Austin indie bookseller’s blog post officially launching the initiative:

Under the banner of this program, we will be featuring a broad range of books, new and old, that we think belong on the shelves of the very youngest readers.

BookPeople is committed to helping all kids find books that broaden their idea of what’s possible, provide fresh perspectives, and open windows to new experiences: all the things that great children’s books always do. And because we live in the vibrant, global society of the 21st century, our book suggestions have been purposefully designed to reflect the diversity of that experience. After all, a child’s first library offers his or her first glimpses of the world outside the family’s immediate sphere, and we think that view needs to reflect a reality that’s broad, inclusive, and complex, just like the world we all live in.

Please have a look at what BookPeople’s children’s book buyer has to say about Modern First Library, and stay tuned for guest posts on the subject by Austin authors Cynthia Leitich Smith, Don Tate, Liz Scanlon, Varian Johnson, and me. In the meantime, check out the Modern First Library starter sets — the folks at BookPeople have worked hard to put those together, and it shows.

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10. I Am Not Your Friend …

not-your-friend


Filed under: Parenting

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11. The Cat Who Lost His Meow $50 GC Giveaway 6/30-7/29

The Cat Who Lost His Meow by Angela Muse

About the Book

Title: The Cat Who Lost His Meow | Author: Angela Muse | Illustrator: Helen H. Wu | Publication Date: June 1, 2014 | Publisher: Independent | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 3+

Summary: Chester the lazy calico cat has suddenly lost his meow. He’s looking everywhere, but can’t seem to find his voice. When Chester puts himself in a frightening situation he not only finds his voice return, but he also finds his courage. This experience makes Chester appreciate things a little bit more than he had before.

Priced at only $.99 during this promotion.

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About the Author: Angela Muse

Angela Muse, Author

Angela Muse

Angela Muse was born in California to a military family. This meant that she got used to being the “new kid” in school every couple of years. It was hard trying to make new friends, but Angela discovered she had a knack for writing. In high school Angela began writing poetry and song lyrics. Expressing herself through writing seemed very natural. After becoming a Mom in 2003, Angela continued her storytelling to her own children. In 2009 she wrote and published her first rhyming children’s book aimed at toddlers. Since then she has released several more children’s picture books and released her first young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, in 2012.

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* $50 Book Blast Giveaway *

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Prize: $50 Amazon Gift Card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice)

Contest ends: July 29, 11:59 pm, 2014

Open: Internationally

How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the author, Angela Muse and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com.

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12. Epic Motivation

My favorite line, “the only thing holding you back is YOU.”

Yep. I concur.

So Brandon has finally gotten sick to death of his dishwashing gig. He comes home every day smelling like overripe food, nearly soaked from head-to-toe and did I mention that he’s allergic to the dishwashing soap they use? His arms look like a week-old heroin addict.

It’s not pretty.

In addition to the physical discomfort, he’s not getting breaks OR lunches, which honestly, I’m not sure how his employer is getting away with that – isn’t that against labor laws or something?

Anyway, he’s been doing this job for about 8 months now and he has finally decided he’s had enough. He’s been talking about quitting for about 6 months now (he has always hated this job), but was never motivated to DO anything about it, until recently.

We were sitting down to dinner the other night and when I called him to dinner, he said he couldn’t right at that moment because he was filling out an application for a popular retail store.

That’s when I knew he finally met business.

The store called him this morning to set up an interview. (Did I mention that his restaurant called him and hired him all within one week of him putting in his application at the place? He has scary luck with filling out applications, though there was a period of time he tried a few months back and didn’t get any bites and sort of gave up. But I’ve always had pretty good luck with filling out applications and getting interviews right away, too. Not sure what our secret is … other than WE’RE AWESOME! ha!)

He is interviewing for an overnight position. Granted, not ideal, but it will get his foot in the door and he’ll make $1.00 more an hour for the inconvenience. His interview is at 11:00 p.m. with the night manager this upcoming Tuesday.

I PRAY HE GETS IT! Not only will it be a better job overall, he’ll meet more people, he’ll get a discount on household items (more on that in a minute), and he’ll be able to transfer to a more cushy day shift at some point.

If he ends up working overnights, it’ll be quite an adjustment. We had a pretty good talk about how he’ll have to discipline himself to sleep whenever he gets off work, even if he doesn’t feel like it. And if he takes any classes in the fall, he’ll have to take early morning classes so he can just go to class as soon as he gets off in the morning.

AND maybe, at some point, he can put in a good word for Blake and Blake can work there on the weekends to make more money, give him something do on the weekends and to hopefully meet people and make friends. (I.E. GIRLFRIEND?!?)

So yes, I’ll be praying that he gets this job as I think it’ll be a really good move for him. He indicated he was willing to work full, or part-time on his application, so if he gets on full time, then we can get him on their insurance and take him off my insurance, thereby saving myself a little money, too. (Now if we can only figure out how to get Blake off my insurance. Because you know, he can only be on my insurance for another five years before he’ll HAVE to get his own insurance.)

And now back to the discount on household items perk …

We’ve been SERIOUSLY talking to the boys about moving out into their own apartment. It’s time. It’ll be a HUGE reality wake up call for them. Kevin has been taking Blake around to area apartment complexes and they have been going to their websites to get an idea of how much it’s going to cost. Then, they’ve been breaking down budgets and talking money to see if they can realistically make this happen. He can’t on his own but if both Blake and Brandon move out and split the cost, they can. (Though it’s going to be tight – hence another reason we’re encouraging this – to motivate them to either work more, and/or get better jobs that pay more).

We found an apartment complex literally down the road from us. This complex is within walking distance of a grocery store, a Chinese restaurant (Blake’s favorite food), Walgreens, Price Cutter, a coffee shop, and Sonic. WIN-WIN. They could even walk to our house if their cars broke down. AND, this apartment complex allows pets, which is something Blake is DYING to get – a Corgi. He LOVES those dogs, for some reason. The catch? If they want a pet, they have to pay $300 bucks UP FRONT, and then it’s an extra $25 per month. So though they can’t afford the pet right now, it’s an option at some point in the future.

That REALLY warmed Blake up to the idea.

I think the boys just assumed, when we first started talking about them moving out a few years ago, that they would move out and we would simply write them off. “Have a nice life!”

Um, no. They will be welcomed to come over and eat with us, they can bring their laundry over, they would still have keys to our house … again, when we explained all of that to them, they were both pretty excited about the prospect of being their own men … sort of.

Baby steps.

And if Brandon gets this retail store job, then he will get discounts on household items – furniture, cleaning products, etc.

Brandon really perked up when I mentioned that.

And to sweeten the pot … though I’m not sure how I feel about this option …

They pretty much grew up with the boy next door. The boy next door doesn’t live next door, but his grandparents do. So he would come over pretty regularly whenever he stopped by to visit them.

His grandparents are moving today (which is another story … should we buy their house as another investment? The big answer is NO for now, not sure we want to dig ourselves into that hole) and this boy is over there today “helping” them move, though he’s been over here most of the day catching up with the boys.

The thing is, this boy comes from a broken home. His mother is … an interesting and thoroughly messed up character. She’s nice enough, but she’s been a TERRIBLE example to her son. And Kevin has sort of taken it upon himself to be his surrogate father, since his real father died when he was three. (He’s almost 23 now). This poor boy has had a lot of drama in his life. His newest drama is – he just signed a year’s lease on an apartment with his long-time girlfriend. Only, for some reason, she isn’t ready to get serious with him and wants to go out and party with her friends. This boy, (Let’s call him Cory), doesn’t want her doing that. He’s ready to get semi-serious and to focus on building a relationship. I’m not sure if this girl is on drugs or what, but she’s suddenly abusive. She pushed Cory though a window. (Granted, we’re only hearing one side of the story – so we always take what he tells us with a grain of salt. NO ONE can be that unlucky with life … surely?)

It’s gotten so bad, he’s filed a restraining order against her and goes to court in a few weeks to finalize.

His girlfriend has kicked him out of the apartment. So now, he’s trying to figure out how to get his name off the lease HE JUST SIGNED.

When he found out the boys were talking about getting an apartment, he perked right up. It’s possible he may end up moving in with them. Which … I have mixed feelings about. He has a really good job, he’s a mechanic at a car dealership (he’s super good with cars) and he makes pretty good money. So, he could afford to move out with them. And he’s a good kid when he’s with us – I think he enjoys being in a stable, NORMAL family atmosphere, so I think Blake and Brandon would be a good influence on him … the question is, what sort of influence would he be on Blake and Brandon?

Drama seems to follow this kid around. And I’m SURE we’re not getting the whole story whenever he tells us about the crazy things that go in his life. So I’m SURE he would bring an element of crazy into Blake and Brandon’s lives …

But honestly, maybe they need a little crazy. One, to toughen them up. Life is hard and their lives haven’t been hard up to this point. And two, they need to learn to live a little and I think Cory would definitely introduce them to some fun. (Hopefully, LEGAL fun). And maybe he would teach them some confidence so they will make friends and even meet girls … (providing they are the right type of girls … but they won’t be able to distinguish the right ones from the “wrong” ones until they live a little).

So .. I ‘m nervous about the prospect of this happening, but I think, ultimately, it could be a win-win for all of them. Cory has practically been a part of our family since the boys were toddlers, so we could take him under our wing and hopefully teach him to make better choices in life. (As long as we didn’t have to deal too much with his messed-up mother. She both disgusts me and scares me, if you want the God’s honest truth).

But I look at this as an opportunity to do some good and possibly have a positive impact on Cory’s life.

We’ll see where this goes. We’re in the talking stages right now. The boys both have nice nest eggs saved up, so that they have something to fall back on if/when something comes up. Honestly, I think it’ll be a fun, teachable experience whenever it’s time to start shopping for furniture and kitchen items for their apartment.

The boys both have good heads on their shoulders and they really are good people, so now it’s up to us to (gently) push them out into the real world and trust that we’ve done our jobs.


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13. Snail Parenting


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14. The Great Search & Rescue

Our cat went missing. Not the new cat, the old cat. She’s a good yet reclusive pet. It took us weeks to integrate the two of them and I’m not just gonna let her go. Besides, can a family of six be complete unless they have at least four pets? Seriously, why would we ever have ten beings who consume and eliminate food living under one roof? Someone should have said no to this ridiculous increase long ago! Don’t ask me who – someone with more backbone than me.

We noticed she was gone Thursday. She has hidden for extended periods of time before, but after a thorough search of the premises, we realized she was not indoors. Thus began our search and rescue.

We started by walking up and down the street calling out her name. Wait, we would have started by doing that, but we never really have given her a name. So we just called Kitty and clicked a lot, completely ignoring the fact that she has never so much as inclined her head toward us when called…or clicked at. The only thing that came at our beckoning was our neighbor’s horse. I sized him up to see if he would be an adequate replacement, but he was completely the wrong color and I worried a little about the size of my litter box.

After the sun set, I posted two guards at the back door and commenced the stake out. The Commandant (me) made his rounds for inspection only to find the two teenage guards sleeping. It seems the batteries to their electronic devices had run out, leaving them nothing to do. I was about to rip into them like a monkey on a cupcake until I saw an eerie set of eyes through the window. The cat!

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Assuming the cat wanted back in, we all rushed the scene noisily with search lights blazing and promptly scared the crap out of her. She ran away from us and we didn’t see her again that night.

Night #2. I set one guard along with her charger (fool me once) and went to bed. Around 1 am, I was roused and told the cat was back. Using a calmer approach, we slowly walked in her direction and sat down. She recognized us and without the high-beam flashlight blinding her out of her mind, allowed herself to be captured.

Once she realized she was safely inside her familiar home, she laid down in her usual spot and promptly slept for two days. The thrill of it all left me staring at the ceiling for an hour, pondering several things.

1. Does she care about us in more than a “feed me, then subject to me” way?

2. Did she really want to be caught?

3. What made us think that a cat who has never been outside could recognize the exterior of her home?

4. In case of a dystopian apocalypse, I need to trade in my teenagers on someone who will actually guard something sans electronics.

5. Why would anyone name a cat? One might as well name a roll of tape for all the attention paid to it.

Before drifting off to sleep, I recall having the strange sensation that I was being watched by the cat. I would like to think she was pondering her adoration of me, her rescuer. But I am fairly certain that after two days in the wild, the hungry feline was sizing me up for a snack.

 

Photo attribution:  Patrick Feller (Flickr)


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15. No, it’s not just your kids

PewDiePie - YouTube

Lots of parents I know are mystified by their children’s appetite for watching gaming videos online. And lots of kids I know are mystified by their parents’ mystification.

These videos are such a key part of gaming culture that Joey Spiotto and I included a nod to them in Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet, coming from POW! this October. But for a more scientific documentation of the phenomenon, have a look at Tubefilter’s new list of the Top 100 Most Viewed YouTube Gaming Channels in the World:

Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg’s PewDiePie channel is obviously at the top of the inaugural Top 100 YouTube Gaming Channel Charts. The 24-year-old Swedish online video gamer scored an unbelievable 311.2 million views in the month of May. That’s a month-over-month increase of 5% and roughly equates to more than 120 views per second during the 31 days of the month.

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16. Just a Little Case of Food Poisoning … I Think

puked So I get a text at work yesterday,

“Brandon is puking.”

My first thought was … “And?”

Brandon is a puker. (Is puker a word? It is now!). I think Brandon has puked more than any of us COMBINED. He has a weak stomach. Or a hyper-sensitive reflux action thing-a-ma-jig … I remember when Brandon was little and coughed at the dinner table, he would puke. And not just when he was little, sometimes he does it now, too. Though he’s better about holding it in his mouth.

(EW!)

Any sort of gag reflex, like shoving the toothbrush too far into his mouth, he would puke.

Brandon should have a t-shirt made with the slogan, “Beware – I puke.”

I called Kevin to find out what was going on and as per usual, because he’s a man, he downplayed the puking episode and advised me to stop by the store on the way home from work and buy some ginger ale.

Done.

When I got home and walked into Brandon’s room, I knew this puking episode was different.

He was lying in bed with nothing but his basketball shorts on. His skin was clammy and he was as pale as a ghost. His hair was wet from sweat and he was cuddling a mixing bowl to his chest to catch his puke. He had a bathroom towel and a wet hand towel close by. And the grossest part? The mixing bowl was pretty full.

*gag*

When I tried to ask him questions, he just grunted and kept complaining of feeling dizzy. In fact, he couldn’t walk to the restroom, across the hall, because he was so dizzy.

I’ll be honest, the dizzy part worried me the most. I don’t ever recall him feeling so dizzy that he couldn’t walk.

He puked, off and on, for HOURS. I finally got him to take a sip of ginger ale and take a few bites of toast without it coming right back up. Once that happened, I took a chance and gave him a Tylenol so he could try and get rid of his crazy headache that I’m sure was contributing to his nausea. He finally settled down enough that he stopped puking and I felt it was okay to stop hovering so he could get some sleep.

He tried to call into work this morning, (he was supposed to work an 8:30 to 3:00 shift today), but when he spoke to his manager, the manager said he couldn’t call in sick without a doctor’s note.

!!!???

Now. I don’t know about you, but we don’t go to the doctor – ever. In fact, none of us even have a primary care physician because, well, WE NEVER NEED TO GO TO THE DOCTOR. So the fact that his manager was asking him to get a doctor’s note, well, it wasn’t going to happen because we don’t run to the doctor for every little sniffle or if we’re feeling nauseous.

I was pretty furious but tried not to show it. Though he wasn’t puking this morning, he was still pale and nauseous. So the mom part of me wanted to advise Brandon to tell his boss to go F himself, but the more rational, been-a-manager-once-in-my-lifetime-and-worked-with-kids-his-age knew where he was coming from. I’m sure his employer has kids call in sick all the time that aren’t really sick so I could understand why he said that to Brandon.

So I was sort of stuck. This was a teachable moment and though I’ve always told the kids to never call in sick unless they were dying, I’m not completely heartless – he was truly sick. And he’s never called in sick since he’s worked there and has always worked the extra shifts whenever they’ve asked him so I thought his manager made a poor managerial decision considering his work history. But that’s neither here nor there.

I left it up to him. I said, “It’s your choice. I can’t make it for you. And you’re not a kid anymore, you’re your own man, so mommy can’t call in to work for you. You can tough it out and go to work, or stay home, against the advice of your manager and hope you don’t get fired. It’s your call.”

He went to work.

And then promptly came back home three hours later.

He was opening with his assistant manager and when his manager got to work and saw how pale Brandon was and how he wasn’t acting like his happy-go-lucky-easy-going self, he sent him home.

At least now his employer will know that when he calls in sick, he truly is sick and will hopefully take his word for it next time.

And I also made sure to caution Brandon not to abuse that employer-employee trust in the future.

I know it sucks to be sick but how many of us have gone to work feeling like warm death?

Exactly.

When I worked at Wal-Mart, I was feeling so bad that I finally grabbed a Wal-Mart bag, tucked myself into a corner of the office (I worked in the cash office at the time and I wanted to get out of camera range), puked my guts out and into that bag, then calmly walked that bag to the restroom, dumped it and went right back to work. *snap* Damn straight.

And recently, I must have ate something bad for breakfast because by mid-morning, I was having little throw-up-in-my-mouth episodes until I finally cried uncle and went home. I puked, felt better and felt so guilty that there were still three hours left in the work day, I WENT BACK TO WORK and finished my shift. *snap* Damn straight. I felt better. And I had work to do.

Everyone was pretty astonished to see me and I’m sure I made some people pretty uncomfortable because I was sort of setting a bad precedent for everyone else, but that’s my work ethic. If I ever leave work, or stay off work, THEN IT’S TIME TO READ MY WILL BECAUSE I’M DYING. (Actually, we don’t have a will yet but Kevin and I have been talking about putting one together – soon).

Anyway – I spent the day washing every one’s bedding. I started with Brandon’s (and won’t even tell you how nasty his sheets were since he lost his cookies on his bed at the very beginning of his sickness) and figured, what the hey, might as well wash everyone’s duvets, too.

He seems to be okay now. We had fried cod for dinner, (Kevin made it – he’s an AWESOME cook) and Bran ate his fair share so I think we’re back to normal. I have no idea what he ate that caused his food poisoning … the only thing he ate was (frozen) waffles for breakfast and then an almost entire bag of Cheetos.

We’re thinking it was the Cheetos since they had been in the pantry for a very long time. Then again, so had the waffles … so, we’re still stumped as to the cause.

I’m just glad he’s feeling well … life can resume again.


Filed under: Day-By-Day, Parenting

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17. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: June 6

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics covered this week include book lists and awards, diversity and gender, growing bookworms, the kidlitosphere, parenting, reading, writing, publishing, schools, libraries, and summer reading. 

Book Lists and Awards

Britain's best-loved children's book? Winnie-the-Pooh | @TelegraphArts reports on survey http://ow.ly/xD0ld via @tashrow

Stacked: Get Genrefied: Magical Realism in #yalit http://ow.ly/xAi0O @catagator

Barbro Lindgren Wins Lindgren Prize, reports @tashrow at Waking Brain Cells http://ow.ly/xD0Kb #kidlit

The 2014 Lambda Awards have been announced, via @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/xAhdg #yalit

Four-and-a-half books about the Rwandan Genocide, list from @bkshelvesofdoom who would like other suggestions http://ow.ly/xD0ST #kidlit

Predictions for the 2014 NYT Best Illustrated Children’s Books from @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/xxfyQ #kidlit

Stacked: Making a List & Checking it Twice: Bucket Lists and More in YA (a microtrend) http://ow.ly/xxf8c @catagator #yalit

A solid list | The Best of the Underrated Middle School Books from @fuseeight http://ow.ly/xAhPD #kidlit

The Top Ten Books I Never Wanted to Read (But I’m Glad I Did) by @emilypmiller3 @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/xtAzp #kidlit

2014 Boston Globe/Horn Book Awards | via @tashrow http://ow.ly/xx9Od @HornBook #kidlit

Everead: 10 Books to Read to a Kindergarten Class, plus some tips, from Alysa Stewart http://ow.ly/xxhf2 #GrowingBookworms

Who knew that there were 12 Picture Books about Theater for Kids? Erica @momandkiddo has the list! http://ow.ly/xxd6W

Lovely start to the week: Sink Your Teeth into a Sweet Read: Books about Candy, from SSHEL blog http://ow.ly/xx9Wh #kidlit

Diversity + Gender

At The Uncommon Corps, Marc Aronson addresses how we can help encourage girls in math + computer sicence http://ow.ly/xD2ki

Guest Post @CynLeitichSmith | Varsha Bajaj on Reading Across Borders & Cultures http://ow.ly/xD1AG #kidlit #diversity

For #WeNeedDiverseBooks @MsYingling shares a list of #kidlit since 2000 w/ focus on Hispanic culture http://ow.ly/xD1d9

#WeNeedDiverseBooks, The Panel & Musings on Diversity Discussions from Tanita Davis http://ow.ly/xAghx + #KidLitCon plug

Overview of #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel at BEA 2014 by @sdiaz101 in @sljournal http://ow.ly/xABg1

#WeNeedDiverseBooks Announces New Initiatives at BEA, reports @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/xASXN

Growing Bookworms

DadsReadHow and Why You Should Help with the #DadsRead Campaign — @ZoobeanForKids http://ow.ly/xDeEV  #literacy

Announcing the launch of @ReadingTub Recommendations newsletter - Just in Time for Summer | Family Bookshelf http://ow.ly/xD0xR #kidlit

Judy Blume: Parents worry too much about their kids are reading, @TelegraphArts http://ow.ly/xATfj via @PWKidsBookshelf

A quite useful addition to the @SunlitPages Raising Readers series: Nonfiction Early Readers http://ow.ly/xAAwp

Growing up in home w/ lots of books + being read to as a toddler have biggest impact on school readiness http://ow.ly/xx7mN @librareanne

The Reading Teacher by Emily Rozmus @rozmuse @nerdybookclub http://goo.gl/XN4Yeh  #growingbookworms

Kidlitosphere

Lots of #kidlit news at Morning Notes: Sit on a Book Edition — @100scopenotes http://ow.ly/xD2X1

Always full of interesting tidbits: Fusenews: The Bear grumbleth “mum mum” — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/xtAQf

48 Hour Book Challenge: A Call for Diversity from @MotherReader http://ow.ly/xAgt4 #48HBC

Good to see countdown to this weekend's 48 Hour Book Challenge @MotherReader | Who is participating? http://ow.ly/xxcvB #48HBC

Much deserved! Celebrating @MotherReader With a Donation to @FirstBook from @MaryLeeHahn + @frankisibberson http://ow.ly/xxfWI

Miscellaneous

Have a Productive Day! | @tashrow links to 2 recent articles about improving personal productivity

Fun! Disney Parks Are Hiding These 35 Secrets From Us...And You Probably Never Noticed! http://ow.ly/xtAlX via @escapeadulthood

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Round Up of SLJ Day of Dialog 2014 at BEA from @roccoa @sljournal http://ow.ly/xAB4D

Words to live by! RT @donalynbooks "@rikkir77 @JensBookPage Just read every day and let the rest take care of itself!"

How Wordless Picture Books Empower Children | SLJ Day of Dialog 2014 | Sarah Bayliss @sljournal http://ow.ly/xABxJ

Interesting ideas for reinventing the bookshop to attract people to physical stores in @intlifemag http://ow.ly/xxegk via @medinger

On the autonomy that came with being given permission to read the once-forbidden Harry Potter books http://ow.ly/xx9lv @NPRBooks

12 Quotes From Roald Dahl for Book Lovers @mashable via @tashrow http://goo.gl/8ogjKN #kidlit

Parenting

I loved reading Ami's plan to give her kids a relaxing, time-filled summer vacation at bunkers down http://ow.ly/xxb7C

This post on Building Trust by @lochwouters in response to @NPRBooks piece, resonated with me http://ow.ly/xxhrb

Schools and Libraries

Helping if "kids can discover books that mean something to them, that sink in and stay with them" @MaryAnnScheuer http://ow.ly/xAhp9

On the importance of audiobooks for teachers + in the classroom by Kristin Becker @KirbyLarson http://ow.ly/xAh3v

I'm enjoying @MaryAnnScheuer series on #CommonCore IRL. Today: Life in Colonial America (grades 3-5) http://ow.ly/xxdxq #kidlit

Summer Reading

Age-selected, updated lists for Building a Home Library from @CBCBook @ALALibrary + @alscblog http://ow.ly/xDfNK  #SummerReading

Parents: Here are links to Free #SummerReading Resources for the Whole Family from @Scholastic http://ow.ly/xAdbf

SummerReading-LOGONice little roundup of #SummerReading Resources, including links to @Scholastic lists from @365GCB http://ow.ly/xxaln

How to Get Kids Hooked on Nonfiction Books This Summer | @MindShiftKQED http://ow.ly/xtBFJ via @tashrow #SummerReading

Things I wish people knew about #SummerReading from @greenbeanblog http://goo.gl/0OYULU

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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18. Games Week at The Guardian

I like Andy Robertson‘s evenhanded, commonsense approach to the joys and concerns that parents have when it comes to their kids and video games — it fits right in with the tone I strove for in my upcoming book Attack! Boss! Cheat Code! A Gamer’s Alphabet.

I bring up Andy because he’s on prominent display in the Games Week feature published this week in The Guardian.

In Video games and violence: a parents’ guide, he counsels:

Unlike film and books, video-games are a new technology that we don’t yet fully understand, particularly in their potential for health or harm. That means that it is even more important for parents to accurately understand video game violence and the context in which it exists.

Playing games together as a family, stopping technology migrating to bedrooms, making use of PEGI ratings and having open conversations about these topics creates a healthy environment to maximise the enjoyment of this aspect of family life whilst avoiding potential pitfalls.

In another article this week, he sympathizes with parents who ask, “Is my child spending too much time playing video games?

Video games are entertaining, enjoyable and beneficial to children in many ways. They educate, provide space for creativity and offer healthy social interaction. But at the same time, the best examples are highly moreish and children will push boundaries to play for increasing lengths of time.

Excessive behaviour in any area of life rightly signals alarm bells for parents. However, for emerging an technology like games, it can be hard to identify excess over enthusiasm. Is an hour a day okay? Two? It’s even harder to judge if you don’t play games yourself.

The package of articles also includes a fascinating one by Leigh AlexanderGirly video games: rewriting a history of pink — about an art exhibit I was entirely unaware of, even though it was here in my home city:

The Visual Arts Center in Austin, Texas, currently has a very unusual exhibit: a vintage girl’s bedroom, perfectly preserved. There’s a chunky monitor pegged to a Nintendo Entertainment System, all dove’s breast gray and violet.

Pom poms decorate the television as a pink pinata slumps alongside; a pearly Polly Pocket toy, Judy Blume novels and posters depicting the romantic heroines from popular anime series Sailor Moon complete the picture. It’s presented in the museum as a “typical girl’s room” from the early 1990s. Also in the museum is another exhibit: a set of plastic digital Barbie game capsules under glass, hushed and precious. It looks like a priceless slice of history.

Except none of it’s real, exactly. The little girl’s room never happened. And the Barbie games are virtually worthless.

This is the art of Rachel Simone Weil, who has reimagined the nostalgic digital past as it might look if girly things had mattered then. A digital artist, programmer and rom-hacker, Weil found herself increasingly drawn to obsolete technology and collector culture – where she was surprised to learn that the traditionally feminine had no real value, financially or otherwise.

It sounds like the exhibit has since closed. I hope not. Jenny and I would love to go, and take our daughter — and sons.

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19. Children’s Book Week Giveaway Hop

CBW-Kid-Lit-Giveaway-Hop-2014-Banner-FINAL-1024x296

We have joined the Kid Lit Giveaway Hop hosted by Mother Daughter Book Reviews and Youth Literature Reviews again this year to celebrate children’s book week and give away some awesome prizes.  This year we are giving away two great prize packs containing four children’s paperbacks and a $10 Amazon gift card to each winner.

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You can enter by going to our Facebook page and entering during May 12-18.  There are over 80 other bloggers participating with lots of other prizes that include children/teen’s books, gift cards, cash and other prizes so check out the list and get your entries in.

ENTER NOW -a Rafflecopter giveaway

Powered by Linky Tools Click here to view the complete list of participating bloggers and authors…


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20. The King of Feminine Hygiene

Crown_of_Lord_Lyon_King_of_Arms

I have been a good errand runner for many years. I have never minded getting those “things” that need to be got. However, the situation can be comical. Early in our marriage, I learned brand preference – often taking a boxtop as a crutch to make sure. Everything changed after our first daughter was born and the new mama needed something different. My mind isn’t programmed for different.

There I stood looking at an infinite wall of products with no idea what to purchase. I am sure she had given me instructions, but I had no purchase history, no boxtop, no clue. The wall got bigger and bigger while I shrunk into a puddle of indecision.

Until I was rescued by a wonderfully kind, large woman who took pity on me.

“You need some help, honey?” she asked.

“Well, yes, is it that obvious?” I stammered.

“It sure is. What’s the problem?”

“Well, I need to get something for my wife. We just had a baby.”

Her angelic face lit up with joy, “Oh, sweety! How wonderful! Is it a boy or a girl?”

“We had a little girl,” I replied proudly as I dug a picture out to show her.

“She’s just beautiful,” she said. And as if she suddenly plugged into an amplifier, her voice boomed throughout the store while I shrunk even smaller. “WHAT YOU NEED IS NIGHT TIME EXTRA-ABSORBANT…..”

I’ve forgotten whatever else she said. It went on for some time, I think. I will forever appreciate her help, but I have no idea why she had to tell everyone in a five mile radius of the store what I was shopping for. She was spot on with her advice, though.

I was only twenty-eight then. Why it mattered I don’t know. I couldn’t care less now. I have had to do a great deal of shopping lately – and with a wife and three teenage daughters, yes, I have purchased quite a few of those types of products. I don’t flinch anymore. In fact, I like to check out wherever a young boy is working give him to he stink-eye as he handles the carton. I have made more than one blush.

Better yet, when I come home I have even more fun by announcing, “I got your feminine hygiene products.” There is never a “daddy’s home!” parade for that proclamation. No one comes running. They don’t want to hear that from their father. So I deliver them personally to their rooms and make the announcement individually. Lots of rolled eyes and groans.

I don’t mind buying that stuff anymore, but I do have one regret. With four daughters, why didn’t I have the forethought to invest in that stock? If I had done that, I truly would be the King of Feminine Hygiene!

 

Photo attribution: Geni (Photo by user:geni)

8 Comments on The King of Feminine Hygiene, last added: 5/13/2014
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21. A Final Napkin Masterpiece

I am coming to terms with the fact that yesterday was my eldest’s last day of high school…sort of. I am not given to emotion, but this is a big deal. In a little over a week we will celebrate her graduation where she will walk across the stage with ribbons, cords, and medals she earned for her outstanding achievements of the past four years. I had a ribbon adorning my graduation gown, as well. Just look at my picture as I accepted what I thought was my diploma.

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Yes, R. Ted Boehm knew that wasn’t my ribbon also. I mooched it from someone who had already walked – note the smarmy grin quickly quelled when Mr. Boehm whispered “This is not really your diploma either, son.”  Oh the relief when I did pick a real one up a few days later. I’m guessing he got more than a few reprobates with that nugget over the years.

There is no doubt she will get a diploma, though. And in the fall she will go off to college. She is loud, messy, a bit sassy at times…and I will miss her greatly. I will miss being woken up by her singing at inappropriate hours of the night. I will miss her ignoring me as she saunters to her room and I will miss her friends being over to all hours watching movies underneath my room with the volume so high my bed shakes. (In writing this I wonder why teenagers hate sleep.) I jest. I could list her positive qualities, but my blog would run out of storage space. She is a true gem – a lovely, talented, and godly young lady.

And so, I drew her a last napkin art yesterday morning. I don’t have any idea when this tradition started or why, but whenever I pack lunches, I draw them a little picture on their napkin. My drawing ability would have to increase significantly to be called rudimentary. My sketches are barely above cave art. But if I ever pack a lunch and forget napkin art, they call me on it. Often my pictures are so terrible that I have to explain what I drew and why it is funny (to me).  Ironically, they also render the napkin basically useless as an instrument of cleanliness.

Most of the time they involve animal humor, but on this occasion I drew a creative take on graduation where my graceful daughter trips in front of the principal.

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I doubt it will come true, but you never know with all of those cords & ribbons weighing her down. Those things are dangerous on many levels, thus my aversion to earning any.


10 Comments on A Final Napkin Masterpiece, last added: 5/15/2014
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22. Bottled Courage



This girl.
this one.


Winnie
(a.k.a. Kaylen)
has a bone scan and CT tomorrow.

out of sunny skies, we are all stormed over.

They've seen a spot around her femur that is "worrisome."
Worrisome.

That's a generous way of describing what this mama feels.
All my courageous muster has flown out the window.

And Winnie is my most heart-filled wildebeest.
Dreamer, writer, artist, she feels
every nuance in the room.
Like rough swallows
and puffy eyes.

We have no certain news yet, but
some of you have asked how you can help us as we wait
and I have been thinking...

Definitely prayers
and best thoughts
and any bottled courage
you can send our way.

Do they make that?
Bottled courage?

So here's what I'm thinking -  what about sharing your
words? 
verses? 
poems? 
quotes?
book recommendations - for an eight year-old adventurer and for me.

words to help us remember 
that there is courage
in love,
in faith,
in hope.


















I will post news when we know what there is to know.
Thank you, friends.




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23. The Cat Who Lost His Meow

Cat Cover

Here’s a sneak peek at what we are currently working on.  Chester the lazy calico cat has suddenly lost his meow.  He’s looking everywhere, but can’t seem to find his voice.  When Chester puts himself in a frightening situation he not only finds his voice return, but he also finds his courage.  This experience makes Chester appreciate things a little bit more than he had before.

Look for this colorful rhyming picture book to be released in June from 4EYESBOOKS.

 

 


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24. The World is Your…bathroom?

When the embers of a special event are dying, I find it wonderful to sit in their glow with the family and recount fond memories. I hope you have evenings that resolve in this manner. I am not overly sentimental, but I adore hearing my girls laugh at scenes they pull from the recesses of their minds. Sometimes I remember them from my own point of view, but many times I have no recollection of them at all.

agedparent_2119321bSo it was that we sat on the evening of my eldest’s graduation from high school talking about the good old days. They willingly lay down their electronic devices to discuss vacations, birthdays, special times around the home, and many other things past that held a luster for them. I mostly listened as they took turns – at times I was a minor character in their stories and sometimes I had main stage. So contented and relaxed, I felt like a player in a Dickensian novel with my shoes kicked off and feet resting warmly on the fender.

My interest was piqued when the graduate took the floor with what she described as her first memory. I, unfortunately, held the title role for that one. To set the stage for her recollection: it took place on the second floor of our previous house. She was a toddler, mother was away, and I was watching her. It seems she walked into the hallway to see me relieving myself in the bathroom at the other end of the hall. The next thing she remembered, she fell down the stairs, bumped her head, and I ran to help her. That is all her mind retains. No resolution. No happy ending. No idea if I pulled up my pants before valiantly diving to catch her at the bottom of the stairs.

I started to dispute this as poppycock until I realized it actually sounded quite plausible. With the stern admonition from her protective mother to watch her like a hawk, I can absolutely believe that I left the door open when I peed. I mean, I can’t leave her alone even when nature calls, right? I wouldn’t think it would adversely affect a two year old to see that from the back…unless she remembers it forever.

To my horror, this nugget set of a volley of stories about times they had stumbled upon me peeing with the door open. Some were old, some were far too recent. I promise, I’m not an exhibitionist. I simply fail to consider all of the viewing angles that mirrors give. I also forget how mobile my family members are and the sheer number of them – all female. While most of the time, they insist I am guilty of leaving the door open, they would have to admit that the door to our bedroom is one they feel free to open without knocking at any hour. You don’t knock, you get what’s inside! That’s my motto.HPIM0357.JPG

 

I also subscribe to the belief that one of the best things about being a guy is that The World is Your Bathroom. That sounds so cavemanish and outdoorsy, I really like the thought. My girls chuckle when I say stuff like that…but still wish I would learn to close the bathroom door.

 

 

Photo attribution: By Martins, Tito (my cam)
Book drawing: Aged Parent from Great Expectations

Filed under: Dad stuff

6 Comments on The World is Your…bathroom?, last added: 5/29/2014
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25. Delinquent Blog Writer Turns In Self

dreamstime_xs_40481396blogEver notice when you pick up a bad habit it’s easier to keep it than shed it? Yeah, my bad habit is ignoring my blog. This time, for a couple months. I know. I give no warning. Disappear. Then try to pick up the pieces of a blog that’s feeling the pangs of rejection from it’s very own mama.

Here I offer up my top 5 excuses; or as I like to say to that sweet police office writing me a speeding ticket, my “Mitigating Circumstances.”

1. That cough-up-a-lung illness that was going around. I am a germ-magnet. Not only did I catch it, but it decided we needed to have a “relationship” that lasted 5 weeks.

2. Normally, I teach 2-4 independent studies in the Spring Semester on top of my regular credit hour load. This Spring I did 9. *Thumps Head*

3. Three kids. The oldest is a senior in highschool, the middle one runs on Energizer rabbit batteries, and the youngest is currently channeling Cersei Lannister (the attitude, not the extracurricular activities). I know, it could be worse. Could be Joffrey. Or that Ramsay guy.

4. I started a children’s publishing company with my parents, because you know, I don’t have enough stuff crammed into my life. Then I wrote 2-1/3 books for the publishing company to publish. Yeah, that 1/3 is a WIP I’m still working on.

5. When faced with the choice of writing for the blog or taking a nap, I’ve napped. Because, well, see excuses 1-4.

So why are things different now? Well, my semester is over. My oldest is poised to get his drivers license and his HS diploma. *Fist Pump* My other two kids can play outside all day because the temperature in Rockford is finally above freezing. With a renewed respect for germs, I’m starting to rub elbows instead of shaking hands. And that little publishing company is in its third trimester, ready to birth some books into the world.

LET’S BLOG!

Picture © Iqoncept

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