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We’ve teamed up with Mother Daughter Book Reviews again for our latest release Caterpillar Shoes. You can enter through May 6th for a chance at winning a $50 gift card by clicking the Rafflecopter link:
More April surprises have arrived. We have joined forces with some other great children’s book authors for a big giveaway. During April 5th – April 9th you can download the kindle version of our book, The Pig Princess from Amazon for FREE.
And since we think pigs rule we want to let you know about Scott Gordon’s children’s book, Pigtastic which is also FREE on Amazon during this period.
We saved the best for last. You can enter to win a 3DS XL and a game of your choice.
Super excited to announce that our Bee Bully is being featured in Bookbub today and is only $.99 for a limited time. To celebrate we have some free gifts to tell you about. From April 1st – April 5th you can download our latest release, Caterpillar Shoes, absolutely free from Amazon. Check out what’s troubling Patches the caterpillar and the silly decision she makes to live her life to the full. There are some interesting caterpillar facts in the back of this book.
I’ve also got more surprises to share. My friend, Laura Yirak, is also giving away a copy of her delightful bee book, Bumble Babees during this same period.
Scott Gordon has another treat for you. His book, The Most Beautiful Flower will be FREE April 2-April 6. This book is only $.99 on April 1st. Don’t you just love spring! Enjoy these goodies while they last.
I’m welcoming my first guest blogger on the topic of failure today, writer and teaching artist Donna Trump. Is it easier to let yourself fail than your children?
Twenty-plus years ago, my children had an excellent elementary school teacher who was a proponent of parents allowing their children to fail. I dismissed her, of course: What child doesn’t have ample opportunity to fail?
A closer look at my own parenting at the time revealed I was doing exactly what this teacher preached against: I was trying, very hard, to prevent my kids’ failure. From the arguably innocuous retrieval of lunches and assignments when they were left behind; to the poorly disguised control-freak aspect of perennially volunteering in my kids’ classrooms; to the absolutely cringe-worthy hyper-maternal defense mode I went into when one was called out on perfectionism (ya think?) and the other on punching a kid in the face; to the ethically bankrupt decision (after a particularly trying mix of personalities the year before) to hand-pick their Odyssey of the Mind team, which I was coaching—I had to admit, I was guilty as charged.
I did these things to shield my kids from various types and degrees of failure: bad grades, bad learning environments, bad reputations, bad relationships with friends and peers. I did not want them to fail. No one wants their kids to fail. We want to be our children’s champions. We need to be our children’s champions, their advocates, their biggest fans. It hurts, terribly, to watch them suffer—as they will, certainly, when we stop rescuing them from themselves. But having things turn out less than perfectly teaches them something, too.
Studies show that kids who have a chance to fail (and, notably, to recover) tend to develop personality characteristics like tenacity and grit. Occasional crappy outcomes teach them they’ll survive, even when the world’s not a perfect place.
As my kids got older, mouthier, more confident it occurred to me: What if I didn’t replace that mysteriously crushed iPod? What if I declined decorating the gym for a dance when the child whose dance it was somehow managed to weasel out of the assignment? And what if I even called said child out, publicly, on errors in judgment about both me and that touchy issue of work ethic?
I wasn’t always strong enough to follow through. To understand that I wasn’t competing for popularity. I should have more often doled out a few key phrases: “You’ll live.” “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries.” “Try again.”
I’m sorry about that. I failed my children and myself. Nonetheless I stuck with it. This parenting thing (repeated failure and all) has brought out the tenacious in me. Opportunities for growth have abounded. Failure does that. And now I am more likely than ever to let failure happen.
Unless you want to rescue your children for the rest of time, from a failed job interview, or a failed relationship, or a failed dream, however heartbreaking, I suggest you practice these phrases: You’ll live. Life isn’t a bowl of cherries. Try again. Because if not now, then surely at some point you will no longer be able to rescue your kids in any meaningful way, and they will have only their own resources to draw on.
Disappointing and even devastating things will befall our children, at times as a result of their own doing. I wish this weren’t true, but experience tells me otherwise. One of our most important jobs as parents is to prepare our kids for these practically inevitable failures. Prepare them. Let them practice (while we’re still close by) with bad grades, bad behavior, bad decisions of all kinds. Teach them how to redeem themselves and then let them fail again, while the stakes are still relatively low and while they still come home, in victory and defeat, to us.
And if you happen to be a writer as well as a parent, be heartened: practice with failure—who knew?—appears to cross genres. Take it from me: opportunities for growth, as they say, abound.
Donna Trump writes about failure, success, doubt, faith, Vincent Van Gogh and heart transplants in her fiction and in her blog (www.donnatrump.org). Follow her on Twitter @trumpdonna1.
Happy World Poetry Day! We’ve been busy working on our latest children’s picture book, Caterpillar Shoes. This story is about a colorful caterpillar named Patches. She’s an energetic caterpillar trying to decide what activities to do. In the end, she doesn’t put any limits on herself and lives her life to the full. This is our twelfth children’s book and we are so excited for it’s release. Stay tuned here to learn about upcoming promotions for this book and others.
Th only limit to a paintbrush and a blank canvas is your imagination.
Here is a nice write up KDP did on my in their latest newsletter. So cool!
KDP Author Angela Muse
Angela Muse, author of The Bee Bully, shares her experience with Kindle Direct Publishing.
“I wrote my very first children’s book in 2009 as a gift to my two young children. If not for my son and KDP, my experience as an author would have ended right there. One day in 2011, he asked me why I wasn’t publishing any more children’s books, and I didn’t have a good answer. The stories were there. In fact, I’d written several that were just gathering dust in my closet. The platform for indie publishing was there. Amazon had launched KDP, and many authors were finding success. Of course, those voices that keep us from following our dreams began to mount in my head. What if people can’t find my stories? What if people do find my stories and they hate them? What if I can’t find a good illustrator that I can afford? After quashing all those voices, I decided to go nuts…literally.
“While collecting acorns with my children in the fall of 2011, I created a story entitled The Nutt Family: An Acorny Adventure and decided that this would be my next release. I found a brilliant illustrator in Poland, held my breath, and hit the publish button. In 2012, my journey as an independent author began by publishing more titles including The Bee Bully, The Pig Princess, and Suzy Snowflake.
“When I first started, I didn’t have a clue about where to find good illustrators, how to get book reviews, and most importantly, how to effectively market my books. In the beginning, I researched and networked with other authors to gather as much data as I could to help me in all these areas. The biggest hurdle was the marketing. I tried many different techniques, but one of the most effective was utilizing the free promotion days in KDP Select. Once my books were free, there were lots of websites and social media outlets that were willing to promote them. I also tried to focus on my audience as much as possible. For the most part, I write children’s picture books, but the children are not the ones who will purchase them. I focused on the parents and finding blogs and sites specific to that audience who would want to promote or feature my books.
“I wasn’t one of those people who sought out an agent for my work and tried to go the traditional route. With KDP, I have a golden opportunity to go at this myself and do things my own way. I can set my own goals and deadlines. I can market my books in the manner I choose. I can decide my price structure. I have full control.
“Did I make mistakes along the way? You bet, but I also learned a lot in making those mistakes. I found support from many great authors who were also forging ahead in the indie publishing world, and we were all doing this together. It felt like we were all out in this big ocean trying to catch oysters, each of us looking for our own pearls.
“It’s been almost three years since I began this journey, and I’m so grateful to KDP and the KDP Select program for giving indie authors a chance, that not long ago, we never would have had. I wouldn’t have received fan mail from preschool aged children who enjoyed my stories if not for KDP. One of my goals as a children’s author is to get kids to read. KDP allows me to publish quality children’s picture books to help me accomplish that goal. The smiles and giggles from the kids who read my books are just the icing on my indie publishing cake.”
Four people with radically different outlooks on the world meet on a train and start talking about what they believe. Their conversation varies from cool logical reasoning to heated personal confrontation. Each starts off convinced that he or she is right, but then doubts creep in. During February, we will be posting a series of extracts that cover the viewpoints of all four characters in Tetralogue. What follows is an extract exploring Sarah's perspective.
First came Biggy and Buggy, who were ants. Then came Fuzzypants the tiger. Now there is Robot Doggy and Pirate Puppy.
Pirate Puppy is an invisible dog. And he likes to eat cake and strawberries and today is his birthday.
When we were opening invisible presents Pirate Puppy jumped out of one and he had a pirate hat so I knew he was a pirate puppy.
We don’t know where he lives. His job is fighting off bad guys. His job is fighting off pirates. He’s a pirate too but he is a good guy.
With his menagerie of invisible pals, I wondered how Byron would respond this year’s Caldecott Medal winner, Dan Santat’s The Adventures of Beekle The Unimaginary Friend (aka Beekle). The premise and execution are more visual than a description would do justice, but in a nutshell, Beekle is an imaginary friend waiting, and then searching, for his child.
Cute, I thought, but I wondered if Byron would be confused or upset by the use of the word “imaginary.” His invisible friends are real (just ask him) and he gets upset if you use that word.
He sat riveted and delighted through all of Beekle, loving the illustrations and giving it good reviews (“That was funny. Read it again.”), but he did want to discuss it. Why were these friends called imaginary? Why were they visible?
I finally solved this problem by saying Beekle and the other invisible friends were shown as visible in the picture book so it wouldn’t be a bunch of blank pages. Artists can do whatever they want, I said. They can make invisible things visible. They show how things would look if we could see them. And I told him “imaginary” was not always the opposite of “real.”
Byron’s invisible friends are more than make-believe companions. They allow him to improvise stories, to express his moral leanings, to negotiate reality with others. I don’t think they’re inspired, essentially, by being lonely. They’re more complicated than that and multifaceted, involving Byron’s sense of self and the world.
I think the whole thing is pretty fascinating and wish I had an invisible friend of my own.
Enter to win a hardcover copy of The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous, and Smart About Money (Harper, February 3, 2015), by Ron Lieber.
Giveaway begins January 27, 2015, at 12:01 A.M. PST and ends February 26, 2016, at 11:59 P.M. PST.
It’s been an exciting end to 2014 for 4eyesbooks. We found more readers for our ebooks and paperbacks than ever before. Our Christmas Owl was featured on Bookbub which gained us some valuable exposure and over the winter holiday break we started writing our next children’s picture book to be released sometime this spring.
We are so grateful for all of the support we have received and feel really lucky to be able to create imaginative, colorful stories for kids and parents to enjoy. There’s nothing quite like that quality time of sitting down with a little one and a good book. That time is precious and important. The curiosity of a child is a wondrous gift and so often that quality gets buried as we grow older. Adults become so busy with school, work, errands, raising a family, etc. that we often forget how to be curious. We start to ask How? and Why? less and less.
I’m not sure what 2015 will bring to us, but we hope to create more precious moments of curiosity, of silly laughter and of quiet quality reading time with lots of new little readers.
My wife sat at her laptop furiously compiling the lists for our four girls. She checked it once, then again while travelling to website after website scouring the internet for the best price and delivery. Items were added to baskets and carts checked out at such a frantic pace that I literally felt a warmth emanate from the credit card in my back pocket. Shopping at a fever pitch – Christmas delivered in two days or less. Not like most years, where she disappears for hours on end to find the perfect gift at the mall. She doesn’t have time for that this year because we got cancer for Christmas.
We didn’t ask for it. It wasn’t circled in the wishbook or written in red crayon. No one sat on Santa’s lap and begged for it. No, cancer just showed up unannounced and took our year away.
So rather than spending quality time with each of the girls to weigh their enormous wants against our limited budget as in years past, she spent Saturday morning hunting and pecking under great duress. Do they have the right size? Will it be delivered on time? Is that really something she will use or should we just give her cash?
At some point during the madness, I asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She paused to consider. Her eyes got red and her mouth failed her. She didn’t answer, but I knew. I knew what she wanted the second I asked the question and Amazon.com can’t deliver it, even though we are Prime members. It is the only thing either of us want.
We want our baby to stop hurting.
We want her to stop having to face treatments that make her sick and waste away.
We want her legs to work.
We want her to be able to go to school… to run, skip and play like every normal 12 year-old girl should.
We want her to stop coughing.
We want her hair to grow back so people don’t stare at her.
We want normal family time – not garbled, anxiety-laden, jumbled hodge-podge comings and goings where one is sick or two are missing for yet another appointment.
We want to relax and not worry.
We want to give cancer back.
I’ll take one of those please, Santa. Any size will do. No need to wrap it up because if you deliver it, the paper won’t last long. Oh, and you can ditch the receipt, I won’t be returning that gift.
I know many people are dealing with heartbreak and struggles. While Christmas is a season of love and giving, it also seems to magnify pain and loss. We don’t have the market cornered on hurt. I realize that.
It’s just that my wife loves Christmas so much. She loves everything about it, from finding the perfect, fattest tree to decorating every square inch of the house in some form of red and green. She loves the sound of the carols (save Feliz Navidad) and the smell of the baking, even though she is the one wearing an apron. She loves that, for the briefest of moments, the world focuses on the birth of our Savior. She loves taking a drive to see lights on houses and staying home with hot chocolate around a fire. She loves spending time with family, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, reading the nativity story, and candlelight Christmas Eve services. She loves the mad dash on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought… the joy and wonder on our children’s faces. She loves it all.
How do we do it this year?
Should we skip it?
Or should we cherish every moment together as the babe in the manger intended us to? Maybe, instead of focusing on what we’ve lost, we should hold on to the fragile remains of what we have – love, family, friends, and a newfound respect for the precious thing that is life. We should cling to our little girl, who, though frail, is fighting hard and encouraging others to do the same.
We aren’t alone. During the year, we’ve been welcomed into the country club no one wants to join – the childhood cancer community. While we are bound together by common tragedy, it is the warmest, most caring and wonderfully supportive group imaginable. It is the fraternity I wish I’d never pledged. Many of our new brothers and sisters are dealing with such incredible loss, and this time of year must certainly be crippling.
When referring to the promised coming of the child in the manger, Isaiah said, “…and a little child shall lead them.”
What if we took a cue from our little child?
Although she is the one feeling the pain, nausea, and side effects of cancer, she is also the one most excited about Christmas. Even though she only had the strength to stand long enough to put a single ornament on the tree, she admires the finished product and loves to be in the den where she can see it. She is the one who insisted on taking decorations out of town with her while she has to be gone for treatment. She is the one snuggling her elves, dreaming about Christmas morning, and soaking up every minute of the nearness of family and Christ at this time of year. She holds a compress on an aching jaw with one hand and draws up surprises for those most dear with the other. In a year of typically rapid growth for a child her age, she weighs 75% of what she did last Christmas, yet she samples whatever treats her nervous stomach will allow. While we fret over diagnosis and treatment, she savors joy, plucks smiles from pain, and builds a resume of contentment that few on this earth have ever seen. Perhaps she has it right and we have it all wrong.
Kylie hanging her favorite ornament
Instead of looking to health and prosperity for our happiness, what if, just for a moment, we set aside our problems – however overwhelming, and looked to the manger, toward a child – with gratitude for his coming and a longing for his return? What if we laughed in the face of the enemy, knowing that we are wonderfully cared for and uniquely loved? What if we hoped, even when victory was uncertain? What if we dreamed of a better tomorrow regardless of what it may hold?
What if we smiled more…
This joyous Christmas, our family holds on to hope. Together, we look to the manger, to Jesus Christ our Lord for strength and healing. We dream of the day when there is a cure – for our child & every child. We pray that next year, not a single family will have to unwrap cancer for Christmas.
I really enjoyed my conversation this fall with Jon Harrison, author the upcoming book Mastering The Game: What Video Games Can Teach Us About Success In Life, who interviewed me for his ClassicallyTrained podcast (“Life. Leadership. Videogames”).
The holiday season can be an insanely stressful time. Looking for presents, wrapping them, cooking, getting the house ready for visitors, cleaning before and after. Nothing like a normal Saturday night on the couch in front of the TV or with a couple of close friends. The holidays demand perfection. You see it all around you, friends are talking about how stressed out they are, how much they still have to do in just a couple of days. Hyper-decorated stores are talking in their own way. As you approach the 25th of December you still haven’t bought half the gifts you need to rack up for family members, the house looks like a bomb crater and you occasionally wish yourself back in the office with piles of work on your desk waiting to be completed. There are even times when you would exchange a chilly Monday morning and an 8 o’clock meeting for this nerve-racking time that’s supposed to be happy, fun and merry.
What many rattled folks forget in the midst of buying last-minute bequests for loved ones or checking on the unhappy-looking beast in the oven minutes before guests arrive, wishing themselves far away, is that as many as half of the population face a holiday season without their dearest family members. There are people who have lost their loved ones in gruesome ways. I can’t even begin to imagine how they must feel, as they approach every new upcoming holiday season. There are people who have lost their parents to old age, people who have gone through heartbreaking divorces, separations and breakups and people who are overseas defending their country because they have no other choice. The holidays will not be what they once were for any of them. And then there are the single parents, parents many of which have decent custody agreements that are “in the best interest of the children.” According to the US Census Bureau, there are more than 10 million single parents in the United States today. Each year millions among them can look forward to days of loneliness because the little ones they really want to spend time with are with the other parent.
When sane parents separate, many judges, thankfully, divide custody equally. Each parent gets his or her fair share of custody, if at all possible. Even when it’s not possible to share the time with the children equally, judges will usually attempt to divide up the holidays evenly. The kids spend every other holiday with mom and every other holiday with dad. It certainly is in the children’s best interest to get to spend some time with each parent. Most kids, with decent moms and dads, would prefer to spend every holiday with both parents. The precious little ones secretly hope for the impossible: That their divorced or separated parents will get back together. But despite their wishes, they adjust to the situation. They have no other choice.
Nor do the parents. As we face the holidays many single parents face a very lonely time. They may be with dear family members: parents, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts and uncles. Yet they may nonetheless feel a profound pain in their hearts, even as they watch close relatives savor the pecan pie or scream in delight when they rip open their Christmas presents. Their own children are far away. In most cases the youngsters are in a safe place elsewhere, stuffing their faces with goodies or breaking out laughing when the other grandpa makes a funny face. In most cases single parents know that their children are enjoying themselves in the company of the other caregiver and his or her extended family.
Yet the children are missing from the scenery. Their absence is felt. “It hurts. It hurts every other Christmas when my kids are with their dad during the holidays,” says Wendy Thomas, a St. Louis, Missouri single mother of two girls ages 8 and 5. Thomas shares custody with the girls’ father, who lives in Illinois. “The first year was the hardest but I don’t think I will ever get used to it. Shopping malls and Silent Night make me shiver,” says the 38-year-old entrepreneur. This is her third Christmas and New Year’s without her children.
Each holiday a single parent truly misses his or her children on that one day that is supposed to bring delight to everyone. “It’s going to be a lonely, lonely Christmas without you” may just be tedious background music for the families that didn’t break apart. Each year, however, the oldie is causing a tiny tear to run quietly down the cheek of some single caregiver.
But could some of the reported agony over absent children during the holidays be the result of what psychologists call cognitive dissonance, a psychological mechanism we use to justify our choices and conflicting belief sets? For example, you choose to volunteer three hours a week at the local children’s hospital. It’s killing you. You can barely fit in everything else you have to do. But you tell everyone, including yourself, that volunteer work is truly rewarding and every (wo)man’s duty. Making irrational decisions seem rational is a way to preserve your sense of self worth.
Studies show that the hardship involved in raising children makes us idealize parenthood and consider it an enormously rewarding enterprise. In a study published in the January 2011 issue of the journal Psychological Science researchers primed 80 parents with at least one child in two different ways. One group was asked to read a document reporting the costs of raising a child. The other parents read the same document as well as a script reporting on the benefits of having raised children when you reach old age. The participants were then given a psychological test assessing their beliefs about parenting. The team found what they expected. Parents who had only read about the financial costs of parenthood initially felt more discomfort than the other group. But they went onto idealize parenthood much more than the other participants and when interviewed later their negative feelings were gone.
“How do single parents get through Christmas as painlessly as possible?”
Could cognitive dissonance explain why single parents feel empty-handed and depressed during holiday seasons without their children? St. Charles, MO, family counselor Deborah Miller doesn’t think that’s what’s going on. “This year it’s my turn to be one of those parents. I’ll be the first to admit that raising a child is not always a blessing. There are countless times when I feel more like a chauffeur or a waitress or a slave than a free agent with some real me-time.” She thinks the lonely-parent phenomenon evidently is not a manifestation of cognitive dissonance, as we don’t idealize away the pain of being without our children on Christmas or New Year’s. The heartache often doesn’t go away until we see our kids again in January and abruptly remember just how draining it is to raise a child. “I’ll finally get some time to myself, and I know my son will have a blast. But I’ll miss him immensely,” says Miller.
How do single parents get through Christmas as painlessly as possible? The solution is not necessarily to have a huge family gathering with your side of the family to ease the sorrow. A gala dinner on Christmas Day may have its advantages. You can hug your little nieces and nephews and maybe feel a bit of comfort as they open their presents in a way only children can approach surprises. You may feel a teensy bit of wonder (or is it jealousy) as you view your siblings and their spouses exchange loving smiles and their young ones take delight in the simplest of things. “It may work for some but there is a sense in which you will only be a spectator,” says Miller. She recalls her Christmas two years ago. “I felt gratified to be part of a functional family, and it was good to see my siblings interact with their children. I also remember being thankful that my parents were still alive and healthy and that they got one more holiday season with some of their grandchildren. But I also felt great sadness, because the dearest thing in my life wasn’t with me. I really missed my son that day.” This Christmas, Miller is getting together with a few friends. “Sure, we will still have Christmas dinner but there won’t be any children or presents or sacred family traditions. So hopefully I won’t be reminded of what I’m missing out on.”
Featured image credit: Christmas Decorations, by Ian Wilson. CC-BY-2.0 via Flickr.
I struck a deal with the kids: for every new app or game I buy them, they must each memorize a poem. So far, so fabulous. Huck, my little iPad junkie, is shaping up to be a regular minstrel by the time he’s twenty.
I don’t care about the pageantry or the spectacle. I just get bored. A.D.D.? Maybe. Every time I’m stuck watching them, I can’t find an ounce of enjoyment – I just think about two dozen other things I could be doing. This couldn’t be truer than when I’m at Disneyworld.
My kids, on the other hand, love parades. So when people start lining the streets, they want to stop riding roller coasters and wait. UGH…
Wait for what? Floats. No thank you! If a float doesn’t contain root beer and ice cream, I don’t want it.
I figure with half of the eligible riders standing along the parade route, the lines to the cool things are shorter. Not my family. We wait – and not for the good stuff.
A funny thing happened on our trip last week. We were headed to a ride at the back of the park while people were lining up for the parade. No one with me suggested we stop to watch (miracle), so I powered into the street. We must have been the last ones let out before they closed the rope because we found ourselves about 20 paces in front of the parade with all of its flags and music.
Maybe it was the fact that I was pushing my daughter’s wheelchair, or possibly because I looked so stately and official, but it became apparent that the spectators thought we were supposed to be the ones leading the parade. We all realized it at the same time as they clapped and waved at us.
My kids became confused.
They grouped together.
“Should we pull off and get out of the way?” they wondered.
The oldest asked, “What do we do?”
Of course they looked to me, the leader, the head honcho, the alpha male for direction and what did they find me doing?
With a dopey grin on my face, I waved back at all of my adoring fans.
When life puts you at the front of the parade, smile and wave!
The kids laughed at me, but it caught on. All of us began waving to the crowd.
You know what? Everyone waved back. The people didn’t think we looked out of place – they just waved at us. I wonder what they thought when the real parade came and they realized we didn’t belong. Oh well, we were gone by then. We walked over half of the parade route unencumbered by the bustling crowd until we got near the ride we wanted. Then we simply ducked into the masses and became one of them – anonymous once more.
I still hate parades… But for a moment, I was the grand marshal.
You can enter to win a signed hardback copy of The Christmas Owl December 4 – December 12. Two lucky winners will receive a copy of these beautiful keepsake books and the hardbacks are only available here. Visit a Rafflecopter giveaway to get your entries in.
Also, during 12/4 -12/6 our Christmas Owl kindle book will be discounted to $.99 on Amazon (reg $3.50). Happy Holidays from 4EYESBOOKS!
A time to read good books, A time to dream up new ones.
A time to craft words, A time to delete.
A time to face the music, A time to dance in the face of it. It's the natural breath of our days - The ups and downs of waves. Summer rushed to Fall a smidge too soon in my neck of the woods. Birthdays, school starts, First wiggly teeth, Rounded hula hoops of doings. Responsibilities loomed.
Do you ever drag your feet ?
I soured up a few days kicking my heels against time and tides, and then I remembered...
What of all the sacred moments today ? What am I missing with my eyes shut tight against change?
Here is the good news: Gratitude mends easily. It always starts with today.
And thankfulness is magic. It turns straw into gold, turns dirty dishes into a sacred space.
Farewell summer! Hello Fall! It's simple, right? To find joy, we breathe. In and out. And if breathing means working hard at a task today, then may we find beauty under the stones at our feet.
Or if it means taking a ramble in the woods, then let the leaves turn, let the fruit fall and find us with open hands.
"Nobody else but the rosebush knows
how nice mud feels between the toes."
- Polly Chase Boyden
Book treasures that make me smile in all seasons:
The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame, illustrated by Inga Moore Firefly July - compiled by Paul B. Janeczko, illustrated by Melissa Sweet Lindbergh - The Tale of a Flying Mouse, by Torben Kuhlmann The New Arrival by Vanya Nastanlieva
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage A Snicker of Magic by Natalie Lloyd Henry and the Paper Route by Beverly Cleary The Magician's Elephant by Kate DiCamillo Odd, Weird, and Little by Patrick Jennings
I love reading stories aloud to children, but as a busy mom I know there are times my kids want to listen to a story when I just have too many other things to do. This even happens in the library! At Emerson, we have loved showing kids how they can listen to stories on the computer through Storyline Online. While this doesn't replace reading stories with our kids, it's a wonderful resource to know about.
Storyline Online is easy for young kids to use -- just click on a book cover, and then click the play button. Our students are really enjoying listening to these stories, and we've been really pleased with the quality. What we love about it:
terrific actors that bring warmth, joy and feeling to these stories
fantastic selection of stories, both old and new
nice balance between the actor reading aloud and views of the picture book illustrations
easy to use site -- kids can navigate it by themselves
engages children in a rich story experience, but satisfies their yearning for screen time
Here's one of our favorite stories: The Library Lion, by Michelle Knudson, read aloud by Mindy Sterling.
Let us know what you think of these resources. We'd love to know resources your kids enjoy using at home. I want to say special thanks to colleagues at BUSD DigiTech's team, especially Becca Todd District Library Coordinator, for helping marshal such a terrific collection of digital resources for elementary children.
I got to be party to pure, absolute joy this weekend. I have seen such displays on television after a big win in sports or gameshows. This time, it was my little girl who celebrated. After so many losses in the past six months, it was a much needed win.
As a parent, one of the worst things about cancer is being totally helpless. We are forced to sit and watch as one thing after another is taken away from our little girl. Ballet, plays, school, vacations, little things and big things are plucked away as she lays in bed.
Wonderful organizations are out there to give back to these kids. Groups such as the Make-a-Wish Foundation come beside them to give them something to look forward to during their treatment. A very introspective child, Kylie debated long and hard over her wish, finally deciding she wanted to see Aladdin on Broadway.
A few weeks ago, Kylie was asked to be the honored child at Make-a-Wish Georgia’s annual fund-raising Wish Gala. The chairperson of the event took her on a shopping spree for a gown. This day of shopping was unlike any that my girls have been on – especially Kylie. As a fourth child, hand-me-downs are the rule of thumb. If it isn’t obscenely high or dragging the ground, it fits.
Not this time. She was treated like a princess. After a six month hiatus, I saw her old friend, “excitement” start to creep back into her life.
The big night came. We all got dressed up for the Gala.
She knew she was going to sing with her sister. She knew I was going to speak. She thought of herself as the entertainment and the face of wish-children for the evening. What she didn’t know was that Make-a-Wish had planned a big surprise for her. They had a video from her favorite Broadway performers who granted her wish to go to see Aladdin. Here is her reaction:
Priceless. Pure Joy.
After so many months of seeing her disappointed, I can’t look at that video without tears.
You might be wondering if I embarrassed myself and my family in front of the trendier set. I believe the answer is no. With a stern admonition from the start, I spent the evening minding everything I did and said carefully. I paused three seconds before any word escaped my lips. I didn’t spill or break anything. My online tux-buying escapade was made unnecessary by a friend exactly my size who owns a tuxedo. I did not step on anyone’s dress or trip on my way to the stage. I didn’t try to fit in by discussing the beach chalet I own in Vermont.
It was a lovely evening. Kylie was the star…. And she deserves it.
Title: Ten Thankful Turkeys | Author: Angela Muse | Illustrator: Ewa Podleś | Publication Date: October 4, 2014 | Publisher: 4EYESBOOKS | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 2 to 8 Summary: This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book.
Kindle version available for only 99 cents from Amazon on October 24 & 25, 2014. Grab your copy now!!
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 books in her first young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, in 2013/2014. Her husband, Ben Muse writes suspense/thriller books that can also be found on Amazon.
Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest closes: November 23, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open to: 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 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. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Some days I’m more “quirky” than others. This is one of those days. Instead of just telling you that your middle grade children (grades 4, 5, 6, 7) are not too old for you to keep up that nightly ritual of reading, I’ve made some alterations to a classic Journey song. You can laugh or roll your eyes, but the message will be the same. They’re getting older, but it doesn’t lessen their enthusiasm for books. Nor does it mean they don’t need us there to help them navigate some of the issues that their favourite characters are facing. Bottom line? Take fifteen minutes at the end of the night, curl up on someone’s bed, and keep reading.
Don’t Stop the Readin’ (adapted from Journey’s Don’t stop believin’– hardcore Journey fans…I’m sorry (ps: it helps if you listen to the song in the background softly so you can read with the beat)
Just a grade five girl Readin’ bout’ a wizard world She read the whole series Loved the characters Just a grade six boy Thinks he doesn’t like to read He found The Outsiders Thinks he’s Ponyboy
His father comes into the room The moon is out the day is done For a while they can read tonight It goes on and on and on and on
Parents reading Learnin’ bout the Hunger Games, Heroes like Percy Annabeth Quests and danger Find out what your kids are lovin’ Read with them every night
Workin’ hard to pay the bills One on one time is such a thrill Read a story, talk about your day It’s worth the time Picture Book Non-Fiction Doesn’t matter what you read Graphic novels, Patterson The list can go on and on and on
They aren’t too old Even in the middle grades Let them read to you Read to them Make it matter A great way to stay connected Just fifteen minutes a night
Don’t stop the readin’ Hold on to that feelin’ With your children Don’t stop the readin’ Nielsen, Sachar, Judy Blume They keep you readin’ Keep on reading!
There’s a common theme in my family and it has to do with all of us daring to dream BIG. Allowing our children the freedom to dream is a value my husband and I have instilled in our children, pretty much since childbirth. We believe that no one should ever squelch someone else’s dreams no matter how crazy and impossible the dream may sound. After all, I’m currently working on developing an entire 28-acre island along the Caribbean Coast of Nicaragua for social good. Had I not dreamt the impossible, I wouldn’t be in throes of conquering my dream in such a magnificent way.
So, it comes as no surprise to me that my son, Miles, has a gargantuan dream of his own. For the past two and half years, ever since he picked-up his first bow and arrows at a resort during my husband’s company picnic, Miles has dreamt of one day making it to the Olympics. Being good enough is only the half the battle for him. The trouble is, his bow is making his dream impossible–that is, unless compound bows are ever allowed into the Olympics alongside their counterparts, the recurve bow.
But, all that isn’t stopping Miles from going after his dreams. My twelve-year-old currently holds the California State Champion title in both indoor and outdoor archery in the compound bowman division. During this year’s California State Outdoor Championship, in Long Beach, Miles set a new California 30M state record held since 2009 of 355. Miles broke the record with a score of 356 out of 360. It takes laser-sharp focus to shoot a nearly perfect score in a high-stakes tournament like that one.
Maybe there is hope on the horizon for the compound bowman. All his successes have taken Miles one step closer to his Olympic dream, because Miles has been invited by USA Archery, the archery governing body of the Olympics, to try-out for the Compound Junior Dream Team at a week-long selection camp held in Chula Vista, California. Up until now, the Junior Dream Team consisted of 36 of the most skilled and promising Olympic-style archers in the country, all shooting recurve. But, recently, compound archers have been added to the program and Miles hopes to earn his spot on the team, as a compound bowman, and one step closer to his Olympic Dream.
Even if the compound bow never makes it into the Olympics, if selected to the Junior Dream Team (JDT), Miles will intensively train weeklong at the Olympic Training Center once a quarter with some of the best junior archers in the country. Between training camps, JDT coaches and archers will continue to train together by utilizing video conferencing via the internet.
Shooting at Miles’ level takes a lot of practice. He shoots an average of 100 arrows a day on a range safely set-up in his backyard sport court. He has an accident-free history if you don’t count one broken window from an errant arrow. Miles is privately coached by two-time World Champion Compound Archer, John Norberg. He shoots a Hoyt Freestyle Compound Bow, 35 lbs., with 70% let-off. He releases with a Carter Evolution Plus back tension release. He uses PSA Radial X Weave Pro 100 arrows with Blazer vanes.
Here’s to dreaming big son! Good luck this month at selection camp and keep dreaming, no matter what the outcome is this time around.
I have always been a free bird, doing something the hard way... a hundred times to get it done, impulse buyer and doer, and I love to organize but hate to follow organization/schedules. So when we had Norah on top of all this, I felt a bit topsy turvy. How do you stay full time mom, full time artist, and full time wife?
Help. Lots and lots of help.
I'm sitting here writing this post as my mom does my dishes. It's something she truly enjoys doing for us on a monthly basis (often times twice a month). And it's AH MA ZING! There are many Fridays where she leaves work early and comes to give Norah hugs and kisses (and books, and play, and animal sounds, and walks), that frees me up for an hour or two. Big help.
On Tuesdays my mother in law, Karen, watches Norah for several hours in the morning. A good chunk of time to get some painting done, and Norah gets a lot of snuggly hugs.
Wednesdays I have my dear friend Andi come and watch her for several hours in the morning with coffee and then we all do lunch.
On Thursdays my sister in law, Joni, watches her for a couple hours while I go sit at a coffee shop and breathe. When my niece and nephew get out of school the cousins hang out for a bit together. Great family time.
My sister, other friends, and our parents will help watch her in the evenings so Brian and I can have date nights.
And then there's my hubby. He does so much! After a long day at work he comes home, grabs Norah out of my hands, and he's on daddy duty for the rest of the night. I can get so much done because of his willingness to do the evenings. Same with the weekends, we alternate.
I am always curious as to how stay at home moms who are also artists get their work done with a baby/toddler around. Norah has gotten to a stage where I can get very little done while she is awake and I have to give in to that. I WANT to give in to that and watch her explore, learning about the world around her.
I would not be able to get what I get done without the help of others. I know some who do, and that just blows me away. I applaud them with a standing ovation because I know myself well enough I would overheat and give up. My discipline still has strides of work to go in the field of 'getting it done'. It takes a lot of practice!
I have messed up in my business because of the many, many tasks I do, I have allowed Norah to watch tv so I can get a task done, I have even let her stay in the crib wanting out after a nap just to finish up an Etsy listing (I am aware these are very normal events all of us parents do), I have mailed orders out later than intended because I simply got overwhelmed and forgot, and I have checks that have sat around waiting to be deposited from months ago.
I'm not ashamed, and won't be. I will be realistic that life happens, and stuff needs to get done. My daughter has me all of the time, and I give almost just as much into my marriage and business. I think we're good. I say it all the time, but it never seems like enough....
I am SO BLESSED to have the life, the people, the husband, and the time I have today. Wow. So good!
How do you manage life? My situation is we can't afford childcare or babysitters, and I understand everyones situation or circumstance is very different from the other. This is how we make it work.