Gratitude

November is a month to think about gratitude. One definition of gratitude that I like is: the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.  I like thinking of gratitude as a quality; something we might have in us all the time, not just when a moment calls for it. And I like the idea of returning kindness. When we receive a kindness, we might not be able to “return” it to the person who bestowed kindness on us, but we can return it to the world by being kind to someone.

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Next week we will travel to our daughter’s home in Kansas and share Thanksgiving with her, her husband, our son and his family. I am thankful we are able to have this time together, that we can afford to travel and that food will be plentiful, that their house will be warm, and there will be clean running water. I look forward to the conversations and laughter that will be shared and to the wonder that will come in seeing our grandchildren, observing their minds growing right before us.

For many this holiday will not hold joy and warm feelings. Many do not have the basic needs of life, others face a holiday without loved ones. May those of us who can, return some kindness into the world this week. Maybe it will find someone in need.

Peppermint Chiffon Pie is often served on Thanksgiving (along with Pumpkin Chiffon). Both pies are family recipes and made often as you can see by my well loved recipe card! This pie and yummy and pretty!peppermint chiffon

Hint: Nabisco Chocolate Wafers are usually found by the topping for ice cream sundaes

Let’s make EVERY child a reader

One week in the Spring and Fall Every Child A Reader celebrates Children’s Book Week. It’s an opportunity to remind people how important reading is, not just for children but for all. Being a proficient reader is important to succeed in life.

In my role as a speech therapist I work with adults who are having cognitive or language issues. A task we might do is make a list of items, say fruits, vegetables etc. To make that task more difficult I might ask, tell me all the things we can read. What came to your mind? Books, magazines, newspaper were probably first. Did you think about bills, road signs, recipes, food labels, medicine labels, directions, instructions, forms, information signage in stores, in hospitals, car dashboards, and more.

Reading is the key that unlocks the door into every child’s future. Let’s make every week Children’s Book Week, so that the future is bright, not just for the children but  also for the rest of us because the children are our future.

The family that reads together…

We know children learn by watching the adults in their lives. When they are small they mimic our behavior, good and bad. When they are older they may try to reject the behavior we model but that can prove difficult to do! Have you ever said or done something, good or bad, and thought I sound just like my mother or father.

So as National Family Literacy Month begins it we should consider how important it is to model reading for our children. I grew up in a house where reading was valued. Books were given as gifts, trips to the library were frequent, and those who could, read to those who were too young. My mother read fiction. I can still see her crying one evening as she read. And I still remember the book, Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn.  She showed me that it’s ok to get lost in a book, to respond viscerally to words, and to learn from them. My father was more a nonfiction guy. He read the paper and magazines. I still recall the stacks of National Geographics that he poured over and used to show us the world was a much bigger place than we could imagine.

This love of reading continued in the home I shared with my husband and our two children. Books were everywhere in our house, even in the bathroom. The Reader’s Digest Magazine lived in the bathroom too and was a source of jokes and information for all! We read together as a family at home, in the car, on vacation. Books were given and shared.

We still give books (all those gifts under the tree are books!) and talk about books even though we are all adults. And from Great Gramma (my mom) on down, we are sharing this love of books, modeling it for the next generations. May your family be so lucky as to pass a love of reading from generation to generation. The wealth of that inheritance is beyond measure.

Find additional resources for National Family Literacy month here.

Run away home?

Have you ever wanted to run away? Maybe you are thinking, YES, just yesterday when the work was crazy, the car needed an oil change and the refrigerator had somehow eaten all the food and was wanting to be filled AGAIN. 

Now you do remember wanting to run away when you were a child? I think most children do at some point.  The injustices of childhood loom large.  Everything happens above you. Decisions big (we’re having another baby) and small (blueberry yogurt instead of cherry) are made without you.  Just when you are in the middle of something important (the biggest block tower ever) it’s bedtime, and it seems the rules are constantly changing (don’t lie, unless the neighbor got an ugly haircut).

In Noisy Nora, by Rosemary Wells and A Baby Sister for Frances, by Russell Hoban the main character feels ignored and replaced because a new sibling has arrived.  And Max in Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak has suffered the injustice of being sent to bed without any supper.  And so, they run away to escape. In my book, The Day I Ran Away, Grace feels she’s been wrongly banished to her room and packs up to run away only to be thwarted by the fact that she’s not allowed to cross the street. 

As a child I remember one time packing my little suitcase and heading down the road (I actually just went next door), but mostly when I needed to “escape” I picked up a book.  When the weather allowed, I took my book to swing under a willow tree.  Books allowed me to forget my problems big and small and they gave me examples of how others solve their problems.

Being a child or a grown up can be difficult.  Wanting to run away may just mean we need to escape for a bit so we can face our problem with fresh eyes. And when we return we might hope a good dinner is on the table!

Grace comes home for Spaghetti and Meatballs, her favorite! I’ll let you in on a little secret. It’s her favorite because it’s a family favorite often requested when my kids are returning home.

In honor of Pasta Day (yesterday) this month’s recipe is early!

The Niner meatballs and sauce recipes. Be sure to use the slider to see both!

Word Clouds & Mental Health

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. Whether or not you or a loved one struggles with a mental health problem it is important to understand them. To understand their impact on individuals, families and communities.

Because my son has OCD I had first hand knowledge about OCD and it’s impact on him and our family. That is what lead me to write Mr. Worry: A story about OCD. And that lead to I Can’t Stop: A story about Tourette syndrome.  Through my books I’ve been able to interact with individuals and families with these disorders.

This summer I was honored to be asked to participate in the International OCD Foundation’s virtual summer camp for kids. I was amazed! They create a wonderful virtual camp for kids from all over the world. They were able to listen to speakers and interact with each other and amazing volunteers.

My part was small. I read Mr. Worry and then took questions. I was awed by the questions and insight these elementary age kids had about themselves and OCD. While I didn’t get to see any, my activity was for them to make word clouds about themselves because it is important to realize that you are more than your disorder.

Try making a word cloud. Think about words that tell about you. Or make one about feelings you have, people in your life, things you’d like to do.

I LOVE Fall

If you’ve been reading my blog you can’t help but know that I love to bake and cook with pumpkin so, as you might imagine, I love fall. But it’s not just the pumpkin that shows up in things from coffee to ice cream that I love.

fallbannerFall commands the attention of all my senses. The crisp air that requires a jacket. The leaves in hues of orange, yellow and red capture both my eyes and my ears when the crunch underfoot. That crunching creates a leafy aroma like the grinding of spices. I hear the geese call good by as the cross the sky in perfect V formation. The Red-winged Blackbirds gather and put on a nightly show swooping as one for weeks before they too head south. As the sun moves south it sets earlier and earlier. Walking in the dusk of evening, house windows glow and I imagine the of families gathered inside. And when I return home the warmth of a fire greets me. It’s fall!

When you are writing it is important to think about your senses. What senses are awakened by  a place, season,  or activity? Including such details, not in a big paragraph as above, but slipped in here and there will enrich your story and help your reader feel like they are in the story with you!

A Recipe

Now, who wants some Pumpkin Cinnamon Pull-Apart Loaf?!

Print a copy from here & watch a video of constructing the loaf!

I Love to Walk

I’ve always loved to walk. I enjoy walking with others, if we can match our pace, but mostly I love to walk alone. I’ve done it since I was old enough to venture out on my own. Growing up I often walked in large, peaceful, tree-filled cemetery. If I’m at the beach I prefer a walk to lying on a towel. Although sitting in a chair to people watch is fun too. Walking is a great way to think or not. To listen to nature’s conversation-the wind, the leaves, the birds.

41H0vAA7cdL._SX398_BO1,204,203,200_I was a runner/jogger for years beginning in grad school when I found it a great way to combat stress. George Sheehan’s book, On Running and Being was popular at that time. Later with work and a family, running was a great way to get in a quick exercise when life was busy.  I still preferred outside to a treadmill or the indoor track at the Y. Many of my story idea seeds in those years grew when I was running.  

In recent years I’ve gone back to walking after these old knees and hips protested. I love to walk early. Not many cars or people and the chance to see a sunrise during the walk.

Our children get most of their exercise these days in organized sports. I wish they had more time to be alone with their thoughts. Time to listen to nature instead of the electronic voices that follow us everywhere. Time to hear their own inner voice.

It’s Exercise with a Child Week. Please consider talking your child on a walk. Model listening to nature, and being content with silence, quietly point out the beauty, admire the vastness of the sky and the intricacies of clouds. Maybe you’ll find something interesting that tickles the imagination. Maybe stories will start to grow.

20210310_071918One day I saw something that made me ask What If! I went back to snap a picture. The ideas are sprouting!!

The Impact of Fathers

Yesterday was Father’s Day. A day to reflect on and celebrate the men in our lives that had a positive impact on us or those we love.

I was lucky to have my father in my life until he passed away at the age of 79. I was born in the late 1950s when fathers were not often seen doing the inside household chores and that was true of my father. Although he did flip the Sunday morning pancakes!

But Dad was very much a part of our lives. He was strict. One look and you know you’d done something wrong. But he was interested in all we did.  We ate dinner together as a family. He helped with homework, attended extracurricular activities, chauffeured us, interacted with our friends and always had LOTS of advice!

20210505_101354Dad and Mom had a huge impact on my love of reading. Both of them encouraged us by doing. Mom always had a book going (as do I)! Dad was not a fiction reader, but read the newspaper every night (as do I) and read magazines (as do I). I have memories of reading the comics in the newspaper with Dad, of him reading to us at bedtime or sometimes telling us stories. Trips to the library were frequent and books were given as presents.

As an adult, I began writing because my mom suggested I take an aptitude test for a children’s writing course. When I was accepted Mom and Dad supported me by giving me a state of the art (then!) word processor which save me time as I squeezed writing in around raising two toddlers. And of course they always LOVED my stories.

 Even at my age I trace my love of reading and writing all the way back to my parents. Think about that…If your children were asked, at the age of 60+, why do you like to read or why don’t you like to read; will they mention you in their answer? 

The Writer’s Notebook

notebooksAn educator friend of mine shared the idea of a Writer’s Notebook with me and I love it! I talk with students about collecting words, but I hadn’t considered all the possibilities a Writer’s Notebook could hold.

As an author I have used notebooks or word documents to keep track of ideas, names, titles that pop into my head and the evolving versions of a story.


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I am a list maker in my personal and writing life, and for that I love steno pads. The middle division allows me to have more than one type of list on a page.

 

 

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I have a notebook where I did exercises from books on writing. Sometimes I flip through to see if an idea for a story might emerge.

 

 


For the teachers reading this I’m probably preaching to the choir, but parents or other caregivers think about introducing the Writer’s Notebook over the summer. It will keep writing interest and skills alive!

A child (or adult) with a notebook dedicated to writing will start to see themselves as a writer. A nice writing utensil helps too! And writers will tell you they don’t just write on certain days and times. So that notebook should always be handy.

So how might a child use the notebook?

  • To write thoughts or feelings
  • React to things they see or hear or that happen to them
  • T0 play with writing and with language
  • To keep a list of words
  • To invent new words
  • To list names they like
  • To write down things that inspire them
    • song lyrics, poems,  quotes from a book, movie or TV show
  • To sketch
  • To describe things using all 5 senses

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Remember this notebook is the writers. It is not for some else to correct or question. It is a place to experiment, where mistakes can be made. Think of it as a safe. It holds beautiful things that the owner can keep for themselves or choose to share with others.

Get Caught Reading!!

I have a confession to make. I always keep a book in the bathroom and I always read a little anytime I’m in there. I’m not sure exactly when this started, but I think for those minutes throughout the day I slip into whatever world I’m reading about. It’s Get Caught Reading Month and we don’t need any bathroom pictures, but what are the strangest places you read a book?

I spent a morning this month gathering picture books at the Garrett Public library. The children’s librarian is a friend and she and her staff helped me find a large stack of picture books about various topics. So I thought I’d review a few and maybe you “get caught reading” one of them this month!

You Nest Here with Me
Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple
Illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Boyds Mill Press, 2015

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Soft, earth-color water color and mixed media illustrations bring a variety of birds to life as a mother puts her daughter to bed telling her that like a baby bird her nest is anywhere, they are together. Each bird species is seen in its environment. Pigeons on concrete ledges, catbirds in greening hedges. The mother concludes that birds are safe in nests while they grow, “learning all they need to know. So till you’re big as big can be…You’ll nest right here in our house with me.” Informative back matter gives a few facts about the 14 birds depicted in the text. This would be a great book to read this month for Mother’s Day and if you looking for screen-free things to do, bird watching is fun!

You Be Mommy
Karla Clark
Illustrated by Zoe Persico
Feiwel and Friends, 2020

20210420_141942In a role reversal, mommy is tired and asks her daughter to be mommy tonight. Colorful illustrations show all that mommy has done from working, cleaning up messes, being a chauffeur, caring for pets, and little things like wiping noses and granting wishes! As her daughter tucks her in, going through their bedtime ritual, she gets tired too and wants Mommy to be mommy. So Mommy rallies and carries her little one to bed. As she tucks her in she says, “for you’ll always by my little treasure. And I’ll be Mommy forever and ever.” A gentle reminder to a child of all that parents do in a day, but reassuring too.

A House for Every Bird
Megan Maynor
Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita
Alfed A. Knopf, 2021

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Told in the first person, the main character talks with the birds she’s drawn when they don’t choose to live in the bird houses, she’s drawn for them. Then the birds begin to chat with each other and trade houses. But our young creator wants to be in charge. She wants the birds to stay where she put them. In frustration she says, “but I was trying to help. I made a house for every bird. How was I supposed to KNOW what you like?” To which a bird replies, “ask us.” And so, she learns that you “can’t tell a bird by its feathers.” To know birds or people you have to take the time to get to know them! In the final spread the birds are around a table. Before she draws birdseed for all she asks what they like to eat and it turns out her birds like things like nuts, bugs, fruit and veggie burritos!

The illustrations are warm and inviting with lots to look at and discover-bird wearing hats, houses made of grapes and more.  The main character’s drawings looking like a child drew them. I think seeing them in a book will give confidence to other young artists.

Gifts of the Magpie
Sam Hundley
Capstone Editions, 2021

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Very clever book as Magpie (a bird known for collecting objects) makes things for her friends, but she misunderstands what her friends want because of homonyms! So, the mouse wants another mouse for a friend and gets a computer mouse, the goat wants Spring (the season) and gets a metal spring, the squirrel wants nuts and gets a nut that goes with a bolt. At first the friends are disappointed, but they begin to see how useful Magpie’s gifts are. Everything that creates the illustrations were “dug relics”-treasures unearthed by hunters using metal detectors and shovels. End pages explain the scrap art, give information on magpies and homonyms and suggest you make scrap art and send the author a picture.

“Mistakes happen, but creative thinking can turn blunders into wonders!”

And then it’s Spring
Julie Fogliano
Illustrated by Erin E. Stead
A Neal Porter Book, 2012

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I love Erin E. Stead’s illustrations in this quiet and hopeful book.  The colors are soft and earthy, the faces expressive and there is so much to look at. When the white of winter ends all the world is brown and a little boy, dog, bunny and turtle plant seeds and wait for green. The sun and the rain come but still it’s brown. The boy and his companions engage in other spring activities and wait. And wait.  Until finally all the world is green. Waiting is hard, but good things come.

“And it is still brown, but a hopeful, very possible sort of brown.” Haven’t we all seen this in Spring!

AND I love when people get caught reading books from my Flashlight Press family. Check out all their books here!

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