Poetry – Child Slavery

When I was a kid,
I would buy my parents cigarettes,
I would lie for them,
I would steal for them,
I would deliver their meals,
I would pick up the debris
after explosive arguments,
then I would nurse their wounds
(both emotional and physical).

I was a servant,
pasting on a fake smile
while hatred and rage
bubbled within
at my slavery.

Meet My New Reborn Doll, Anya!

I got a new reborn doll that I absolutely love! I thought I would share the video of her in case anyone is interested in that type of thing! I feel like I really bonded with her immediately. Getting into reborn dolls has really kind of been a comforting, distracting hobby for me to get into. I think it has even helped my depression a little bit. Now, if only something would help the anxiety….

Baby Doll, Toy, and Book Thrift Store Shopping Haul

This weekend I did some thrift store shopping! I found a few cute outfits for my new reborn doll (whom I decided to name Amelia after a character in a YA book I read recently called “A Tragic Kind of Wonderful”). For about six bucks I got these three outfits for her:


I also found this cute preemie 3-piece giraffe and elephant set for only $5:


Lastly, we went to a new bargain used bookstore, which sells bundles of children’s books (around 10 books for $5). Part of the fun of buying the bundle is that you can’t really see what all you get until after you buy it, so it is somewhat of a surprise when you open the package and see what all books you got:


Of the books I got in this bundle, my favorites are the “Spooky Friends”, “Cinderella” (from the live action movie version), Elmo’s World, and the “Penguin Skating Party” ones. I also picked up the cute cloth alphabet blocks you see to the right of the books in the photo for only $.99 at the thrift store where I got the baby clothes.

I Got My Reborn Baby Doll!


I got my first reborn baby doll in the mail yesterday! Now, as I mentioned in my first post about buying the doll, I didn’t buy one of the ones that is hundreds of dollars, so it isn’t as lifelike as many of the higher priced ones are, but I still really like her! She has bright blue eyes with the most adorable eyelashes and strong, rooted light brown mohair, which feels a lot like real hair.

When I first got her out of the package, I could see that I was going to have to tidy up her hair, which was a bit too long for my liking in the front, but I think I have it evened out pretty well now. The sad thing is that she doesn’t really fit well into the newborn clothing I bought for her. It is too big and definitely too long. I’ve found that the preemie outfits fit her just about right though.

She doesn’t weigh as much as a real baby, but is weighted some so that she is much nicer to hold than your typical cheap superstore baby dolls. She really smells like baby powder too! Reminds me of Cabbage Patch dolls in that way. I haven’t named her yet, so far just been calling her “Baby”. Any suggestions?

“Mini Myths”, Kids Board Books Based on Greek Mythology

I love children’s books. I collect many different kinds of books for kids and honestly probably have more books geared towards children in my library than I have books geared for adults. Recently I came across these “Mini Myths” board books that are made for babies and toddlers (written by Joan Holub and illustrated by Leslie Patricelli). They feature characters like Pandora, Hercules, and Medusa from Greek mythology and are simply adorable:


Here you can see a brief glimpse inside the books:


I think my favorite is probably Pandora, although I love Hercules’ energy and trouble-making attitude. If you work with or have small children of your own, I would definitely check these books out. They are a great way to introduce even the youngest of kids to fun characters from mythology in a silly, playful way kids and parents will love.

Life Update: Jobs, Kids, Writing & Bernie Sanders!


“YOLO” collage on paper by Maranda Russell

Hello everyone! I’m sorry that I’ve been neglecting my blog lately. I hope to start remedying that now. Here is a short list of some of the things that have been going on in my life recently, as well as some of the projects I am looking forward to beginning:

  • For the last 8 months I have been working part-time in an emergency room. During that time I have met some fascinating people, but I have also been witness to a great deal of human suffering. I have always been a sensitive, rather empathic person who feels things deeply and in that way, I feel that this job has affected me greatly. I will be leaving the position soon to pursue other opportunities, but I am grateful for the experience.
  • Recently I have begun to take on more freelance writing gigs, particularly in the field of children’s writing. I have found that one of my true passions is taking the visions of other authors and helping them create great stories for kids. I especially enjoy editing picture books or other types of literature for young readers. Mostly I have been getting clients through online sites, but I am open to offers from other clients, so if you have a children’s book that you would like help editing, feel free to contact me!
  • My husband and I are hoping to start doing respite for kids and young adults with disabilities soon. Ever since we stopped fostering kids, I have missed having children around to play with and care for. I can’t wait to get a chance to have a full house again, even if it is just for short periods of time.
  • My YouTube vlog, Maranda’s Toys & Books, has been growing quickly! Ever since I decided to focus the channel mostly on my nerdy love of toys, books and collectibles, it seems to have found its niche and an audience that is a lot of fun to interact with! For that reason, I will probably be sharing my more serious or personal posts here on my blog from now on.
  • Lastly, this is kind of random…but I’m really rooting for Bernie Sanders! Feel the Bern! Even if he doesn’t end up winning the presidential nomination, I am thankful to see so many younger people step up and show they care deeply about the fate of our country. I think what I love most about Bernie is that he is such a humble, down-to-earth politician. It is truly refreshing to see.

Drugs are Scary


Recently, my husband and I went to a special class about street drug use among youth. The only reason we really went was to earn some of our foster parent educational credit hours, but I must say that the class turned out to be eye-opening and even frightening on many levels. I thought I already knew the basics about street drug use…but apparently there is ALOT I still had to learn.

Following are a few of the facts and statistics that were shared during the class that surprised or even shocked me. Read them over for yourself and decide if we as a country should be worried…

  • Of all young people who die from overdosing on drugs, 98% started with marijuana. (Guess that kind of ruins our society’s whole “marijuana is harmless” belief).
  • Studies show that the risk of a person having a heart attack in the first hour after smoking marijuana is 4 times more likely than their normal risk.
  • On a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the hardest to get and 10 being the easiest to get, getting crack cocaine in this area of Ohio is an 8 for a minor. (Although obviously this statistic would vary depending on where you live and other factors, it scares me that it is so easy for our youth to get hold of cocaine).
  • Ketamine, known on the streets as “Special K” is actually a tranquilizer for large animals. For this reason, many veterinary clinics and other animal handlers often become victims of theft and other crimes due to addicts pursuing their drug.
  • OxyContin, Morphine, Vicodin and Codeine are in the same family of drugs as Heroin. (No wonder these pain killers are so addictive)!
  • Heroin users often start out by abusing prescription drugs.
  • Approximately 1 in 6 meth labs EXPLODE! This is truly terrifying! And these are not small explosions!
  • People who abuse methamphetamines have less than a 5% chance of ever fully recovering.
  • The average age for someone who inhales chemicals to get high is 9-13. (If that is the average age, many kids must do it at even younger ages. We obviously need early intervention here.)

So did those facts worry you at least a little bit? They should. If you don’t already talk to your kids about the dangers of drug use of all kinds, please start talking. And always keep an eye out. Don’t be the parent that is in denial and doesn’t see a problem right before their eyes until it is too late.

To spank or not to spank – what kind of discipline actually works?

ErziehungsmethodeIt’s been awhile since I have written a blog post related to foster parenting, but something has been weighing heavily on my mind and I would like to share it and allow others to share their own thoughts on the subject. As a foster parent, it is absolutely forbidden to give a child any physical punishments. No spanking, no standing in the corner, no hard physical labor or military-type exercise. In fact, sometimes it feels like as a foster parent the only type of discipline left to use is privilege removal and time out.

Unfortunately, I find that most of the discipline options we are allowed to use don’t seem to actually work. It leaves me wondering, what if anything would work? I have heard some foster parents swear that if they could just spank the kids or make them do physical drills like they are in boot camp, that they could “fix” these kids. However, I’m not so sure about that. I have known regular kids who were spanked or raised with military-type parents and some of those kids still didn’t turn out well.

So what is the real answer? Unacceptable actions do certainly have to have some kind of consequence, but what kind? Even our foster childrens’ therapists and counselors seem stumped sometimes as to what will help. They often have us trying one behavior management program after another just to see them all fail. This also leaves me wondering if it helps to constantly be changing your gameplan when it comes to discipline, even if a certified therapist recommends it. Sometimes I start to get confused about what we are supposed to be doing because it gets changed so much…so imagine how the kids must feel!

So now I am asking all parents, whether foster, biological or otherwise…what have you found that actually works as discipline? What seems to be totally ineffective? Are you for or against spanking?

“Ode to Icky” featured on Storytime with Starfish!

If you have thought about buying my funny picture book “Ode to Icky”, but wanted to hear the story first, please feel free click on the following link and watch Storytime with Starfish read the entire book on youtube! I love how Natalie Starfish giggles throughout the reading, it is awesome to know that even adults find your book funny!

Even if you have no interest in buying the book, I still hope you will check out the video. I am most grateful to Storytime with Starfish for featuring my first published picture book, and would also encourage you all to check out her other videos. She reads some awesome books for children, both classics and creative new titles!

By the way, if you do want to purchase a copy of “Ode to Icky”, it is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books-A-Million and many other fine retailers! Or feel free to ask your local library to order it! Most libraries will order books if patrons request it 🙂

Interview with Children’s Author Katie Stewart

It’s been a while since I did an author interview, so I was excited to get the chance to post this new interview with Katie Stewart. Katie is a children’s and young adult author from Northam, Western Australia. Katie’s preferred genre is fantasy, which shows clearly in her latest release, “The Dragon Box”, an ebook that is currently available on Amazon.

Now, on to the interview questions:

1. When did you first decide that you wanted to be an author? What made you want to choose this career path?

I’ve always loved writing, but I loved art, too. As a young child I wanted to be the next Beatrix Potter and spent hours copying her illustrations. As I got older I moved away from the writing and more towards the illustrating, but I still had stories in my head and actually wrote a ‘novel’ when I was sixteen – which I disposed of when I reread it years later! I didn’t start writing seriously until about 12 years ago when I took a writing course as ‘something to do’.

2. Who are some of the authors that greatly influenced your writing style? What were some of your favorite books as a kid?

My favourite authors are Paulo Coelho, Ursula Le Guin, CS Lewis and Juliet Marillier. I’d like to be able to say I write like any one of them, but I can’t. I love the magical way Coelho uses words, the fantastic world-building of Le Guin, the imagination of CS Lewis and the brilliant characterisation of Marillier.

As a child I read everything I could lay my hands on. I had a book called ‘The Sam Pig Story Book’ which I adored, partly because it had been given to me by a favourite aunt and partly because it involved fantasy and nature, still two of my favourite things. I also loved ‘Peter Pan’ (JM Barrie) and all the ‘Katy’ books (Susan Coolidge). In my teenage years I loved books by Hester Burton and Australian author, HF Brinsmead, as well as devouring every Charles Dickens book I could find. So quite a mix really.

3. Did you have a hard time getting your first book published?

Yes, which is why I finally decided to epublish. There are not many publishers in Australia who publish fantasy anyway, but I just didn’t seem to be able to quite fit anyone’s list. The feedback I’d had, though, suggested that my writing was good enough, so I took the plunge and ventured out on my own.

4. Assuming that you write for children or young adults, what made you decide to write for those age groups? Do you still feel connected to your “inner child”?

I was originally a teacher. Literacy and art were my favourite areas to teach. I firmly believe that a lively imagination is the greatest gift anyone can have. My own childhood was very happy, with a large family and a life filled with books, laughter and music. So yes, I’m still very much in touch with my inner child. In fact, some people might think I never grew up!

5. What are some of your hobbies, other than writing?

As I’ve said, I love art, especially working with pastels. I’ve done a lot of pet portraits and paintings of wildlife. I’ve illustrated a few books. Apart from that, I love reading and listening to music as well as playing my celtic harp.

6. Do you have any sage advice for new authors who are just entering the field?

Read, read, read. Anything and everything, especially in the genre you want to write. Also, if you’re writing for children, you need a sense of humour (that’s Aussie spelling). Kid’s love humour even in a serious story.

7. Do you hold any other jobs outside of your writing? If so, do you find that this helps your writing or gets in the way?

I work three days a week as a school library officer and IT support. Being around children and children’s books all day does give me a good idea of what works as a writer, but there are times, I must admit, when I’d rather just be home writing those books.

8. If you could meet one author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?

I’d love to meet CS Lewis. As I said earlier, his imagination was just wonderful and I’d love to talk with him about how he got his ideas and how he so carefully weaved his philosophy into his stories without preaching.

9. Do you have any other information you would like to share, such as a website, author page, awards won, etc.?

Website: www.katiewstewart.com

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Treespeaker

Amazon: www.amazon.com/The-Dragon-Box-ebook/dp/B005FWQ296