My Husband Goes Back to School This Week


My husband is a special education teacher and he starts back to work this week. Even though covid rates have been rising in the area and many schools near here who opened earlier have already had to close down due to spreading coronavirus cases, my husband’s school is still opening at full capacity, full-time. I’ll admit it worries me.

I don’t want my husband to get sick. I don’t want him to bring it home and get me sick. I don’t want the other teachers and employees to get sick. And I certainly don’t want the kids or their families to get sick.

To me, this all seems like it might be a really bad idea. I expect that they will only be open a short while before they have to close down again anyway. Especially with fall coming, when there is likely to be a true 2nd wave (not just the 2nd rise in cases we’ve already seen due to poor handling of the whole thing from the beginning).

I want to be positive, and part of me has felt this whole thing seems really off from the beginning, so maybe it isn’t as bad as they make it out to be, but I still worry.

Quarantine and Writer’s Block


I’m having one of those days where I just don’t know what to write. Nothing good comes to mind. I don’t really want to share art or poetry today, but I don’t feel like I have much else to share lol. I guess I could write about a few mundane things going on in my quarantined life right now…

  • One of my poor kitties has a huge hematoma (blood-filled cyst) on his ear. We already took him to the vet and they gave him a shot and some medicine, hoping it would shrink, but so far, nothing has effected it. If it doesn’t change by next week, they will have to do surgery to remove it and his ear will always be disfigured. I feel bad for him. His poor ear is flopped over from the weight of the hematoma and he looks like he is in discomfort from it ūüė¶
  • My husband is a teacher and he is trying to figure out how to do the whole homeschooling online with his students thing. You wouldn’t believe how many problems he and the school district have run into trying to get Google classrooms up and running! My poor husband has been frustrated, irritable, and sometimes almost enraged by the technical issues he keeps facing. I feel bad for him and wish I could help, but I can’t. It kind of makes home a less fun place to be sometimes!
  • I really miss being able to decompress by going out shopping. Even if I didn’t buy anything, it was fun and got me out of the house. I miss it. I guess I could still go to Walmart or Meijer or whatever, but I feel that would be unwise unless I really need to go there for groceries or other essentials. I don’t want to contribute to the overloading of our healthcare system if I can avoid it.
  • Watching the news is so depressing, I’ve kind of been avoiding it more lately. I’m usually one of those people who is up to speed on all things happening in the news, but right now it just makes me feel helpless and sad, especially for the poor doctors, nurses, and other emergency and healthcare employees on the front lines of Covid 19.

(Feeling anxious about being stuck inside during a pandemic? Consider reaching out to for help.)

I Miss Having Kids Around

Today my husband and I went to go see one of his students dance in a special recital:


Seeing all the cute little kids dressed up in their costumes and dancing made me really miss having kids around. I used to be almost constantly surrounded by kids between foster parenting, volunteering with the kids at our old church, and working in the school system as a teacher’s assistant/aide. My favorite age of kids to work with were always the younger ones, 3-4 years old to around 6 or 7, although I bonded well with kids of almost any age.

At this point, I don’t know if my physical/mental health will ever consistently improve to the point that I can do those things again, but I miss them. I am thankful for the experiences and memories though.

I Survived the Birthday Party!

Just a few of the leftover treats!

A few of you seemed like you wanted an update about how my husband’s birthday party went yesterday (if you didn’t read my post yesterday, you can find it here). Most of the really bad nerves happened before the party and on the way there, which is pretty normal for me. I had an IBS attack about a half hour before leaving the house (nausea, diarrhea, cramps – the whole shebang). On the drive to the party, I noticed my right leg was shaking pretty bad (a sure sign of anxiety), which made driving even more uncomfortable.

However, once I arrived at the school, it didn’t go too bad. Checking in at the front office wasn’t nearly as scary as I had imagined, although the receptionist was kind of grumpy. They had me stay in the office until the party was ready, as they wanted to surprise my husband. When they were ready, I joined the kids in my husband’s class and his assistants on their way back to the classroom from music class. We all got to my husband’s classroom and sang Happy Birthday to him and had some cupcakes. There was a ton of other food there as well – a huge assortment of candy, an amazing cream cheese peanut butter cake, chocolate covered pretzels, chips and salsa, and more.

Meeting my husband’s assistants (and a few other school employees) went ok. They were nice and friendly, although I did feel pretty shy. I had to ask my husband a few times if they were kidding or not when they said certain things, because I genuinely have a hard time deciphering whether people I don’t know well are being sarcastic or for real when they talk. One of the highlights of the party was meeting one student’s therapy dog. Meeting people fills me with anxiety, but meeting animals is always pure joy! I also got a couple hugs from my husband’s students, which was sweet.

After the party I was definitely relieved to get back home, but proud that I went. I know it meant a lot to my husband, so it was worth it.

Birthday Party Anxiety


Today is my husband’s birthday. At his work (he teaches special education), they are holding a special party for him this afternoon and his coworkers reached out to invite me. I am going to go, but I must admit I am nervous. I’ve never actually met his coworkers since they are fairly new, so that is a little intimidating to me (having to meet them all at one time).

For some reason, I am super nervous about having to go to the office to check in as a guest…I know I am 35 years old and it is kind of ridiculous to be nervous about something so simple, but I am what I am. I am also worried about the drive, because it is about a 40 minute drive and that is way out of my comfort zone as far as driving goes.

I must admit when I first heard about the party, my first instinct was to say I couldn’t make it. Anxiety is a powerful force. But in the end, my love for my husband won out and I want to be there for him more than I want to be comfortable or free from anxiety. I guess love is an even more powerful force…

May 2018 My First Reading Club Subscription Box Review!

This month I did the May 2018 My First Reading Club unboxing and review on my YouTube channel (Maranda’s Toys & Books), so I figured I would post the video here in case anyone wanted to see which children’s books I got this month for only $9.99 plus S&H! This box is always SUCH a great deal! Definitely recommended for families!


A New Look & What I’ve Been Up To Lately

“I’ve Seen Better Days” ink & colored pencil on paper. Pretty much how I’m feeling today.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, you probably notice things look a bit different. I figured it was about time to change things up and try a new design. I hope you like it! Here are a few other things I have been up to lately:

  • Visiting the ER with my husband and then trying to be a good nurse while he recovers from another back injury. I never realize how much he does on a daily basis until I have to do it instead! That is one reason why I didn’t do any YouTube vlog videos this week, just too much else going on.
  • Getting ready to participate in the upcoming Dayton Book Expo this Saturday. I hope I get to meet lots of eager readers and share my books!
  • Reading way too much Foo Fighters fanfiction.
  • Brushing up on my art history, particularly the abstract expressionism movement. Looking at awesome art by other people always inspires me to create my own!
  • Figuring out Tumblr (which seems a lot like Pinterest to me). Feel free to follow me on there if you want!
  • Selling some artworks (woot woot), including the one pictured above which I just finished yesterday!
  • Trying to figure out how teachers are expected to pay back outrageous student loans on the pay they get!
  • Munching on Chocolatey Strawberry Pop-Tarts, which are delicious!
  • Dreaming about how cool it would be to be a¬†medical examiner (if I could get past the smells).

Tips for teaching poetry writing to kids and teens

Along with all the author visits and book signings I do, I also spend some of my time teaching poetry and other writing forms to kids and teens. I often have teachers express to me how hard they find it to teach poetry (or any kind of writing) to the kids in their classroom, so I figured I would offer a few tips that I have found work for me when it comes to getting kids excited about writing in general and poetry in particular.

*First off, allow kids freedom with poetry writing, especially when they are first starting out. Free verse tends to be the most accessible and least intimidating form to begin with. If you try to force your students to rhyme or follow a form, you will quickly have a room of frustrated kids.

*Show your kids how much variety there really is in the poetry world. For many children their experience with poetry is limited to nursery rhymes and Dr. Suess. Make your classroom a poetry-friendly zone. Hang up posters with different kinds of poems on them, stock your bookshelves with an assortment of kid-friendly poetry books and make sure you include great examples of poetry in your curriculum throughout the year.

*Read your students poems that were written by kids their age. Before a child will feel confident that they can write poetry, they need to know that other kids their age have been successful with poetry writing and have even gotten published. A few great resources to find poems by kids and teens include the magazines Highlights for Children, Teen Ink and Stone Soup.

*Make it fun. Allow kids to play poetry games. One fun medium that has always seemed to be popular with kids and teens is magnetic poetry. If you have never played with magnetic poetry yourself, feel free to check out to see what it is all about.

*Use prompts the kids will actually care about. The fastest way to lose your students’ interest is to give them boring, stuffy prompts. Don’t ask them to write an ode to spring or something predictable like that. Instead, ask them to write about¬†bullies, pets, friends, dreams,¬†things they love, things they hate, what makes them angry, etc. Just because kids are young doesn’t mean they don’t have feelings and emotions every bit as strong as adults do.

*Make your class a safe, constructive review zone. Encourage¬†kids to share their poems with the class so that they can receive feedback, but make sure all the kids know that only kind, helpful comments are allowed. No teasing, jeering or laughing at a fellow student’s work¬†(unless the poem is meant to be funny of course).

I hope you have found these tips to be useful. Feel free to let me know what works for you and what doesn’t. You can contact me at if you have any comments or questions, or you can simply leave a comment below. Also, feel free to contact me if you are interested in having me visit your library, class or school!

My first elementary school author visit!!!

Today was my first official elementary school author visit.¬† I must admit I was sweating this one big time.¬† I kept worrying that I would get in front of everyone and just bomb it.¬† I am a nervous public speaker anyway, so¬†I was terrified by the¬†thought of getting up in front of people I don’t even know and talking about¬†my new picture book,¬†“Ode to Icky”.¬† Certain thoughts kept whirling around in my head:¬† What if no one likes my book?¬† What if I got up in front of them all and couldn’t think of anything else to say besides “um”?¬† And worst of all, what if I made such a bad impression that they never invited me back?

Now I can say with a big sigh of relief that I was honestly worried for NOTHING!!!¬† The author visit went great today!¬† I spoke to three different classrooms, and all three seemed absolutely enthralled by me and the book.¬† Both teachers and students told me they “loved my book”, and I even overheard one kid going around telling all his friends what an “awesome, funny book” I had written.¬† By the time I left I had kids asking me to¬†autograph their homework, their arms and just about any other surface they could provide!¬† It made me feel like royalty!

By the time it was over I had learned a few things.

1.  I underestimated how much kids really love to talk to authors.  I thought most kids thought books were kind of boring and would think the same about the authors who write them.  Boy was I wrong!

2.¬† Kids ask really funny, amusing questions, but they also occasionally come up with an insight that I didn’t even have about my book.¬† The things they notice are amazing.¬† For instance, I really had never noticed that the illustrator had drawn the characters without tongues, but one kid sure did and wanted to know why they didn’t have tongues.

3.¬† I worry way too much about the small stuff, like making sure I have the perfect pen to sign my books with or wearing just the right outfit.¬† But my audience doesn’t really care too much about those things, they just want some attention from someone that they feel they can look up to.¬† It makes me so proud to know that I am someone they consider worth emulating!


Interview with Children’s Picture Book Author Carol Gordon Ekster

Carol Gordon Ekster is a writer who uses her creative abilities to discuss real world problems with kids.  From divorce to cleaning up a messy room, Carol finds fun, entertaining ways for kids to deal with the issues in their lives.  Ready to learn more?  Then on to the interview!

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

A: My desire to write surprised me.  It seemed to come out of nowhere.  I worked with children on their writing as a 4th grade teacher for 35 years. I had writing workshops and conferenced with each child individually to give them feedback on their work.  When I started writing, I certainly had empathy for my students.  Getting feedback, at first, was not easy.

Writing just came to me one day on the beach when I was fifty years old.¬† I needed to write.¬† I went to the car and got post-its and a pen and started my first story.¬† Until then, I had always found writing a difficult skill.¬† It is difficult…lots of skills are needed to do it well.

I stepped into the life of a writer, joining SCBWI, becoming passionate about the craft, reading many books on writing and joining critique groups.  I stuck to my new path and never looked back.  It was wonderful to be able to share my journey of becoming an author as well as the writing process with my classes. Now that I’m retired,  it is the writing that allows me to continue communicating with children.

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

A: I believe I have my own writing style, but I‚Äôve read so many books and respect and admire countless authors of children‚Äôs books and adult books. I found picture books to enhance all areas of the curriculum when I taught.¬† I usually read a few a day to my students…so I was preparing myself for becoming a writer.¬† I knew what I liked…beautiful language and a story well told.¬†¬†When I was a kid, I loved Nancy Drew books best of all.¬† Now I rarely read mysteries.

Q: Did you have a hard time getting your first book published?

A: My first book, Where Am I Sleeping Tonight?-A Story of Divorce, Boulden Publishing, 2008, was published about two years after I started sending it out, and less than two years after I started writing.  It was bought by the 12th publisher I sent it to.  That was the 20th manuscript I had written.  My second book, which is expected out this fall, Ruth The Sleuth and The Messy Room, sold the 16th time I sent it out.  It was the 30th story I had written.  I also sold the 24th manuscript I wrote to a magazine.  The second time I sent that out, I got a request for a rewrite.  Then the publisher said they were interested in the rewrite, but they ended up changing offices and staff, and I never received a contract.  So after about 20 other tries to get it published as a book, I decided I just wanted the story shared with children and accepted that it was time to let it go as a magazine piece.  I try to stay focused on working on my craft and enjoying the submitting process, and if something sells, well that’s a bonus.  Sometimes, I still get disappointed when I get a rejection, but mostly I prepare to send it out again to another publisher.

Q: 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”?

A: I definitely feel connected to my inner child, but I believe it’s the teacher in me that pushes me to write for children.

Q: What are some of your hobbies, other than writing?

A: I love doing yoga, aerobics,  and going bike riding.  I love to vacation and be with family. And of course, I love to read.  I always have a book on CD that I’m listening to in the car, and one near my bed.  I also enjoy cooking healthy meals.  When I taught, I spent a lot of time looking for new teaching ideas and web sites to use with my students.

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

A: Most importantly, writers must persevere and not get disheartened.  Continue working on your craft and submitting your work.  You must belong to writing groups or have other writers give you feedback.  We do not write alone.

Q: 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?

A: Being retired now allows me the time I need to write and promote my books.

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

A: Carolyn Keene, because she made me love reading and understand the power of a good book.

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