I Miss Having Kids Around

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

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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.

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I Survived the Birthday Party!

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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

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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!

 

New Video about My New Children’s Book Release!

Hi everyone! I am excited to share my newest children’s middle grade book release with you all! I have been working on this book for a while now and am definitely proud of the results! “Creepy, Funny & Just Plain Weird: Stories and poems for kids” is goofy, funny and a little bit gross and creepy at times too! It is sure to appeal to kids, even reluctant readers! Make sure you check out my short vlog video about the new book:

If you would like to get a copy of this book for yourself or your kids, you can find the paperback version for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble for $6.99. There is also a Kindle ebook version available for $2.99! If you do read it or get it for your kids, please consider leaving a review on Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Goodreads or even just reaching out to tell me personally what you thought of it!

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).

Calling all young artists!

One of my own recent works of art. Can't wait to see what your kids come up with!
One of my own recent works of art. Can’t wait to see what your kids come up with!

Do you know an aspiring artist between the ages of 7 and 14 years old who would love to have their artwork featured in a published ebook? If so, this message is for you! I am putting together an upcoming ebook containing artistic advice, inspiration and creative tips for kids and I want YOUR young artist to be involved! All you have to do is submit a picture of your little artist’s favorite masterpiece, along with a quote from your child about art. The quote from your child can say anything as long as it is related to art or creativity. Here are a few suggestions for things your child might include in their quote:

  • Advice for other young artists
  • A personal story about art and how it has affected your life
  • Information about your favorite art/artists
  • Why you love art
  • How you come up with creative ideas

Once you have your child’s artwork and quote, email them to me at Shojobeatgirl@live.com with “Kid Art Entry” in the subject line . Please include your child’s name as you want it to appear in the ebook and your child’s age. I hope to use all of the artwork I receive, but if I receive an enormous amount of entries I may have to choose to feature only some of the young artists in the ebook. I will email back all of the young artists who are selected to be included in the book to let them know. I will also email all of the featured artists when the ebook is published so they can check it out and share it with their family and friends! Please submit all entries on or before June 20, 2013. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below!

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 www.magneticpoetry.com 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 Shojobeatgirl@live.com 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!