Category Archives: Parenting

When Life Gives You Lemons, It’s Okay To Cry

Moving Dear Daughter into college last week was difficult at best. Watching parents hug their kids goodbye and climb into their vehicles with tears in their eyes was too common to count. It was the rare student who did a fist pump as his family rounded the corner and drove away. Mostly, it was a day filled with hastily wiped cheeks, glassy eyes and runny noses. Neither DD nor I were immune to the blues. Heck, we’d had coffee together every morning and shared lunch nearly every afternoon for her last two years of high school.

I know the saying, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” but I firmly believe it’s okay to cry about those lemons first. Denying our emotions is just as bad as, if not worse than, ignoring everything that happens after someone hands you a bushel of lemons. Validating our pain and fear and frustration is helpful. It allows us to move on. It’s only when we suppress those feelings that we end up with a sour life in the long run.

Bad things happen. Sad things happen. That’s okay. In fact, those experiences are what give us a refreshing perspective on the rest of our lives. They allow us to appreciate the lemonade.

Dear writer friends, please remember this post when you pen the life journey of your MCs. Know that we must put them through a little pain and discomfort. Let them hurt. Let them cry. Then give them the strength to carry on and overcome.

Same to you, parents. We can’t protect our children from everything, and we shouldn’t even try. They must learn to live despite falling down.

What life lemons have been sent your way? How do you validate someone’s feelings when you would rather tell them to suck it up?

Curious minds want to know.

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Stepping Up and Stepping Out: introducing my kid blog

Social media has a big mouth. In fact, I wonder who even uses the Yellow Pages anymore when trying to track down garbage companies, book stores or city offices. Instead, we turn to Google and let our fingers do the tapping. I have to admit that as a writer, this can be both daunting and unbelievably useful. In fact, I was recently contacted by a coordinator looking for authors to present at a young writer’s conference. She found me online. 

It was great, but it would have been better if I’d been keeping up with my social media like we authors are supposed to. And that’s the daunting part. Social media can take up lots of time, and its easy to run out of material. Which got me thinking. I am a kidlit writer. I love writing for kids. So why don’t I have a kid blog?

To answer, blogs take time. Blogs require maintenance. Successful blogs require readers. Do kids even read blogs?

Good question. And I suppose the answer is, we will see.

As I begin booking speaking gigs at schools and libraries in anticipation of the release of my middle grade novel, I thought now would be a good time to have a cyber spot for kids to land. Hence, I took a monumental step and created a blog for kids: Cat 4 Kids.

My goal is to fill it with quick, yet important stuff for middle grade kids (which translates in the literary arena to ages 7ish through 12ish) depending on maturity and interest level. I hope to blog three or more days a week, all while keeping kids needs, fears, worries, wants and desires as well as core classroom curriculum, in mind.

So, if you are a kid, know a kid, love a kid, teach a kid, write for kids or just like kid stuff, you can hop on over to catwoodskids.com. Please feel free to share my link with other parents, teachers or librarians who might like a fun cyber place to send their kids.  

Also, if you’re a teacher, librarian or coordinator who hosts authors, please keep me in mind.

  • Teachers: do you follow any blogs in your classroom that are written for kids? If so, which ones?
  • Parents: how do you help your children find sites that are not only game-focused, but also educational to get them in the habit of reading and learning on their own?
  • Writers: have you tried a kid-specific blog for the younger age group? If so, how has it worked for you?

Curious minds want to know.

 

A to Z: Dig Deeper

Words cannot express the pride I feel for one of my speech students. Tonight at Family Night, she earned a scholarship for summer speech camp–a thing she loves more than anything. Instead of accepting it, she relegated herself to fundraising for her tuition and passed the scholarship on to a fellow speechie she thought deserved it more.

I have to agree.

This other young lady unexpectedly lost her duo partner two weeks ago. Instead of giving up and calling it a season, she dug deep and prepared a whole new speech. Her second performance with this new speech just happened to be subsections. And she just happened to earn Fourth Place and will be moving on to Sections next weekend.

Never once has this young lady complained about her situation or said anything negative or hurtful about her duo partner. She’s stronger than that. Better than that. Digging deep is what she does. Luckily for those blessed enough to be around her, she taps right into her heart of gold.

Both these young ladies dug deep, and both are coming out winners.

Sometimes people ask why I write for kids. The answer is easy. I love them. I love all their quirks and whimsy. I love their intelligence and dedication. I love their ability to live in a grown up world while still occupying that magical realm of childhood. They amaze me each and every day, and they never fail to remind me that life is so much more than what you see on the surface.

Breanna and Lexi, you rock my socks off. All forty-four of my speechies, you rock my world. Because of you, I am a better person.

What have you learned from a kid in your life? If you work with them on any level, why do you do so? How do they inspire you to dig deeper within yourself?

Curious minds want to know.

 

Does Predictability Equal Boring?

The other day, Youngest says, “I can’t wait for Easter.”

To which I had several thoughts:

  • He has a strong faith and is excited about the resurrection of Jesus.
  • He needs to replenish his sugar levels.
  • Yay, another few days off of school.

It turned out to be none of these. “I can’t wait for my new pair of baseball pants.”

Yep, that rascally rabbit always deposits a pair of baseball pants in the little boys’ Easter baskets. He must know they love baseball and need a nice, clean, new pair each year.

This pattern of predictability got me thinking about writing–picture books in particular. For parents, rereading the same sentence or phrase or idea can be BORING. It might make us want to bury the book in the nearest dumpster. However, kids actually like this  predictability.

The repetition builds anticipation. It helps the youngest listeners stay involved. It creates a sense of connection because they can better understand the rhythm of the story and guess what will happen next.

One of my kids’ favorite books was Cookie’s Week. Okay, one of my faves, too.

  • On Monday, Cookie did something naughty and made a mess.
  • On Tuesday, Cookie did something naughty…
  • On Wednesday…

Yeah, Cookie got into all sorts of mischief throughout the week. The kids delighted in knowing that as each day passed, Cookie would be in trouble once again, whether for scattering pots and pans, knocking over trash cans, falling in the toilet or pulling down the curtains. By Sunday, they were sure more calamity would befall this curious kitten.

Yet Sunday suggests that maybe today, Cookie will rest. Except that the curled up ball of fluff has one eye open on the last page.

Predictability isn’t necessarily a bad thing in picture books. Or in Easter baskets.

Traditions can be powerful tools both in books and in life.

What are your Easter Traditions? Do they feel tired and worn-out or comforting? How can  you keep them alive and exciting for generations to come?

Curious minds want to know.

 

Writing and Real Life Inspiration: One Leg at a Time

Another successful marching band season has closed for Dear Daughter. Likewise Middle Son’s football team finished the year with 1 loss. (Don’t tell anyone, but it might help that he has an ex-pro-football player as a coach.) Regardless, it was a busy Saturday for our little fam.

But it wasn’t the wins that inspired me. What impacted me far more than Dear Daughter catching her rifle after five mid-air rotations or Middle’s touch down on the last drive of the game was a young gal from another band.

She had a prosthetic leg from the knee down. And yet, she was out there on the field dancing, tossing flags and marching to the beat of the drums. All with a smile on her face.

Wow!

Remind me as a mom never to let my kids take the easy way out when they are pouting about someone getting more football passes than they got. Remind me as a writer never to let another person’s success get in the way of my own ability.

Writer’s block be damned. If a young lady can learn to toss a flag on one foot, I sure as heck can pen a few hundred words. And then a few hundred more.

Ohhhh, how easy it is to bemoan our writing rejections or to blame the wind for missing a tossed flag. Better that we give up and quit trying than to complain incessantly. Seriously, it gets old after a while.

Better yet that we should buckle down and move toward our dreams one step at a time.

I thank this young lady for silently reminding me of my blessings and my short-comings. May I do her justice in my daily writing life.

How about you? What events have inspired you over the years to be something or someone better? Please share your tales of standing tall despite the odds.

Curious minds want to know.

MUM’s the Word: Parenting is forever…kinda

Eldest is a very level-headed, mature young man for just turning 18. Even so, has his moments of impulsive behavior. Like going off to the Renaissance Festival with my little sister. And buying a–hahum–very expensive trinket.

“But it looks cool. It is cool.”

Yes, I can appreciate his passion for medieval swords and gauntlets and throwing knives and chain mail and leather and jousting and turkey legs on a stick and, and, and…

Lord, why did I encourage him to hang with his aunt on his first week off of work and college?

Oh yeah, because I thought he would maintain the tight grip on his checkbook he’s proven to have. I guess it gets easy to assume that good kids will always make good choices. Even when history proves that great kids can let their passions override their level-headedness.

“But Dad bought…”

To which Dad said, “Yes, but I have a job and can afford to buy what I want.”

It was the classic Dad/Son headbutting moment. The one where the dad knows nothing, even if he knows everything and the kid rolls his eyes and swallows his guilt, but insists that he does have a job and can afford his newest collectible.

The easiest thing about being a parent is knowing all the dumb stuff we did. We spent our money in the wrong places and on the wrong things, hung out with the wrong kids or egged the wrong car. We were dumb and young and made poor choices on occasions. Heck, we still do, only we’re just a bit older and grayer and hopefully wiser.

Which is why we expect so much from our kids. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes we made. But the thing about parenting–really, the only true and honest thing about parenting–is that kids need to make mistakes. It’s how they learn.

It’s how we learned.

So, while we carry all the worry for our kids no matter their ages, at some point we have to sit back and let them experience life for themselves. We have to allow them to make mistakes. All the dumb mistakes in the world. Just not the life-changing ones.

And that’s what I’ve learned most about raising kids. There are two kinds of mistakes. The dumb ones and the earth-shaking ones. Eldest went to the faire. He bought a sword for more money than he should have. He didn’t get anyone pregnant, and he didn’t drink and drive. His mistake is merely dumb.

Or not. Only time will tell if he actually thought out his money situation and felt he could handle the burden of spending the money the way he did. Heck, he lives on campus with a meal plan. Worst case scenario is he can’t go to Buffalo Wild Wings until spring. He certainly won’t starve and he has a roof over his head.

As much as I’d love to control his every move under the advisement of my over-protective-mom-gene, I’m not going to. I’ll have to settle for parenting from afar.

Are you a helicopter-parent, or do you allow your kids to mess up and learn from it? What tips do you have for knowing when to step in and enforce the family law? When is it okay to give a bit more freedom than you otherwise want to?

Curious minds want to know.

MUM’s The Word: Reinforcing Bad Behavior

The other day, I arrived home just in time to see the garbage truck pull up to the house. Our youngest lab stood at the end of the driveway and barked her tail off at the sanitation specialist (I think that’s PC!). He promptly chucked a dog biscuit into the yard. As soon as Bailey took off after it, he went about his business of collecting our trash.

I was furious.

I mean, I get that he doesn’t want to be attacked by vicious, slobbery dogs all day long, but seriously, he just compounded his problem 100 fold.

He absolutely reinforced to her that standing her ground and barking at him earned her a treat. A treat! As in, “Good dog. Please bark at me again, and I’ll give you another yummy biscuit.”

Yeesh! No wonder beating her to keep her quiet doesn’t work. Okay, I don’t really beat her, but I do hold her muzzle and sternly tell her no. Though for her, this method of behavior modification isn’t nearly as fun as the dog treat from the sanitation worker. Nor is it nearly as effective.

I don’t think you’ll be surprised to learn that we send our kids the exact same kind of mixed messages. (Or our significant others, too, for that matter.) We are so apt to respond to the moment that we fail to keep focused on our long-term goals. In the end, we can be met with disasterous results.

The hardest part often comes in when someone else reinforces a behavior we don’t agree with. Every home and every setting has a different set of rules. Daycare, school, grandparents and church might all have different expectations that clash with those we want to instill in our children.

Quick tip for garbage men everywhere: Don’t give the dog a bone until it sits nicely. Seriously. It wouldn’t take but a few times of withholding the bone and making a dog sit before he’d plop his butt down the second your truck rumbled up the road. Imagine how much more pleasurable that would be?

Same with you, parents and teachers and caregivers and coaches. Think beyond the moment. Determine how you want your charges to act and enforce those behaviors instead of the other way around. And don’t forget to consider the ramifications of acting on short term rewards. It may not be in your best interest for the long run.

Which kid behaviors drive you crazy, and how do you handle it? How do you enforce good behavior? How do you deal with bad behavior reinforced by others? Do the children in your life have different rules you must help them navigate? If so, your examples would be appreciated.

Bonus writer question: Can we, as writers, encourage bad habits/behaviors of other writers in the communities we frequent? If so, how do we combat this tendency?

Curious minds want to know.