Back to the monster: You know it will be worth the battle, but you’re still scared. Well, of course you are! You can’t be brave unless you’re afraid. It’s like walking in your yard at night. Everything makes you want to scuttle off back to the comfort zone of your living room. I mean, ANYTHING could be out there, right? The trick is to light the path and distract yourself with points of interest along the way.
To light the path, take a few minutes to map out the project from start to finish. This way you can see the big picture. What does the strange, big monster look like? Where does it start? Where does it end up? And what are all those scary bits and pieces in the middle? It may look a little overwhelming at first, but don’t worry! That’s just the monster getting nervous and baring its teeth. Be strong. Keep your focus. Trust me, you’ve already go the upper hand.
The next step is to cut the monster down to size. This is where the fun comes in. Break the project into smaller goals. If there are 5 steps between you and completion, treat the end of each step as a battle won. Reward yourself when you can check that step off of the list.
When I was working on my illustrations for Queen Calla’s Heroes, I set a goal of 3 2-page illustrations per week. Illustrating is one of my monsters. Don’t get me wrong, I love creating. I love water colors. I love being able to show the world in my words – at least a little bit – as it appears in my head. That doesn’t mean that I felt comfortable with the thought of 80 consecutive illustrations that all had to look like they belonged in the same book. The project scared me. It took me 2 ½ years to complete. It took that long because I only set smaller goals starting halfway through. Had I been smart from the beginning, I could have cut about a year and a half off of the project and been much less stressed by the end.
Once you have the steps mapped out, choose little rewards for reaching each goal. It could be an hour of reading time, or a special coffee from your favorite coffee house. Find something inexpensive but outside of your normal habits. Don’t allow yourself to have it at any time other than when you successfully achieve the goal you are working on. Make it feel like an indulgence! Then, when the project gets rough and you start thinking about giving up, remind yourself that after this little step, you can relax with a bowl of raspberries or point your mailbox red. Yes, you are bribing yourself to be responsible. That’s okay. A paycheck is a bribe to keep you coming to work on time, why shouldn't you give yourself something special for putting your all into the task in front of you?
Poor Sophie the fairy has the sniffles – and for once it’s not because of allergies! She caught a cold and feels pretty yucky. She’s so stuffy headed that no clouds of rainbow sparkles puff out when she sneezes. All the pixie dust that usually comes out is stuck until she gets well. While this means no one will accidently get turned a different color or grow wings when they shouldn’t have them, it also means no new fairy treasures to find in the forest, and one poor fairy with a bright red nose who feels too bad to even get out of bed.
When Fiddlebug, Bart and Craig heard how badly Sophie was feeling they decided to put her on their Good Deeds List. After talking to Mother Dragon, who is the forest healer, the three friends found out that while medicine will make you feel better for a little while, you can’t take medicine and make a cold go away. Colds have to work their way out on their own. What you can do is make sure to eat good food, drink plenty of fluids and get lots and lots of rest. After some brainstorming, the younglings decided that the best thing they could do to help Sophie with all three things was to take her a Get Well Soon Basket full of quick to make and good for you things to eat and drink. Here’s what they did:
Get Well Soon Basket
What you need:
1 basket large enough to hold what you would like to give
1 cloth napkin or kitchen towel
1 can of soup (I used homemade cream of squash soup, but store bought condensed soups are terrific for this!)
1 package of crackers
1 small box of tea or some tea bags
Some honey is a nice addition too
A handmade “Get Well Soon” card
What you do:
1) Lay the cloth napkin or kitchen town inside the basket so its edges lay over the sides.
2) Arrange the items you are giving inside the basket so they look nice.
3) Make your “Get Well Soon” card. Handmade cards are a great way to add a little more love to the gift.
4) Give your basket to the person you would like to help feel better. It’s a good idea to call ahead to let them know that you are going to leave the basket on their door or porch so you don’t risk catching their cold!
*Note: The items I chose are only ideas, feel free to trade them out for something more personal if you would like. to edit.
It is human nature to tempt fate. There is some deep seated drive to prove that we are up to the challenge and that we will persevere. Why do I mention this? Well, it’s because I can already feel this post making plans to haunt me later. I’m not even two months into the blog with a jam packed schedule, and here I am getting ready to babble (in 3 parts no less!) about sticking to things. Yep, that’s me baiting fate. I wonder which of us is holding the net…
The big question is: Why do we stick with certain projects, jobs, tasks, etc. while others fall by the wayside? Is it the level of difficulty in completing something? What about it’s relevance in our life? Could it be the level of support we get during the process? What about the final pay off when we are done? The answer to all of these is: YES… well, and no. You can thank human nature and your own psychological make-up for that great big shapeless gray blotch of an answer.
All new things are challenges. All people have different strengths, weaknesses, and interests. When the challenge lines up well with our strengths and interests, we handle it smoothly. If it falls into categories that don’t interest us and force us to work on our weak spots, it can be very easy to give up.
So, what do you do when you are faced with a monster that makes you want to throw in the towel? First, you face it. Identify exactly what makes you want to turn tail. Does this project make you exercise skills (mental and/or physical) that have gone a little rusty? Are you worried about the opinions of others when they see your interest in the topic? Are you concerned that the time you will spend to reach the goal will be wasted or force you to take time from something that is more important to you? Whatever the reason for your doubt, acknowledge it.
Once you have identified the source of your discomfort, look at the project from a post completion view. If you battled and won, would you have gained from the experience? Maybe this gain looks like Passing the History Test, or maybe it falls under the Personal Achievement label. Payoffs come in all shapes and sizes. If you are not absolutely sure of the outcome, I suggest leaving the rose colored glasses in your desk. By example from personal experience: Do not convince yourself that if you finish writing a book that has been giving you trouble, you will magically sell so many copies that you will pay off all of your debts and even make a profit. If you don’t have guaranteed pre-sales and a line of people waiting with money in hand, you may want to bump your expectations down to something closer to “I’ll be able to look for an agent/publisher when I finish” or even “I will have the satisfaction of knowing I accomplished this phase/goal.” In a perfect world, everyone gets the big prize. This is not a perfect world. Trust me, there is nothing like unfulfilled expectation to make the next similar monster task that much harder to defeat.
Now you know what the challenge is, why it bothers you, and what the end result will (hopefully) be. If you look at that list and see something like:
Project: This job requires me to speak fluid Mandarin.
Problem: My foreign language experience is limited to two years of high school French. I don’t know how long it will take to learn Mandarin or how much it will cost.
End Result: I will have to move to a place I don’t want to go and do a job I don’t want to do.
Maybe this is not the challenge you should be focusing on. Let it go. There are plenty of others out there. However, if the end result looks like this:
End Result: the company will reimburse my expenses and give me the promotion that I have been wanting for two years.
Maybe you should face your fears, get a good language program and hire a tutor.
Make your challenges worthy ones. This goes for the easy stuff too. Don’t push a button once an hour for three days if in the end you will have only pushed a button once and hour for three days. That is a waste of your precious time and ability. Find a better button to push. There has to be one out there that will help you pay your bills or save a live, or simply grow your own amazing self! You just need to find it.
So, this week look around and find your monster. Help your kids find theirs. Then take some time to get to know them. Don’t be afraid to look the challenges squarely in the face and tell them to hold still so you can get a good idea of what they really are and why they make you uncomfortable. Understanding is the first step to a successful outcome!
One of Bart’s favorite things about fall is dodging falling leaves as he flies around at night. He thinks it’s really fun to twist and turn around each one especially since the wind moves them through the air in such silly ways. He decided it would be extra fun to celebrate falling leaves in a special way. He made a mobile that let leaves with special messages flutter in the breeze and never fall to the ground! He made one to show you so you can make your own! Here’s how:
What you need:
A branch that you can attach your leaves to later and hang up
Clear contact paper
Construction paper or craft paper
What you do:
1) Peal a piece of clear contact paper away from the backing and lay it sticky side up on the table.
2) Arrange your colorful leaves so that the fronts are pressed down on the sticky contact paper and there is plenty of room around each one.
3) Put a piece of construction paper that is slightly larger on top of the leaves and press it down so it sticks to the contact paper around the leaves.
4) Flip the whole sheet over and trace around the edges of the leaves with your finger. Press down firmly to make sure the contact paper and construction paper stick together well around each leaf.
5) Have a big person help you cut around each leaf so you have a border of construction paper showing the whole way around.
6) Flip each leaf over so the paper side is up. Write something that you like about fall on each leaf.
7) Tape fishing line to the back of each leaf and then tie the leaf onto the branch.
8) Hang the whole thing up where the leaves can flutter!
Bart is planning to give each member of his class a leaf tonight at school. That way everyone can write their own favorite thing about fall on the paper side of the leaf and hang it where they want on the branch! He thinks it will be a wonderful way for everyone to do something special together. Mother Bat mentioned how great this project would make the classroom look too!
Yesterday was a really great day! I got to spend the day helping some very talented and sweet younglings explore different types of paint and drawing materials. I made sure to have a bunch of different paper and canvases on hand too so they could see how pastels (chalk and oil), acrylics, colored pencils, watercolors, and markers behaved on a variety of different textures. The day was beautiful. The music was GREAT! The other artists showing and selling their work were magnificent. I can't think of a better festival to be a part of! I even got to paint baby toes and make a footprint picture! I'm sorry I don't have more pictures to share, but here are the ones I had time to take. Enjoy!
Life is full of trials. It is a great testing ground to see what each of us is made of. The roller coaster starts far too early in the lives of many children. Even great parents don’t always see every up or down that your child goes through from day to day. We try to protect them. We try to prepare them. As homeschooling families we comb our curriculum and choose the topics we believe should be added or avoided by our beliefs and personal standards. Often times these additions and cuts occur in line with hot media issues involving science, health and religious teachings. Ensuring that your child is learning in a way that is in line with the views of your family is a lot to keep up with. I admittedly took a much more lenient approach to these topics than a lot of my homeschooling friends. You would think that this would mean I battled curriculum less often due to content. Not so. I have my personal nemesis. I am at war with most of the English curriculum that I have dealt with. (Public/private schooling parents, take note as well. Trust me. You have the same problem with even less control of the solution.) I’m not talking about Grammar or Vocabulary. I have no issue with diagramming sentences. I am one of the biggest cheerleaders of research projects and creative writing you will find. My battle is with the stories chosen to pour into the minds of our future.
Children learn much of their world view through the stories they hear. This has always been the case. Audiences have been living vicariously through characters for centuries. We have taught our offspring how to avoid dangers and survive adventures safely by allowing them to live through experiences without actually participating in the danger. We create characters so we can do mental ride-alongs that ultimately help us find solutions in the real world. Our brain forms pathways based on this learning process just like it forms pathways from real world experience. Watching a character overcome adversity teaches our mind that adversity can be overcome. Reading a story where a group of people create a better existence by working together tells our brain that working together is a good thing to do.
There is a flip side to this. Books filled with struggle that never resolves hardwire brains to believe that struggle never ends and situations never improve. Characters that sink into hostility and bitterness because they were unable to overcome a problem grow hostility and bitterness in the mind of a young reader. Characters that see cling to their victim status like a badge of honor promote an unhealthy viewpoint that being a victim is noble. Negative begets negative.
I am not saying that all stories should have happy endings. Life doesn’t work that way. But neither does it always end badly. If you only feed young minds dystopian stories, how will our children ever learn to create anything but a dystopian world? It will be the only type of world they have ever been exposed to, so it will be the only one for which they have a blueprint.
It may sound like I am advocating extreme censorship or embracing the banning of books. This is not the case, especially as your child gets older. I believe it is important to know that not all stories are healthy. Not every character should have the job of leading by example. Sometimes the best lessons we learn are by seeing what not to do. As a parent, it is my job to help my child navigate the thoughts and feelings any experience gives to them. The occasional negative book filled with unresolved problems and tangled issues can be great food for thought. They can also be a wonderful discussion topic to help your child think of a way that the character could have done things differently in order to create a better ending. The key word is occasional.
I look at reading the same way I look at interacting with people. It’s said that the magic ratio for positive interactions to negative interactions in a marriage is 5:1. If a spouse requires that kind of ratio, a friend should as well. If you require this from people you love, it should also apply in general. Books are also interactions. If you apply this to your child’s reading list, how would it have to change? Look through their English curriculum. Read the stories. What kind of world are they teaching your children to build? If the answer has you horrified, welcome to my boat. Here’s an oar. Use it to beat back some of the worst influences. Then find better ones. Help your child learn to love them. Set aside some time to read together. If the book is out of their ability, read it to them. If not, have them read to you. It’s an excellent way to form positive lasting memories.
So, the next time you are combing through your child’s curriculum, remember to take a few minutes to look through their English book. Pick through the required reading list. Find out what worlds are being poured into that growing mind and make sure that most of them are worlds that you would not mind living in.
Everyone likes to share their favorite memories. Mother Dragon helps the forest creatures do this by carving pictures in the walls of Memory Cave. Most of us can’t save our memories in stone – and besides, having bright colors around is a great thing! Here is a way for you to share your own memory wall with anyone who stops by your house (or classroom!). These Cookie Cutter Picture Frames are easy to make and can be specially made and swapped out for upcoming holidays too!
Here’s how you make them:
Cookie Cutter Picture Frames
What you need:
One package of 4” x 5” foam sheets
3 large craft sticks for each frame you are making
Glitter Glue or other decorating options
Assorted large cookie cutters
Prints of your favorite photographs
What you do:
1) Lay one foam sheet on a flat surface.
2) Place the cookie cutter on the foam sheet in the middle and press down firmly to leave an imprint in the foam.
3) Have your big person carefully poke the scissors through the foam on the outline (please remind them to be careful so they do not cut themselves.) and cut along the cookie cutter shaped line. Keep the cut out piece.
4) Glue two craft sticks to opposite edges of the foam sheet.
5) Glue one craft stick diagonally from one edge craft stick to the other. The sticks should look like a “Z” when you are done. Let it dry. This is your new picture frame.
6) Decorate the cut out piece however you would like. If it needs to dry, allow it to do so completely.
7) When all glue and paint have dried, glue the decorated cut out piece onto the front of your picture frame so it looks even more spectacular. Let this part dry completely too.
8) Find great pictures (prints on regular paper from a computer work great also!) to add to your new cookie cutter picture frames. Slip them between the diagonal craft stick and the foam sheet so the picture is showing nicely through the cut out part. You may have to use scotch tape to hold the picture.
9) Hang your new frames on your wall or refrigerator! I hung mine using thumb tacks on cork puzzle pieces I already have on my office wall.
Mother Dragon hopes that you enjoy this version of a Memory Wall! She also wants to remind you that these make GREAT gifts!
My To Do List has been making threatening sounds at me all summer. It growls. It hisses. It occasionally laughs maniacally. Oh wait, that’s me. The list actually just sits there and looks menacing. But it does a really great job! I’m effectively menaced and stressed. Sometimes I even want to pull my hair. I have no idea what good it would do, but the urge is there.
I’m sure you understand. I’m positive you have a list of things that need doing today and only your two hands and 24 hours to do them with. I’ll even wager that every time you cross something off of your own silently threatening schedule two more things get added. I’ll go so far as to say that your “free time” is scheduled too. Am I right?
Then, there is the fact that I very rarely do one thing at a time. Take right now, for instance. Between the last paragraph and this one, I went to stir the spaghetti sauce I have on the stove, I loaded and started the dishwasher, and I dug out the recipe for cream of squash soup all while thinking about whether I am actually pro multi-tasking or think that too many irons in the fire lead to shoddy workmanship in the long run. I’ve decided that it’s a gray area. This is probably just self-preservation speaking. If I don’t multi-task, my list gets out of control. If I do too much at a time, I have to re-do too many things later.
For me, multi-tasking has a set of subconscious rules. I can join up to three activities that don’t require me to put much brain power into them with one actively thoughtful project. More than three and my brain pays too much attention into what my hands are doing so it gets distracted and the mental project suffers. I also require at least one physical activity going if I’m working on something that requires a lot of brain power. For some reason, if my hands aren’t busy my brain won’t stay on task. Most likely I’d be labeled ADD these days. Sometimes, I wish I had the “H” there too just so I could keep up!
This brings my wandering path back to today’s topic: Time Management. Some people, like my sister, are amazing at managing their time. They fit work needs, home needs, extra curricular activities, school requirements, etc. into their days without seeming to break a sweat. If you detect a hint of jealousy, I’m afraid you’re right. Then there are those who always seem frazzled no matter how few things are on their plate. I like to think that I fall somewhere in the middle and that my frazzled days are fewer than the days I’m holding my own in the battle to fit as much as possible into each 24 hours.
There are a lot of ways to manage your time. They range from strict hourly schedules to simply winging it and hoping for the best. None of them work for everyone, but all of them work incredibly well for the right people.
I manage my time by calendar and list. The calendar is there to keep track of days that I have vs. days that are spent before they even get here. It helps me see when I can tackle things around the house, and when I will need to work around outside activities. The calendar is the only thing that has kept my garden running smoothly this year because I can see at a glance when I will have time to can spaghetti sauce and when I will only be able to rush through freezing tomatoes. The list gives a general outline for my day and offers flexibility for my time. Some days the list is a typical To Do List, others it’s an Accomplishment List which works because it lets me see progress and encourages me to grow the lists length instead of cross things off. Usually these two things work pretty well for me. They don’t save me from chaotic days where the needs of others rush in, but they do help manage the normal ones.
So, how do you deal with the dreaded hour glass? What are your time management tips and tricks? Share them! Trust me, no matter how great someone is at juggling their day they can always use one more handy hint up their sleeve.
He might not be big enough to run hungry crows out of a garden, but this little scarecrow is just the right size to guard the page of your favorite bedtime story! Fiddlebug’s friend Penelope the groundhog made one just like this in school the other day and sent it to Fiddlebug. The little dragon likes it so much he wanted to share it with all of you!
Have fun making one for yourself and one to give to someone special!
What you need:
One large craft stick
School glue or a glue stick
Twine or yarn
What you do:
1) Cut a pair of pants or a skirt for your scarecrow out of the construction paper.
2) Cut a shirt out of a different color of construction paper to go with the pants.
3) Cut a triangle hat out for your scarecrow to wear.
3) Glue the pants/skirt and shirt together at the waist.
4) Glue a fringe of yarn or twine to the cuffs of the pants and the bottom of the shirt sleeves. Also add a fringe of twine or yarn to the bottom edge of the hat so it looks like scarecrow hair.
5) Glue your outfit onto the craft stick leaving enough of the stick poking out of the top of the shirt to be the scarecrow’s head.
6) Glue the hat onto the top of the craft stick leaving enough room to draw a face on the craft stick between the hat and the neck of the shirt.
7) Let your scarecrow dry.
8) Draw a face on your scarecrow using your washable markers. You can also add decorations like buttons or pockets to your scarecrow’s clothes with the markers.
9) Don’t forget to give your scarecrow a name before you set him to guard your story! Fiddlebug named his Alonzo!
Some of you may know that I have been a homeschooling parent for the past thirteen years. We will overlook how old that statement makes me feel, and move along to the fact that thirteen is going to be our lucky number. This will be our last year. My older son graduated 3 years ago, completed a certificate program in audio engineering, and has set out on his own path in his own place. Our youngest has just settled into his senior year of high school through an accredited online program that offers a diploma and is currently looking forward to heading off to learn how to be a helicopter pilot. There really are no words to express how proud I am of both of them. But, I’m not here to gush. I’m here to share a peek into why we chose homeschooling.
When I first started out, it never failed. I would say that I was homeschooling and at least one person within earshot would give me “that look”. It was a look that managed to display distaste, mild outrage, doubt and an underlying desire for someone to just make me stop because that “homeschooling thing” shouldn’t be allowed. I even had one person go so far as to flatly say that I was abusing my children by not sending them to public school.
This negative judgment has slacked off over the years. Part of the reason is because we’ve been at it for so long that it’s obvious we won’t listen. Mostly, it has to do with the number of people entering the homeschooling ranks. Concerns about safety, curriculum, and exposure to negative influences have made the choice to teach at home much more attractive while online and correspondence programs have opened up easy access to outside teachers. This has brought homeschooling much closer to a mainstream educational choice than it once was. It’s nice! I can now say “We homeschool.” in the same tone I say “We eat lunch.” instead of feeling that I might need to spend time justifying my choice to strangers.
That being said, I would like to share our main reason with you. Why? Well, because I’m curious about your choice and your main reason. Between public schools, private schools and homeschooling, there are most likely as many reasons to pick each as there are families making the choice. I think it will be interesting to see you share yours.
So, I have a one word answer for why we first made the decision to homeschool: Time. We wanted more time for our family; more time for activities; more time to travel; more time for life.
When my children rode a bus to school (Mason was in until 3rd grade and Chance was in for the first two months of kindergarten), they left the house at 7:04 in the morning and returned home at 4:38 in the afternoon. There there was homework. Their father worked out of town a lot during that time as well. We were left trying to cram a week’s worth of EVERYTHING into 2 exhausted days. When I realized that there was another option, I did my homework, made necessary plans and then embraced homeschooling like it was a life preserver. Maybe it was. The decision was as simple and as complicated as that.
There have been other benefits that have happily surprised us. There have been difficulties that hit us from out of the blue and caused serious doubt. Homeschooling is a lot like life that way. From the end of the trail, I can honestly say that I would do it all over again if I had to do it all over again. That thought alone makes the bad days worth it and the good ones that much better.
So, now that you know my biggest short answer to my biggest why, tell me about yours. What path did your family find best for your own children, and why was it best? Don’t be shy. Your answer may help someone else find their best solution, and we all need the best solutions we can find because our kids are the ones who will be running the world in all too short of a time.
Being a homeschooling parent for 13 years and an independent author/illustrator makes a person learn quite a bit about a lot of things. Now it's time to pass it on!