May your treats be tasty.
May your tricks be fun.
And may all your ghosts and goblins make you giggle!
Enjoy the fun!
Poor Sophie likes flowers a lot - but they don't like her nose very much at all. Every time she makes a flower necklace to wear, she sneezes and fairy dust gets all over it! The only good thing about that is that fairy dust just happens to turn what it touches into something else. The new Fairy Flowers never change and don't make Sophie sneeze at all!
Sophie thought you might want to make your own Fairy Flower necklace and bracelet. Since you might not have any fairy dust handy, the little fairy told me that you can use some things around the house instead.
What you'll need:
1 Styrofoam egg carton (you can use the cardboard kind also, it's just harder to cut)
Thin Yarn or String cut long enough to slip the finished necklace over your head and bracelet over your hand
Decorating supplies (I used glitter and sparkly pom-poms, but you can use anything you like!)
What you do:
1) Carefully cut the egg carton apart so that you have 12 separate egg cup pieces. Cut each egg cup at its four "corners" to make four "petals".
2)Round off the edges of each petal.
3) You can either decorate your new flowers now or wait until you string them onto the yarn. (I put the glitter on first and then once it was dry, I strung them and then glued in the pom-poms).
4) An adult should help you thread the yarn or string onto the needle and string your flowers onto the yarn so you don't poke yourself. Use nine flowers for the necklace and three for the bracelet.
5) When you're done, tie the ends together and you've got some new jewelry that nobody can sneeze at!
Gentlemen, fear not! This might seem a little more fun for girls, but Sophie asked me to remind you that Fairy Flower jewelry makes a great gift for any lucky lady that you know!
Yesterday, I had the privilege of seeing a friend and fellow writer present her very first public reading! Let me go ahead and kill the suspense by saying that she did exceptionally well. Her tone was engaging. She read at a good pace. The piece she shared was without a doubt well written and the audience responded at all the right places. Everything went off without a hitch. The excitement radiating off of her when she came back to the table was contagious. You see, she, like many of us, has a big aversion to speaking in front of a group. As this presentation was held in a theater and her reading was followed by one from a seasoned actor, the term "stage fright" held extra meaning.
This current age of online interaction is doing nothing but helping most of us grow our flock of nervous butterflies. As a child, I was very shy. I have since learned the art of covering that shyness but I have to expend a huge amount of mental energy in order to appear socially comfortable in situations where I am called upon to speak in front of others or even to speak to people that I do not know well. I have an incredible blush response complete with sweating brow and the beet red cheeks. To be honest, if I am caught unprepared for social engagements I go from normal to looking like I'm about to have a stroke in about 15 seconds flat. As you can guess, I try to be caught unprepared as little as possible.
So, why am I sharing this? Because the earlier you start working on the little tricks and strategies that allow you to build the facade of confidence in front of crowds, the more likely that facade will stop being fake and become a solid structure that will help you make your ideas be heard and abilities be seen. If you've got kids, the time to start working on this skill is right now. If you are an adult and find yourself feeling like you'd rather be anywhere but at the microphone, let your kid know and then work on the skills with them! Learning with your child is as important as teaching your child. It sets them up for a life devoted to acquiring new skills.
Here is a list of some of the things I do in order to settle the butterflies, and not only get through but actually not hate speaking in front of others. I didn't learn these lessons until late in high school, and I am still fine tuning 20 years later, but they do work well for me. It is by no means an exhaustive list and some of my techniques may not work for you. This list is simply a place to start. Please, feel free to share your helpful hints as well. We can all use new insight and encouragement!
1. Practice! - NEVER (I can't say that enough times) go into a presentation thinking that you know your stuff and don't need to practice what you will say. Trust me, you will lose your train of thought and forget. Note cards will get lost or magically be in your hand out of order. You will be distracted by the woman in the front row's purple hair and giant, glittery pin. You will find that the one phrase that looked so beautiful on paper reads out loud like gravel in a blender. Practice out loud! Practice with your teddy bear first. Then your mirror. Practice with your dog (cat's couldn't care less what you have to say so don't bother there). Practice with your family. Practice with your friends. Practice until you can almost stop paying attention to what you are saying because the words fall out of your mouth by habit. Trust me. This is the best tool you have. Use it.
2. Know your audience. Speak to your audience in the words and tone that they need to hear in order to understand your message correctly. This does not mean being someone you are not. It is simply the difference between the scientist speaking to other scientists or the scientist speaking to a kindergarten class. The message stays the same, but the delivery needs to be the right one for the crowd.
3. Stand up straight. It will make you look brave. The more confident you look, the more confident you will feel. This might take a little practice, too. No problem. Your mirror loves to show you how awesome you are!
4. Allow yourself to be nervous BUT... This is actually my favorite and least favorite one all at the same time. Before any event, I allow myself to go ahead and be nervous. I allow this until about 10 minutes before I have to be in front of anyone (yes, this applies to making phone calls to people I do not now as well). Then, I mentally gather up all the butterflies in my stomach (making sure to tell each one how beautiful their wings are) and put them in a jar in my head. After I'm all done with the day, I let them back out and I let them flutter around some more while I ponder how the event went and see what areas I would like to work on for the next one. After that, I let them go. Butterflies should never stay locked up - even the nervous kind. Let them fly free once they have done their worst.
5. Remember that you are sharing. Take some of the pressure off of yourself by remembering that you are only the delivery device for your presentation. You are sharing the idea. Be excited about the subject. Your excitement will spread to the crowd!
6. Carry a small bottle of bubbles with you. If you are having a really hard time getting the butterflies to settle, find a quiet place to blow bubbles for a few minutes. This will help regulate your breathing, calm your thoughts, and settle your nervous body. The added bonus is that it is very hard to not smile when you see them floating through the air!
7. Smile! Not a fake smile either. Think of happy things before you walk out. Look for faces in the crowd who could use a smile and then offer them one. Smiles are contagious, and they make us all feel lighter.
8. Reward yourself! Do not miss the chance to congratulate yourself for doing a good job. Don't wait until you "do it better next time". Reward yourself with a little quiet time doing something you love. This will help make the whole experience stick with you in a positive way and will help you recharge your social energy.
9. Do it again. We get more comfortable with things when we do them more often. Grow your skills by speaking in front of other groups. Raise your hand more in class. Offer your thoughts during discussions. Talk to people when you are out and about. Look for opportunities to increase your social interactions in a face to face kind of way. (No, having the buffer of the internet or cell phone with video chat do not count. They are both too easy to turn off and claim dropped service if things aren't going as smoothly as you would like.)
So, go ahead and plan to be brave in the flesh today! It's an incredibly useful skill to have that holds the potential of changing the world... even if it is simply by changing your personal level of confidence!
Have a wonder filled day!
On the day after Fiddlebug hatched, Mother and Father Dragon gave him strawberries to eat. Fiddlebug really likes strawberries and wanted to tell you how to make his favorite dessert with them! Make sure you get an adult to help - especially when using a knife.
You will need:
12 sugar cookies ( you can make them at home or buy your favorite kind from the store)
1 8oz. package of cream cheese (softened)
1 8oz package of whipped topping (thawed)
1 package of fresh strawberries (washed)
What you do:
In a big bowl, mix the cream cheese and whipped topping until they are smooth. An adult can help you use the mixer if your stirring arms get tired. Spoon some of the mixture onto each cookie and spread it like frosting. An adult can help you slice some strawberries and then you can have fun decorating the tops of each cookie pizza with the slices. Any left over strawberries are a great snack for later!
Fiddlebug wanted me to tell you that you can use any kind of fruit you would like. He knows that not everyone likes strawberries and some people are even allergic to them! Whatever fruit you decide to use, Fiddlebug hopes your dessert pizzas make you and whoever you share them with smile!
Social media is an interesting monster. I will probably say this about a million more times since, as an author trying to get my name out, I am much more a slave to it than I would like. Lately, I've been shaking my head over a trend announcing the difficulties of "adulting" (a.k.a. being an adult). Sure, many things about being an adult aren't much fun from the point of view of someone who has to do them BUT your toddler self had these things covered. You have just forgotten. To be honest, I had forgotten for a long time. The whole thing didn't really become clear until I started seeing all of the "Who let me adult???" signs on Facebook. Now that you think I've lost what marbles I owned, let me share with you how your three year old self had the recipe for successful adulthood.
1) Waking up - Unless you were a very unique little kid, you were bright eyed and bushy tailed long before anyone else in the house wanted to get out of bed. You didn't even need an alarm clock. Plus, when you got up you were AWAKE not just shuffling around trying to catch a nap between blinks.
2) Decision making - You were absolutely certain of what you wanted to eat, wear, be around, and do at any given moment. There was no waffling. Sure, you might change your mind if things weren't going how you wanted but once you changed your mind you would set the new course in action. You would not sit and worry about how to do it. You would simply move on and do the new thing.
3) Work - You knew the secret to work too. Whether you were helping to make breakfast, cleaning up your toys, or working on important preschool papers, you threw yourself fully into the activity. If you hated the work, you left it and found something that made you feel satisfied. Being pulled away from a "job" that you enjoyed was terrible!
4) Friends - Three year olds don't have friends who treat them badly. They only choose to be with peers that they enjoy.
5) Repercussions - It may take a time or two, but three year olds understand that when something causes you pain or unpleasantness, you should not do it. They understand that if they take someone else's crayon, that other kid is going to get upset and there will be problems. They understand that if they do the same thing that got them in trouble again, the punishment may be worse this time around. Boundary stretching starts in earnest at this age and they begin deciding what is important enough to knowingly do even through they will be punished. Please note: I said "important enough". A three year old is great at knowing what is worth (to them) a hand slap and what not to bother doing.
6) Helping - Three year olds are awesome do it yourself types. They are fairly certain that they can do anything they set their little minds to doing. They are also really good at asking for help when they suddenly realize they need it. What is best is that they are able to help someone else out without causing anyone to feel that the other person is incapable. They just simply lend a hand in the same way that they expect a hand to be lent to them when needed.
7) Knowing when enough is enough - Sure, they may show that they are over their limit of stimulation with a nice big tantrum, but if you watch a little kid there are always signs that they realize they should leave the situation before that tantrum happens. Typically they will ask repeatedly or become clingy (or hide) quite a while before the big blow up. They don't have the ability to remove themselves so they have to rely on someone else to take them away. If they could just leave, my guess is that they would.
8) Being careful - I'm not talking about being cautious. I'm saying "use care". Young kids employ care for classmates with boo-boos and parents who have had a bad day. They care for the feelings of stuffed animals and for grandparents. They typically use care until they completely run out (see #7) and have to refill with snuggling. They are even pretty awesome at being careful with themselves. That is why you hear "no" so often out of them.
Sure, it may sound simplistic. It isn't foolproof and it doesn't cover all of the aspects of adulthood. You may be shaking your head and thinking that I'm making light of being an adult. Then again, maybe we all should make that state a bit lighter. If we're lucky, we're in it for a long, long time! Your three year old self would agree. Try it for one day. When being an adult feels too heavy or hard, ask yourself what you would have done when you were three. If nothing else, the thought should make you smile!
I'm off to stack firewood with abandon. Throwing myself into this job makes me tired and icky but it also makes me stronger and gives me a great sense of accomplishment with the future perk of being warm all winter! It's too bad my tiara won't stay on while I stack. My three year old self would have loved that!
Have a wonder filled week!
A very nice bird couple lost their home in a storm that blew through Fiddlebug’s Forest the other day. The nest they were building was blown right out of their favorite tree! Luckily the birds were sheltering nearby and weren’t hurt, but all of their hard work was lost. They came to Father Dragon for advice about a safer place to build. Father Dragon had a great idea right away. He asked Fiddlebug to help the birds by making a cozy bird house for them to build their new nest in. Fiddlebug was so excited that he could hardly wait to get started. He found Craig and together they spent the day gathering materials so that when evening came and Bart stopped by to play the three friends could work on the new bird house together. By the next day, the house was finished and Father Dragon helped hang it in a safe place.
I am happy to report that Mr. and Mrs. Sparrow are busy adding their nest to the space. They hope to have their eggs tucked in and waiting to hatch before long.
So I wouldn’t disturb the birds as they are working, I made another house a lot like the one Fiddlebug, Bart and Craig created. I admit, mine is plainer to look at, but when you decorate your own you can make it as colorful and creative as you like! Here’s what you have to do:
NOTE TO BIG PEOPLE: If you are helping someone with newly developing fine motor skills (due to the pointy parts) or would just like to avoid some of the mess, you may want to handle a few of the steps on your own and leave the decorating up to your small person.
What you need:
1 half-gallon cardboard milk or orange juice container
2 bamboo skewers
2 pieces of strong twine or yarn to hang your bird house from. Mine are about 2 feet long each.
1 small craft stick
Paint and other decorating materials
What you do:
1) (optional) I gave the entire milk carton I used a coat of spray paint to give myself a solid color to decorate on later. Make sure if you choose to do this that you give the milk carton time to dry thoroughly.
2) Cut a 2 inch hole in the front panel of the carton about 1/3 of the way up. I chose a circle, but any shape will do.
3) Add a small slot under the hole that is big enough for the craft stick to insert snuggly into it. This will be a nice perch for your bird friends.
4) DECORATON TIME! Might I suggest brightly colored little hand prints, or sparkly fairy dust spirals? You could also decorate it just like a little house with a picture of you peeking out one of the windows. Get creative and have a lot of fun with this step!
5) When all of your decorating work is done, a big person should poke the bamboo skewers through the top of the carton (from side to side) and cut the sharp points off.
6) Tie one end of a piece of string to the end of one skewer and then tie the other end of the string to the other end of the same skewer. Make sure your knots are very secure.
7) Repeat step 6 with the other string and the other skewer.
8) (optional) You can tie the two pieces of string together to form one loop to make hanging easier.
9) Now it’s time to find a safe place to hang your new birdhouse. You get to be just a little “bird brained” while you pick it out too! Pretend you are a bird and help your big person pick out a spot that you would like to live. Try to make it somewhere that you and your big person can see easily. This will let you watch any birds that are smart enough to move in to your beautiful birdhouse.
... and the post you don't have time to rewrite today is simply gone.
For now, I wish you a wonder filled week! More later!
Although Fiddlebug, Bart and Craig love to play in the playroom, being stuck inside on a rainy day can still make them wish for cheerful colors and fresh air. During the last big storm, the three friends came up with a plan to brighten up their cloudy day. They made a paper airplane curtain in the playroom doorway with some of their favorite colored paper! Every time someone comes into the room, the little planes fly around and make them all smile.
The directions for making a paper airplane curtain are right here, so you can have your very own! Make sure you have an adult help you with the cutting part.
What you need:
Paper – you can use plain paper or colored, wrapping paper works well too!
What you do:
1) Cut your paper into rectangles – the bigger the rectangle, the bigger the plane (I used 3 inch by 6 inch pieces)
2) Fold each rectangle into a paper airplane as follows:
A) Fold the paper in half so that the short edges are lined up together and the colored side of the paper is inside.
B) Fold the top left corner of the top paper in toward the bottom right corner until you have formed a point at the bottom left corner and the edges are even along the bottom.
C) Fold top right corner straight down so that the side edges are even and the top corner touches the bottom corner.
D) Fold the new top edge down to the bottom edge.
E) Flip the whole thing over and repeat steps B, C and D, only reverse your rights and lefts so that you have your plane facing the same direction on both sides.
F) Hold original bottom folded edge and gently bend wings up to form the plane.
3) Cut a straw into 1 inch long pieces.
4) Put one piece of straw into the folded paper airplane and use a small piece of tape to hold the wings together at the top of the plane.
5) Cut a piece of fishing line to the length you want and thread it through the drinking straw inside the plane, then tie the end back onto the fishing line on the other side of the straw (it should form a loop with the plane inside it.
6) Straighten out the plane so it hangs evenly on the fishing line.
7) Put a small piece of tape across the back end of the plane under the wings to hold it closed.
8) Tape the free end of the fishing line to your doorframe.
9) Repeat until you have enough planes flying at different levels to form your paper airplane curtain.
All three friends wanted me to remind you that you don’t have to hang your planes in the door. They do great in windows or just hanging from your ceiling too! And they are GREAT for imaginations. If you are stuck inside on a rainy day, just look up at your paper planes and think of all the places you would go if you could fly away on one of them!
First: There are a whole bunch of brand new Sheridan Starswimmer books on hand in a lovely little plastic box that protects them from collecting (as much) cat hair. This means you should fearlessly order a copy or two. Christmas is coming and this book is going to look exquisite nestled into a Christmas stocking. If you don't celebrate Christmas, no worries. It will provide imagination kindling snuggle time as a bedtime story over the holiday break.
Next: I thought you might be interested to know what I do with the money generated by sales. Ignoring the fact that I am a bit in debt from past publishing expenses and the habit of donating books to worthy causes, all of my funds go toward spaying and neutering the wide variety of cats that show up on our porch. I know, I'm a "Crazy Cat Lady" but hear me out before you just decide that this is my personal problem and run off before that problem can become contagious.
My family and I live in an area that is very vacation home oriented. The state, national, and privately owned forests in our area attract many outdoorsy people who want to get away from their more urban lives and jobs. Many of these people purchase cabins or lots for campers. Most of the year these places sit empty. All of these empty dwellings make the rodent population very happy. Mice can find plenty of good nesting material and cozy spots to raise untold generations of little pink babies. Squirrels don't have to work so hard to build secure nests because they can just break in and build under roof. Nobody is there to notice or kick them out. Sure, every once in a while those pesky people show up and then panic ensues for a few days. Maybe some poison is put down or some traps set. This doesn't actually decrease the numbers by a huge amount though. Plus, occasionally one of those humans gets the bright idea to spread grass seed and cover it with straw. Did you know that Norwegian rats like to make nests in straw bales? I do but only because the owner of the rental house over the hill spread straw to get a good yard before he tried to rent the place. As the place was empty for a while, the family of long tailed rodents found their way up and made a home in the eaves beside our chimney. I know that many of you currently have the heebies. I actually thought they were sort of pretty. The problem is that they are also very smart, very destructive and not at all nice. We had dogs at the time and fed them on the porch. The dogs were afraid of the rats and allowed them to eat at will from the dog food holder. Dog food contains vitamin K which counteracts most rodent poisons. We ended up having to call and exterminator to help run them out of their home in our home so we could seal up the opening and keep them from getting back in. It was involved, problematic, and expensive. Rodents also attract snakes. Snakes give me the heebies. Cats help keep down the rodent population and the snake population. You can see why I don't mind having them around.
Unfortunately, cat populations can get out of control very quickly as well. During an extended job lay-off over a decade ago, my husband made the "mistake" of feeding a stray cat that showed up. I had two cats inside. Both were female and too young to have spayed at the time. At about the same time a stray showed up at my mom's. Of course both were pregnant. By the time our job situation was stable and I could spare the money to begin handling the ever growing cat colonies at my house and my mom's, I had 22 cats "fixed. Yes, you read that number right. Three of those were at my mom's.
All was well in the world for years. Our colony decreased in size because they are outdoor cats in a location with predators. Losing them was sad, but that is the way of nature. We had agreed as a family to feed the colony and give them affection but not to make any extraordinary efforts to keep them here. Chance brought one of the outside cats in to become his own. Scott brought a little 6 toed kitten home that had been abandoned in a parking lot - that brought my count to 23 total. We were starting to look a little less like cat hoarders and more like we just had a regular crazy cat lady problem. There was hope...
Then the neighbor cats starting moving up here. Then the first one had a kitten. Then the next one had kittens. She abandoned hers and we could only save one of the four. Now I'm back to trying to catch all the new comers before they can procreate. So far I've managed 2. Only somewhere between 7 and 10 to go.
At this point I feel it is necessary to say that getting a cat "fixed" also requires getting their rabies shot. This makes sense and I am glad for it. However, it does add to the cost. For a female cat, I pay $118. It costs $89 for a male. That makes it roughly $100 per cat...
... I try to keep my book prices in line with Amazon prices. Unfortunately I have to include shipping but that is just to cover the expense. In all, I make well under $1.00/per book that I sell. I am not telling you this so that you feel sorry for me. This is actually how book sales go. I'm pretty sure that even the big guys end up with less than a dollar for each book they sell once you take all of their expenses out. They just sell a whole bunch more books than those of us who haven't made it to the upper rungs of the ladder yet.
So, each sale I get goes toward keeping a cat population in check so that population can keep a rodent and snake population in check while not becoming a (huge) nuisance, constantly fighting for breeding rights, or spreading feline diseases (some of which can spread to other species). In other words, your purchase allows me to be a good deed doer.
The following slide show is just a few of the furry faces involved. Some are already happily kitten proofed. Some are waiting their turn. This is just a sampling. I just thought you should know.
Thanks for your support!
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!