Monday, March 3, 2014

What makes a good children's writer? A quote by Ronald Dahl and scary book ideas for younger kids

Saw this on a post and copied it since I'm interested in writing.  Found it online here as well:

"What makes a good children’s writer? The writer must have a genuine and powerful wish not only to entertain children, but to teach them the habit of reading…[He or she] must be a jokey sort of fellow…[and] must like simple tricks and jokes and riddles and other childish things. He must be unconventional and inventive. He must have a really first-class plot. He must know what enthralls children and what bores them. They love being spooked. They love ghosts. They love the finding of treasure. The love chocolates and toys and money. They love magic. They love being made to giggle. They love seeing the villain meet a grisly death. They love a hero and they love the hero to be a winner. But they hate descriptive passages and flowery prose. They hate long descriptions of any sort. Many of them are sensitive to good writing and can spot a clumsy sentence. They like stories that contain a threat. 'D’you know what I feel like?' said the big crocodile to the smaller one. 'I feel like having a nice plump juicy child for my lunch.' They love that sort of thing. What else do they love? New inventions. Unorthodox methods. Eccentricity. Secret information. The list is long. But above all, when you write a story for them, bear in mind that they do not possess the same power of concentration as an adult, and they become very easily bored or diverted. Your story, therefore, must tantalize and titillate them on every page and all the time that you are writing you must be saying to yourself, 'Is this too slow? Is it too dull? Will they stop reading?' To those questions, you must answer yes more often than you answer no. [If not] you must cross it out and start again." - Ronald Dahl

It made me think of my kid's interests and what kinds of stories attracted them.  Dahl writes about kids enjoying ghosts and being spooked.  That reminded me of one of Kanoa's first favorite board books - Kevin Sherry's book "I'm the Scariest Thing in the Castle."  It ends up NOT being scary (of course as it is written for toddlers!).  The scariest vampire bat turns out to be the cutest thing in the castle!

My kids have also liked other scary books such as-
  • "The Ghost of Sifty Sifty Sam" by Angela Shelf Medearis - All of my kids Loved this book -It is not scary after all....the ghost turns out to love Chef Dan's crispy delicious batter-dipped fish and in exchange for more, he works at Dan's restaurant cleaning dishes. 
  • "The Gunniwolf" retold by Wilhelmina Harper 
  • "May We Sleep Here Tonight?" by Tan Koide - This is my son Kanoa's favorite book and has been since he was 3.  Gophers, rabbits and racoons are lost in the fog and find an empty cabin to stay in.  When Mr. Bear returns home, readers will wonder if he is a scary fellow....but alas he is not and he makes them all food to warm their tummies and even shares his bed. 
  • "The Spook Book" by Burton and Rita Marks - This book explains how to set up your own haunted house.  It has craft and recipe ideas.  Both of my boys especially like this book.    

Friday, February 21, 2014

Random January 2014 pics

A pipe burst in Katie's room.  Thank goodness she was right there when it popped and told Wolfgang who told us right away.  We got the water shut off to that room that evening and it was fixed the next day.
But dang!  Wish that hadn't happened.  

I am taking a class to do with Brene Brown's book "The Gifts of Imperfection." Much of the work is done in an art journal.  Makana wanted to join me in making her own art journal.  These were the first pictures we put inside ours.  The writing on our hands says, "I'm perfect and I am enough."  Like!

I'm so serious!  Love how Makana is so free to be silly!  Wish I was more like that.  Oh....wait....but I am me.  Need to embrace that, huh.  So, well....I am perfect and I am enough.  I will keep working on that!  ;)

Makana began to make an inspirational drawing with words.  I wonder if she got the idea from the inspirational magnet that I purchased at Sunset Celebration in Key West?  (see the green and red picture below)

Love these words of inspiration!  And....they remind me of our trip!

Halfway through January, Wolfgang moved to his own apartment.  I hope we helped him to make the transition to living on his own easier.  We'll miss him, but he is only a five minute drive or a fifteen minute walk away.  And closer to town/work which is helpful.  He ended up being roomates with one of the nicest and most helpful people who work at the local grocery store.  Awesome!  :)

My new favorite brownies!  OMG!  I can't tell you how good they are!


1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line a 9×13 baking dish with parchment paper.
Beat together the butter and sugars until light and creamy, about 5 minutes. 
Beat in the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly combined.
Add the flour, baking soda, and salt to the mixture and mix well.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Bake for 25 – 30 minutes, checking them towards the end to keep from overbaking.
If you like them gooey, pull them out at 25 minutes.

Adapted from this recipe: 

Katie first made these.  Now I make them on occasion too!  LOVE!!!

If you love homemade chocolate chip cookies, you will likely love these too! :)

And ....well, I know it is risky, but if you ever do eat raw cookie dough (knowing you are taking chances with raw egg), this dough is unbelievable!  So full of vanilla flavor!  

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Wig Joke

So while we were in Key West, Katie and I went out browsing the shops and I tried on this wig:

(Me being goofy trying on wigs in the costume shop in Key West- photo snapped with Katie's cell phone.)

I have always wanted to have a hairstyle sort of like this...kinda punky...maybe some dye.  But as of yet I haven't done so.  But maybe I will one day! ;)

When we got home, I kept thinking how cool it would be to actually get my hair cut in that kind of style.  If only I could try on that wig again and see if I really liked it or not.  Plus, I could play a joke on Jim and the kids...I could go to my upcoming hair appointment and come home wearing the wig!  That would be so fun!!!  I don't play tricks often, but this seemed like a good one!  :)

First I had to get the wig.  I didn't remember the name of the store, but did remember where it was sort of located.  So I used google and maps to search and I found it!  The store had the wig in stock ("The Anna") and I ordered it!  29 bucks!

The wig arrived on Friday, the day before my hair appointment!  Phew!  I tucked it into my dance bag so I wouldn't forget to take it with me.

On Saturday morning I taught dance, went to the library book sale, and then to my hair appointment.  I told Chris (the awesome hairdresser that I've gone to for years) about the trick and I put on the wig.  She said it was a little small and adjusted it to fit as best as it could.  Some gray bits of hair could be seen by the hairline by my ears, but I was hoping no one would notice.

When I got home, Jim was was a little ...shall I say different... than the usual cut.  He hadn't yet put in his contacts, and so I hoped he might not get a good look at the gray or anything that might give it away.  He said it looked like a squirrel was on my head!  Did he know it was a wig?  Or did he just think it looked a bit a dead animal on my head?!  After further conversation, I confirmed that he did think it was a real hair cut!  ha!

Katie was out, Kanoa didn't seem to care, but Li and Makana thought it was Awesome!  They begged me to call Chris to set up appointments for them.  They wanted the Same haircut!  I wasn't expecting that!!  I wanted to let them in on the joke before I made any calls (thinking that they may not want me to call her after all because she didn't cut it like that).  I stalled for time and said I'd call her on Monday.

I acted as typical as possible and occasionally the kids would look at my hair and ask about getting theirs done and they'd ask questions about the dye and cost and more.  (and I'd giggle to myself)  Jim put on glasses, but still didn't seem to notice it was a wig!  Yessss!  Still fooled!!

I was thinking of how to tell them, but I wanted to see if Katie would be tricked first.  Or maybe she would remember this was the same wig from that shop in Key West. When she got home, we talked about her day, she showed me some things she bought at the mall, and she saw the haircut.  She seemed to genuinely like it!  I couldn't believe that she didn't realize it was that same wig!

Later that night, Jim and I were alone and he scratched his head.  I said, "I know!  My head's been itching all day!  Could be because of THIS WIG!" and I pulled it off!  He was SO surprised and we had a good laugh!  He said I totally had him!  :D  It was so fun to play that joke on him!!

I put it back on so I could do something similar with the kids.  Katie was in bed already though.

Just before the rest of us went to bed, I said to Li (who has been learning to use Photoshop), "You know, if you really want to see what this hairstyle would look like on you, you might want to Photoshop it onto your head."  He said he didn't think he could do that with this hair because it wasn't all even - it would be tricky to do...etc. So I said, "Or you could just try on this WIG!!!" and pulled it off!  Li and Makana were speechless!  Makana then laughed!  She was so surprised!

Li ended up being a little mad at me for tricking him, especially for so long. I apologized as I never meant to do anything but make them laugh!  He really does want to get this kind of cut and some kind of dye too.  He tried on the wig and liked how it looked.

Makana also wants to dye her hair, though she keeps changing how she might want it to be styled. I said I'd save up for a haircut and dye so they can do it.  Li is disappointed that I won't be calling this Monday though - he wishes to do it right away. (And so I do wish I had not said I'd call on Monday...mistake on my part!)

On Sunday, Katie and Zach were making eggs in the kitchen.  I came downstairs with laundry (wearing the wig) and went right past them to put it in.  I wondered if they'd notice.  No one said anything.  I walked over to them to chit chat and Zach was still looking at the eggs.  Katie said, "Oh yeah.  Look at Mom's new hair cut."  So he looks up and smiles.  I forget what I even said, but whatever it was it was Perfect and I pulled the wig off!  Katie at first looked absolutely surprised and shocked, then broke into laughter and squeally high pitched words of astonishment.  She hugged me and laughed so hard she was almost in tears!  I had to go to the next room to help Kanoa, but I heard her still laughing and talking in that high pitched I-can't-believe-it-voice-to-Zach!  Ha!  Glad she thought it was so funny!!  Zach seemed amused too!  Awesome!

My dad used to like to play jokes.  I bet I get that from him.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Shel Silverstein and Key West Musings

Since we went to Key West last month, Jim and I still can't stop thinking about it.  It calls to us.....

To keep enjoying that feeling, we have been listening to Rich McKay's songs and working on our photo album.  Jim plays the songs online and I have been listening to the cd's Schoonin'Learnin' to Love and Come Little N Big Children while driving.  They are both by "The Sundogs" of which Rich is a member of.  I forgot that some of Shel Silverstein's poems were set to music on the Come Little N Big Children album.

Captain Tony Tarraceno and Shel Silverstein were friends.  Shel used to go to Captain Tony's Saloon and one of his homes was in Key West.

After I found out about Shel's connection to Captain Tony and then heard his poems sung by Rich McKay, I decided to borrow some biographies about Shel from the library.  The first one was interesting and I am hoping to read the second one soon.

Me holding Katie, Captain Tony, Jim - after Hurricane Irene Oct 1999
This was the first and only time we met him in person!  It meant a lot to us to meet him.
Here are two poems that I loved that were printed in one of the biographies.

A poem called "The Voice" from Falling Up by Shel Silverstein

There is a voice inside you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel that this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong."
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you - just listen to
That voice that speaks inside.

A poem called "Listen to the Musn'ts" from Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

Listen to the MUSTN'TS child,
Listen to the DON'TS
Listen to the SHOULDN'TS
Listen to the NEVER HAVES
Then listen close to me -
Anything can happen, child.
ANYTHING can be.

Shel's words in these two poems make me think of possibilities and I like how they encourage each person to be themselves and listen to themselves.  Good stuff!

More About Rich -
Whenever we hear Rich sing, we feel uplifted. And it reminds us of all the fun times we've had in the past in Key West and of hanging out with Rich either on the Schooner Wolf or elsewhere.  Awesome times in an awesome place!

If you want to buy any of Rich's music or listen to some of his songs, you can do so from this link: or

"Sparkle" is one of my favorites as well as "Berries By The Road." "Montserrat" is another good one as well.  "Mermaid" is another of my favorites and part of it can be heard in a video clip below.

Here's a clip of Rich singing "The Ballad of the Atocha.":

Rich In Spirit McKay's music is extra special to us because we met him about 20 years ago when we were taking a sunset cruise on the schooner Wolf and he was playing music on it.  We liked him and his music right away!  The joy he feels while playing is contagious!  We became Rich McKay fans!

Rich In Spirit McKay - April 1996 - Key West, Florida on the Schooner Wolf

Here is a video clip from August 2013.  Rich is singing "The Mermaid" on the Schooner Wolf.:

We've corresponded with Rich a bit over the years and visited him when we used to frequent Key West (before kids) and then when we went down with Katie when she was 2 1/2.

Jim and I started the "Rich McKay Fan Club, Jersey Shore Chapter" in the early 1990's and had T-shirts made up for all three of us and surprised him with them when we went on our next trip!  

Rich liked them so much that he traded us Schooner Wolf shirts for our own fan club T-shirts!
Rich and I dancing at El Meson de Pepe's in Oct 1999.  A little different than BO's!  But still fun!

Sayin' aloha to Rich before we headed home - Oct 1999

Sunset Key West Oct 1999 - Katie was 2 1/2

On one trip to Key West, we went to BO's and Rich and I danced and we all had a great time!

When Rich came out with Come Little N Big Children, he surprised us by sending it in the mail!  That was so cool!

Now we keep in touch through facebook.  It is amazing all the good things that he does!  He is such a good person doing good things in the world (he goes to Russia with a Patch Adams group! and does other good deeds as well).  Not only that, but he lives his life by doing what he loves to do first and fitting in other things after that.  Good for him!!!  This past trip seemed so fast and super busy with all six of us and sadly we didn't get to connect with Rich.  Next trip we will plan better!

Sweet Update as of 1-14-2014!!!  I opened up a package addressed to me this evening.  I didn't know what it was, but as soon as I opened it I was overcome with happiness and gratefulness!  It was Rich McKay's autobiography - a hardcover!!  I had sent Jim the link to it a couple of weeks ago because I found it online and was so excited reading whatever I could that was available to read from the book site.  I love reading biographies, and to read one about Rich whom I find so inspirational and have met many times makes it double...triple good!  It was so sweet of Wolfie to surprise me!  I was so happy I said it out loud!  I thanked him the minute he walked in the door!  He said it was a late birthday present!  The best!!  I am so excited to read it, hopefully together!  :)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Maine Homeschooling Resources and Ideas

This spring to late summer, I finally finished making a new blog for those who homeschool in Maine and especially for people I do reviews for.

Though obviously life isn't divided up into subjects, I did make pages for the areas homeschoolers are to cover in Maine (except for "Library Skills") and I added a few extra pages to do with college/transcripts, special needs/therapists, unschooling and more.

Even if you aren't from Maine, feel free to check it out. :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Some pics from Makana's camera from June thru Nov 2013

I love this one!  At We Shine June 2013

Makana took this pic of Stony Point Light in Stony Point, NY

Did Kanoa give Makana a gift?

Selfie by Makana
This squid sign was one of the many pictures Makana took at the artist's show that we stopped at in Port Clyde, Maine.
Makana must have taken this pic!  This sign is funny!

Watch out!  Giant Squid can smell fear!
 Some picturess that Makana must have taken at Marshall Point Light in Port Clyde, Maine.

I see that shaka Wolf!

The kids found this rock there!  Then we made some at home with paint and glitter.

Walking the breakwater toward Rockland Breakwater Light with Mom and Bill.

Here's a video of Kanoa and Makana running.  Makana stops along the way to help a lady reach a bill she dropped between the cracks.  Kanoa took off and I needed to run after him, but Makana caught up to us after she did her good deed.  :)  Then she even let Kanoa touch the foundation first.  What a nice big sister!  

And as you will see in this jumpy video, Kanoa can surely run!!  
(video is still uploading - I hope....we'll see if it works...)

Makana and Kanoa

Mom and I

Mom and I

Love this pic of Kanoa...those big eyes!  And I think it must have been a new haircut too. 10/1/13

Kan! 10/1/13
 More pics by Makana -

What a face!

This strawberry is from our square foot garden - picked on October 30th believe it or not!!

10/30/13 Kanoa

11/10/13 - Photo of a Great Blue Heron that I saw along side Rt 17 heading toward Augusta.  I pulled over, watched it fly from the marsh across the road to the marsh on the other side.  It looked so large when it flew!  We used to see these in NJ along with Egrets.