Tag Archives: children

Listen to Your Mother – video release!!!

14 Jul

So while I’m frantically revising picture book manuscripts to take to Highlights Summer Camp


Fake picture of me….



The Real Me

 Listen To Your Mother released the 2016 videos from shows in 41 cities. As promised, here’s my piece in the San Francisco Show! It was a privilege and an honor to be on stage with such amazing women. Cheers!

Summer Life Saving

17 Jun

I hadn’t planned on going to my niece’s wedding. She was getting married in Orlando last week and had planned a large party/reception for friends and family in Illinois in early July. In honor of her grandparents (my parents) who had been married 65 years, she had decided to get married on their wedding anniversary, June 10.

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But when I received my niece’s email, asking friends and family to send or bring a rock to the wedding, I knew I had to go. You see, my mom LOVED rocks. She once chased a Caterpillar D10

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working on road construction through a field on her little John Deere

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to ask the driver if he would push a mountain of a boulder onto the farm ground. He did.

My niece learned to love rocks—well, that might be a stretch—she learned to wash the landscape rocks that surrounded my parents’ house. My mother believed that the landscape should be washed every spring, and the grandchildren (once the kids were grown and gone) were just the people to help her do it. So my niece learned to LOVE washing rocks.

It was natural that she would want rocks for her wedding. They’re a symbol of a strong foundation, right?

I got the email and immediately knew I had to TAKE the rocks to Florida, not ship them. We boated over to Angel Island, scavenged one large 10-pounder, one fist-sized, and a handful of smaller green stones called serpentine. Perfect! I would skimp on clothes and carry these in my luggage.

57638367 - macro shooting of natural mineral stone - rock of chrysotile (green asbestos, serpentine asbestos, white asbestos) isolated on white background

Yes, the TSA left their calling card in my suitcase. They must still be shaking their heads, wondering why anyone would cart around a bunch of rocks.

Anyway, I delivered those rocks and myself to Orlando four days later. The ceremony was quite moving, with my nephew telling his rock story during the ceremony. A few months earlier, he had been shopping for a First Communion gift for a family member and saw a pile of rocks at the store. One read something along the lines of “Keep Calm and Carry On.” The saying reminded him of his grandfather’s calmness and how he dealt with stress. The second rock he picked up read “This Too Shall Pass,” his grandmother’s favorite saying. He decided those two rocks were meant for him, and he bought them along with a communion gift.

Then a couple of months later, he gets this request from his sister to bring rocks to her wedding on a date that honors their grandparents. So instead of keeping those rocks for himself as mementos of his grandparents, he gave them to his sister. (Yes, he is a fantastic guy!)

Really, those two rocks were my parents’ way of sneaking into the wedding.

Now, fast forward a couple of hours after we all head out to the hotel pool complex.


We’re settling in, when my sister-in-law passes by a couple of people shaking the arms of a little girl lying on the pool deck. They had just pulled her from the water, and she’s not responsive.

Sooo, my sister-in-law grabs my niece and nephew (her kids) who happen to be physician’s assistants. They find no pulse and begin lifesaving techniques that include an inverted heimlich with the girl’s head below her waist. My nephew tries to activate the little girl’s gag reflex by sticking his finger down her throat. (Someone calls 911. Concerned bystanders suggest laying her flat. NO! Don’t do that! They also suggest giving her a glass of water. REALLY??) Still no response, but the heimlich is pumping lots of water out of her. My nephew tries again and again until he gets a gag from her and she begins to vomit water and food. Another few seconds of heimlich with her head down and she’s still vomiting but begins to cry. Success!!

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In honor of the wonderful world of Disney

Paramedics arrive, give her oxygen, and prep her for heading to the hospital, where she will stay for observation.

Two days later, I leave for home and get a text with a photo of my niece and nephew “meeting” the little girl and her babydoll at the hotel after she was released from the hospital. I’m not going to show it here because I don’t have a release from her parents, but suffice to say, I cried when I saw all three of them together and smiling.

Soooo, everyone, it’s summer swimming pool season. Please be vigilant. This was one of two bright spots (wedding, too!) in a horrific week for Orlando. Watch those swimmers, and if they don’t know how to swim, keep them in floaties whenever they’re near the pool. The one shown below snaps behind the child’s back, so they can’t take it off themselves. 

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Remember, a child slips below the surface without making noise. Be watchful, and listen for silence.

Writing, Executive Function, and Deep Breathing

30 Oct

I’ve written about my son, the reluctant writer, in a few other posts:  Writing as CalculusOpen Mic FrightCelebrate Illustrators! 

And now that he’s in 4th grade, the pressure is on to produce even more. So when he came home with an assignment to write a newspaper article, using the “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How” structure, he was fit to be tied.


This is an idiom from my Midwestern childhood. I have not tied my son to a chair to get him to do his homework, although the thought has crossed my mind.

Enter the learning specialist who suggests my son has Executive Function challenges. His executive,


the one responsible for:

  • planning/organizing (where are my ducks and what order do I put them in?),
  • initiating (I don’t know where to start!),
  • inhibition (why not throw that rock just for fun?),
  • flexibility (but that wasn’t the plan!),
  • emotional control (why shouldn’t I fill your shampoo bottle with water if I’m angry?),
  • working memory (what do I need to do again?),
  • organization of materials (where did I put that?), and
  • self-monitoring (how am I doing on this project?) is


—in many of these areas. 

Now, my son is a smart kid. He can read faster than I, whiz through math problems, and build working gadgets that could live in Wallace and Gromit’s world. But if you ask him to write about what he’s read, write a story, or explain step by step how he got the right math answer, his executive hangs it up: 


If you recognize any of these weaknesses in yourself or your kids, I recommend two books: Late, Lost, and Unprepared: A Parents’ Guide to Helping Children with Executive Functioning and Boosting Executive Skills in the Classroom: A Practical Guide for Educators. Even my executive is showing up for work more often now that I’ve read them.

But back to my son and his angst. First, he “forgot” the assignment was due until my executive had a 5-year strategic planning meeting with his executive. Second, once he was seated at the kitchen table, he moaned that this was toooooo hardddddddd, and that he had no idea how to start. 

So, I told him to write down the five W’s and the one H and then put an idea next to each one. He did this over the course of a few minutes without too much daydreaming and gnawing of pencils.


Then he started groaning about where to start. So I practiced my deep breathing exercises at the stove before saying, “I’ve read lots of news articles and they usually go something like this: On [a specific date], [so and so] did [something] to [something], causing this [other thing] to happen.

Suddenly, his face lit up. He picked up his pencil and didn’t stop writing until a little over a half an hour later. Here is his story:

On the day before school break, December twenty-first, Skizzor High School was flooded by a group of juvenile delinquents. Fifteen out of sixteen have been caught. One has evaded capture and has escaped school over the fence. No one knows his whereabouts but we the S.F.P.D. are offering a five hundred dollar reward. According to his accomplices a man whose identity is not known paid them to ruin and flood the high school by cutting the sprinkler system pipes. “Such behavior is not tolerated” says Principal and Founder Natasha Skizzor. “And they will be expelled immediately.”


Phoenix, yes?

Woohooo! When I asked him where he got the name “Skizzor,” he pointed at the scissors lying on the table and said that he changed the spelling to be funny. Can I just say “woohooo!!!” again?

Now, I have to tell you that the books say kids with executive function challenges are not consistent, so tomorrow, he may take hours to write something that is nowhere near as wonderful as this. But for today, my executive is giving my son’s executive a bonus, lots of warm fuzzies,


no strings attached. But I’m thinking that there may be some Lego building or whoopee cushion action involved.

P.S. Today, we got all the way home from school only to “discover” that the writing assignment due on Friday (that we’ve been “trying” to get home since Monday) was left at school. We turned around and went back for it. The only thing consistent about my son is his inconsistency. I am murmuring my new mantra–at least he’s consistently inconsistent.

Writing as Calculus

16 Mar

Thinking about writing—and my son. In a recent parent-teacher conference, one of his teachers suggested that my son is a perfectionist, and that’s why he’s so reticent to put words on the page. She told me how she sat down with him one day to brainstorm ideas. As they came up with idea after idea, she would occasionally say, “That’s a really good idea. Why don’t you write a story about that?” Each time, my son would say, “No, I don’t want to…” And his voice with trail off and fall into a sort of despondent monotone. It was like no idea was worthy enough, not inspiring enough for him to go through the effort of thinking about the words he would need to write his story. Continue reading

The Writing Lesson

12 Mar

I confess, I have a son who would rather eat peas than write a solitary paragraph for school. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about his favorite book, what he did over summer break, or some fantabulous story (that he’d love to tell you about, instead).

At the beginning of second grade when his class first started writing stories, I donned my writer/editor cape and swooped down on him in the kitchen.

“Well, what would you really like to write about?” I asked, eagerly pulling a chair next to him at the kitchen table.

“I don’t.” Continue reading

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