Perfect Picture Book Friday: The Retired Kid

Are you ready for a brisk fall weekend?

That’s right…it’s FRIDAY!

And you know what that means—a Perfect Picture Book to review.

I mentioned last week that I’m writing a book about a boy who wants to play on his tablet more than anything else. He’s had enough of school, soccer, and all the other activities his mom wants him to do.

So when I found this awesome book, I knew it was another one I could use as a mentor text. And the funny thing is, even though I had never read it before, the activities the boy in this book wants to avoid, are pretty much the same ones as my main character. I guess that goes to show what many writing classes have taught me…there are only a couple of stories in the world. And my mission, should I choose to accept it (just saw Mission Impossible 4), is to put a unique spin or twist on it and tell it in my own voice.



Written and illustrated by Jon Agee Continue reading

Show-Me-How Story-time with Miss Vivian Travels to Chicago

Downtown from the lakefront, Chicago, IL, USA

Frank Sinatra sang songs about many of the cities that he loved…New York – San Francisco – Chicago.

After a fantastic long weekend in Chicago, I’ll have to echo some of his words (written by Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen):

Chicago is one town

That won’t let you down

It’s my kind of town.

I arrived on Friday morning and spent the day relaxing with my son and daughter-in-law at their home.  Visiting with them is like going to a spa…they LOVE to cook “healthy” and every morning they start the day with a bowl of fresh fruit…mangoes, papayas, bananas, apples, peaches…drizzled with a little honey.  For lunch each day, my son made a huge vegetable salad bowl for each of us…cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, mushrooms…all topped with some capers and a splash of aged blueberry balsamic   vinegar.

My book event, Starting School Jitters Be Gone, on Saturday at Lollie, a children’s boutique in Evanston, just 20 minutes north of downtown Chicago, was so much fun!  This shop is an amazing place…filled with many handmade and locally designed clothes and accessories, as well as other unique items for infants, toddlers and children.  The owner is knowledgeable, helpful and a really lovely lady…I know if I lived in the Chicago area, I’d stop in there for any new baby gifts I needed, as well as for birthday and Christmas presents for any little ones on my list.

Of course, Mother Nature had her own plans for 11am, the time the first presentation was to start.  The skies over the entire Chicago area darkened, and the heavens poured forth a torrential rainstorm, accompanied by huge claps of thunder and crackling flashes of lightening. 

Inside Lollie, however, everything was bright and cheery.  A group of young children listened attentively as I read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn.  As the story about Chester unfolded, the children heard how the little raccoon, anxious about his first day of kindergarten, learned a secret from his mother that helped him overcome his fear and go to school with eager anticipation. 

After the story reached its happy conclusion, I showed the children a sample of the craft project and explained how we would all be making “Kissing Handprints”…deciding who we loved and who loved us and then drawing in the features for each person (or pet or stuffed animal) on each finger.

Parents and children clustered around the craft table and we proceeded to draw an outline of each child’s hands.  The hum of happy children, busily engaged in a constructive activity with their parents, is definitely music to my ears.  “This finger is going to be my mommy” said one little girl.  “And those are my dogs” she added.

The storm had ended by the time the second presentation was over.  My son and daughter-in-law, who had brought me and had assisted during the program, helped me pack everything up.  I’m looking forward to my next trip to Chicago…Lollie’s owner has invited me to come back to do another program, whenever I’m in town.  Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking is available at the shop for those of you who are in the Chicago area.

The next few days were filled with family visits, an afternoon at the beach – unbelievable to have a REAL sandy beach with what looks and smells like the ocean (it’s really Lake Michigan) right across the street from the downtown area of a major city – and an architectural river boat cruise.  It was difficult to leave…I’m already looking at my calendar to see when my next jaunt to Chicago will be.

My next post will be a review of a children’s book, A Reel Cool Summer, written by Martha Rodriguez.  We connected online and she loved my book and did a great review of it.  I brought her book on my trip and was able to share it with my great-niece and great-nephew…they absolutely loved it and were totally engaged in the story…so  in my next post, it will be my turn to tell everyone why they need to run out and get a copy of Ms. Rodriguez’ fun-filled book for children ages 6-9.

Photo credit: Thanks to JCrocker for the Chicago skyline pic.

Making Memories With Your Children: Summer Craft Activities

Some chicken, pork and corn in the barbeque

Image via Wikipedia

I was in Chicago last weekend for Mother’s Day with my son and daughter-in-law.  I also had an opportunity to visit with my sister and her sons and their families.

One evening, we all got together at a fantastic BBQ, hosted by my nephew and his wife.  We all had a great time…the food was not only delicious, but healthful as well…kudos to Dave and Rebecca!

After dinner, we sat down to look at the old photo albums my sister had brought.  As we turned the pages and my son and his cousin (both in their 30’s) exclaimed over each picture, I realized how important the pictures were…they reminded these grown men of the children they had been and the activities they had been involved in when they were young.

Summer is just around the corner…I know many parents are wondering how they will fill the long hot days with their children.

Of course, there are various solutions to this problem:

  • Put them in some kind of day camp…might be costly.
  • Sit them in front of the TV…how many cartoons do you really want them to watch?
  • Send them to someone else’s house…don’t you want to be the one they get their values and information from?

What is my solution to the problem of young children home for the summer?


Young children are always eager to hear a good picture book story.

Young children love arts and crafts.

Young children enjoy helping in the kitchen.

If you buy a copy of my book that is FILLED with picture book suggestions and summaries, easy arts and crafts activities and simple healthful recipes, you will be prepared for the long hot summer days ahead.

For starters, here’s a great idea that comes from Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking.  It will help capture those memories for your child as you create a photo album together.


You will need: A small blank photo album, a selection of photos of your child at different stages of his or her life, self-stick labels and a fine point marker.

1.    With your child, go through some of the pictures that you have of him from birth to the present…and let him choose several to include in his own album.  Make copies if you want to keep the originals in the family album.

2.    Help your child insert each photo and then write a description (with his input) on a label or small strip of paper and press or glue it on the bottom of each page.

3.    Listen to your child while he turns the pages of his album and tells you the story of his life.

4.    Important tip: keep a camera handy…you never know when a photo opportunity arises.

Activities like this help:

  • build your child’s self-esteem!
  • develop pre-reading skills!
  • create a life-long parent-child bond!
  • keep your child busy in a constructive positive fun-filled way that will be fun for you also!

Start planning your summer activities now…with this amazing short-cut for busy parents and teachers!

And please stop by tomorrow for Cinema Sunday: My Picks of Great Flicks.

It’s Mother’s Day No Matter Where You Are

I thought I would wait till I got home from my trip to Chicago to post something about Mother’s Day.

But then I realized that I wanted to wish moms (and grandmoms and all those who take the place of mom at one moment or another in the life of your child) a very Happy Mother’s Day.

So this will be a short post, because my son and daughter-in-law are waiting for me…it is a glorious day here in Chicago and we are going for a walk down to the lake.

My trip thus far has been picture perfect…met with the owner of Lollie’s and she is going to offer my book for sale at her children’s boutique in Evanston (more about that another day).

I went downtown with my son yesterday and we enjoyed an oil and balsamic vinegar tasting.

We drove to Downer’s Grove and had an awesome afternoon and evening with family.  My niece has two children and the tributes they made for their mom were so very sweet.

I’m looking forward to the next few days…sushi dinner and an evening of bowling are on the agenda.

And I’m sending the best of all Mother’s Day wishes to every mom and I’m sharing the flowers I got from my daughter in New Hampshire!

Please stop by next week for photos of this great Mother’s Day weekend.

Follow-Me-Fridays: Where’s Miss Vivian?

Interesting Story

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday I enjoyed my last Show-Me-How Story-time presentation of this school year at Queen Palmer Elementary School in Colorado Springs.  I did two programs…the first teacher had picked Cornelius P. Mud, Are You Ready for Bed by Barney Saltzberg.  What child doesn’t want to hear about a silly pig that has a unique idea of how one should get ready for bed.  The children chuckled when they saw how Cornelius brushed his teeth with a body brush and soap.  They were horrified when Cornelius fed his fish chocolate chip cookies.  They counted the number of books Cornelius had picked for his father to read to him…19 books, they said, NO WAY!  After the story, all of the children made construction paper clocks with movable hands and were excited to be able to take them home to show their parents how they could tell time.  The second teacher had chosen Frederick by Leo Lionni.  The children in that class loved hearing about the little mouse that collected sun rays, colors and words while his family collected nuts, seeds and wheat.  I believe the children understand the lessons behind Mr. Lionni’s story…we need to celebrate the uniqueness of each individual, and every member of the family (even young children) contributes in his or her own special way.  Do you celebrate your child’s uniqueness?  Many of the activities in my book focus on celebrating a child’s unique gifts and talents. 

The teachers loved the book and one of them is going to request that the school obtain copies for the kindergarten classes…she commented that teachers are so busy (just like parents) and would appreciate a resource like Show Me How! because it just about provides 100 lesson plans…complete with story suggestion, arts and crafts project and a simple cooking activity (and many of these are no-cook)!

As many of you read this, I’ll be winging my way from Colorado Springs to Chicago.

I’ll be spending the Mother’s Day weekend with my son and his wife.

Since we all LOVE eating sushi, taking long walks around the lake, watching classic foreign films and being with one another, I know I will have a great time.

My daughter-in-law (the talented artist who designed and drew the cover for my book) is picking me up at the airport.   She’ll be taking me to Evanston, a suburb of Chicago, where I’ll be meeting with the owner of Lollie’s, a beautiful children’s boutique.  Alexis has already read Show Me How!  Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking and is interested in offering it for sale in her shop.  I’m really excited about that!  My hope is that indie bookstores and shops across the country will carry the book to make it more accessible to parents and teachers.  Several libraries in various states have also purchased the book for their collections…if you are not in a position to buy the book, why not ask your local library to purchase copies…many libraries welcome suggestions from patrons regarding future book purchases.   If you feel the book would be a valuable resource for your community, let your library know!

The rest of my time in Chicago will be spent having fun and also connecting with my sister and her sons and their families, all who live in and around the Chicago area. 

So, I may not be able to post in the next few days…but I’ll be back Tuesday afternoon and am eagerly looking forward to my first featured author guest post with Colorado Springs award winning author, Rebecca Dunning.

Also, a quick reminder about the Mother’s Day bonus offer that ends May 8 on my website.   If you purchase a copy of the book (at 20% off the cover price), you will also receive, with your order, a $10 Marshalls/TJMaxx gift card.  What a great deal…a wonderful resource of great fun-filled activities and story suggestions for you to use with your child and a gift card to stores that are overflowing with great stuff for mom…Happy Mother’s Day!

Skydiving at 63

Yesterday I posted a blog about the connection between skydiving and parenting, but I didn’t really talk about why I decided to jump out of a plane at age 63 and how it felt.

Life constantly offers us opportunities to grow.  But I think most of the time we ignore them.  I know that as a child, I was extremely timid (and intimidated) and I rarely wanted to do anything new or go anywhere different.  Perhaps that’s why I am so passionate about helping children build a self-esteem and why I try to encourage parents to help their children develop confidence and a sense of competence. I guess there is at least one great advantage to getting older…at least for me.  I tend to be willing to try new things and travel to new places.  In fact, I look forward to these new experiences.  So when my son told me that he had a surprise for me during my visit to him in Chicago, I was excited.  And, when he informed me that the surprise was a skydiving adventure, I was thrilled.  Maybe it sounds odd, but I wasn’t anxious or nervous about it.   I guess by the time you reach my age, you realize that any one of a number of things can happen to end your life in the blink of an eye…crazy driver on the road, freak slip in the shower or an angry disenchanted person who decides to shot a bunch of people at the mall where you are shopping.

The atmosphere at the Chicagoland Skydiving Center seemed quite festive…families sitting at picnic tables waiting for someone who was already up in the air; children running to and fro, heads craned way back to watch the planes taking off and the people parachuting down; upbeat music from a loudspeaker blending with the cacophony of children playing; a line of people waiting to order corn dogs and ice-cold soda at the vendor’s trailer.

So now I’ll tell you about my skydiving experience.  After registering in the main building, we waited until our names were called to attend the brief training session where they explained what would take place and what we should do while in the plane and out of it.  The instructor described the position we should assume while jumping out and while in free-fall.  As this was going to be a tandem jump for both myself and my son, it was important to know that we needed to keep our hands crossed on our chests, so as not to impede our “pro” to whom we would be harnessed.  And to keep our head to the side in the crook of his neck, so as not to head-butt him and knock him out, rendering him unable to control the fall.  There was a large group in the training session, so we were pleasantly surprised when we heard our names being called soon after the session was ended.  We quickly made our way to the main building and were met by our “pros” who introduced themselves and proceeded to put us in the harness and explain how to crouch at the hatch (like a baseball catcher).  The plane was just about ready to take off with our group of about 7 jumpers and their instructors and a couple of photographers, so we made our way over to the airfield, boarded the plane and arranged ourselves on the benches that lined the inside  of the plane.  For me, the smell of the engine fumes was the worst part of the experience.  When they opened the hatch, the smell disappeared and the view of the countryside was beautiful, but we soon became too busy with preparations for the jump to notice anything.  My son and his instructor were the first ones out.  As soon as he had jumped, my instructor and I duck-walked (I had been sitting on his lap during the flight to 9000 ft so that he could attach my harness to him and his to me) to the open hatchway.  We rocked back and forth two times and on the third…out we went.   Running through my mind were the instructions we had received during the training session: head to the side in the crook of the instructor’s neck, back arched, legs between the legs of the instructor, feet tipped up toward his butt, hands crossed on my chest.  The power of the wind and air pressure as we plummeted down was awesome.  In a few seconds, I realized the photographer was falling in front of us, motioning to me to wave, give a thumbs up and smile!  Which I did…you can see it all if you check out the video they made:… via @AddThis

After about 30 seconds of free-fall, the instructor put his arm out and his wrist in front of my face to show me that it was time to pull the ripcord…I, however, was too busy interacting with the photographer, so the instructor had to do it.  WHOOSH!!! Up we went as the parachute opened and pulled us about 1000 feet back up…at least it felt like that.  From then on, the experience consisted of a gentle descent, pleasant conversation and lovely views of the countryside which grew slowly closer with every minute.  When we neared the ground, my instructor told me to bend my knees and stick my feet out as far and as high as I could.  Our landing was unbelievably gentle…he touched down on his feet and told me to put my feet down…which I did, and, to my surprise, I was standing and walking.  He unharnessed me and said, “Go see your son, he’s over there.”  Looking around him, I saw Peter several yards away, with the biggest smile, giving me the thumbs up!   Perhaps the best part of the experience was that I shared it with one of my grown children…continuing and strengthening the bond we’ve developed over the years.   It was definitely a great day…one I will remember for the rest of my life!

A Leap of Faith: Skydiving vs. Parenting

I just got back from a wonderful visit to Chicago to see my son and daughter-in-law.  Everything was perfect: the flights were all on-time and smooth; the weather in Chicago was sunny and not too windy; their new home is beautiful and they treated me like a treasured guest; the time spent with family was satisfying and enjoyable.  I spent an entire day with my sister, reminiscing about our childhood.  We had breakfast at Stella’s on Broadway.  I walked to the lake and shared many meals with family members I had not seen in several years. 

Two things stand out that I will remember for the rest of my life – and both are connected because they both require a leap of faith.  On Sunday, my son took me to the Chicagoland Skydiving Center, where we registered, took a short prep course on skydiving, met our instructors, got harnessed up, boarded a little plane with no seats – just benches, and went for the ride of our lives.  The best part for me was not the 30 second free-fall, but the 7 minute gentle glide down after the parachute/canopy opened.   It was a thrilling experience and one I will never forget.  On the way back from skydiving, we stopped at my nephew’s home to visit with him, his wife and his two children.  As I watched the interplay between my nephew, his wife and his young children,  I observed what wonderful parents he and his wife have become.  It occurred to me that parenting, like skydiving,  is definitely a leap of faith.  Whether you are a novice parent with a newborn or an experienced parent with several children, there are no guarantees that what you do will turn out right.  You can read books written by the “pros” or consult with “experts”…but in the end, all you can do is your best.

Sometimes, though, it helps to have a little guidance.  Just like the short prep course at the skydiving center and the last-minute instructions and “nudging” from Dave, my skydiving professional, we can gain useful parenting advice from books, workshops, and other sources.  My new book, SHOW ME HOW!  BUILD YOUR CHILD’S SELF-ESTEEM THROUGH READING, CRAFTING AND COOKING, which will be available by the end of the month,  provides tips, tactics and tools to give parents a sense of competence and confidence in their own abilities.  It pinpoints 100 picture books every young child should hear and develops pre-literacy skills while providing an eco-friendly craft project and a child-friendly healthful recipe for each recommended title.  I’m hoping it will be a parachute for the leap of faith that today’s parents take.

If you’d like to see the skydive I took and share in the excitement, go to:… via @AddThis

If you’d like more info about the new book, go to: