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.

Year-Round School: Has Its Time Come?


I was thinking about what my next blog would be when I received a comment from Kat at which sparked today’s post.

In my post on Is it Too Early to Begin Planning for the New School Year?, I referenced an article from  Kat was kind enough to respond to that and she mentioned a great and FREE program that will help kids have fun learning this summer.  Here is her comment:

“Hi Vivian:  Thanks for sharing our computers in preschools article!  I also thought I’d let you know about our Summer Activities Challenge.  For parents who want to help their kids have fun learning this summer (in part to help get ready for the next school year) it’s a great (and free!) program.  Parents can sign up here:   Then they just need to complete at least 5 activities before the end of July and they’ll receive a personalized Certificate of Achievement and be entered to win some great prizes including a $500 Back to School Splurge.  Hope you and some of your readers will join us!”

As parents, we are always on the lookout for stuff to do with our kids…so check it out…this should be fun!

It made me think about the Summer Reading Programs at our local library back in Connecticut when our children were young…they really looked forward to participating and reading as many books as they could…how proud they each were with the certificate they received at the end of the summer!  I know that the Pikes Peak Library here in Colorado Springs also has summer reading programs Library Summer Reading Program: One World, Many Stories…what a great (and FREE) on-going activity for this summer!

Two months of summer vacation is an old remnant from the days when most people were farmers and their children were needed to help during the late spring and summer…planting, harvesting and weeding.  But these days, most people do NOT need their children home for two months during the summer…in fact, there are many reasons why this is an out-dated mode of planning a school year. 

  • School-readiness is often lost during the summer vacation…children get out of the habit of the school routine and all that implies…proper bedtime, early rising, good breakfast, getting things needed in the morning laid out the night before.
  • Studies show that children (and adults) forget much of what they learn if it is not used on a regular basis.
  • Everyone needs time off and a break in the routine…but two months is much too much.

I know that the idea of year-round school is one that has been talked about for decades…and there are some private schools that may adhere to it.  But most public schools still operate on the old schedule we all remember from our school days. 

What are your thoughts on year-round school?  Please share!

I also wanted to share some GOOD NEWS!  I’m partnering with the Family Christian Bookstore in Colorado Springs and will be doing a FREE Back-to-School program for parents and their preschoolers (ages 2-5+…kindergarteners and first graders are more than welcome) on Saturday, August 6th from 11am to 2pm.  We’ll be reading a story that addresses the topic of school anxiety and then doing a simple craft project that the children will be able to take home.  Parents will be able to pick up a couple of free flyers with additional activity ideas and simple tips to help insure a smooth transition from home to school.  In addition, any parent who fills out the entry form will be entered to win a gift package of preschool craft supplies. 

Please, please spread the word about this FREE and FUN-FILLED event for parents and children.  The manager of the bookstore told me that “author” events are not usually well-attended, but I know this is a topic of great importance and relevance to parents of preschoolers…also for parents whose children are starting a NEW school or starting daycare or nursery school for the first time.  If you are local to Colorado Springs, please stop in to say hello!  If parents show an interest, I plan to do a monthly program with different topics and stories and crafts each month…the manager of the Family Christian Bookstore has already given me the go-ahead.

Finding activities to do with our kids, especially during the long summer when they are home, can be a challenge.  I’ve continued my Jump-Into-Summer Sale on my website where you can pick up a copy of Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking for 50% off the cover price.  Buy online securely with PayPal or send a check or money order to me and you will have a treasure-trove of picture book story suggestions and summaries, parenting tips, easy eco-friendly craft projects and simple child-friendly healthful recipes all geared towards LEARNING, BUILDING A POSITIVE SELF-IMAGE and HAVING FUN!

What’s In Your Child’s Bookcase: Rebecca Dunning – Award-Winning Author

I’m honored to present our first-ever guest author feature…a post by award-winning author, Rebecca Dunning.  If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a writer or what obstacles one has to overcome to become an author of a book that gets published, please read her wonderfully candid and informative words.  It takes determination, tenacity and the ability to stay positive and motivated even when obstacles loom before you…Ms. Dunning has all of these attributes and more!  When you are finished, please check out the links at the end of the post so you can visit her website and blog and find out more about her fantastic children’s books, Real Life Princess and Beetle Hunter.


A Personal Reflection on Becoming a Writer: by author, Rebecca Dunning

Being a writer is something that has always been with me. It’s not something that happened over time or due to a defining moment like I’ve heard many writers talk about. Now that I’ve said that, I must admit it has been a long journey into sharing my writings with anyone, feeling like I have anything of worth to offer in comparison to the “greats” and overcoming the resistance that stops me as an artist from exercising my gift.

In the early years of my life, writing brought me sanity. For me, processing my emotions on paper is like breathing air – clean air. When I write it is a catharsis. I feel most normal after I’ve given life to something on paper, even if it isn’t that great.

Beginning in early elementary school, I remember writing short stories in mass and, by the time I was in eighth grade, I entered a competition and got third place. I was devastated that I didn’t get first. So there, I’ve let you in on my biggest hurdle to being a writer:  ME.

Before I got married, I regularly journaled and wrote poetry. Then I married an amazing visual artist and thought that my gift paled in comparison to his. It wasn’t until a couple of years into our marriage that I shared with him anything I’d written. My husband told me that he thought I had talent and really should pursue something with it, but I thought he was just being nice and didn’t do anything with it. Then there were kids and I “was too busy” and so on. There was always an excuse.

Four years ago, my husband and I found a group called Greenhouse Artist Community and joined. I was a writer that didn’t write so I felt like a total poser. The group was organized by a now good friend, Christi Bovee, for artists of all mediums and was meant to facilitate the creative process and give an outlet to share bits and pieces of whatever we were putting our hand to. It was a small group which made it comfortable but the sharing was done on a microphone, which at first was a hard thing, even though I’d traveled for years doing public speaking. After someone shared we then gave feedback.

The first time I shared, I cried like a baby because I brought in one of the most vulnerable pieces I’d ever written…maybe not the best idea. Afterwards, the silence in the room was thick; tears ran down a few faces and, in all honesty, the feedback kick started my career.  I guess I needed a group of people to tell me I had what it takes.

Because of this and a book they recommended called The War of Art by Steven Pressfield, I now have two children’s books published and write for various organizations, publications and have a well followed blog.  I’ve just finished my first novel and hope to write for the rest of my life.

I still come up against the big ME sometimes but I have several artists in my life that help me push through it. Getting your most vulnerable writings critiqued by publishers and reviewers can be brutal to the sensitive artistic soul, but it can also be rewarding and has helped me hone my craft.

I get a lot of questions from writers on what to do to get going. There is a lot to say actually but here are a few.

First, write!  Then write some more.

Second, get someone(s) good to edit and critique it. (Not a nice friend who tells you what you want to hear.)

Thirdly, if you want to get published, get a thicker skin than you presently have. When you get ripped apart, learn from it and make yourself get back on the horse as soon as possible. Remember, most people who make it in acting, writing or any other kind of art get a lot more NO’s then yes’s. Get your no’s out of the way so you can get to your yes’s.

All in all, the only way to be a writer is to write.  Period.


Rebecca Dunning is an award winning writer who lives in Colorado with her husband and three children. She not only loves to read and write but also enjoys hiking, climbing mountains 14,000 feet or higher, running, biking, traveling the world and about anything else out-of-doors. Rebecca is the author of two children’s books, The Real-Life Princess and Beetle Hunter and just finished her first novel, The Awen:  Book One of the Sacred Oak Series.

Link to The War of Art:

Link to The Real-Life Princess:

Link to Beetle Hunter:

Link to website:

Link to blog:


I’m thrilled to have had the opportunity to welcome Rebecca to Positive Parental Participation.  In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be visiting with several other children’s book authors…hope you all enjoy hearing their stories.