April 2014
Monday, April 07, 2014
What if you had magnified vision?
Magnifying glasses and binoculars intrigued me as a young kid. The beauty of making things larger and examining the finer details highlighted new elements to inspire my mind. Under a magnifying glass, a cherry blossom with white petals and a yellow center of pollen covered stamens became a forest of white-trunked trees topped with yellow leaves (a la Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax"). Trees that swayed gently in the breeze seemed to be tossed more vigorously when viewed through my binoculars. I believed that I could touch the birds flying in the heavens until a blurred arm passed in front of the lens, reminding me that I was far away and the birds where just small specs of black in the sky…well out of arm’s reach.

I handed each of my kids a magnifying glass and asked them what they thought about looking through the lens. My seven-year-old said it was “weird” because things were not as close as they appeared. My five-year-old said, “Whoa! Everything is big!” My three-year-old just wanted to keep the magnifying glass so she could “spy stuff.” (She must still be spying because the magnifying glass was not returned.)

I next handed each of my kids a pair of binoculars and asked them to look through the lens. My seven-year-old thought it was cool because “you think you are about to touch something,” but you don’t. My five-year-old said, “Whoa! It’s so cool because it looks like it is right here.” She then wanted to keep the binoculars to try and spot birds that she could hear chirping in the trees. My three-year-old did not comment. She only walked around with the binoculars pressed against her eyes and examined all the items in the family room. “Awesome!” echoed throughout the house as she got closer and closer to the object of her interest.

The closest I got to having magnified vision…
In my research studies, I often spent long hours in a dark room looking at cells under a microscope. It always amazed me that a seemingly clear slide could, in reality, be filled with beautiful star-like images. Fluorescent cell nuclei magically transformed into bright white moons. Clusters of proteins became constellations or mini-galaxies in a dark night sky.

If I used various filter sets and fluorescent markers, glowing colors could be added to the images to highlight the different elements in the cells. Thus, upon review, I might find a rainbow of calcium ions spreading across the cell sheet. I believe that the images below speak for themselves. What do you see when you look at them?

(For more information on how light microscopes work, see science.howstuffworks.com/light-microscope.htm.)

Children’s stories with elements unseen by the eye alone…
The Value of Believing in Yourself: The Story of Louis Pasteur, by Spencer Johnson (www.spencerjohnson.com)
Horton Hears a Who!, by Dr. Seuss (www.seussville.com)

What books do you like that take a different view of the world? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Magnified Cherry Blossom

Cells with fluorescent-labeled proteins.

Cell Nuclei

Cells stained to see the nuclei (blue), actin cytoskeleton (red), and a cell protein (green)

Intracellular calcium
Posted by Michelle
Monday, April 14, 2014
What if you could think like a three year old (even if only for a minute)?
Snip, clip! with an occasional “Help, please!” were the only sounds coming from my kitchen table. My three-year-old clipped, glued, and taped small pieces of paper into an old Christmas box. She continued at her project all morning. (In my house, it is a rare day when my three-year-old is preoccupied with a single task for a couple of hours.)

“What are you making?” I asked.

“A birdselage,” she said.

“What’s a birdselage?” I asked.

She explained that it was a bird bathroom. Upon hearing this idea, her sisters wanted to help create other rooms for the birds. Craft time ensued with my girls creating a house for the birds, which was complete with a kitchen, a family room with a TV, a bedroom, a drinking bowl, and some random paper items, the purpose of which I never learned.

The girls even labeled the rooms, which I loved! (Who knew that birds could read?)

Upon completion, the entire ensemble was placed on the back porch for the birds to use.

“Why did my daughter decide to make a birdselage?” You might ask. (I know I did). Here is the response I received straight from the mouth of my three-year-old: “Because that is what birds need!” (But, of course!)

The marvel of a three-year-old’s mind will never cease to amuse and inspire me!

Stories about and for the marvelous minds of little children:
Countdown to Kindergarten, by Alison McGhee, illustrated by Harry Bliss (www.alisonmcghee.com)
The Night Before Preschool, by Natasha Wing, illustrated by Amy Wummer (natashawing.wordpress.com/books/)
Amazing Me. It’s Busy Being 3, by Julia Cook (www.juliacookonline.com) and Laura A. Jana, M.D. (drlaurajana.com), illustrated by Allison Valentine

Do your kids create new words or items? Do you have a favorite book about the thoughts and curiosities of little children? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Homemade birdhouse with a "birdselage" and a real bird bath

A "birdselage"

Homemade birdhouse
Lorelei Wall posted on April 20, 2014
So cute! So it a birdsologe similar to a fuselage (ie the main body of an aircraft)? That's genius if you think about it!
Michelle Karene posted on April 21, 2014
I am not sure where my daughter came up with the name "birdselage," but it is a thoughtful word comparison. Thanks for sharing!
Posted by Michelle
Monday, April 21, 2014
10 aMUSING Thoughts (from my chickadees)
My children are constantly making silly remarks and thoughtful comments. I started recording the ones that made me think twice. Here are my favorite ten from the past couple of months that sparked my imagination:

1. “What if these flowers grew all the way up and kissed the ceiling?”
I could picture flowers with petals that brushed the ceiling, spreading out like a large beach umbrella. Thoughts of Alice walking through Wonderland came to mind, and I wondered what it would feel like to walk amidst flowers that towered over my head.

2. “If I try to pop this [coffee] bubble thing, my finger will blast off to space!”
Unless a hidden rocket was in my coffee mug, I felt my digits were safe. But that did not stop my mind imagining a finger shaped rocket blasting out my coffee and soaring into the heavens.

3. “Have you seen a real pink bear?”
I can’t say that I have (unless you are talking stuffed animals). However, grizzly bears would appear a lot less ferocious if their fur was pink!

4. “Fizzy foot is NOT contagious!”
“Mild tingle” or “tingling pain” are my terms for describing the sensation when my feet or legs fall asleep. But, now, I think that fizzy may be my new, preferred descriptor. An image of soda fizzling through my veins comes to mind every time I hear this phrase.

5. “[We can] look for petees and peacocks!” said in response to, “Do you want to take a nature walk?”
The petees, I understand. Rabbits are everywhere around where we live. But peacocks? I still don’t know where my daughter got this idea, because I have yet to see a wild peacock in North Carolina. But I will forever be able to picture a peacock roaming around my front yard, even if I only saw it in my mind.

6. “I just saw a carnival in the tree”
Although my three-year-old meant “cardinal,” the idea of a carnival in a tree intrigued my creative muse. I imagined a roller coaster that followed the twisted and tangled tree branches…what fun!

7. “These markers don’t work, so I’m putting them to sleep.”
The idea of markers needing sleep when they ran out of ink made me giggle. I could see all the markers lined up in their box dreaming about coloring pictures.

8. “You’re a pot! You’re walking like a pot. Hopping up and down.”
Who knew pots and pans walked or hopped? Let alone the action of “walking” reminded my daughter of this? Thoughts of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast came to mind, and I could see a pot running across my living room.

9. “You’re not going to believe this…It’s not nice. It sucks your blood.” (What? I thought, until I saw the mosquito perched on the window screen). “I don’t like it when they suck my blood. It just hurts. They stick out their tongue and suck your blood.”
I had to laugh. The image of a bug sticking out its tongue was just too hilarious.

10. “Why are you taking pictures of everything?” my seven-year-old asked. My five-year-old had the perfect answer. “She’s a story writer! She needs ideas!”Enough said!

What silly, amusing, or thoughtful questions do your children ask? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Baby chicks
Sima posted on October 03, 2014
You are really good at these....you should write a book on these......
Also it's inspired me to be more attentive to what my girls are saying....
Michelle Karene posted on October 03, 2014
Thank you, Sima! Children make some amusing and inspiring comments. My girls are always bringing a smile to my face.
Posted by Michelle
Monday, April 28, 2014
Why I write?
I feel privileged to be invited to participate in the My Writing Process blog tour (#mywritingprocess).

A special “THANK YOU!” goes out to Naomi Gruer (bmoreenergy.wordpress.com) for tagging me. Naomi is a Baltimore native working on a chapter book about the adventures of a dog named Coco and a picture book series about a five-year-old superhero. Naomi is raising triplets plus one in New Jersey. Check out her blog for creative crafts, recipes, and her thoughts on writing.

My writing process…

What am I working on?

I am working on a chapter book about a little girl who is inspired by ladybugs and a chapter book about a little boy who dreams of traveling the world. I am also revising a YA novel, and I recently started a picture book inspired by my daughters.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I like to think my writing is different because, simply, it’s mine. Although the issues or problems my characters face may not be novel, how my characters react and the voice I give them comes from my imagination and my experiences as a mom, a wife, a scientist, and an engineer. As each snowflake that falls from the sky has a unique pattern, so I like to believe that each author has a unique fingerprint that they give to their work, making it their own.

Why do I write what I do?

Because I enjoy it! And because I have enjoyed seeing how much my writing has inspired the creativity of my children, who draw, sculpt (as depicted in the image above), write, or act out scenes or lines from my stories. I hope other children will be so inspired.

How does my writing process work?

I write off and on throughout the day as my children’s and my work schedule allows and as the ideas flow into my thoughts. I find myself often sitting on the floor of my children’s bedroom writing down new ides or revising a current work as I watch them pretend to bake a cake or rock a baby doll to sleep.

I try to write daily in the evening when the house is quiet, and I have nothing to distract me (but myself).

I also read…a lot. I read books similar in style to what I am writing as well as craft books to help me hone my writing skills. I am currently reading “Revision and Self-Editing for Publication” by James Scott Bell, and I just finished reading “Writing Irresistible Kidlit” by Mary Kole.

For me, characters and scenes constantly play and replay through my mind throughout the day…as my daughter likes to say, when I tell her “No” to watching a movie or show, “It’s okay. I can still watch the movie in my head.” The same is true of my stories. Whether I am cooking, driving, or sleeping, I find my mind never really stops writing the next word or the next line of the story.

Up next (on Monday, May 5) in the My Writing Process blog tour

Micki Bare is the author of the Thurston T. Turtle children’s book series and Relative Expressions as well as a columnist for Asheboro’s The Courier-Tribune and the Arkansas News Bureau. Micki has received three The Courier-Tribune Best of Reader’s Choice Awards. Micki is a former teacher and served as the executive director for the North Carolina Head Start Association for four years. Check out her blog, Navigating Hectivity (navigatinghectivity.blogspot.com), for delightful insights into her “hectic” life as a mother of three, wife, and writer.

Christy Lynn Allen is children’s mystery author (samanthagreenmysteries.com/blog). She is a graduate of University of Michigan and resident of Charlotte, NC. At the intersection of corporate-America-induced disaffection and desire for meaning, Christy Lynn Allen began mentoring an at-risk youth, a nine-year-old girl. In a serendipitous turn of events, her young mentee inspired a writing activity, leading to Christy’s first mystery novel for middle-grade readers, Samantha Green and the Case of the Haunted Pumpkin, (samanthagreenmysteries.com/about/the-book) and, ultimately, a new life. When she’s not writing, Christy is leading mystery writing workshops and summer camps (samanthagreenmysteries.com/about/fun-events) for young writers, spreading the pure joy of writing that children have sparked in her.

Feel free to leave a comment below on your writing process.

Ladybug in play dough (molded by my daughter)

Naomi Gruer

Micki Bare

Christy Lynn Allen
Naomi Gruer posted on April 29, 2014
Thanks for the shout-out and I loved reading about your writing process. What better inspiration than your children. My stories also play in my head all day!
Michelle Karene posted on April 29, 2014
Thank you, Naomi! Children are such a wonderful source of inspiration and fun!
Posted by Michelle