June 2014
Monday, June 02, 2014
What if you could eat what you wanted?
As a mother of three young girls, there are days when I feel like my children eat non-stop. One day, I commented about their ceaseless appetites, to which one of my girls said, “What if we could eat whatever we wanted?” The girls proceeded to talk about eating every item they saw. Giggles galore and shouts of “EWW!” ensued with musings about gnawing on crayons and tasting napkins. To this end, here is a musing (in rhyme) on eating unusual items.

The Ravenous Monster
Gurgles and whines grumbled within me.
Ravenous, my monster wanted free.
NO! I thought, pushing her back inside.
Nothing satisfied her hunger tide.

She rose up higher. My lips zipped tight.
But, she was stronger and won the fight.
She pulled and dragged me, forced me to bite.
Each and every item in my sight.

Clearing a path both long and wide
She filled the deep empty pit inside.
She gobbled some books, gnawed on some pens,
crunched and munched puzzle pieces in their tins,

She licked a pillow, tasted two shoestrings,
lapped up some dirt, and snacked on ten rings.
She washed it down with paint and sweet tea
Gurgles and whines still grumbled in me.

I opened the fridge, bare to the bone,
except one small ball sitting all alone.
“EWW!” She cringed at the leaves of pale green.
Will this ball stop the eating machine?

I took one nibble, two, and then three.
Gurgles and whines dwindled within me.
The monster sat—defeated and sane.
The sprout satisfied her hunger pain.

Stories about food that make my kids and me laugh:
Bubble Gum, Bubble Gum, by Lisa Wheeler (www.lisawheelerbooks.com/home.html)
Pinkalicous, by Victoria Kann (www.thinkpinkalicious.com/victoria)
There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick!, by Lucille Colandro, illustrated by Jared Lee

What is your favorite food to eat? What is your favorite children’s book about food? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Posted by Michelle
Monday, June 09, 2014
My Favorite Lines in Picture Books
Several times a year, I sit down, rummage through my children’s toys, and make piles of items to be thrown away or donated to charity. Among these items are books that my girls no longer read or have read so much the tape no longer holds the pages bound. My girls eye the stack and either approve or request a book be returned to the shelf (I oblige them). Occasionally, I eye the stack and return a book to the shelf. After going through the toys this week, I returned I’ll See You in the Morning by Mike Jolley and Mique Moriuchi to the shelf because I love the line, “The night is just a blanket that helps the earth to sleep.” An image of the earth tucked in bed and covered with a midnight blue blanket sprinkled with glittery stars comes to mind every time I read it to my girls. I was not ready to part with this book. The comforting image reminds my girls and me to sleep in peace.

I thought of all the other lines I enjoy reading in our family’s small collection of picture books. This week I thought I would share some of my favorites:

  1. Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram
    “I love you right up to the moon—and back.”
    My girls tell me this often…what mother would not love to hear this daily!

  2. The Poky Little Puppy by Janette Sebring Lowrey, illustrated by Gustaf Tenggren
    “Five little puppies dug a hole under the fence and went for a walk in the wide, wide world.”
    Let the adventure begin…a wonderfully perfect beginning to a classic story.

  3. Bubble Gum Bubble Gum by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Laura Huliska-Beith
    “Bubble gum, bubble gum, chewy-gooey bubble gum, icky-sticky bubble gum…”
    I love the onomatopoeia effect. I can just feel my mouth chewing the gum as I read.

  4. One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss
    “Today is gone. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”
    Farewell today and hello to tomorrow—Let the next exciting, funny day begin!

  5. Purplicious by Victoria Kann and Elizabeth Kann
    “Pink is powerful…look, it turned blue into purple.”
    Reminds me that making one small change can in and of itself be powerful.

  6. The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School by Laura Murray, illustrated by Mike Lowery
    “You’re a part of our class now. You’re where you belong.”
    Being a part of something is a comfort all kids, big and small, treasure.

  7. How to be a Baby by Me the Big Sister by Sally Lloyd-Jones and Sue Heap
    “It’s SOMETIMES nice being a baby because people don’t say, ‘Stop being a BABY!’ Because you ARE a baby and you can’t help it, so it’s not your fault.”
    I love the logic in the reasoning. My girls have a similar reasoning. For example, my three-year-old told her grandmother the other day, “We drink chocolate milk because it is good for our bodies.”

  8. Oh, the Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss
    “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
    One of my favorite books. I especially like this line because it reminds me that the path I choose in life is mine to choose and to direct.

  9. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
    “Oh please don’t go—we’ll eat you up—we love you so!”
    Not sure why—I just like it.

  10. I Love You Through and Through by Bernadette Rossetti-Shustak, illustrated by Caroline Jayne Church.
    “I love you through and through…yesterday, today, and tomorrow, too.”
What parent doesn’t feel this way about their children!

Do you have a favorite quote from a children’s book? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Posted by Michelle
Monday, June 16, 2014
What superhero power would you want?
As I child, having a superhero ability amused me. I imagined I could fly like superman or climb buildings like spiderman. My favorite supernatural ability was the “Bewitched” power, where you twinkle your nose and your room is cleaned, the dinner is cooked, and the new toy you wanted is sitting on the table. And, my personal favorite wiggle ability—traveling the world at large! No more waiting at airports, canceled flights, security scans, lost luggage. No packing necessary when traveling by wiggle power.

I asked my children what superhero ability they would want. Here are their responses.

7-year-old: “I don’t know…flying…so I can fly away from bad guys!”

5-year old: “Fly, because I would like to learn how to fly…to explore all the places.”

3-year-old: “Pink super-fly…because a pink super-fly goes fast in the air.”

I agree that the ability to fly would be awesome. I have pondered flying lots in my days (see “What If I Could Fly” for a musing on this topic - michellekarene.com/default.php?content=blog&sid=3&date=2014-03), and I guess my children have a little of me in them (and my husband, he wishes he could fly too).

Flying and wiggle power have evaded us. I have accepted that cleaning will only happen with the power of my two hands. I will also have to wait in the long airport lines like all other non-wigglers and non-flyers if I want to see Paris, Rome, or Australia. And, although we lack superhero powers, we believe in the abilities with which we have been blessed. These small, everyday powers, like kindness, love, self-confidence, and courage, can go a long way to helping us reach our goals.

Stories that show small, everyday powers in ordinary moments:
The One and Only Delaney by Valerie Tripp (valerietripp.org/home.html), Illustrated by Joy Allen
The Critter Club (pages.simonandschuster.com/critterclub) by Callie Barkley, illustrated by Marsha Riti
Ladybug Girl at the Beach (www.ladybuggirl.com) by David Soman and Jacky Davis

What superhero power would you want? Feel free to leave a comment below.
Posted by Michelle
Monday, June 23, 2014
Are you the “mother” of your characters?
A perspective on character development...

“Can we go to the pool today? PLEASE!” rings through my house once, sometimes twice, a day. Swimming is my girl’s favorite summer pastime. They were itching to get their toes wet back in April when the temperature hit 80 degrees. With the school break and steamy hot days fully upon us, I am happy to take them to the pool. Watching my girls discover their “water wings” is a true joy.

My seven-year-old is the little fish diving down to the bottom of the pool and then resurfacing yards away. My five-year-old is the tadpole turning circles in the water and jumping every which way. My three-year-old is the wisest (in my book). She is the lily pad that floats with the current. She lies on her back and relaxes letting her floaties keep her atop the water.

After a day at the pool, one of my girls wondered what it would be like to swim everywhere. I imagined a city where all the roads were replaced by waterways, a la Venice, Italy (see photo above). My toes gripped the sand painted surface of a diving board that extended from my front door. I felt the exhilaration of jumping into the air and the cool wash of the water over me as I dove into a lazy river that floated me to my destination…not a bad way to travel, I thought.

My five-year-old concurred. “That would be awesome…you get to swim around all day. If you want a picnic, you can take a picnic blanket and just float everywhere and eat.” (Picnics are another favorite kid pastime in our house).

Their enthusiasm for swimming made me wonder why they liked swimming so much. Here are their thoughts:

7-year-old: “It’s fun…you can do so many things. No one really controls you.”

5-year-old: “It is so fun…if there was no swimming, how would you have fun in water?”

3-year-old: “Goggles!”

My kid’s responses reminded me of their unique voices, but, as a writer, their responses reminded me that my characters also need unique voices. I sometimes wonder if I can portray the unique personalities of my characters. I wondered this until I reread my post and realized that to write believable characters I must know them like a mother knows her child.

I wrote the description of my girls swimming in the pool before I asked them why they liked swimming. The two blended perfectly for each child. My seven-year-old could never be a tadpole that jumps in the pool for the pure joy of jumping. She understands too well how to use the water to control her movement. Similarly, my youngest could never be a fish. She hasn’t looked beyond the surface to see what lies beneath. She is secure in the concept of swimming and enjoys playing with the pool toys (thus, the “goggles” response), but she has not learned the true joy of swimming free like a fish.

The primary reason I could write an appropriate description of my girls before hearing their responses is because I understand them and how they think. I have watched them day in and day out since they were born…the beauty of being their mother.

In writing, I need to see my characters' gifts and talents as well as their faults. I need to understand their knowledge of their world and lack thereof. I need to portray their unique personalities in both their voice and their actions. I need to be the “mother” and know my characters as a mother knows her child.

Are you a writer? How do you tackle writing believable characters? Feel free to leave a comment below.

Venice at Night
Posted by Michelle
Monday, June 30, 2014
10 aMUSING Thoughts (PART II)
A few weeks ago, I blogged about the silly remarks my children say throughout the day (see michellekarene.com/default.php?content=blog&sid=3&date=2014-04#9 for blog post). Here is part II of the comments that intrigued me.

1) “I’m looking for twinkle words.”
My little princesses love objects that sparkle…the more glitter the better. To my delight, their enthusiasm for shiny items spread to reading with a hunt for “twinkle” words, which my daughter explained are words written in one color, highlighted with a second color, and then covered in glitter (or glitter glue). If “twinkle” words encourage my girls to read or browse through books with the hopes of spotting one, then I hope these “twinkle” words continue to shine on…twinkle, twinkle little words!

2) “You can suck into the details.”
I read books or watch movies twice, if not three times, because I notice or catch the foreshadowing I missed the first time or hear a line that brings a different meaning the second go around. I guess my girls have inherited this aspect of my personality, but they don’t “notice” or “catch” a new line. In their words, they “suck into the details.”

3) “Ewww! Someone stinks….HORRIFYING!”
My girls comment in two ways: 1) simple and honest (see next comment) or 2) overly dramatic. This comment encompassed both and made me laugh.

4) “We want to support our family, right?” “We want you not to eat the candy!”
Can you feel the love? Supporting the family — 0 points; Candy — 1 point.

5)“We have chocolate milk for dinner because it’s good for our bodies.”*
I love the logic, and I like that my three-year-old understands the importance of eating food that is good for her.
*In our house, chocolate milk is not the typical chocolate milk, but regular milk with a couple spoonfuls of chocolate milk (not chocolate syrup) mixed in.

6) “My leg is the perfect treadmill for my fingers,” said my daughter as she walked her fingers along the top of her thigh…if only, our fingers needed daily exercise.

7) “It’s bumble-lee!”
Is there a bumblebee in the car? I thought when my daughter yelled this statement. Further investigation revealed that she was trying to explain that her shirt was bunched behind her back in her car seat. I love that kids use made-up descriptive words to express physical feelings, even if it takes time to figure out the meaning.

8) “When you die, I think an angel comes and carries you up to heaven…then you awake in heaven!”
After the loss of our cat last year, my girls became interested in death and what happens after death. My girls wanted to know how one physically got to heaven, to which I had to say, “I don’t know.” My daughter’s response not only appeased her sisters but me as well. Floating up to heaven in the arms of angel—I love the mind of a child!

9) “After this day, is it going to be tomorrow?” (Yes.) “YEAH!”
I love the enthusiasm for a new day, especially because “tomorrow” on that occasion was an ordinary day with nothing in particular happening. She was just excited for a new day…aaah, the simple pleasures in life!

10) “Now I have tears in my eyes because I laughed.”
The sweet giggles of children and tears of joy are always welcome in my house!

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

My princess on her bicycle
Posted by Michelle