Monday, August 31, 2015


Yesterday I turned forty.

Funny thing, turning forty. People buy you balloons and tease you about getting old. They jokingly ask you if you're in denial or depressed about the big FOUR-OH. When I hear things like that I think of a scene in an early episode of Star Trek: the Next Generation, in which a very old Bones (the doctor from the original series, for you non-trekkies) says, "What's so damn disturbing about not having died?"

But I just laugh and think to myself, "What's so damn disturbing about turning forty?"

Nothing. It's just a number. As my 14-year-old son says, I haven't even lived half of my life yet!

But forty years is, as they say, nothing to sneeze at. You can learn a lot in forty years if you're paying attention. So, if you care to stick around, I'll share with you forty things I've learned in the forty years I've been blessed to be on this Earth.

1. Having teenagers makes you realize how easy the toddler years were.

2. True love is more of a choice than a fairy tale.

3. God is good. Always.

4. Talent doesn't guarantee anything.

5. Hard work and perseverance are worth more than a formal education.

6. You are never too old for children's books, crayons, or Legos.

7. You are also never too old to play at the playground (swings especially).

8. Anything worth accomplishing is worth the effort it takes to get it done.

9. Marriage is a minimum of 20% gross.

10. High school years are not "the best years of your life."

11. Marrying young is no excuse for divorce.

12. A "black thumb" doesn't have to last for a lifetime.

13. Boys and girls are different, no matter what the progressives say.

14. Childbirth is not the worst kind of pain.

15. But it is the most worthwhile kind of pain.

16. Great distance doesn't have to end a friendship.

17. Some of the greatest wonders of creation are just outside your front door.

18. Faster is not always better.

19. Whining never makes miserable people happier.

20. You are never so far from Jesus that you can't get to him with one step.

21. Handwritten notes sent in the mail are a good way to brighten someone's day.

22. If you do something the lazy way, chances are you're gonna have to do it again.

23. Apologies can be hard.

24. You are just as flawed as everyone else.

25. Everyone is good at something.

26. No one is good at everything.

27. Ordinary things are often the best things.

28. Spiders and bees are not out to get you.

29. Dogs are funny.

30. Cats are funnier.

31. The unborn are people worth protecting.

32. Punctuation matters.

33. Some adults never learned how not to be bullies.

34. People can disagree about issues, but still be good friends.

35. Creativity is not just for artists and writers.

36.  Life is full of unexpected moments, both good and bad.

37. The world is a fascinating, and sometimes scary, place.

38. Forgiving someone is more for your benefit than theirs.

39. Even the smartest people sometimes act like idiots.

40. Every day is an opportunity to live and love and grow.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Ten Things a School Visit Will Teach You (if you don't already know)

I did my first author visit this week! That involved reading WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? 18 times to kids in preschool on up to 5th grade. I talked about my "author's toolbox," summarized the "idea to finished book" process, passed out bookmarks and coloring pages, and played a team building game with groups of energetic 3rd through 5th graders.

Doing my first school visit taught me a few things, and reminded me of a few others. Whether you are an author like me, an illustrator, or have some other job that could lead to you sharing with a classroom full of elementary students, here are ten things the experience may teach you:

1. Kids are the best kinds of people.

2. Even "big kids" like fifth graders enjoy picture books.

3. Kids always laugh at the word "butt."

4. In the course of your visit, some child is likely to hiccup, burp, fart, or all of the above (expect laughter for that last one).

5. Kindergarteners seem to have small bladders.

6. Props are your friends! Because of the building aspect of WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?, I brought along a tool box and a hard hat. The kids especially loved the hard hat, possibly because I let them knock me on the head while I wore it.

7. Schools can be cold. Bring a sweater!

8. Kids love word searches! And coloring! And mazes! So, provide a packet with a variety of activities to go along with your book.

9. To an eight-year-old, two years is a very long time. During my time with a class of third graders, I explained that it took two years for WHAT ABOUT MOOSE? to be published once it was accepted. Overheard as the kids were leaving: "Two years! I can't even imagine. I would be six!"

10. You don't have to work hard to be impressive. The fact that you wrote a book makes you a hero in the eyes of a child. They want to hear about it! And they may even ask for your autograph.

And a bonus:

11. If you have an unexpected coughing fit during your reading, just tell the kids you accidentally inhaled a gnat. They'll be grossed out and amused just enough to buy you some time.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

End of Summer, again

My goofy family
It's Wednesday. It's the last week of summer vacation. And I am feeling a little odd about that. Normally I get to this point in the year and I'm all excited about making the last week of summer lots of fun for my kids.

But this year is different.

This year nobody wants to go swimming or biking or hiking or picnicking at the park. Because it's too hot. Or they haven't shaved their legs. Or they made plans to join their friends online to play Call of Duty.

It's all another symptom of having kids who are nearly grown up.

It isn't that we haven't had a good summer. We drove to Kansas City. We rode roller coasters, shopped at Ikea, and visited a tree house. We had a tea party with friends. We went to see Jurassic World and Ant Man. We stayed at a cabin with relatives and toasted marshmallows and talked around the campfire until 2:00 a.m.

We even launched WHAT ABOUT MOOSE?, which was a new and exciting experience for all of us!

But the last week of summer vacation is here, and I have spent most of my time working on a new picture book while my kids busy themselves with their own thing.

And I don't feel bad about that at all.

Just odd.