Travelin’ Food, Then and Now

By Ellen Buikema

Travel cookies, from

When I was very young, my parents gathered snacks for us to bring on trips—travelin’ food for the family.

These treats often consisted of sweet things to keep my brothers and me quiet in the backseat while my father drove along country roads and highways. My mother was tasked with navigating using a map or paper TripTik from the American Automobile Association—or as we called it—triple A.

On the Road

Adventure driving, without maps, frequently left us lost, which annoyed my mother to no end. She took to stashing maps of Illinois and Wisconsin in the car’s glove compartment, just in case. We three kids, sitting in the backseat of the rusty, green Chevy with a small hole in the floor, didn’t pay much attention to the road while eating our way into sugar comas.

I sat between my brothers to act as a human seatbelt, throwing my arms across them if Dad stepped on the break too quickly. Also, I served as a buffer between the two boys in case they decided to swat each other as we traveled. Being the eldest was not fun.

Shopping Solo

Eventually, deemed old enough to walk to the candy shop on Lake Street in Oak Park, Illinois, by myself, I freed my mother of at least one chore. Told that I had great taste in candy and chose a nice variety, I headed to the candy shop to purchase five pounds of mixed candies for the next trip.

Opening the old wooden door of the shop, I stepped into a wonderland filled with giant barrels of candies—a sensory delight to the eyes and nose.


Sometimes mom sent me sugar shopping too early. The candy would disappear, and I’d be sent back to buy more. I’m surprised we didn’t have more cavities.

I still bring travelin’ food with us on research trips for writing, recreational daytrips, and sometimes sad trips like a recent one for my brother-in-law’s out-of-state funeral.

Now that I’m in charge of my own health, travelin’ food has changed dramatically, because too much sugar made me antsy, cranky, and hungrier. So, after researching various cookbooks and websites, I found a recipe that would satisfy hunger and keep the taste buds happy. Travel Cookies.

The basic recipe requires three ingredients: almond butter, oats, and bananas. As I can never leave well enough alone, I’ve added a few more. These cookies have been a godsend and freeze well.

Travelin’ Cookies


  • Three large, very ripe bananas, mashed (ripe for sweeter cookies)
  • almond or other nut butter, ½ cup
  • rolled oats, 2 cups (quick or regular, not instant)

Optional additions:

  • chocolate chips, ½ cup
  • crispy cereal, ½ cup
  • raisins or dried cranberries, ½ cup
  • vanilla extract,1 teaspoon
  • Monk fruit sweetener,1 tablespoon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • A hint of sea salt (I use a pinch of Pink Himalayan salt)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit / 176 degrees Celsius

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease the pan.

In a mixing bowl add mashed bananas, nut butter, and rolled oats. I also add chocolate chips, real vanilla extract, a beaten egg, Monk fruit sweetener, and a bit of pink salt – for extra minerals.

Drop a glop of cookie dough onto the cookie sheet. The cookie will not spread, so make whatever size you want. Two-inch rounds work for me.

Bake for ten minutes or until the tops of the cookies are golden brown. Some of mine were a tad darker, but that still works. Larger cookies will take longer to bake, so you’ll need to experiment a bit with time.

Let the cookies cool for at least ten minutes before removing them from the baking sheet or parchment paper. I typically slide the parchment paper off the sheet right away, but that’s me.

This recipe made 18 cookies. The number of cookies will vary depending upon the size of the drop full of dough and the amount of goodies added.


If you freeze the cookies on a thin cutting board overnight, and then double bag them in freezer bags, they won’t stick to each other.

About Ellen

Author, speaker, and former teacher, Ellen L. Buikema has written non-fiction for parents and a series of chapter books for children with stories encouraging the development of empathy—sprinkling humor wherever possible. Her Works In Progress are The Hobo Code, YA historical fiction and Crystal Memories, YA paranormal fantasy.

Find her at,, and on Amazon.

Managing Fatigue Levels as a Parent

By Gwen Payne

If you’re struggling to manage fatigue levels as a parent, you’re not alone. Parenting a child through their first few years typically comes with a fair share of fatigue, and oftentimes that fatigue can extend into adolescence and even young adulthood.

Just because it’s normal to feel tired and lethargic, however, doesn’t mean that you do not need to address the issue. Along with assessing your level of fatigue, it’s critical to foster your health and well-being in any way you can. Below, this guide provides some essential advice for navigating the challenges of fatigue as a parent.

Assessing Your Fatigue    

Before you do anything to treat your exhaustion, you will need to evaluate exactly how much fatigue you are battling. While it is best to consult a doctor, there are some signs that you can look out for to get an idea of your fatigue level. For instance, consider the quality of your sleep. Do you frequently have problems getting at least seven hours a night? Does your sleep get disrupted in the middle of the night, and do you sometimes fall asleep during the day?

Another way that you can gauge your fatigue level is to reflect on your parenting. Do you feel like you are doing a good job with your child? Many parents who deal with chronic exhaustion are not confident in their parenting abilities. Moreover, considering how much time you spend care-giving can give you an idea of how fatigued you are.

Addressing Your Fatigue    

Once you have a better idea of the fatigue you are up against, it is time to start taking steps to fight it. Try to find an exercise routine that you can fit into your daily schedule. For getting in a good workout, it’s hard to beat running and HIIT movements. Yoga can also prove effective in improving your strength and reducing stress. Make sure you are eating a nutritious diet and drinking plenty of water as well.

Another thing to consider is finding time to unwind. Whether it’s reading a book, meditating, or taking a long bath, think of relaxing activities you can do in solitude so that you can recharge and be the best version of yourself. Consequently, developing good habits like these can lead to better sleep.

Pursuing Personal Goals  

Establishing goals for yourself and the journey to accomplishing them can do wonders for boosting your daily energy. Maybe it’s time to pick up a hobby that you do each week. Maybe it means returning to school to get that degree you’ve always wanted. If you want to improve your career prospects, earning a degree is a wonderful way to do it. And these days it’s easy to find an accredited online college that offers flexible coursework to fit any schedule. Boosting your credentials will help you in whatever career path you choose.

Avoiding Negative Outcomes 

Lastly, you want to be aware of the negative outcomes that commonly occur as you look to battle your fatigue and pursue your goals. For example, if you relax too much without exercising or taking other steps to boost your energy, it could cause or exacerbate anxiety, stress, and depression symptoms.

If your partner is not pulling their weight while caring for your child, overcompensating for them can lead to increased fatigue and burnout. And while it’s essential to have a support network that you can turn to in hard times, it’s important to avoid putting too much of your burden on them, which can cause relationship issues of its own.

As rewarding as it can be, parenting is anything but easy. Make sure you are evaluating how much fatigue you are struggling with. Take steps to address the fatigue and set out to achieve personal goals. And along the way, look out for the negative outcomes that can be avoided.

* * * * * *

About Gwen

Gwen Payne blogs about ways women can create, fund, and find a balanced work and home life. You can find her at Breaking into Business, The invisible Moms.

Top Image Photo by Mehrpouya H on Unsplash

Preparing Your Kids for School

by Daniel Sherwin

While the threat of COVID-19 remains, the world is trying to get back to normal. With this flurry of activity, it’s important to get your kids armed and ready to continue fighting this unseen enemy. Well With Life offers some great resources to help you prepare your kids for the coming school year.

Healthy Habits

As your kids face another pandemic year, it’s more important than ever to encourage and instill healthy and hygienic habits.

  • Remind them that social distancing is still the best way to help them adapt to the situation.
  • Help them get reacquainted with wearing masks, and remind them why this is necessary.
  • Instill effective handwashing techniques, and ensure they use safe hand soaps.

Healthy Bodies

Putting a premium on your kids’ health is the most crucial thing you can do, as a healthy immune system is still the best way to ward off the threat of COVID-19.

Healthy Homes

While possible exposure to COVID-19 still exists in the world at large — including school, despite best efforts — it’s still wise to take great pains in keeping your home clean and free from virus-carrying germs.

Healthy Learning

Make sure your children are prepared for school, whether it’s in person or online.

We didn’t expect to still be fighting COVID at this point, but here we are. This means we must stay vigilant as parents and engage our kids to keep them protected. It’s the most we can do for now.

Top image via

About Daniel

I’m Daniel. I’ve been a single dad to my daughter (9) and son (6) for three years now. I’ll admit I don’t always know what the heck I’m doing, but every day is definitely an adventure and a blessing. And for that, I’m truly grateful. I noticed that there aren’t a lot of resources out there for us single dads so I thought I’d share some of what’s worked for me here on my website.

5 Tips to Help Your Children Stay Safe Online

Online exploitation is nothing new. Cyberbullies are always crafting new ways to launch attacks on unsuspecting victims. That said, we cannot exempt anybody from internet use. 

How then do we protect our children from the dangers thriving in this digital world?

There’s an increase in children’s Internet usage

Kids, just like adults, have been spending long hours on the internet. This, as they are in search of study resources, entertainment, socializing, you name it.

Unfortunately, this expansion translates to wider exposure to inappropriate content and cyber predators.

To help you meet your primary obligation to your children, which is protecting them, we have compiled 5 tips for you to help your children stay safe online.

●       Use parental controls

Enabling this feature allows you to block certain applications or access to certain websites on your child’s device.  Start by blocking or limiting access for applications or software that can be used to access inappropriate content.

You can also set up restrictions on applications designed for children such as YouTube kids.

●       Install a VPN on their devices

Consider downloading a VPN for security on your children’s devices. This is an effective way to keep spies off your child’s internet traffic. This tool is handy for shared networks such as their school or the shopping malls.

A VPN creates a secure tunnel through which all traffic, sent or received through a secured network, is channeled.

●       Help them set stronger passwords

A strong password is hard to crack. Teach your children the essentials of a complex password such as length and character combinations.

Give them examples of easy to guess passwords and why they should never use them on any online platform. 

●       Walk them through social media privacy

Disclosing sensitive information on social media platforms leaves a strong data trail behind. Unfortunately, it’s very easy to give in to the pressure.

Teach your child about restricting the content or information they disclose on these platforms. For instance, they should not engage with strangers or share photos without your approval. 

●       Teach them about protecting online finances

As banking and e-commerce platforms continue to gain popularity, it’s only prudent that you teach your child some essential money habits.

Sooner or later they will be transacting on these platforms. It is important that they understand the basics of securing their accounts with strong passwords, running up-to-date security software and making smart decisions regarding the platforms they sign up to.


Bottom-line: encourage your children to talk to you

Though it is a resourceful tool, the internet is also full of misinformation and inappropriate content. Much as you may want to be there whenever your child is accessing the internet, your work schedule or other responsibilities may not allow it.

Things can be easier if in addition to the tips discussed above you create a cordial relationship with your child and encourage them to talk to you about their online activities.

Gear towards building confidence in them, so that they feel comfortable discussing anything they are not sure about with you. This way, you will be able to keep track of their online progress and make adjustments where necessary.

Top Image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay

How to Raise Happy Kids Through Every Age

By Leslie Campos

Every parent wants their children to be happy. Giving your kids a happy home life will set them up for a healthy, successful future. But how can you help your child’s happiness flourish as they grow up? As it turns out, raising your children to be successful, confident, and empathetic can help them develop the skills they need to get along with their peers and cope with setbacks as they progress through life. Here are some key tips to help you foster these skills in your own kids.

Practice Self-Care

Raising happy, healthy kids starts with caring for your own mental and physical well-being. Try to carve out time from your busy parenting life to practice self-care. Eat healthy foods, maintain a regular exercise routine, make sure you get enough sleep and spend time doing activities you love. Even shopping can become a healthy self-care practice! Don’t feel guilty about treating yourself to a few things that will make your life easier and a little more comfortable. For example, some supportive maternity clothing can make a huge difference in how you feel during pregnancy and postpartum. Especially if you’re carrying around a baby and chasing after a toddler.

Balance Structured and Unstructured Playtime

It’s no secret that kids love playtime. Whatever the age of your kids, make sure they get a good balance of structured and unstructured playtime. As Verywell Family explains, structured play is play with some kind of purpose or learning objective. Structured play activities can be used to teach everything from fine motor skills to complex mathematical concepts. There are endless ways to encourage structured play at home. Start a new hobby together, break out the board games, or follow an online crafting tutorial. You could even build a playground in your backyard!

Just remember that unstructured play is important too. Unstructured play is described as children-led, improvised play. During unstructured playtime, kids use their imaginations to invent games and create unique activities. Unstructured play is great for keeping your kids entertained during long, rainy weekends when you run out of activity ideas. At the same time, it fosters the development of creativity, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.

Spend Time Outside

Spending time with your kids outside is an excellent chance to instill an appreciation for nature and physical exercise. Unfortunately, kids seem to be spending less and less time outside in recent years. Encourage your kids to get out into the fresh air and explore nature from a young age. And you can even take it farther from home. Whether it’s a bike trail, a walking path, the zoo or even a playground, find ways to help them get outside. If you’re toting a toddler around on your family outings, consider getting a lightweight, affordable umbrella stroller in case they wear out easily.

Teach Interpersonal Skills

Children who are brought up with good interpersonal skills have an easier time making friends, taking on leadership roles, and building professional connections later in life. Teaching interpersonal skills will give your kids the confidence they need to succeed at school and in their future careers!

One great way to support your children’s social skills is by teaching them how to listen to others. Communication games are a fantastic way to practice this. Additionally, try modeling empathy and showing respect when talking to your kids. Setting a good example will help your kids learn how to behave when interacting with others!

Being a parent is a continuous learning process. We’re always looking for new ways to make our children happy and help them grow up into healthy, well-adjusted adults.

* * * * * *

Above Photo image via Pexels

The Making of The Hobo Code

The Hobo Code is a hero’s journey.

Fifteen-year-old Jack takes it upon himself to to help his younger siblings travel from the Midwest to the west coast. He doesn’t relish taking a trip with no money, no idea where they’ll stay, and little hope of success in finding their way across the country. But if they don’t try they may lose each other forever.

Researching information this novel sent me on an adventure with Jack, George, and Hannah. They helped me see things I never knew existed.

Did you know that Los Angeles once had a fantastic railway system?

Transit map of LA 1906

I cannot begin to tell you how many rabbit holes I merrily wandered through, searching for relevant information to bring the novel to life.

There is more information on the research for this not yet published work here to learn more about the journey.

Stories lurk all around.

Some hide in dark closets, under the bed, or in the far back of a dimly lit basement waiting to emerge. They might drift within the clouds on angel’s wings to bring us out of the darkness and into the light.

Stories keep life interesting.

Top photo is on Pinterest

Learn Something New To Restructure Your Brain

I’m Back

Changing our mind literally changes our brain. Exciting as that is, I didn’t anticipate the new language would temporarily hinder my writing.

It’s been an age, maybe two since I’ve posted on my blog. I set aside work on the Charlie Chameleon stories, much as I love them, to write The Hobo Code, a Young Adult historical fiction novel based on my family history. I’ll mention more about that in a future blog.

We’ve been traveling since November of 2018, leaving the United States to wander through central and western Mexico. I cannot believe how much the world has changed since then.

I’ve continued to edit the Charlie Chameleon stories and finish what I hope is my final draft of The Hobo Code during our adventures. During all of this I was thrilled to be asked to contribute to a group named Writers In The Storm. Here’s a post about my attempts to write while traveling in a foreign land.

I promise not to be gone so long. Thanks for sticking with me.


Image by James Smith from Pixabay

6 Ways to Improve Children’s Listening Skills, Plus Games!

6 Ways to Improve Children’s Listening Skills, Plus Games!

We hear with our ears, but listening happens in the mind.

Hearing, we receive sounds. Listening requires more work. While hearing is an ability, listening is a learned skill easiest taught when children are young. The following suggestions can be used anywhere.

  1. Let them choose the topic. If they expresses interest in a topic, show that you are interested, too. Be enthusiastic. Smile. Lean in. Ask questions.
  2. When they rushes in full of excitement, wanting to talk, try to stop what you are doing and give them your complete attention. This sets a wonderful example, showing them how to listen actively when someone else has something to say.
  3. Once a day, set aside sharing time—no electronics allowed. Chances are this sharing may become a good habit.
  4. Tell them what you want and ask questions at a level that they can understand. If the message is too difficult, they will zone you out.
  5. Match your body language with your verbal language. Saying one thing while doing another is confusing, especially for young children.
  6. Pantomime actions when telling a story. This helps them look and listen at the same time as well as keeps their interest.

Children who are good listeners frequently grow up to communicate well with others. This important skill needs exercise, just like a muscle, to grow stronger.

Here is a list of 16 games to play, for home or school, that may improve listening skills.

This site has 15 listening games and 5 apps for young children.

Embedded within this slide share site are some interesting suggestions for improving listening skills. My favorite in this group is Running Dictation. Students are put in pairs: A & B. All students gather on one side of the room. Reading material is on the other side. Student A runs, reads, runs to student B, and tells him/her what is remembered. Student B listens and writes down what’s been dictated. Continue until dictated correctly. This is a great activity for playground or gymnasium—a grand way to combine Language Arts with Physical Education.

Other research:

My Gift to you! Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Elderberry Syrup Recipe

Also known as The Christmas Syrup by my family


  • 2 cups cold water
  • 1/2 cup dried Elderberries
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger root, or ½ tablespoon dried ginger pieces, or 1 teaspoon powdered ginger root.
  • raw local honey (or organic blue agave syrup for a vegan recipe)

Note: You can use this for toppings, like on ice cream, pancakes or waffles. Just keep in mind that it is thin syrup. We use one tablespoon all by itself for health purposes.


  1. Combine the berries and herbs with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat and allow herbs to simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and mash the berries in the liquid mixture.
  4. Strain the berries and herbs through cheesecloth and squeeze out the juice. Or use the spoon and tiny strainer like I do as I rarely keep cheesecloth in the house.
  5. Measure the liquid, add an equal amount of honey or blue agave syrup, and stir in the juice for a few minutes while the berry mixture is still warm, until well combined. Do not boil! Try half the amount of sweetener first and see if you prefer a tarter taste.
  6. Bottle in sterilized glass and keep in the refrigerator.

I make this syrup around the time flu season begins. Back when we lived in New Mexico and lived next door to a B&B, I made Elderberry Syrup for the owners. Neither of them caught colds or flu that season and it was a bad year for flu.

This recipe is based on one from Mountain Rose Herbs. I’ve used their products for years as I tend to have poor reactions to many medicines.

When I first made this recipe, my hubby asked me what it tasted like. I said, “It tastes like Christmas.” I make mine with the Blue Agave. The honey is wonderful but our family preference is for agave. If you decide to give this a try, let me know what you think.

I am not a medical professional and am not giving medical advice. Do not use this if you are allergic to any of the ingredients.

Below are some interesting articles about the elderberry.

Blessings to all.

Body image, Peer pressure and Social Media


How Peer Pressure and Social Media Impact Body Image


Peer pressure is not always a bad thing.

Positive influence to do something pro-social like getting together to clean up a park to make it a friendlier place for children to play, would be fantastic. Social recognition is important to teens and preteens.

picking up trash – Shutterstock

The need for social recognition can be a problem, particularly because teens and preteens are not concerned with risk and often don’t think ahead. What is this thing you call consequences?


Children spend more time using social media than any other waking activity.

Whatever they are exposed to will affect their thoughts about the world around them, as well as their self-view. Teens and preteens are body conscious and highly susceptible to suggestion. Think about the many ads in magazines aimed at teens about hair, skin, clothes, body size and odor.

Don’t even get me started on diet ads. “Eat this and lose ten pounds in one week, no exercise needed!” “You too can have flat abs this summer!”

Body image is an especially important matter to preteens and teens. They are sensitive to peer pressure as well as pressure sent via electronic and print media. The beautiful people on and in the magazines are retouched, “manufactured” so-to-speak. What is shown is a false representation of reality. It is good to be fit and healthy. But perfect? Nah.

The TED talk on the YouTube link at the end of this blog explores body image image and related issues further and is well worth viewing.


American Academy for Pediatrics. (2013) Managing Media: We need a plan.

Buikema, Ellen L. (2014) Parenting . . . A Work in Progress

Current Internet facts

Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model. | Cameron Russell





Chocolate –History, Health Benefits, and Industry Changes

Love of Chocolate

Personal History

My first taste of chocolate was unhealthily early.

Mom left my dad in charge of me while she was out for a while. When she came home, she freaked out because there were brown smudges all around my mouth. Thinking I was hurt, she confronted my father.

“What happened?”

He smiled and said, “I was eating some chocolate kisses and thought since I like them, Ellen probably would too, so I let her taste one. She loved it! See, I held it to her lips and she had a great time snacking on it.”

“Don’t you now that babies aren’t supposed to have chocolate!”

“No, but . . .”

At least, this is how I was told the conversation went. Thus began my very early love of chocolate.

Food of the gods

The Mayans honored a cocoa god. Eating and drinking chocolate was confined to the ruling classes, for sacred ceremonies. The Aztecs used cocoa beans as a form of currency, consumable for the privileged. Montezuma, a 16th century Aztec emperor, drank three gallons of chocolate a day to increase his virility.

Enter the Spanish conquistadors, who brought home chocolate after their search for precious metals in Mexico. The Spaniards kept chocolate a secret until a Spanish princess wed a French king. She brought her love of chocolate to her new home. Chocolate’s popularity spread quickly through Europe.

European powers established plantations in Mesoamerica, depleted the labor pool with European diseases, and imported African slaves to work the plantations.

Slavery continues

After eating countless pounds of chocolate, and sharing it in baked goods and candy with family and friends, I discovered that child slaves were being used in the making of chocolate. I felt sick.

I researched candy companies to see what happened, staying clear of those that continued the practice of child labor and slavery. Children are working long hours with no pay. During an interview with a BBC filmmaker, “one who said he’d been working on a cocoa farm for five years was asked what he thought about people enjoying chocolate in other parts of the world. ‘They are enjoying something that I suffered to make,’ the boy answered. ‘They are eating my flesh.’”

The industry is working on its agreement to reduce child labor in the Ivory Coast and Ghana by 70% by 2020. I hope they follow through. This deadline has already been pushed back several times. In the meantime, I vote with my wallet, purchasing ethically produced chocolate.

Chocolate. What is it good for?


The health benefits of chocolate are many, particularly dark chocolate.

According to Rashed Latif’s article in the Netherlands Journal of Medicine, “chocolate has tremendous antioxidant potential.”  This may have a positive effect in aging, oxidative stress, blood pressure regulation, and atherosclerosis. Chocolate may lower cholesterol, prevent memory decline by improving blood flow, and lower the risk of heart disease–all terrific health benefits.

Chocolate might make us smarter. Caution here. This is a small amount of chocolate, preferably dark. Too much sugar, which is highly addictive, causes cavities and a long list of health problems. Moderation is important, albeit not as much fun as indulging in big bar of chocolatey goodness.







TIP 312: All about the kids by Traci Sanders

This tip is geared specifically for children’s book writers. In addition to romance and parenting titles, I write children’s books.

One of the biggest misconceptions about children’s books is that they are easy to write. “You just throw a few cute words on the pages and some great illustrations, and voila!”

Not even close.

In my opinion, writing children’s books is even more challenging than adult books for a few reasons:

  1. Kids can be picky, and their parents even pickier.

  2. It takes a great deal of time and money to produce a children’s book—much more than most novels, because of the illustrations and formatting, and especially if you plan to publish in paperback.

  3. Every word counts in a children’s book because a line can be too cumbersome to read if it has too many big words, but a child can lose interest if the words aren’t interesting enough.

  4. Children’s books are hard to sell to make your money back—even if they are traditionally published—because of the printing and packaging costs, and the market being flooded with them. 

So, for those who have considered writing a children’s book, be aware that there is not much money to be made unless you are a marketing genius, or you publish traditionally. I have self-published two children’s books so far, but have six more that haven’t gone to illustration yet simply because of what I went through financially and time-wise for my first two. I am considering getting my next ones traditionally published. 

Also, not everyone can write quality children’s books. With nearly twenty years of combined experience teaching toddlers and preschoolers, along with being a mom of three, I know what type of books, characters, and illustrations children enjoy. I also know how long they will typically sit for a book. I’m aware of how parents feel when reading certain books to their children, and some parents will refuse to buy certain books simply because “they” don’t enjoy reading them. 

With that said, here are a few tips for writing children’s fiction:

  1. Read. Read. Read. Just as with writing novels, reading books in your writing genre is crucial to understanding the word patterns and flow. Consider them study guides.

  2. Remember what it was like to be a child. Get down on a child’s level (mentally) and think about what type of books you enjoyed.

  3. Write a unique character. Bears, rabbits and turtles have been done to death, in my opinion. My daycare children enjoy reading stories about unique animals such as raccoons, elephants, tigers, or even unicorns.

  4. Read to your children, if you have little ones. Picture books are geared toward three to eight or ten years of age. Visit a local library or preschool and read to them. Learn how it takes inflection in your voice and pacing within the lines and pages. Children often ask a lot of questions during the reading. Learn how to write engaging, thought-provoking lines to encourage this.

  5. If you plan to self-publish, you must find a good illustrator—one who will work within your timeline and budget. Expect it to take at least six months to have one book ready to purchase. Illustrations take time. If you plan to query agents, and you are an author/illustrator, you can work up a dummy book for them. But typically, they will use their own illustrators.

  6. Join a children’s critique group or submit your drafts to online mommy groups for approval or suggestions. Remember, children’s books involve parents too. They are the ones purchasing (and typically reading) these books.

  7. If you plan to submit to agents or publishers, be ready for rejections and revisions. Even if they accept your manuscript, chances are, they will use their own editors and illustrators. And many times, much of your work will be cut to fit industry standards.

  8. Above all, remember why you are writing children’s books. If you are a true children’s author, you are not doing it for the money; you are writing to entertain children and encourage a love of the written word at an early age.

Be patient with your children’s books. One title can take a year or more to be released. And even authors who secure agents or publishers for one of their books aren’t guaranteed the same amount of representation for all their titles. It’s not uncommon for publishers to reject other books by that same author. Publishers choose what they know they can sell. And even then, it sometimes falls flat.

Keep reading, writing, and making children smile with your words, and you will succeed!

Here are a few adorable children’s titles by a very talented author and friend, Anita Kovacevic.

Here are the buy links:

Winky’s Colours – available in paperback and Kindle

Mimi Finds Her Magic – Kindle 

The Good Pirate – Kindle

Anita was spotlighted on Lulu! Learn more about her here:

If you’d like to check out my latest children’s picture book The Chocolate Monsters,  it’s available for just 99 cents on Kindle! It’s a rhyming story.

The Chocolate Monsters

I’ve decided to give away two prizes during this tour:

*ONE unsigned paperback copy of Before You Publish– Volume I 

*ONE unsigned paperback copy of Beyond The Book –Volume II 

To enter, all you have to do is email me a proof of purchase of a digital copy of either of these two books during the tour.

I will draw TWO winners total, at the end of the tour.

Please email your proof of purchase (can be a screenshot) to




**This tip, and many others about marketing, can be found in Beyond The Book: Tips on publishing, marketing, and networking to build your brand, now available in digital and paperback format on Amazon.

Traci Sanders is a multi-genre, multi-award-winning author of ten published titles, with contributions to three anthologies. An avid blogger and supporter of Indie authors, she writes parenting, children’s, romance, and nonfiction guides.

Her ultimate goal is to provide great stories and quality content for dedicated readers, whether through her own writing or editing works by other authors.








Empathy Makes the World Go Around

             Empathy is an important trait.

            As a mom and educator, I place a high value on our children. To me there is nothing more important than their well-being. I wrote The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon series to address the topic of empathy. I found a way, through these books, to encourage empathy by writing humorous tales about the adventures of Charlie, his horribly obnoxious pet fish, Frankie, and the friends and bullies they meet along the way.

I started thinking about writing a long time before I actually did anything about it.

When I was around 8 years old, my mother had to go into the hospital for surgery. My brothers were sent to live with an aunt, uncle and cousins in the suburbs. I really wanted to go with them—my cousins were a lot of fun to be around—but it wasn’t meant to be. I was driven to my grandparents’ house in Chicago to stay for three weeks. Much to my chagrin, I also went with three weeks of homework.

My grandpa was born on a large farm in southern Ireland. He had a wry sense of humor, told wonderful stories about his life as a boy and his “mad” math teacher, and used to recite poetry to me. I adored his stories, particularly the poems. I developed a great love storytelling from him.

To introduce you to Charlie’s world I’m offering the first volume, New Beginnings, in eBook formats, free for the month of April. , or leave a request for a Kindle version with me at Reviews are appreciated. I rarely send out more than one notification per month. So, no worries there.

I will be adding a page to my website, Ask Frankie, for children to ask questions of the characters in the books. The questions will be sent to the contact page above and answered on Ask Frankie! It should be interesting.





Five Effective Ways to Respond to Tantrums and Meltdowns (by Melissa Benaroya)


Do you wish your preschooler or toddler would JUST STOP WHINING? That your child  would go to bed maybe the second time she’s asked rather than the 100th? That your children would stop fighting, yelling, tormenting each other, making outlandish demands, or otherwise acting outrageously? If only!

Parents tend to complain about our kids’ “out of control” behavior — that our kids don’t listen, don’t behave, or don’t respect us or their siblings. But expecting young children to master impulse control is like expecting them to multiply fractions: not realistic.  Until about age 7, they just don’t have that rational brain that allows for planning, foresight, and considering others.  You can’t change that fact. But what you can change is how you react to your children’s outbursts — and in doing so prompt calmer behavior from them. When you respond with empathy rather than exasperation or outrage your children are far less likely to resist or retaliate.

Our children are going to replicate our behavior and emotional state because that’s how our brains are wired. The idea isn’t to change your children but to change how you show up and communicate with them.

Why their fury sparks our fury

You know how yawning is contagious? Or how watching someone sip an icy cold lemonade suddenly makes you thirsty?  That’s because of nerve cells in our brain called “mirror neurons”.  We humans are social animals and connect through shared emotions and experiences.  So when our children are having a big tantrum, that cues our bodies to react the same way. But mirror neurons can work in your family’s favor, too. When you stay calm, your child’s body will start replicating your emotional state.

Some children are innately more impulsive than others their age and more prone to outbursts. But no matter what your child’s temperament, or your own, you can help them develop self-control by learning to stay calm yourself.

How to respond to tantrums and meltdowns

1. Take a deep breath.

Before you say a word, let alone shout, “Do you SERIOUSLY think it’s OK to whack your brother on the head with a Pokemon binder?” inhale deeply and then slowly exhale. Those few seconds can mean the difference between flipping your lid and keeping it (somewhat tightly) sealed.

If you’re feeling too enraged to even take a deep breath, that’s your cue to exit the room until you’re able to chill out.

2. Start with empathetic statements.

Empathy is the key to unlocking your inner calm.  It’s important to let your child know you understand and accept their feelings before you say or do anything else.

So instead of, “How many times do I have to tell you it’s bedtime? Get in bed NOW!” try, “Yeah, I know, it’s so hard to go to bed when you’re having fun playing!”

A child isn’t likely to dive under the covers just because you’ve shown concern for her feelings. But, empathy opens the door to a child hearing what’s going to come next rather than becoming defensive. When children don’t feel heard, it’s like: Oh, you didn’t hear me? Then I’m just going to say it louder!

Empathy is also a much more effective response to defiance than over-explaining. Our tendency as parents is to go on and on, to repeat ourselves and try to rationalize with our child.  This is irritating to children and causes them to tune us out.

3. Resist the urge to punish.

When your children blatantly defy you or behave unacceptably (see: whacking with Pokemon lunchbox), you may feel like you want to “teach them a lesson” or “show them who’s boss.” You may think doing anything less would send the message: I’m a pushover! Go ahead, walk all over me!

In truth, inflicting shame, blame, or pain on a child will accomplish nothing good. There’s no learning opportunity when you respond with punishment. It just makes children fear their parents. Either they think I hate you or I am going to find another way to get away with this.

This doesn’t mean your child has license to hit, steal from her siblings, or party in her room until midnight. Consequences are fine — your child doesn’t need to like what’s coming — as long as they’re reasonable and delivered respectfully.

In the long run, “We’re going to put these race cars away for the night, and you guys can play with them tomorrow,” will do more for your children than, “Go to your room NOW — both of you! And forget playing with these cars for a week!”

Kids do better when they feel better.

4. Let your child chill.

These days, our children’s lives are so filled with gadgets, activities, and demands that kids often use up their limited reserves of self-control. If we’re constantly asking children to perform tasks or follow our requests they’ll become less and less successful.

Scheduled downtime and small play breaks in chores or homework will help your children recharge, behave better, and accomplish what you need them to.

5. Model self-control and restraint.

If every time your phone beeps you pick it up, you’re not modeling impulse control for your children.  Likewise, if you shout, “Jerk! Nobody knows how to drive around here!” when a car cuts you off, you’re not demonstrating how to remain calm.  We can’t expect children to be able to control their emotions when we don’t.

How you respond to frustration and disappointment will strongly influence how your child responds to these strong emotions. Try, “Oh man, I just dropped the dinner salad on the floor! How frustrating! I’m going to take a deep breath and then I will need to clean up this mess and start over.”

As your children mature, they’ll naturally develop more self-control, but you can make a big difference along the way. Just keep your expectations for impulse control age-appropriate. Toddlers and preschoolers’ brains are still very much under construction.

About the Author: Melissa Benaroya

Melissa Benaroya, LICSW, is a Seattle-based parent coach, speaker and author in the Seattle area ( She created the Childproof Parenting online course and is the co-founder of GROW Parenting and Mommy Matters. Melissa provides parents with the tools and support they need to raise healthy children and find more joy in parenting. Melissa offers parent coaching and classes and frequently speaks at area schools and businesses. Check out Melissa’s blog for more great tips on common parenting issues and Facebook for the latest news in parent education!



12 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress

Reducing holiday stress is key! The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids and adults.

The Silly Season with Kids – How to reduce stress during the holidays. By Karen Young of Hey Sigmund



  1. Let go of the fantasy.

    Don’t buy into the highly-glossed ideas of the way things ‘should’ be. Perfection comes bound together with squabbles and tantrums and hits and misses. It comes in moments. Precious, perfect moments, in between the glorious, ridiculous, chaotic mess that is real life. And those moments happen every day.

  2. Decide what’s important – and let the rest go.

    When it all starts to feel too important, too necessary and too ‘un-let-go-able’, be guided by the bigger truth, which is that more than anything, kids will remember how they felt – as in how happy they were, how loved they were, how noticed they were. They won’t care about the instagram-worthy meals on the table, the cleanliness of the floors, how many relatives they visited, or how impressed other grown-ups were with their clean faces and darling smiles. It’s easy to forget sometimes, that what matters most at Christmas isn’t the tasks, but the people – the ones who would give up pretty much anything just to have the day with you.

  3. There are 365 days in the year. Not everything has to happen over Christmas.

    There are plenty of days in the year for visits, parties, and making a good impression. Decide what’s important for you and your family and let that guide you. If it’s going to stretch the emotional or time resources of your family, rethink it. Not everything has to happen over Christmas. You can love your important people just as hard in the weeks before and after Christmas. Or in January. There’s always January.

  4. When you’re writing your to-do list …

    Don’t forget about you. Once you’re depleted, everything will become harder. But you already knew that. When you have small humans around you, taking time out to replenish can have the difficulty level of climbing Mt Everest, in heels, but a bit harder because Everest doesn’t scream and throw itself at your feet in public places if it misses bedtime. If you can, find ways to nurture your mental health together. Try exercising together (as in walking the dog type of exercise, not ‘let’s run until I can’t breathe’ type of exercise), practicing mindfulness together (taking a mindful walk, coloring in), or meeting up with a friend at the park while your kids play together. These are all ways to take pockets of time during the day to nurture your own mental health when there’s aren’t too many opportunities to take time out just for you.

  5. Let some things drop off the list.

    Give yourself permission to let some of the usual things drop off the list. Does it matter if the house isn’t as tidy as usual? And having ‘bought sushi’ for dinner two nights in a row won’t hurt them a bit. Nor will popping them in front of a movie some afternoons while you take some time out to recharge (and cleaning out the pantry is NOT time out). Whatever it takes. There’s nothing wrong with going into survival mode for a few weeks. And then a few more after that.

  6. Keep it real.

    We’ve all been there. That thing when one stupid little reindeer-shaped cookie turns into six. Or nine. But it always starts with one. And then the rest just kind of happen. It happens to all of us at least once during Christmas. Or on weekdays – sometimes it happens on weekdays. It’s very likely that over the Christmas holidays, you’ll see plenty of instances where your small humans show a breathtaking lack of self-control. If they ‘locust’ the party food, squabble with siblings or other kids, or have early evening meltdowns that have the consistency and stamina of an elite athlete, don’t take it as a reflection of your parenting. It’s not. It’s a reflection that there are some wonderfully exciting things happening that can get the better of all of us from time to time. There are plenty of opportunities for them to learn self-control. Christmas doesn’t have to be one of them. Build them up when you can (a decent breakfast, chats about the rules or good behavior) and let it go when you can’t (as in when they are at a party with party food, because it’s a law of the universe (or if it’s not it should be) that the only ‘power greens’ that should ever be at a child’s party are jellies in the shape of teenage mutant ninja turtles. Anything else is a party food pretender.) When tantrums, squabbles, mishaps or mess-ups feel as though they are punctuating the holidays like commas, breathe, and know that these will be story gold one day.

  7. They don’t have to get it right all the time. And neither do you.

    Every moment that feels like a struggle is an opportunity to teach them something. Whether it’s how to get along with other people, how to cope with the plans changing, how to be patient, or how different they can be when they’re tired or when they’ve had a belly full of sugar. These are all life lessons that will take a while to learn, but they can come supercharged in the holidays. It’s all part of the things they have to experience on their way to being happy, healthy adults one day. Of course, it would be easier if these learning opportunities didn’t come so thick and heavy over Christmas, but sometimes you just have to go with these things. They don’t ruin the Christmas adventure, they’re part of it.

  8. Encourage them to be grateful.

    It’s really normal for kids to have trouble seeing outside of themselves. Empathy and the move away from seeing themselves as the center of the universe takes a while to develop. In the meantime, children’s expectations at Christmas can run high – the food, the presents, the fun, the treats. By encouraging a regular gratitude practice, kids will start to learn to focus on what they have, rather than on what they don’t have. Slowly, they’ll learn to think less about themselves as the center of everything, and more about themselves in the context of others. Encouraging them to give a gift to a charity that is collecting for less fortunate kids than them is one way to nurture this along. Another way is by helping them make a gratitude jar. Each night, ask they name or draw three things they are grateful for. They might need a little hand because at first, they might only think in material terms. (‘Well I’ll be grateful for a FurReal Bootsie cat when I get one but we might need two so it doesn’t get lonely.’) They might be grateful they have a snuggily bed to sleep in, they might be grateful they have people in their lives who love them and miss them when they aren’t around, they might be grateful for their pet … you see how it works. The jar is a reminder of how much they already have. The idea is that it’s harder to be self-absorbed or demanding when your focus is on what you have, rather than on what you want. Be patient though. Building beautiful humans is a process, and it all takes time.

  9. Those little things they love – turn them into rituals.

    We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas magical. Rituals can make this easier. They get the special memories, you get to make the ‘magic’ without having to come up with something new and different each year. It’s very likely that there will already be Christmas rituals happening in your family, even if you don’t realize it. Ask them what they remember most, or what they loved most about last Christmas – aside from the presents. They might surprise you with things you’d completely forgotten about, or which at the time didn’t seem to be any big deal. It can be the simplest things. Maybe they loved the way they were allowed to have ice-cream with their pancakes at breakfast last Christmas morning. If it’s what they remember, and if it lights them up, let it become a ‘thing’. Maybe they loved the magic ‘never-ending carrot’ sprinkles you put on the one scrawny carrot you found in the vege drawer (because you’d forgotten to buy more for the reindeer). You’d be surprised what they remember, and what they find special. It doesn’t have to be big to feel magical.

  10. And about getting along with other kids …

    Sibling squabbles are one thing, but fights can be so much harder to deal with when they involve other kids. It’s important to remember that just because kids are related, it doesn’t mean they’ll get along. If there are cousins for example who get into a scrap every time they’re together, don’t expect that Christmas day will be the day it all sorts itself out. There are plenty of other days for that. Maybe it will sort itself out and maybe it won’t. Maybe everyone will have become a bit easier to get along with since last time they were together, but let them discover that themselves, not because it’s been forced onto them. Of course, it’s important to let them know that they have to share, be kind, not call names, and that sometimes they’re going to have to deal with people they find difficult to get on with, but let it be okay for your child to do their own thing if they want to. Don’t force them to play with the kids they struggle to get along with. It’s their special day too. None of us will get along with everyone. There will be plenty of opportunities for them to learn how to deal with difficult relationships. Christmas time doesn’t have to be one of them.

  11. And when there’s family conflict.

    If you know there are certain topics that will send adult conversation (or the entire the day) into a tailspin, try to agree that these will be no-fly zones on Christmas day. This might be politics, religion, whether football or ballet requires more skill, Kanye’s presidential potential, why your newly vegetarian daughter doesn’t have enough meat on her plate, or any other commentary on your parenting, your partner, or your children. If there is ongoing tension in your family, don’t put pressure on yourself to heal things Christmas day. Try to call a truce for the day, but don’t set your expectations too high with visions of group hugs and long overdue apologies. You can’t always see trouble coming, but when you get a hint that it’s brewing, try to shut it down as quickly as you can. Christmas is not the day to change people’s minds. Especially if they are minds that haven’t been open to changing on anything since 1967.

  12. Manage your child’s expectations. Be clear about what’s expected, and be okay if it doesn’t quite work out that way.

    When you can, start talking to your children about what to expect. ‘So we’ll open our presents, then we’ll have breakfast, then … and in the afternoon, there’s going to be a little bit of quiet time to get your energy back up for when Auntie Louise and Uncle Karl and the kids come for dinner.’ Similarly, if you’re going to somebody’s house and there are different rules, explain the rules as clearly as you can to them. ‘So remember at Grandma’s house, your feet stay on the floor and not on the couch. It’s okay to put your feet on the couch in our home, but in other people’s homes, remind your feet that they need to stay on the floor.’ This is all part of them learning that there are different rules for different environments. Their awareness of this will already be growing. For example, they would probably know it’s okay to wear their togs at the beach, but maybe not to the dentist. Similarly, they’d probably know that it’s okay to yell outside while they’re playing, but that it’s not such a great idea to yell in class.

  13. And finally …

    The holidays are a wonderland of everything that can lead to hyped up, exhausted, cranky, excited, happy kids. Sometimes they’ll cycle through all of these within ten minutes. Sugar will constantly pry their little mouths wide open and jump inside, routines will laugh at you from a distance, there will be gatherings and parties, and everything will feel a little bit different to usual. And a bit like magic.

    Know that whatever happens, it’s all part of what family Christmas’s are meant to look like. They aren’t meant to be pristine and orderly and exactly as planned. They were never meant to be that. Christmas is about people, your favorite ones, not tasks. If focusing on the people means some of the tasks fall down, let that be okay, because that’s what Christmas is. It’s where your favorite small humans see magic happen. It’s not about proving your parenting stamina, or that you’ve raised perfectly well-behaved humans, or that your family can polish up like the catalog ones any day of the week, or that you can create restaurant quality meals and decorate the table like you were born doing it. Christmas is messy and ridiculous and exhausting and there will be plenty of frayed edges. And plenty of magic. The magic will happen the way it always happens. Not with the decorations or the trimmings or the food or the polish, but by being with the ones you love, and the ones who love you right back.

    See for more of Karen Young’s work.



24 Karat Carrot Cake – Boris Bunny’s Favorite

24 Karat Carrot Cake

In the early 80s, while working for an A/V department deep in the dungeon of a major corporation, I received several recipes from an intern in the Advertising department. Of all the recipes, the carrot cake had the most promise. I’ve made adjustments over the years and developed what has been described to me as the best carrot cake ever.

At the end of the blog there is an opportunity to click the cake to have the recipe sent to you. That way you can decide for yourself if this 24 Karat Carrot Cake is indeed the best.

In early December I volunteered to make the cake for a writers’ party.


It had been quite a while since I last made carrot cake, much to my hubby’s chagrin. The last time I made it, I’d used a grater that has a container attached. I looked everywhere, but could not find it. So, I ended up using the flat grater, only scrapped one knuckle, and did not add any of myself to the batter.


Since I was using my older grater there was little to stop the bright orange carrot pieces from flying about the kitchen—only my body and the counter top. This made Bailey, our black lab, very happy. He graciously helped me clean up the pieces that landed on the floor.


The cake comes out of the pans most easily if you “grease” and flour them lightly before adding the batter. Instead of using lard or Crisco, as my mother did to grease the pans, I use an olive oil-butter combination. There are several on the market.

While preparing the pans I tend to get especially messy, hence the use of my old apron—a gift from a principal I worked for in New Mexico. At his school, all the teachers got together near the holidays in the school cafeteria to make cookies with the students. He’d play the piano while we sang and helped students cut out cookies and decorate them after the cookies were baked.

I have never gotten this bumpy batter even in each pan. Close but not quite right seems to work out anyway. Back when we lived near Chicago, one of our neighbors (a former dietician) remarked that there were so many good-for-you items in the cake, she almost felt healthy eating it.



The cake bakes best in the center of the oven. Convection ovens are great! The cake comes out so nice and even! I remember baking two layer cakes, like this one, and ending up with some amazingly angled cakes. It was no fun trying to keep the layers glued together with frosting, hoping the top layer wouldn’t slide right off.

After beating together ingredients for the frosting, I set aside a small amount to use for a decoration on the top of the cake.



Does this picture remind you of a giant Moon Pie?



I could have stopped at this but . . .

Since I can rarely leave well enough alone, I used toothpicks to “paint” a carrot complete with carrot top on the cake. I am one of those people who can taste the red color in some food coloring, so I am careful with what I use. The Wilton gel colors worked out well.

If you would like the recipe for 24 Karat Carrot Cake, click the decorated cake and ask for it on the contact page. I will send the recipe and more to you. Cheers!


Click the 24 Karat Carrot Cake




















10 Mistakes Made by Novice Photographers

10 Mistakes Frequently Made By Beginner Photographers

This is a re-post of a great article by Bradley Stinson, from Softonic with a Copyright in 2016. Bradley posted the 10 worst mistakes he made when he was an amateur photographer. I am including this re-post for those of us who would like to take awesome photos.

Want to boost your photography skills? Bypass the newbie stage with our top ten tips for shooting like the professionals.


Photo: Pixabay – No, not the zoom!

1- Zoom lenses

Sure, they’re convenient, but due to the compromise in image quality they often entail, zoom lenses are rarely recommended even at the best of times. Yet there’s another, perhaps more important, reason why you should avoid zooms: they can promote laziness. Taking a portrait but can’t get everything you want in the frame? Just zoom out to a wider setting, right?


Better to use your legs. The focal length of your lens should ideally be chosen because it gives you the desired optical result, not just because you can’t be bothered to take two steps back.


Photo: Pixabay – No, not the zoom!You’d never think of employing such a trashy gimmick, right? Thought not.

2- Filter-Frenzy

Another common novice mistake is thinking that the use of a few classy filters will turn an otherwise totally uninteresting photo into an artistic masterpiece. Instead, what the rest of us see is merely a boring photo with some gratuitously applied filters. Filters have their legitimate uses, but get the image looking great in the camera and you won’t need to do much in the way of post-processing.


Photo: Pixabay – There’s a time and place for narrow depth-of-field…

3- Inappropriate Aperture

The aperture you set on your lens dictates more than just the amount of light hitting the sensor, it also affects depth-of-field (how much or little of the image is sharp in front of and behind the point of focus). Depth of field is a creative tool. If the background is cluttered and messy you may want to throw it out of focus by using a small aperture in order to emphasize the subject. Conversely, if you’re photographing a wide scene such as a landscape, where foreground and background information is likely to be of equal importance, a tiny aperture and minimal depth of field will look terrible, giving little sharp detail for the eye to settle upon.

4- Inconsistency

One day you’re Sebastiao Salgado, the next day you’re David LaChapelle. Of course, the idea that we all have a ‘true’, fixed personality might be something of myth – so this isn’t necessarily about ‘finding yourself’ – but when you group together a series of images, even if these are just for uploading to social media, you are creating a body of work and this body of work should hold together in some way. Be that aesthetically or conceptually. Make a bold, confident and coherent statement, not a series of disjointed grunts.


Photo: Pixabay – What’s this photo about?


Photo: Pixabay- Ahhh! Well why didn’t you say so?

5- Concentrate on the Action

What’s the photograph ‘about’? What are the essential elements of the ‘story’ you’re trying to tell? Move closer, get in where the action is, and exclude everything superfluous from the frame. Your photo should be a hard punch that homes in on only the most essential elements of the scene to leave the viewer in no doubt as to your intentions, not a weedy, indecisive and noncommittal whisper in the wind. Remember that merely a small part of a person or object will often do the same narrative job as the whole. For example, it might be essential that the viewer understands that there’s a second person present in the photo, but we don’t necessarily need to see the whole of that person in the frame in order to make sense of the story: merely a hand and bit of forearm might tell us all we need to know.

6 – Form over Content

Just because something or someone is depicted in a photograph doesn’t automatically mean they become interesting. A photograph that is not ‘about’ anything, but rather just a pretty composition of light and form, tells us nothing important about the world we live in. Always try to make photos that have something meaningful to say.

7- Editing

While clearly not unique to Millennials, the habit of sharing every single banal moment of our lives on social media has perhaps made us less likely to be selective about the images we show to the world. When you look through the viewfinder and select the right moment to press the shutter, you are editing. This process should also continue after capture. Every photographer – even the masters you idolize – will take bad photos from time to time. The difference between you and the pros? Great photographers keep their mistakes hidden. You should too. Edit, edit, edit.


Photo: Pixabay. Somebody just bought a new fish-eye lens!

8- Mega Wide-Angle Lenses

Wide-angle lenses of course have their legitimate uses, but reaching for one purely in the hope of making an otherwise rather boring scene look more dynamic is not one of them. Once again, if you need to rely upon tricks such as this then you should probably ask yourself if it’s really a photo worth taking in the first place.

9- Underexposure

You already know that turning up the ISO dial will likely result in increased digital noise, so you avoid it unless really necessary, right? Great! However, bear in mind that noise can often be reduced in post-processing, whereas there’s little that can be done to salvage a severely underexposed image. Higher ISO settings exist for a reason. Sometimes you’ll need to use them.

10- Unwanted Blur

Blur has it’s place in the creative photographer’s kitbag, but only when desired and controlled. If you think you’ve captured a winning image, always be sure to zoom in on the LCD to check for sharpness before moving on. When it comes to holding a camera steady at slow shutter speeds, every photographer will have a different level of ability. Identify the point where your capacity to stay stock-still ends and camera-shake begins, and avoid going below this shutter speed. Remember, keep your elbows in and slowly exhale as you press the shutter. Lean against a wall or other firm object for extra support. And if that doesn’t do the trick then you might want to bring a tripod next time.


Why are teens so tired?


Tired teens of the world, wake up and smell the coffee.

 “Just five more minutes, then I’ll get up. I promise.” How many times have you heard that statement?

More time passes. No movement from the bedroom. You awaken a drowsy, cranky, sleep deprived teen. The rush for the day is on!

“Get dressed and ready for school,” you say as you’re walking toward the kitchen. “NO! There’s no way you’re leaving the house dressed like that.” “Wait, have some breakfast!”

Your teen is out and gone. You hope a call won’t come from the school office that your child has fallen asleep in class—again.

There is debate on the length of time an adolescent requires for a good night sleep. Anywhere between 7 and a half and 9 and a half hours are suggested. As everyone’s bodily needs are different, it makes perfect sense that sleep requirements will need to fit the individual. If you need an alarm clock to rise for the day, you’re probably not getting enough sleep. More than just teens are sleep deprived.

There is a biological shift in the internal clock of an adolescent that happens after puberty, a shift of about two hours—later. It is unfortunate that high schools tend to start the school day early as the students are barely functioning when they arrive.

Teens may be up late texting, working, playing online, or studying. Sleepy students are moody, have poor reaction time, poor judgment, and are inattentive. The following suggestions may help.

  • Keep the bedroom dark. It’s hard to sleep when the sun is visible or a streetlight is shining through a window.
  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day.
  • Meditate or nap for a short time after getting home from school.
  • Avoid stimulating activities, food, or drink prior to bedtime.


Self-medicating with caffeine

It is generally not a good idea to consume caffeine before bed, as it will keep many people awake. But some people who were highly active as children self-medicate with coffee throughout the day. It keeps them relaxed and better able to focus—the opposite of the effect for the rest of the population. To a hyperactive individual, stimulants are calming so caffeine may not be an issue for them.

Buikema, Ellen L. (2014). Parenting . . . A Work in Progress. Sun City West, AZ: Running Horse Press Sleepy Teens are Risk-Taking Teens


Talking with Children about Death


Earlier this month, my wonderful father-in-law passed away. This got me thinking about the cycle of life and how confusing the concept of death can be for children who are seldom exposed to end-of-life experiences.

When I worked as a preschool teacher, a mother of one of my Pre-K students came to school with her youngest daughter. Mom’s eyes were red from crying. We walked into the hallway, out of earshot. I asked if she needed help and was told she’d recently discovered that both of her children had been diagnosed with a fatal disease. Neither of them would live beyond their teen years.

Wanting to help, I asked if there was anything that we at the school could do. Looking me straight in the eyes she said, “Just continue to care for my baby. She enjoys coming to school and loves her teachers.” All I could do was give mom a hug. I found it difficult to keep from tearing up during that day.

After speaking with the other teachers, the school’s director and the parent board, we added the topic of death to our curriculum. First we asked the students if they had any pets. The classmates contributed to a graph of the different types and numbers of pets for math. The students dictated stories about pets for language arts.


Later in the week during group time, one of the students mentioned that he had a dog but the dog died and now lived in heaven. My students, still learning how to take turns in conversations, tried to wait their turn to speak about pets that had died, then on to family members.

Preschool aged children do not see death as final. They have no sense of time and do not understand that death is irreversible. If a child is told that the pet or person is only sleeping, he will believe that the loved one will eventually wake up. By age seven, most children understand that death is final and that eventually all livings things die.

Children will have less anxiety about death if they are given the opportunity to discuss it.

My children had several pets during their childhood. When the pets died, we had a funeral for them and talked about what we loved about that particular pet. Our youngest daughter was very sad about the death of her gerbil, Brownie. After the funeral, she sat with me in the living room. “Brownie can’t come back to us, but the part of him that you loved best will live in your heart and in your memory,” I said, “so, in a way, he is with you. It was just his body that died.”

Acknowledging children’s feelings and questions, even on topics that are difficult for the adults in their lives, is very important.


Buikema, Ellen L. (2014). Parenting . . . A Work in Progress (pp. 103-107). Sun City West, AZ: Running Horse Press.

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