Published: Sally the Sad Shape

Sally the Sad Shape is available!  I’m very proud to launch this little book, the first in the Moodrangles series, books about big emotions for smallish people.  Sally is a little shape in a very sad mood, and she tries everything to change it.  It isn’t until she makes a new friend that she learns to see her mood in a different light.  I wrote this book to let preschool and elementary aged children know that being sad is something that we all go through, and not something that they have to “fix.”  The charming illustrations by Steve Ogden Art and use of humor make it an entertaining read for kids and adults.  Available right now at Amazon or autographed through the Little Voices Publishing website.

Writery Stuff:  I’ve learned an enormous amount about self-publishing by launching this little book.  I haven’t found the downside yet.  I’ll let you know if I do.

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Waiting Is Boring, I Think I’ll Start a Business: Little Voices Publishing

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Unsurprisingly, sending queries to agents is a long, drawn out process.  First, the agents you find in your genre have to be accepting queries and submissions.  You find the magic window, and send whatever combo platter that particular agent is looking for–one wants a #3, the next just wants a letter a la carte, the next wants the whole thing translated into Esperanto.  Then….you wait.  If you’re doing it according to industry guidelines, you don’t have it out to 100 agents at once, just a handful.  You get those responses or wait for a reasonable amount of time…and then you send some more.

The Tiny Giant hasn’t been out to many people so far, and I’ll let that run its course.  You have to.  Traditional publishing is still the best scenario–they have resources, you have ideas, they can help you get the best version of your ideas to the most people.

That doesn’t mean I sit around waiting for six months, though.  In the event that I don’t connect with just the right agent at the right time for magic to commence, I’ll pay a professional editor and self-publish The Tiny Giant under my brand spanking new publishing imprint: Little Voices Publishing.  Self-publishing is in many ways indistinguishable to the consumer now–you can set it up on Amazon, it can be an e-book, it’s print-on-demand and shipped directly with their free Prime shipping.  The days of buying 100 copies from Vanity Press® and trying to hawk them at the Grange Hall are behind us.  If you build your small business, and someone wants to come buy you out later…well, that’s fine too.

The cost of having this little business is not small.  I have applied for all of the licenses and permits, and I’ll have a pile of additional paperwork to do at the end of the year.  I’m still up in the air with City Hall about an environmental impact study they said I had to do if I wanted a business license.  I think City Hall is going to rule that I don’t need a business license at all, since I don’t really produce anything.  (I would be insulted, but that’s the easiest option and saves me $45.)  Then there’s the time involved.  There’s a website (http://www.littlevoicespublishing.com) and a Facebook page I’m building and updating.  I might even get some ding-dang paper business cards done.  None of this is writing stories–it is a J-O-B.

All of that infrastructure is nearly ready.  Then I’ll just let it sit there and…..ha ha ha, no, I won’t.  That would be fine if I had no other ideas, but lack of ideas has never been my issue.  In March, Little Voices Publishing will launch the first book in the Moodrangles series, Sally the Sad Shape.  This pause…it’s an opportunity, and I would be a fool not to use it.  Written by me and illustrated by Steve Ogden (Magnificatz), Sally the Sad Shape is a charming story about a mood that we all experience.  The Moodrangles series intends to honor the complex emotional lives of children with humor and empathy.  I’ll update here with more details when it’s available.  Until then…I have some more website stuff to put up, and those business cards to design, and copy to write for the Amazon page, and, and, and.  It’s real, it’s fun, and it’s turning out to be really fun.

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If You Give a Mom a Dustrag

This is in no way inspired by my actual table which is only 4 years old.

This is in no way inspired by my actual table which is only 4 years old.

If you give a Mom a dustrag, she’s going to want to clean the windows.
When she cleans the windows, the sun is going to shine on the table.
Mom will see that the table needs a good going over.
She might get carried away, and decide to clean the whole table.
When she’s under the table, she’s going to see the stickers you put there.
While she’s peeling off the stickers, she’s going to notice that the finish on the table is a little worn.
She’ll want to refinish the table, so she’ll need to go to the store.
While Mom is at the store, she’ll buy a refinishing kit, a gallon of milk, something for dinner, and some cookies.
When Mom gets home, she’s going to refinish the table. The table will look so good, Mom will want to redecorate the whole house!
Dad will say no.
By this time, you will be hungry. You will whine to Mom that you need a snack.
Mom will give you a cookie and some milk.
If Mom gives you some milk and a cookie, you will sit at the newly refinished table to eat it.  Chances are…you will spill your milk all over the &^*% place, and Mom will need to find her dustrag.

 

(My hat-tip is to Laura Numeroff for such a signature rhythm.  If you have little people, the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” series books are very cute and good at bedtime.  Pretty sure Felicia Bond will not be contacting me to illustrate.)

Rigate Regalia

My Macaroni Necklace

I like my macaroni,

Better than a pony.

I don’t have to feed it,

In fact, I can eat it.

 

I have a preschooler, therefore I get all kinds of gifts made of various things that are inexpensive and hard to break.  This was a special “surprise,” and I proudly wore it the entire day.  It has a magical power.  It makes me remember how very small they still are.

17 Ways to Ruin Macaroni and Cheese

Recently, I saw a Facebook post about someone’s otherwise accomplished eight-year-old having trouble making macaroni and cheese.  I was not surprised by this.  After 30 years of making macaroni and cheese, I have issues regularly.  The little people who crash at my house eat the stuff about once a week, and I have become the world’s foremost expert on every way to make it wrong.  There’s a trophy and complimentary tickets to the local Museum of Cat Hoarding for being “foremost.”  I suppose I would rather be “hindmost,” but there’s no consolation prize.  I would always have delicious, non-ruined macaroni and cheese…that’s something, I guess.  If you would like to join me in the quest to be the hindmost, please learn from my mistakes.

  1. Buy the wrong box of macaroni and cheese.  You think they will not know the difference if you slip a batch of store-brand in the cart, and it’s half the price.  Maybe you think that since you’re likely to end up scarfing the leftovers out of the pan as “lunch,” you’re entitled to a fancy flavor like White Cheddar® and you decide that the kids will be “fine with that.”  Maybe you think that they really should be eating more organic foods, so you buy Whole Foods Kobe Macaroni and Brie.  This is not going to go well.  Kids are very brand loyal.  They know what they like, and they don’t want to support competitors.  What if Kraft went out of business because you got all whimsical one day?  WHAT IF THAT HAPPENED?

    Oh, Kroger brand...you are many things, but "Original" isn't one of them.

    Oh, Kroger brand…you are many things, but “Original” isn’t one of them.

  2. Buy the wrong shape of macaroni.  There used to be one shape of macaroni, the tubes of pasta with no ridges.  Period.  Now they are shaped like all kinds of nonsense.  Do you sometimes wish you could bite Dora’s head right in two?  Now you can!  But what if your kids don’t like Dora?  Do you want them seasoning their nutritious meal with their tiny, sad tears?  My kids like Annie’s.  As we are about to discuss, they had a strong preference for a while toward the traditional noodle.  Nothing like making a box of the cheesy, only to have Thing One stare at it and refuse to eat it because it looks like bunnies.
  3. Have the kids contract a violent stomach virus the day of the eating of the macaroni and cheese.  This….is why we couldn’t eat the bunnies for a looooooong time.  Oh.  Wow.  It was really bad.  Cute little bunnies projectile vomited all over the house for an entire day.  I can’t really blame Thing One for not wanting back on that horse right away.  It was the worst stomach virus in many years (I know because I enjoyed it later that day).  Quite enough to put you off your feedbag entirely, let alone the whole day-glo orange bunny thing.
  4. Undercook the macaroni.  *crunch crunch crunch crunch crunch*
  5. Overcook the macaroni.  I cook the macaroni a bit longer than the directions because someone in my house has been teething for the last 4 years.  Cooking it for an extra minute is fine.  Cooking it for an extra 10 minutes because someone had a diaper emergency that was not going to wait is not recommended.  At the point where all the water in the pan has been absorbed into the noodles, you have messed up.  Start over.

    This macaroni is slightly overcooked.

    This macaroni is slightly overcooked.

  6. Dump the macaroni into the sink.  My supercool technique for draining the noodles is to hold the colander above the sinkful of dishes with one hand and pour the scalding, boiling water into the colander with the other hand.  I didn’t see this technique in the colander handbook, so I think I invented it!  Where’s my patent application file?  Anyway, when you pour the boiling water over your hand, suppress the agonized cursing and fling the colander into the sink.  Since there are dirty dishes in the sink (see above), the macaroni will no longer be sanitary.  Start over.
  7. Drain the macaroni poorly.  Yummy.  Mushy noodles swimming in a lake of diluted powdered cheese sauce.  “That cheese flavor is plenty strong.  I think I’ll put a little water in there so it goes further.”  If you had a thrifty mom, you probably drank a lot of orange juice with an extra can of water in it.  That principle works almost as well for cheese sauce.
  8. Use margarine.  Or use butter.  I grew up on mac and cheese with margarine.  My kids eat it with butter.  It tastes WEIRD.  It’s amazing how different this tastes.  If you are used to one thing, the other thing will make the macaroni and cheese taste like it is quite wrong.
  9. Put in too much milk because you didn’t measure it.  I have done this so many times.  Of course I can eyeball it.  Stand back, I’m a professional.  *GLOMP*  Crap.  That is too much milk.  OOOOOOOOOOOOOOHHHHH well.
  10. Mix the powdered “cheese” in improperly.  Want an appealing visual presentation?  Imagine if you will, a Mickey Mouse bowl with a pile of slightly overcooked macaroni, and clumps of unmixed powdered cheese product sitting atop it.  Orange, lumpy and DELICIOUS.  I can only imagine what biting into a nugget of gritty, concentrated powdered cheese flavoring is like.  I can only imagine this, because I spend 10 minutes picking out the unmixed bits.  Can’t stand the thought of it.
  11. Scald the milk while trying to melt the butter on the hot burner.  It takes such a dreadfully long time to make macaroni and cheese.  It’s really hard to stir the noodles until the butter melts.  Instead, take the empty pan, throw the butter and milk and cheese powder in, and put it back on the hot burner.  Then, turn around to provide some “gentle direction” to the darling children.  By the time someone is in timeout, the milk will be burnt, and the powdery cheese will have become an amalgam suitable for long term fluorescent dental repairs.
  12. Put things in or on it to make it taste better.  Oh dear.  You sprinkled actual cheese on the macaroni and cheese?  It is a little known fact that you cannot put actual cheese and powdered cheese (anti-cheese) together in the same bowl without dire consequences.  The reaction of cheese and anti-cheese will not only create a potentially explosive situation, but possibly creates a rift in the space-time continuum that turns your simple lunch into a 90-minute ordeal.  Don’t do it.  It ain’t broke.  Don’t fix it.

    No one will appreciate this addition to the plate, coming or going.

    No one will appreciate this addition to the plate, coming or going.

  13. Put things in to make it healthy and/or a “complete” meal.  Did you know tuna can add a kick of nutritious protein to an easy macaroni and cheese meal?  Or that broccoli can give it a vitamin-packed punch?  The kids don’t.  They have no idea.  They don’t care.  No amount of discussion will convince them that a bowl of macaroni and cheese with some sort of strange debris in it is “better” than the original formula.

    Now part of this complete breakfast!

    Now part of this complete breakfast!

  14. Don’t cool it off enough.  “Hey kids!  Here’s a bowl of steaming hot lava ready to sear your tongue to the roof of your mouth!”  This is never a good way to start off lunch.  My kids do this adorable double-take grimace when I burn them with hot, hot food.  Bonus points for metal utensils in order to get both top and bottom of the mouth.  Because of the nastiness of added water, an ice cube is not an option.  I end up either putting it into the refrigerator or blowing on it.  A lot.  I have great lung capacity.  I have sat next to my son and cooled every single spoonful after an initial burning mouthful more than once.
  15. Serve it with the wrong utensil or in the wrong bowl.  The bowl is the bowl is the bowl.  No Mickey bowl?  Make something else, Mom. AND, we eat this with a spoon.  Not with a fork.  We did that yesterday.  We are DONE with that.
    Appropriate Presentation

    Appropriate Presentation

    Inappropriate Presentation

    Inappropriate Presentation

  16. Serve it cold.  At the point where the savages have been satisfied, there may be a scrim of saucy noodles left in the pan.  DO NOT be tempted to eat them at this point, unless you will not have any chance to eat anything else for several hours.  Cold macaroni and cheese is like the undead, zombie version of the stuff.  It still sort of looks like the original, but the life has gone out of it.  The only thing it can remember to do is kill.  Just don’t.
  17. Make it from a recipe, and not from a box.  This is going to be really great, kids.  I am going to spend all afternoon making macaroni and cheese for dinner.  I am going to use four different kinds of cheese.  I am going to make a loaf of bread, and then make bread crumbs out of HOMEMADE bread.  I am going to use corkscrew pasta in order to pick up as much of the delicious cheese sauce as possible.  I am going to bake it in the oven for an hour, then broil those magical bread crumbs and a sprinkle of cheese on top until it looks like it belongs in a magazine.  And you are going to refuse to eat it.  In fact, you probably won’t even try it, because the noodles are the wrong shape, there is cheese on it, and there is no box in sight.

Being Uniquely Like 90% of Bloggers

So… where’ve I been?  What happened?  Did I think that last awesome post about socks was the penultimate piece of writing I was ever going to do, and retire to the seclusion of my private island?  Well, no.  My private island is currently caught up in some red tape over “somebody can’t own an iceberg” and “polar bears don’t even use money” and “we don’t believe that you bought this from a polar bear.”   If you are still here, I owe you an explanation, and an apology, but it’s not going to be the explanation you expect, and the apology isn’t for not being here writing something funny exactly.

First, I haven’t been writing.  At least, I haven’t been finishing.  That’s pretty much the explanation.  I haven’t finished anything because I have been trying to get more sleep.  It turns out that getting five hours of sleep every night sort of does in a person’s ability to be a full-time parent and general purpose human being.  In a bid to improve everything, I’ve been trying to be in bed by 11:00PM every night.  Yes, “trying to be in bed by 11:00PM.”  And still failing part of the time.  Let me walk you through our “routine.”

Just a regular, non-preschool day:

8:00AM Get out of bed after checking Facebook, put coffee in self and self in shower

8:30AM Wake up Thing One (four-year-old boy) and Thing Two (two-year-old girl)

8:30 AM-6:30PM  All hell breaks loose and nothing gets done that is not immediately undone, or offset by something else

6:30PM-9:30PM Dinner and running and maybe some time to start the cleaning while Daddy entertains, then the LONGEST BEDTIME ROUTINE EVER

9:30PM-11:00PM (or 12:00AM, really) Dishes, laundry, cleaning, ice cream, prepare to do it all over again

Writing would happen after that last part.  I thank my lucky stars that the kids are not early risers.  It would have made my life an unbearable tragedy.  If you have children without the curiousity of 1,000 experimental scientists and the energy of supernovas, good for you.  I’m sure you have a nice routine that works for you.  My kids?  Not so much.  They are bright, and fun, and enthusiastic, and generally pretty happy…and as messy as a pair of cyclones.  There is currently a mural all over the basement done in sidewalk chalk.  There are Duplo blocks in a drift across the floor.  Thing One was reading some books today, so there’s a pile of books in the living room.  Thing Two was playing with the play kitchen, so there are fake bananas and plastic cans of peas on all three levels of the house.  All of her stuffed animals are out because they each needed a cuddle in her Big Girl Bed.  Etc… etc…

And the point of that ramble was… ummmm…  oh.  Right.  I can’t get that picked up until they are asleep.  No, they don’t take naps.  Naps are the devil.  Naps make them stay up all hours of the night (demonstrating that they don’t actually need one).  I would happily take a nap myself, except I would wake up from a 15 minute nap to a child on the roof and a mess that takes six or seven hours to deal with.

This only took an hour or so to clean up

This only took an hour or so to clean up.  Score!!

And the point of that ramble was… ummmm… oh.  Right.  In order to get more sleep, I have to go to bed earlier than I was, which means no writing time.  I also sleep very poorly a lot of the time, so my 7 hour night is often less.  More sleep.  It’s a worthy goal.  Still just a goal, but I will keep working on it, and probably writing less.  I have some things I need to write, though, so if you’ll stick with me, there will be content.  I will be that friend who never remembers your birthday, but shows up at the hospital with a handmade needlework get-well card.  ‘Cause that’s pretty much who I am.

The apology.  I’m sorry.  I should have told you.  I should have set a more realistic expectation, and I should have posted a note that said, “Hey, I’m not writing anything right now because I’m exhausted.”  Now that I’ve said something, I am actually writing again, so it doesn’t really make sense.  It’s like I’ve come to explain my prodigality at the moment I want to come in and have a seat on the couch, and that is lame.  Bloggers stop blogging every day.  It’s not a special circumstance when a blog peters off into nothing…but I don’t like to think that I created a link with a reader only to flake out like all the little starry-eyed bloggers out there with big hopes and small work ethics.

All that said, I don’t have a resolution to “get back on schedule.”  I am still too exhausted to commit to that.  I will, however, say that I am still here.  I am working.  I promise not to clutter up your reader with a bunch of posts just to have posts.  I will have some new work out here soon, though, and it will be lighter than the things I started and didn’t finish.  You should be happy.