DIY Backyard Activities.

There is still plenty of summer left to enjoy.  You can get kids out of the house and keep them busy by making your own backyard a fun-filled oasis for the kids.  Besides the usual sprinkler, water balloon fights, and assorted water games, check out these really cool outdoor activities from Buzz Feed.  There’s backyard dominoes, lawn twister, bean bag toss, giant bubbles and a do-it-yourself slip and slide.

Many of the activities use things already on hand, so there is no need to invest in new gadgets.

hopscotch

https://www.buzzfeed.com/cieravelarde/suns-out-funs-out?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Parents%20614&utm_content=Parents%20614%2BCID_04fc34111fe2dc9b39baa67b7b04ef20&utm_source=BuzzFeed%20Newsletters&utm_term=.poglK3NawX#.cdy5Aw7rVb

summer pic

Happy summer fun!

Advertisements

Starry, Starry Night: Stargazing 101

For a unique and fun-filled family evening, pack up a thermos of your favorite beverage, some cookies or other snacks, flashlights, and a few blankets.  Then head out to an open field or playground where you can view the stars.  The best viewing sites are those where there is little interference from ground lighting.

Kids will enjoy using binoculars as well or a portable telescope if you have one.  Leave electronic devices in the car.  All you really need is your eyes and  a willingness to relax, lie down on the blanket and watch the sky.  Play a game of “connect the stars” to make figures like ancient astronomers did with the constellations.

milky-way-071015-1

For serious star gazers, the best spots to view them around the country can be found at http://www.wholeliving.com/starstruck.

How to “BEE” Kind to Bees.

For thousands of years, honeybees have transformed flower nectar into that wonderful sweetness called honey.  Not only is honey a delicious treat in recipes or to sweeten a cup of tea, it has many medicinal properties as well.  Due to its sterile qualities, doctors used it as wound dressings during the civil war.

Honeybees are important in another crucial way – as pollinators of our food supply.  The USDA estimates that “about one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination”.  Some crops, such as almonds, rely completely upon honeybees for propagation.

So what, you might ask?  Honeybee populations are dwindling worldwide from a combination of factors that contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder. This happens when worker bees leave behind a colony with only a queen and a few immature bees, resulting in death of the colony. Currently the main factors are thought to be: viruses, parasites, management stressors, migratory stress and pesticides.  To view a film on CCD: http://www.vanishingbees.com

Honeybees are one of many indicators of a healthy environment.  A disturbance in their life cycle, could be a symptom of larger issues.           

HOW CAN WE HELP?

  1. Buy organic to help reduce pesticide use.  Refrain from use of pesticides in your own yard and garden.
  2. Plant pollinator-friendly plants such as bee balm and red clover.
  3. Buy local and single producer honey to support small scale bee keepers in your own community.
  4. Enjoy the wonderful taste of local honey in your own recipes.

BEE KIND TO BEES…Our Food Supply Depends on it!

 

Give Your Backyard Critters, and the Earth’s Creatures Some TLC.

We are ALL interconnected and part of the chain that feeds and sustains life on earth. Wondering how you can help protect the most vulnerable critters on our planet? There are FIVE simple things all of us can do to help make a difference for the creatures who share the earth with us. 

1. Bee populations are disappearing, which effects food crops around the world. Help LOCAL HIVES by adding a “bee bath” to your backyard. Fill a shallow dish or birdbath with water and pebbles or marbles to welcome these pollinators into your garden.

bee

2. You can help protect CORAL REEFS by replacing your regular sunscreen for one that does not contain OXYBENZONE. This ingredient damages the delicate reefs.

3. I’ve mentioned this one on numerous posts: FEED MONARCH BUTTERFLIES by planting MILKWEED in your garden. This is the only plant these endangered creatures lay their eggs on and the caterpillars eat. You can get get milkweed seeds in your local National Wildlife Federation office.  http://www.nationalwildlifefederation.org

milkweed

Milkweed from my garden. Bonus: it also attracts bees.

4. Eat seafood that is sustainably caught and protect whales and dolphins from getting trapped in fishing nets. Download the Seafood Watch app to identify businesses that serve and sell sustainably sourced seafood.

5. Help the endangered Sumatran tiger from losing its habitat to coffee growers. Make sure your brew is Rainforest Alliance certified. This means the beans are grown  and harvested in a sustainable, animal-friendly way.

Take Me Out to the Ball Game.

Baseball season is here!  As fans know, there is a LOT more to the game than mere sport.  Each team has its own traditions and each ballpark its own atmosphere. Here are some of the wackiest:

Sausage Racers: At Miller Park in Milwaukee, WI, costumed cased meats take to the field during the sixth inning for a foot race.  check it out at: http://www.brewers.com

Disappearing Lighthouse: When the Seadogs hit a home run at Hadcock Field in Portland, ME, attention turns to center field.   A foghorn plays and a 16 foot retractable lighthouse emerges from behind the fence with a shower of roman candles.   http://www.seadogs.com

Giant Wheel: Modern Woodmen Park, Davenport, Iowa.  To get the best view for watching the Quad Cities River Bandits, ride the 120 ft. Ferris wheel that overlooks left field.  Plus, the ride’s LED lined spokes provide a laser-like show for those sitting in the grandstand.  http://www.riverbandits.com

Here are some other unique ballparks to check out:

http://www.ridersbaseball.com

http://www.padres.com

http://www.fightins.com

http://www.loons.com

http://www.biscuitsbaseball.com

To get the kids in the mood for a day at the ballpark, try reading some great baseball themed books chosen by kids:

http://www.readbrightly.com/10-baseball-books-kids-say-home-runs/?sid=302&mcg=29DBD02CB53302C9E0534FD66B0A0B59&ref=PRH0563577803&aid=randohouseinc13256-20&linkid=PRH0563577803&cdi=2AEB03AD52D94BE9E0534FD66B0A7FAD

Some FUN BASEBALL FACTS:

– Highest price ever paid for a modern day baseball card is $99,100.00 for a Derek Jeter rookie card  in May 2018.

Every baseball has 108 stitches. 88 inches of waxed thread is used to stitch each ball.

Which team is your favorite, and what’s your favorite ballpark tradition?

Go Treasure Hunting!

If you’re looking for a different family trip or activity this summer, why not give LETTERBOXING a try? Never heard of it? Letterboxing combines hiking with treasure hunting for a fun and unique experience for the entire family.

Letterboxers put small, weatherproof boxes in public places like city parks, campgrounds, state forests, and the like. Then they post clues online for adventurers to follow. The whole family can get involved in puzzling through the directions while visiting new places.

All you need to get started: a notebook, pen, ink pad, and rubber stamp.

file000638110879

1. Visit http://www.letterboxing.org  or  http://www.atlasquest.com for tips on how to find a hike near you. Then crack the code or follow clues to find the letterbox.

2. When you discover a box, there will be a logbook and a Rubber Stamp. MARK YOUR BOOK WITH THE BOX’S STAMP, SIGN THE BOX’S BOOK, AND STAMP IT WITH YOUR OWN STAMP to prove your family found the treasure.

letterboxing

3. KEEP IT GOING by looking for letterboxes on trips and vacations or by making your own letterbox for  to find.

Happy Treasure Hunting!

Let’s Talk Book Titles.

A few months ago, I took an informal survey of fellow children’s book authors asking them if their original titles were the ones used on the published book. I was surprised that most were able to keep their titles at publication. Those that ended up with different titles decided they were better choices for the book. Only one hated the final title chosen for their book.

In my case, BOTH my middle grade historicals ended up with different titles than I’d started with. When I submitted the manuscript for WHEELS OF CHANGE, it had the title THE CARRIAGE MAKER’S DAUGHTER, which is what the story is about. But, the editor thought we would be in danger of excluding boys from reading this book with that title. Boys and girls love the book, so the editor was spot on for that choice.

WoCCover01

My soon-to-be-published second historical had the working title of FISH, WISH AND OTHER FOUR LETTER WORDS.  This was the title I woke up from a dream with and it helped guide me through the poems that make up this novel-in-verse. Many of the entries were indeed four letter words.  But, we all know that kids would see that title and come up with all the WRONG four-letter words!  So, it was no surprise that the title was changed, and is now WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY.  (Cover reveal to come soon…)

For those of us who lament and wonder why our editors seem to want to change titles, take heart.  Be thankful that someone is looking out for you and wants your book to be well received. That isn’t always the case as you can see in these awful titles of actual children’s books:

book cover

The-20-Worst-Childrens-Book-Titles-Ever-014-550x579

Bad-Childrens-Book-Chicken

worst-funniest-book-titles-covers-19

Here is a link to the Worst Book Titles Ever.   

https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=worst+children%27s+book+titles&id=51473B7FE15F5112ED55100AB788D3D8656A8D32&FORM=IQFRBA

 WHAT’S THE WORST TITLE YOU’VE EVER SEEN? Share it here and enter to win a signed copy of WHEELS OF CHANGE.

I’ll let you decide which one is the worst. Makes me grateful that the changes editors have made for most of the children’s books out in the world are for the better.