Wendy Knuth Author of Moore Zombies, blogging about the human experience.

Tag Archives: #kids

One Of The Most Perfect Gifts For A Toddler!

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Everyone has heard the adage of buying presents for children only to find out they prefer the box.  Well, from experience, it is true.  So today, my good friends, I am here to tell you about one of the most cherished gifts your child will get from you:  An item to bond with, to sleep with, a source of comfort, homemade with love.  Yes, you will beam with pride when other parents ask you, “Where did you buy that?”

From me to you:  Make a pillowcase!

Back in the day, I made a Teletubbies pillowcase for my son.  He loved it – he treasured it for a couple of years.  My other son was meanwhile enjoying the store bought 101 Dalmations bed set, just so you know he wasn’t neglected.

Go to your local store where materials are sold such as WalMart or JoAnns, and you will find a whole new world of options:  Animals of all types (real and cartoony), holiday themed prints, fairies, princesses, flowers, specific sports teams, and copyrighted Disney characters.  What did I find for my boys?  Dinosaurs and construction equipment galore.  Jackpot!

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Worried about your sewing skills?  Don’t be.  I’m not an expert seamstress.  Out of all the things one can sew, a pillowcase is probably one of the easiest, even if you don’t have a sewing machine.  If your work is not up to par, your child probably won’t notice.  But just in case, here is a handy tip from me to you:  Don’t sew ALL the edges together or you will be left with a pillowcase malfunction.  Handy tip #2 – buy a “travel pillow” – it is the perfect size for a toddler, and you’ll need even less material.

A yard of material is dirt cheap compared to your limited selection of pricey bed sets, and you can almost bank on the idea that toddlers don’t know that bedding should match, and really, why should it?  Where is the fun in that?  Live a little!

Alternatively, if you are “one of those people” and just can’t function without the matching set, you can take it a step further.  I actually made (er, um, yeah) dinosaur blankets.  Okay – I didn’t MAKE the blankets.  I bought really cheap blankets and then covered one side with dinosaur material and used a plain blue cheapo material on the other side.  In retrospect the plain blue material was more difficult to deal with since it was very stretchable.  Tip #3:  If sewing is not your thing – don’t buy anything too stretchy.

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My dinosaur blankets each have a large seam running down the middle because often material is sold in smaller widths than can cover an adult sized blanket – did my kids notice?  Nope!  However, after a couple of weeks, one son complained of something pointy in the blanket.  Oops – it turned out I had sewn in one of the pins I had used to keep the edges together.  Tip # 4:  (I think you get the point, yuk, yuk.)

That same young man is now an older teenager.  Out of the numerous pillowcases I made for him, he still has (in his closet) what is now an old, raggedy pillow with the construction print pillowcase.  He is not willing to part with it.  It is a keepsake of his.  Oh my gosh, how worth it is that?

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So pick a print, apply your skills and give the gift of a pillowcase!  Tip #5: Don’t forget to include a pillow.

Since you may not always be able to find what you are looking for at your local store, I am including some affiliate links for themed materials that are always available online:

Outer Space Fabric

Unicorns and Such

 
Tell me how it goes. . .

 

Wendy Knuth

Author of Moore Zombies picture books and chapter books

 

Adventures of Agnes – A Back Story Of Moore Zombies: Big, Bad Wolfbag

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The old bad guy and I had this dog named Agnes.  She was a short haired, brown something or other that we got from the local humane society.  When she was really worked up, her hairline that ran down the middle of her back would raise up, but backwards.  She was the friendliest dog ever, but she was also very intimidating if you were on the other side of the fence.  We got a lot of great comments on her – personality, personality, personality, Type A.

Agnes was quite often, a pain in the rear.  She was definitely an alpha female.  So much so, that she would raise her leg to go the bathroom, she wasn’t letting the males have anything on her.  I have blogged about her issues with skunks.  I almost put something into Big, Bad Wolfbag about skunks but I felt I already had enough material.  So then there was the toad thing.

One day, I heard Agnes barking her brains out in the backyard.  Yes, she was drooling and foaming at the mouth, just like in the book.  I saw this toad on the ground.  She was barking at it and almost trying to bite it but you could tell whatever slime substance was on its back was deterring her.  We put the poor toad outside of the fence and worried some about Agnes.  We have her plenty of water to drink and she turned out just fine.

There was the time when the old, bald guy and I were camping near a lake.  We saw this young boy come up over the hill.  Agnes’ ears perked up and she looked very alert.  The boy saw her and stopped in his tracks.  The old bald guy spoke out loud to himself, “Please don’t run”.  Of course, the kid turned and ran, and Agnes chased after him.  He must have been terrified.  Agnes was the kind of dog that would chase after anything that ran away from her, but luckily for humans, she wouldn’t do anything but be playful once she caught up to you.  Anyhow, we feared repercussions from angry parents so we packed up, called Agnes who dutifully came back, and we left.  A version of this is in the opening chapter of my Wolfbag book, except I changed the boy to a girl.

Another time, we were camping at Lake Pleasant, which is why I decided to include the name of this lake in the book.  Agnes loved swimming and we saw her swimming after a bird that looked like it had a broken wing.  The closer she got to the bird, the bigger her eyes became.  When she got really close, the bird flew away and Agnes turned around and swam back to shore.  Before she got out of the water the bird flew back and plopped down near Agnes and swam away again with the appearance of the broken wing.  Of course, Agnes turned back around and swam after the bird.  We were sure Agnes kept getting too close to this bird’s nest on shore.  This literally went on for at least an hour.  Yes, this is also in the book.  When I did internet searches to find birds that played the broken wing trick, I could only find a certain bird that to my recollection did not look anything like the bird that played this trick on our dog, and that is why the type of bird remains unnamed in the book.

The fishing incident in the book is completely made up and had nothing to do with Agnes.  However, there was a time when our other dog, Ed, got tangled in someone’s fishing line as he swam by.  That silly angler saw him coming and should have reeled his line in, but instead he watched the whole thing happen and then blamed us for letting our dog tangle his fishing line.  Luckily, as Ed kept swimming the line untangled on its own and we didn’t have to unhook him or anything.  We were glad because we didn’t want to deal with that dummy anymore anyhow.

I could go on and on about Agnes, and I’m sure in the future I will.  Now you know a lot of the events which inspired me came from real life and you can read all about them in my third chapter book called Moore Zombies: Big, Bad Wolfbag.

Wendy Knuth, Author of Moore Zombies picture books and chapter books

MooreZombies.com

Christmas and The Leaning Tower of Tree

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I bought a Christmas tree.  I placed it in the holder all by myself, and low and behold I could not get it straight.  More importantly, I couldn’t get it steady.  Perhaps older teenage boy that I purchased the tree from at the local grocery store did not cut the bottom correctly.  I broke out the old camp saw and cut it again myself.  If you want something done right. . .  Long story short, the tree is still leaning, and still loose.  It could fall over at any time.  I may have uttered a few bad words.

So let’s reframe the situation.  Instead of admitting defeat, I will name this year’s tree:  The Leaning Tower of Tree.  It is much easier to cope with the situation, and much more fun.  I have to admit, I did think about strapping the tree to the wall with plumber’s tape.  Have I mentioned that my husband, the old bald guy, is a plumber? The layperson might imagine that plumbers tape actually has a sticky side.  No, it is a thin sheet metal strap with which you use screws to secure things to a wall or stud, such as a water heater in an earthquake prone environment.  No, it is much more fun to deal with said tree in its current condition.  It is what it is.

Thinking back to previous years, I recall the year of two trees.  The kids couldn’t agree on which tree to buy, and of course they each favored a different one.  Luckily I could afford and we bought them both.  Then there was the year of “The tree of poverty.”  I believe it was 2008 or 2009 when the economy took a terrible turn for the worse.  I bought a tiny little table top tree on the cheap, almost Charlie Brown style but not quite as sad.  We had a lot of fun making fun of that tree, and the savings made for more money for presents.  Boy, how I miss the days of the dollar bin for the plastic airplane or car that the kids loved as much as they would love a brand new computer nowadays.

So buy a tree, or don’t.  Draw a tree on cardboard and stand it up against the wall.  Put together cutout hand prints of your children, tape them together, and tape it to the wall.  Don’t be sad about it.  Set the mood and make it fun!  Oh, and don’t forget to name your tree.

Wendy Knuth, Author of Moore Zombies picture books and early chapter books

Moore Zombies Picture Books Are For All Ages!!

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Why Placing An Age Range On Picture Books Doesn’t Quite Make Sense

Hello all.  And I mean all!  I don’t care what your age is in the human spectrum of life.  If you are reading to and with children, then a specified age range for a book implies limitations that just shouldn’t be.  This is why I HATE placing an age range on my Moore Zombies books.  Plug, plug.

I am a strong believer in early reading.  When my children were young, I read to them early and often.  Yes, you may enjoy the words and the pictures, but don’t forget about cuddling, bonding, learning, teaching, feeling proud, giggling, etc.  This can be between adult and child, between older child and younger child, or even between children of the same age.  Everyone has fun.

You can’t tell me that a toddler doesn’t read.  Maybe they can’t interpret the letters, but they are certainly taking it all in.  In a way, isn’t that reading?  Don’t we read situations?  Don’t we read people’s emotions?  There is no lettering involved there.

My mom has a story about how proud my brother’s babysitter was about teaching him to read a Dr. Seuss book.  After she left, my brother read the whole book out loud, over and over, without the book.  My mom didn’t have the heart to tell the babysitter.  Somewhere, I have footage of my young son reading a book that was upside down.  However, he had all of the words memorized, and I mean correctly for each page.  I’ve seen online footage of other young kids reading an upside down book.  How cute!!  This is definitely a form of early reading.

As an author, I enjoy placing things in my picture books (meaning wording and pictures) for adults and children, because I know they will be read by both.  So how can I classify my picture books as being intended for ages 3-5 or 4-8 when in reality they are for ages baby to senior.  The years pass quickly, so grab a picture book and read to, or with your kids.  I highly recommend Moore Zombies!

Wendy Knuth, Author of Moore Zombies Picture Books & Chapter Books

Skewed Advertising, Cell phones / Smart Phones & Screaming Deals

We will get to cell phones in a moment or two, depending on how fast you can read.  But first, let me give you an example of skewed advertising.  Right now, I want you to picture a pair of prescription glasses.  What pops into your mind?  For those of us who have impaired eyesight, we can tell you why your picture is not quite right.

It turns out that a pair of prescription glasses is actually 3 parts: the frames, lens number one, and lens number two.  If you would like to upgrade to scratch resistant, low glare, transition lenses, lightweight, etc., you will pay more.  Seriously?

What about shopping for homes?  New home buyers might think they will pay only the quoted principal and interest price per month.   Not only will property tax and insurance add much to your payment, but you find out about all sorts of processing and document fees.   Those are my favorite kinds of fees.  In fact my husband and I recently bought a used car from a sales lot.  Luckily, we were eligible and fortunate enough to participate (again) in the non advertised processing fee and document fee program.  I think I’m going to start a club.

Let’s talk cell phones.  I found a screaming deal!  And after all has been said and done, I assure you, in my opinion (back off lawyers), it IS a screaming deal!!!  I wish I could say I get a kick back or some sort of payment for my testimonial.  I don’t.  Do I want to pay it forward?  Sure.  Do I want there to be an eventual repercussion on those engaged in skewed advertising?  Yes!!!  Hopefully it will lead to either a lowering of rates, a true reflection of the actual cost involved, or both.

Backstory:  Kids wanted cell phones.  Mom (me) & Dad, (the old bald guy) owned dinosaur flip phones with old school texting for a “low” monthly payment of approximately $60 per month through “major” carrier.  Last Christmas I bought my boys pay-as-you-go cell phones with slide open keypads.  I thought it would be the highlight of their presents.  My boys were thoroughly unimpressed.  They weren’t smart phones. They went mostly unused. . . A waste of money.

So, the talk of the next couple of months was how to get smart phones for the whole family.  My boys and I checked into plans and found some deals.  A lot of major carriers offer some sort of family plan.  Screaming deals!!  So we ran the numbers and finally decided to go with a certain carrier.  I actually went online and started adding things to “my cart”.  The numbers went horribly awry.  The plan was a great deal, but oh, you actually want line access with that?  Um, yes, I would like for the phones to work.  Well, then, that is a different situation.  The stated family plan with phones and plan, and line access was now more than double than the advertised deal.  It turns out that cell phone usage is like buying glasses. There are 3 parts: the phone, the plan, and the line access.  You need all 3 for it to work.

So we checked out a second major carrier who also advertised a screaming deal.  Nope, same problem.  We checked into a third major carrier.  Again, same thing.  Note how I am not naming names.

I can’t figure out why companies pay huge bucks for advertising and for advertising campaigns that just aren’t as advertised.  A company should be creating a feel good, win-win relationship with a customer.  Why in the world would you advertise a price point that you know is not true for the service to work, and set up a resentful relationship with your customer?  I really don’t get it.  Hint, hint.

My quest continued.  I start asking around at work.  What type of cell phone do you own?  What do you like and not like about your cell phone?  Who is your carrier?  Is your service good?  How much do you pay per month?  They are only too happy to answer my questions but I don’t like their answers when it comes to the cost.  As the months go by, my coworkers become annoyed with me.  They can’t believe that in my downtime I am still online looking for a screaming deal.  There just aren’t any.  When will I wake up?

But wait.  I came across a great article.  The link is at the bottom of this blog post.  I researched the plans and decided to go with Republic Wireless for three of us and a separate plan for the old, bald guy who had different needs cell phone wise.  My sons and I are almost always under the wonderful veil of Wifi service either at home, work, or school.  I had to purchase 3 smart phones up front.  I believe they were around $150 each.  Maybe this is part of the way they make money, I don’t know.  They are not the latest and greatest, but they are smartphones, and you can only use the Republic Wireless plan with certain phones.  We did not “port in” our numbers, which means we got new phone numbers.

I didn’t pick the cheapest plan, which is Wifi only at $5.00 per month.  You can make 911 calls outside of Wifi.  I upgraded myself and the kids to the $10 per month plan which includes text and calls over 3G outside of Wifi.  You can upgrade to include gigs if you want.  They now even have a refund program where you receive money off of your bill for not using your gig allowance if you are on that plan.

The part I am DYING to get to:  My monthly bill is $33, including taxes for all three lines.  The fine print?  It is actually in the same size type as all of the rest.  Republic Wireless has a page about how much you will pay in taxes.  There is no line access fee, no skewed advertising in my opinion.  How refreshing!  That is why the $10 per month option I chose X 3 lines of service, plus taxes equals $33.00.

This is a two part plan.  One, buy a phone, two, pay for service.  That’s it.  Really, truly, A SCREAMING DEAL!  Don’t believe me?  Neither does anyone else.  I tell my friends and coworkers about what I finally decided upon and tell them the cost.  The looks on people’s faces would be the same as if I told them about last night’s alien abduction experience.  One coworker even stated, “Well, you really don’t know until you receive your fist bill.”  Another victim of being used to having to pay at least 100% more than advertised per month for that “monthly deal”.

No, really.  My monthly bill, again, including taxes is $33 per month for 3 lines of service.  I have had the service for several months, I have received the bills, and yes, it’s true.  Check it out!

Meanwhile, speaking of screaming deals, don’t forget to download the free ebook Moore Zombies: The Search for Gargoy.  Available online at major retailers for free (Amazon  http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00NUMLXB0 ), or go to http://www.MooreZombies.com

Wendy Knuth

Author of Moore Zombies picture and chapter books

 

Article on deals for cell phones:  http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2375644,00.asp

 

 

Spooky Time – A Fun Halloween Game!

Tonight I reminisce.  I would like to tell you about the fun & scary game that somehow just came to be.  It became a favorite Halloween tradition for our family.  Spooky Time.

When my children were very young, I liked to set the mood for whatever holiday was present.  I just happened to be shopping for Christmas items at a craft store when I noticed a 90% off deal for Halloween items.  Lucky me. I bought numerous, numerous candle holders at 10 cents apiece.  Skulls, jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, etc.

So come next Halloween, I put them on display.  I also wanted to play some Halloween music, and all I could find was CD’s with songs such as The Purple People Eater.  I used to light the candles in the spooky looking candle holders, as well as in the jack-o-lanterns we had carved.  I would play the fun music and the kids would run around.

We turned out the lights so we could see how spooky the carved pumpkins and ghosts looked.  Then we decided to play hide-n-seek.  There were numerous candles everywhere so that every room was very well lit.  We even left some of the lights on, but dimmed them.  My boys were so cute.  They would go to their bedroom for one minute to give us time to hide.  Then, they would come out with big eyes, fake swords and plastic armor.

As the kids grew, I had to find scarier music.  So I went online and found some great clips that I downloaded and put on CD’s:  Werewolf howls, theme music from The Exorcist, theme music from the Halloween movies, music with people screaming on occasion, maniacal clown house music, the dreaded string sounds that you usually hear when someone is being attacked in a movie, etc.

The years continued to pass and we had to have less and less light as hiders were more easily found.  By this time, the REALLY scary music was blasting, and the neighbor children came over for this great, fun, scary, Spooky Time.  Sometimes the kids would hide with adults being the seekers, other times vice-versa.  We discovered throwing items at or near a seeker could throw them off, and there was a lot of moving around so that hiders could go to a place where the seeker had already checked, leaving the seeker to believe no one was hiding there.  One thing was very apparent – the jump scare never gets old!

Fast forward a couple of years.  The lights were almost none existent.  The music still blared on.  So, yes, injuries started to occur.  Hiders and seekers would run into each other.  One night, I heard “Wendy, I’m bleeding!”  We turned on the lights and our neighbor had a split in the center of his forehead.  How very Halloween to have blood dripping down all over his face and onto the carpet.  I thought he had crawled into an outside wall corner but it turns out he had just run straight into the flat surface of the wall.  Head wounds bleed, um, a lot.

Boys and men are so funny.  As my husband and I were working on the boy’s wound, my husband told him that someday women would be impressed with his scar, but that he needed a better story.  Apparently, running into a wall doesn’t excite the ladies.  All of the boys got to work.  I was amazed by all of their fantastic stories as to how our neighbor had now suffered this injury.  Great imaginations!

Being the only female present, I found it very interesting that there was no screaming or crying, but almost a proudness, a rite of passage if you will.  I’m sure if some young girl had split her head open things would have been quite different.

I don’t think that was the last year of Spooky Time.   I believe the next year the kids wore their karate gear, including headgear.  We may have even gone one more year.  But it was pretty much the end of an era.  And that is why I reminisce.  It was a lot of fun.  Go ahead and give it a try, just remember to leave some lights on.

Wendy Knuth, Author of Moore Zombies  MooreZombies.comGE DIGITAL CAMERA

Open Letter to Michelle Obama

Open Letter to Michelle Obama:

Okay folks, this is not about politics, and I’m certainly not going to reveal mine, but I do have a few words to say about sports and snack time.  In this regard, I feel if my message could go straight to the top, to someone who is trying to make this nation healthier with her Let’s Move Initiative, then maybe more attention will be drawn to my plan, and perhaps it could actually be implemented.  I would love to help Mrs. Obama out in this area with a simple, but great idea.

So here we go.  Attention parents and/or coaches (football, soccer, baseball, t-ball, basketball, etc. and so forth and so on) regarding snack time for post practice and for post games – Get Rid of It!!!!!

That’s it.  Easy enough, right?  Back in my day, I played soccer in elementary school.  For our weekly game, one parent was designated to bring a half time snack.  Soccer, as well as other sports, involves a lot of running.  Did we need a half time pick-me-up?  Yes.  It was called oranges.  There was always a large plastic bag of sliced up oranges, and we also drank water.  There was never any variation.  Week after week, our only half time option was oranges.  If you wanted something after the game, you could eat more oranges, and we did.  Do oranges have sugar?  Yes, of course, but at least you get some fiber.

When I became a parent and my children entered the world of sports, I was surprised at the weekly schedule of a post practice snack.  And, while a healthy snack schedule was incorporated for half time during games (apples, oranges, bananas), there was also a post game snack schedule.  What would parents buy?  Junk, absolute, complete junk.  Me?  Guilty.  The cheapest and easiest things to buy in bulk are junky snack items and questionable “fruit” drinks.  If you read the fine print on many of these drinks they claim to be 10% fruit juice.  At least they are honest.

A parent and I had a conversation about this once.  She had told her father about snack time and he was abhorred.  Great job, kids! You played hard, you exercised, you burned some calories, here’s a bag of sugar.  This parent and I joked about substituting a multivitamin in the place of a snack.  Perhaps it’s not such a bad idea.

There are other issues, also.  Believe me, parents know when to schedule the feeding of their children.  You look at practice and game times and determine whether a meal should take place before or after, or if a child needs a snack of the parent’s choosing beforehand.  Often times, my child was all sugared up just before dinner, leaving my other child wondering why he didn’t get the same junk.

How widespread is this practice?  When did it come into play?  I’m not sure.  I hope it’s not countrywide.  Tell me your sports practices.  I would also like to know if professional athletes wrap up their game with a bag of cookies or chips and a sugar drink.

Do we need a federal mandate to ditch this practice?  No.  We need a vote, perhaps at the very first team meeting.  Parents and coaches, please mull this over.  In the meantime, I would just love for Michelle Obama to read this so that she could bring national attention to this sugary situation.  Call me!

Wendy Knuth,

Author of Moore Zombies picture books and chapter books.