Tag Archives: childrens books

The Dreaded School Summer Reading List

A version of this piece was published in Brain Child last year. Ten To Twenty Parenting has republished it on their blog. Some things change over time…my feelings towards this summer assignment has not.

http://tentotwenty.com/why-i-hate-summer-reading-lists/

Princesses

 

Watching Princess Kate on the “telly” with her impeccable manners, fantastic clothes, and her jet setting life style it’s hard for a girl not to think, wouldn’t it be grand to be a princess? Always perfect, always poised and pretty, but… what if you just aren’t that type of girl? What if you prefer messy spaghetti to neat finger sandwiches; and overalls to long gowns? Can you still be a princess?

I have two wonderful daughters. Two daughters, two girls, two VERY different people.

When my oldest daughter was little she was a princess loving freak! She wore dresses and tutus and loved anything that glimmered and shined. She watched Ariel and Jasmine and Belle over and over; beautiful (and overly priced) dolls littered the hallways and stairs of our home and she dreamed of one day actually living in her own giant, pink, plastic, elevator-equipped Barbie Dream house.

My younger girl…not so much. Most days it’s all I can do to get a brush through her hair, and she barely made it through one year of ballet class. This little girl spends much of her time being a Ninja warrior, and for her birthday this year she wants Legos (not the pink ones), an extra large plastic container of orange cheese puffs, and karate lessons (God help us).

 

 

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It takes all kinds of girls, and thank goodness for that.

So for my two girls, and for the millions of girls in this world, those that are quiet and those that are loud, those that are graceful and those that are not, those that dream of being princesses and those that already are, I wrote this little rhyming picture book.

 

 

 

SOME PRINCESSES

 

Some princesses wear high heels, shiny and new.

Some princesses wear flip-flops, or red running shoes.

 

Some princesses walk slowly, their heads held up high,

Some princesses like to skip, leap and soar to the sky!

 

Some princesses’ attend grand balls and waltz all about.

Some princesses rock the drums and totally jam out!

 

Some princesses play croquet, gently tapping the ball.

Some princesses play baseball, hitting one up, Up, UP…

and over the wall!

 

Some princesses eat sandwiches, with the crusts all cut off.

Some princesses crave tacos, or spaghetti with sauce.

 

Some princesses watch their manners and try not to slurp,

(but all princesses pass gas and ocasionally burp).

 

Some princesses’ dress in long gowns covered in jewels.

Some princesses wear overalls, with pockets for tools.

 

Some princesses have hair that’s always shiny and neat.

Some princesses have hair that just FREAKS out in the heat!

 

Some princesses make a mess, and have maids put it all away on a shelf.

Some princesses have moms that say, “Princess, go clean that mess up, YOURSELF.”

 

Some princesses have brown skin, some freckly, some fair.

Some princesses wear eyeglasses, some use a wheel chair.

 

Some princesses may be quiet, while some are quite bold,

but all girls are princesses, with hearts spun from gold.

 

It’s true.

 

No matter who they are or what they like to do;

ALL girls are princesses, especially,

 

Girls.

Just.

Like.

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Anne Sawan 2014

Do You Believe In Magic?

I am in a really bad mood today. Don’t know why, maybe its the never-ending pile of snow outside my front door. Maybe it’s because the door on my car was frozen shut when I went to drive the kids to school.  Maybe it’s because I had zero gas in my car once I finally opened the car door and then had to stand out in the snow and wind and freezing rain to fill my tank. Whatever the reason, I am not in a good mood. So on the advice of my sister I am headed to HomeGoods to buy something with a starfish on it and then I am going to bake a cake. A chocolate cake. In the meantime here is a little story I wrote about a girl who woke up in a bad mood, and the help she gets from her brother to turn it around, because sometimes all it takes is a little, fun, child-like magic…(and sometimes it takes HomeGoods and chocolate cake)

Harry’s Magic

 

Eliza woke up on the wrong side of the bed,

her hair all askew, her eyes seeing red.

She didn’t know why but she felt angry and mad;

her insides felt twisted, and crinkly and bad!

Her head was all groggy, her lungs full of steam;

she wanted to shout, she wanted to scream!

She put on her shoes and downstairs she clomped,

Each step getting louder: stomp,

STomp,

STOmp,

STOMp

STOMP!

 

“Hello!” Called her brother,“ What’s that? Whose out there?

Is a there a dinosaur in the house?  A monster? A bear?”

“No, Harry, it’s me,” Eliza said with a growl.

“I woke up feeling grumpy, my mood is just foul.

I don’t want to laugh or smile or play.

I just feel like yelling, so stay out of my way!

I am furious, irate, annoyed and quite fuming.

I feel like a beast, like something not human!”

 

“A beast!”  Harry said. “Well, I can fix that!

Quick, bring me my wand, my cape and my hat!

I will drive out that fiend! I will shatter that curse!

I will make you a potion before it gets worse.”

 

“Now, let’s see…

First, I will need the dog’s chew bone, then some old bubble gum,

three hairs from a hairbrush and an earring from Mum.

A sock that is smelly, a Band-Aid that’s new,

a crayon that’s green and dad’s left running shoe.

Some Halloween treats, an old boiled egg,

a button from your sweater, a scab from your leg,

some bologna that’s slimy, an elephant with wings,

three rotten apples and a dolly that sings.”

 

Eliza reached under sofas and reached under chairs,

she peered into closets, and ran up and down stairs.

She pulled back the curtains and opened the drawers,

she climbed into the bathtub and searched behind doors.

She gathered it all, the old and the new,

the smelly, the gross, the slimy, the chewed.

 

“Let’s go!” Harry said, throwing open the door.

“Outside! We aren’t done, there is still a lot more!

We must search all around and find all that we need,

like that slippery worm! Quick! Over there, by that weed!

Next a butterfly, then some flowers: both yellow and red,

a grasshopper and a rock from under the shed.

Wild goose feathers, and a jumping bull frog,

a nut and a twig and some moss from that log.”

 

So, Eliza ran and jumped and climbed into the trees,

she crept through the bushes on her hands and her knees.

She gathered it all up and put it into a pail.

“And lastly,“ said Harry, “one teeny-weeny snail.”

 

Eliza searched and searched until at last she found one.

“There!” She said, “Is that it? At last, are we done?”

“Almost,” said her brother, slowly stirring his brew.

“But there is just one more small thing I still need you to do.

You must jump! Dance! Leap! And sing out a song!

And when you are done, that beast will be gone.”

 

Eliza growled and groused, but did as he said,

singing sort-of-a song and barely nodding her head.

She gave one leg a slow shake and the other a jiggle,

she wiggled her backside and then… she started to giggle.

Huh?!

 

Eliza’s eyes grew round, her mouth opened wide.

“Harry,” she whispered.  “I feel different inside.

I am no longer crabby, or mean, or a beast!

I feel silly, elated and not mad in the least!

All gone are my monsters, my meanies, my pout,

I just feel like singing and dancing about!

I feel crazy and happy! I’m Eliza! I’m me!

Oh, thank you! You did it! You set my fun free!”

 

“You’re welcome,” said Harry, with a wink and a bow.

“My magic always works and I’ll tell you how.

First you conjure up some sillies, then stir in some fun,

give a hip and a hop and… ABRACADABRA! It’s done!

Because no beast can survive, no grumpies will stay,

if you just let a little Harry-magic into your day.”

2012: Off And Running And Writing.

2012! Wow! How did that happen? Weren’t we all supposed to die about a million times already from some sort of apocalyptic disaster? I think there is one happening this year as well.  So this might just be it, the real end.  Better go live your dreams, make your wishes come true; eat that chocolate cake before we all explode into a million microbes.

I had a great 2011. I felt like I made some strides in my writing, and want to thank you all very every much for your votes in the various contests I entered. I truly appreciated all the support and encouragement.

These writing contests remind me of the races I subject myself to every few months.  I run and run and run, maybe limping a bit a long the way, then come home proudly clutching the medal that shows I did in fact pay the entry fee for the race and my kids jump around, asking, “So, did you win?” To which I inevitably reply something like, “No, but I was the 200th runner over the line!”  They stare at me, sadly shaking their heads and place a sympathetic hand on my shoulder saying, “That’s okay Mom.” Or, more likely,  “Wow, you stink.”

Look, I know going into these races I am not going to win but I love them. I am hooked. They challenge me, give me something to put my energy into and inspire me.  I see the true athletes out there and I am in awe. These people are good! They train year round, living and breathing this stuff. Me…not so much.  In many ways these races are a lot like the writing contests.  They provide me with a goal, urging me on, daring me to learn from my mistakes and to strive to become perhaps a just a little bit better.  Afterwards when I read over my material, see my glaring errors and then read other peoples entries and see their genius I think: That’s it!  I am done, no more writing for me… then I get just a sliver of good news.  Just enough to keep me going…like two great things that happened this past week.

One, I received news from Adoptive Families Magazine that my book, The Very Best Day, was the most read printable article of 2011. That felt great! (Not exactly sure what it means.  Aren’t they all printable?  But hey, take what you can!) Now I just need a publisher…

And, two, my book A is for Adoption was published last week in the January 2012 issue of Adoption Today. So all and all, a good end to 2011 and off to a running start in 2012.

I am placing a link to Adoption Today below, but I know some people have had trouble accessing it, so I will include a copy of A is for Adoption as well.

Now here is a quick disclaimer about the book. The book is narrated by a girl named Anna, which some people, including my own children, found a bit confusing given the makeup of my family (my oldest is named Anna).

Teddy: “Wait! Anna is adopted too?”

“No, Anna is not adopted. Eliza is adopted.”

Harry: “You never told us Anna is adopted!”

“Because she’s not.”

Teddy: “Am I adopted too?”

“No!”

Eliza (crying) “Wahh! I want to be adopted like Anna.

“You ARE adopted. Anna is NOT Adopted.”

Teddy: “Are you sure I’m not adopted?”

Challenges!

I hope you all have a good, healthy, and happy New Year.

http://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=95083&p=38

A Is For Adoption

A is for Anna, that’s me! What’s you name? When you see the first letter of your name in this book shout it out!  A is also for adoption. I’m adopted, are you? Adopted means your birth parents couldn’t care for you and your parents really, really wanted you so they made you a part of their family, forever.  Some people are adopted when they are babies and some when they are older. Some kids are in foster care first, and some aren’t.  How were you adopted? What’s your story?

B is for birthday.  I have a birthday party every year to celebrate the day I was born.  This year I want a chocolate cake with rainbow sprinkles and a HUGE piñata. B is also for birth parents, the man and woman that made you but couldn’t raise you. B is also for brother. I have three. They like to wrestle, look for worms and play baseball.  Sometimes they let me play with them, sometimes they don’t. Do you have any brothers? Do they live with you? Do they look for worms?

C is for cookie.  Everyone knows that!  C is also for caseworker, some people call them adoption workers or social workers.  A caseworker is the person who watches over kids before they are adopted and makes sure they get to the right family.

D is for Daddy. I love my dad. He takes me on bike rides, and buys me ice cream.  I also have a birth dad. I never met mine. Do you have a dad? What do you guys like to do together? Do you know your birth dad?

E is for eternity. Eternity means forever and ever, which is how long I am going to be a part of my family.

F is for Family.  My family has a mom and a dad and three brothers and a sister and two dogs and a turtle and some fish.  My friend Lizzy has two dads, one brother and a cat and Jay has a grandma and that’s it.  All families are different.  What is your family like?

G is for Gecko, which are the only lizards that make noise. They live where is it warm. They have nothing to do with adoption, unless… are you from a warm place? Did they have geckos there? I hope I get one for my birthday. That would be cool!

H is for Happiness.  Happiness is love, fun, friends and families…. oh, and Disney World, of course!

I is for I love you. That’s it.

J is for jumping, juggling and jogging.  J is a fun letter! J is also for Judge. A judge needs to say it is okay for your parents to adopt you. I had to go with my family to a judge when I was a baby. I saw a picture of us all in our dress up clothes.  The judge wore a black robe and was holding this hammer thing called a gavel. Everyone was smiling.  Some kids go to the court when they are older.  Do you remember going to see the judge?

K is for knowledge.  That’s a big word that means to know or learn stuff, like who you are, where you are from, what your adoption story is.

L is for life and learning and love.  My birth mom and birth dad gave me life, so I could breathe and eat and swim and run, so they are really special.  Learning is important because you need to learn about who you are, where you came from, and then there is learning in school like how to read and do math. Love is the best.  I love my mom and my dad and my brothers and sisters and friends and pets and teachers and cousins and grandparents and…whew! That’s a lot of love!

M is for Mom.  I love my mom; she plays with me and likes to read to me.  What do you like to do with your mom? I know there is another person out there who is my birth mom, but I didn’t know her. I am glad she had me though, or I wouldn’t be here! Do you know your birth mom?

N is for Naked mole rats. They are small rodents who live in underground colonies in Africa. They have large teeth that stick out that they use to dig. They have very little hair and have wrinkled pink or yellowish skin. They are really funny looking and have absolutely nothing to do with adoption, unless…are you from Africa? Maybe you have seen one?

O is for open.  Open means you can talk about anything and not be scared or embarrassed to ask questions about adoption.  Your parents might not always know the answer, but they will try to figure it out for you.  Open also means something you forgot to shut, like the refrigerator door and then your mom will yell, “Who left the door open!”

P is for parents.  I have two, a mom and a dad. How about you? Parents get to make the rules like say what you can eat and where you can go, and tell you to do your homework, and stuff like that.

Q is questions. I have a lot! Like who were my birth parents? Why couldn’t they keep me? What did they look like? Where are they now? Why did the dinosaurs become extinct? How do fireflies light up like that? Do you have questions?

R is for rainbow.  Rainbows are cool and have so many different colors, just like people.  Some families look like rainbows because there can be all kinds of colors in one family: brown hair, red hair, blue eyes, green eyes, brown skin, tan skin, light skin with freckles.  If you line up your family maybe you can make your own people rainbow.

S is for super, stupendous and special!  I am all those things, super, stupendous and special, oh and my mom says I am silly. S is also for sister. I have one older sister.  She likes to play softball, swim and shop for clothes.  Do you have any sisters?  Mine is awesome, even though she doesn’t like me touching her stuff.

T is for together. Adoption is about being together as a family.

U is for Ultrasaurus which was a huge, long-necked dinosaur.  Their bones have been discovered in both South Korea and the United States.  They don’t really have anything  to do with adoption either, well unless you are maybe from South Korea or the United States. Are you?  Wouldn’t you love to ride on an Ultrasaurus!

V is for valuable.  Valuable means something that is desired or wished for or important.  My parents say all kids are valuable.

W is for wish.  My parents had a wish and it was me! I have a wish, to go to Africa and see a naked mole rat in action.

X is for Xenops, which are birds that live in South America and again have nothing to do with adoption, unless you are from South America, then, I suppose it could have to do with your adoption story.  Are you from South America?

Y is for yes! Yes I am adopted! Yes I love my family! Yes I am valuable! Yes I was wished for! Yes I have questions! Yes I want to see a naked mole rat!

Z is for zillion. I have a zillion more places to go, things to do and questions to ask.  Oh, yes, and I love my family a zillion times through.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2012

The Perfect Halloween Costume

Halloween may have ended last night for some of you, but not for everyone. Halloween has been postponed in our town due to Mother Nature’s Nor’easter surprise, so we will go trick or treating on Friday instead. Now believe me when I first heard that the town police were officially halting Halloween I acted just like my four-year old, stamping my feet and crying. Then I moved on to the eight and ten-year old behavior yelling, “WHAT!! That’s not fair!” Next, I made my way to adolescence, shrugged my shoulders, and mumbled, “Jerks”, under my breath. Finally I emerged as an adult and reasoned, “It’s not anyone’s fault. Some parts of town still aren’t safe and there are downed wires in places.” Which is really the truth, and I wouldn’t want to have the police chief’s job of having to cancel the best day of the year for kids. To make things even worse (or better if you are a writer and think this would make a great book) the police chief in my town has the last name of Meany! Is that great! Chief Meany cancels Halloween. There is definitely a story in there just waiting to be written!
Anyway, all is now fine here in Whoville. We have recovered and are looking forward to a Friday haunting…the big problem for me at this point is trying to keep my kids from changing their minds again about what they want to be for trick or treating! The progression for Eliza has gone like this: super hero, fire fighter, pirate, tooth fairy, princess, a tooth fairy princess, a firefighter-toothfairy-princess… I don’t think I can make it through many more of these costume changes! Here is a  poem I wrote based on this decision process…

The Halloween Costume

Only a few nights to go until Halloween.
Oh, what should I be a frog or a queen?
I lined up my costumes from perfect to pink
And laid there, just thinking, not sleeping a wink…
I tossed and turned in my sweet little bed,
while pumpkins and bats swirled through my head.
Until…gasp…there was just one more night until Halloween!
Should I be something funny, or scary, or mean?
A ballerina, a witch, a bright yellow bee?
I can’t decide! I don’t know! I need help!
Can’t you see!
So we drove to the store, and looked all around.
I saw goblins and mummies and one creepy clown.
And then I decided! I knew what to do!
Why pick just one? Why not pick two!
Or more, even more! Be all that you want!
Put them together into one smorgasbord haunt!
My mom always says, “Be all you can be.”
So that’s what I was, a perfect picture of me.
A little bit silly, a little bit fun.
Throw in some crazy and then you are done.
A dancer, a jester, a silly old ghost.
I won the prize, for wearing the most!

Two Years Bigger, Two Years Smaller

My two youngest boys, Harry (10) and Teddy (8) play pretty well together, when they aren’t busy fighting.  I love watching them on the beach collecting crabs, or  building a castle for their plastic army guys, challenging each other on the trampoline in the backyard, or creating a whole universe with Legos. I love hearing them in the backseat of the car, talking and laughing as they discuss which world record they are going to try to beat. I find their imaginations fascinating, their stories endless.  I think even the vilified video games supply a type of creativity, as they insert themselves into another world and battle fierce enemies together.

I often marvel at the connection my two boys have…and I hope they always have it. They are VERY different kids, and I often think that if they weren’t brothers and they just happened to meet in school or camp, they might not choose to hang out with one another.  Harry tends to be more sporty and active, Teddy more scientific and bookish, and together they just shine.  I think they each bring out certain aspects in each other, and that if they didn’t have one another these hidden pieces may not ever be given a chance to grow and develop. I often think how lucky they are to have the chance to be friends with someone who doesn’t necessarily think in the same ways or share all the same interests. What a great gift, siblings…

Harry and Teddy share a room, and for the first time the other night Harry said he was ready for his own room. He said, he didn’t want anymore Star Wars stuff on his walls, just sports stuff.  Teddy still wants Star Wars. Now, we don’t have a spare room so he isn’t going anywhere, and after an argument of some proportion, they went to sleep, all forgotten the next day. But I was left with a touch of sadness.  Time is marching on and the short space of two years between them will seem large for a while.  Harry will be in middle school in another year, and at this young age that difference seems huge.  Sometimes I wish could stop it, freeze them where they are, but then I would never know the great adventures they are going to have together as they grow up, and I am sure there will be many…

So here is my story for them:

TWO YEARS BIGGER, TWO YEARS SMALLER

Harry and Teddy were brothers.

Harry was two years bigger and Teddy was two years smaller.

But they weren’t just brothers. Oh no, they were really much, much, more…

They were fierce pirates sailing over the stormy seas, always ready with their mighty swords to avenge their lost mates.

They were courageous astronauts with super, fantastic, ultrasonic, laser guns fighting to defend the universe from two –headed, blue skinned aliens.

They were fearless arctic explorers with their trusty dog sled team, racing over the frozen tundra as they battled the lost creatures of the ice.

They spent hours in the backyard together:

studying ant colonies at work, feeding the tiny bugs crumbs from their sandwiches and and marveling at their incredible strength as the ants easily carried huge pieces of pb&j back to their sandy hills.

And…

Trying to catch that one, gigantic bullfrog in the fish pond that always… seemed to… slip away…. right at the last…. SECOND! DARN!

And…

Camping in their homemade tent, but always ending up back in their own comfy house when all the good snacks were gone and it was just too dark and creepy to stay outside any longer.

Brothers, pirates, astronauts, explorers.

Two years bigger, two years smaller.

Until one day when Harry said he had an important announcement to make: he was too old to play these baby games anymore.

After all, he was two years bigger.

Teddy gasped! Teddy cried! Teddy…didn’t know what to do.

“No more stormy seas, or frozen tundra?” he asked.

“No,” said Harry. “I am two years bigger.”

“No more ant watching or slippery frogs?” asked Teddy.

“No!” said Harry, folding his arms across his chest. “I am two years bigger.”

“No more freaky aliens or sort-of camp outs?” asked Teddy.

“NO!” insisted Harry. “I am two years bigger. Too old for all that baby stuff!

So the games just… stopped.

The ships came to shore, the aliens slipped away and the dog sled sat idle in the shed.

One day it began to rain. It rained all day, and the next day and the next.

Harry sat alone in his room with nothing to do.

He looked out his window and tried to count the raindrops as they fell against the glass.

It was hard work, and very boring.

Then…wait… he saw something moving in the backyard.

It was Teddy.

He was running and waving his sword all about and shouting…at no one.

“Humph!” grumbled Harry, turning away, “Baby stuff.”

He looked over his shoulder.

Teddy was rolling around in the mud; his sword raised high, his voice getting louder.

“Two years bigger, two years bigger,” Harry muttered quietly.

He glanced out again.  Nothing. Where was Teddy?

Harry moved closer to the window.  There he was, lying very still on the wet ground, arms out straight, his sword lying by his side.

“Ridiculous!” Harry said, shaking his head.

He looked out again. Teddy hadn’t moved.

He looked closer…and then he saw them, enemy pirates!  A whole crew of them.

They were scattered all around, on the ground, moaning and holding their sides.

Of course, Teddy had beaten the pirates!

“Yes! Go Teddy!” Whispered Harry.

But wait… something was wrong. Teddy still hadn’t moved. He was hurt.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw something. What was that? There was a sudden flash of light and then he saw it, a gigantic sea monster!

It rolled silently past the abandoned pirate ship, over the crashing waves and headed straight towards his brother.

Teddy slowly raised his head and looked at the beast.  He tried to crawl away…

“Teddy! Hang on! I’m coming!” yelled Harry, stopping only to grab his sword before running out the door.

He charged straight into the rain, right at the monster and, let out a blood-curdling scream.

“AARRGGHH! Leave my brother alone!”

The ugly creature turned towards Harry.  It reared up, slime falling off his green skin, his mighty tail thrashing all about. His teeth were shiny and sharp, his eyes red and glowing.

This battle was sure to be the fiercest ever. Harry knew had to win, but he couldn’t do it alone.

“Help! Teddy!” he called.

Teddy got up, grabbed his sword and together they fought.

Their swords clashed, the rain fell and the stormy seas swirled around them. The battle raged on and on, until the sea monster, worn out, and realizing he was defeated by the strength of the two brothers gave one last feeble snort, then turned and swam away.

Exhausted the two boys fell to the ground, laughing and cheering.

“We did it!” yelled Harry.

“We did it!” yelled Teddy. “ Who-Hoo!”

The two boys rolled in the mud together in a rather messy victory hug-wrestle.

“Hey,” said Teddy, suddenly sitting up, “I thought you were too big for all these baby games?”

Well,” said Harry, thinking, wiping the dirt off his face, “Someone had to protect you from that monster and after all, I am two years bigger.”

Teddy threw a mud ball at him.

Brothers, pirates, astronauts, explorers.

Two years bigger, two years smaller.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2011.