Friday, August 28, 2015

G is for Ghost--Free Preschool Literary and Math Packet

How's it going netizens?

I've been a busy mom-glasses wearing chick over here. With a new baby on the way, I didn't want my preschoolers to fall by the wayside education-wise, so I've actually been planning out their curriculum and putting together several months' worth of material in advance. I figure when I'm (more) sleep deprived and caring for my newborn, it won't be too hard to open my "October" bin, glance at my detailed lesson plan for the day, and do what I've got to do from the couch.

So that said, I was planning our "G is for Ghost" week, and found a shocking lack of preschool activities related to that theme. Seems like kind of an obvious one to make, but I guess not! So naturally, I fired up GIMP and spent all of yesterday putting together a small bunch of activities.



Again, disclaimer, I am SO not a graphic designer, and my program/skills are limited. But I'm pretty happy with how it turned out nevertheless. I only made the activities I was specifically searching for but couldn't find, so this could be a supplementary packet to some of the other (way more amazing) ghost-themed preschool packets out there. Also, I made two versions of some of them--pretty versions with color and backgrounds, and a simple version that is more printer-friendly.

It's free, and I'm happy to share! Just please don't try and sell it, or I'll have to get all fussy at you. :)


Included in the Packet:
--G sounds poem for distinguishing between soft G and hard G
--G sounds matching
--Letter G tracing sheet
--Counting ghosts cards (not in order so child can do it without cutting them out if you wish)
--Haunted house letter G find game
--Ordinal ghosts coloring activity  

If you have any preschool packets you'd like to see done, shoot me an email and I'll see if it might be beneficial to both of us if I put one together! I'll likely be making more since I have some random letter themes planned that I simply know won't be out there!

Have a great weekend!

 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Free School Day Schedule Printable

Hey there peeps!

So my oldest child started Kindergarten last week. Yes, I cried. Yes, it kind of sucked, and definitely a lot more than I thought it would. But just as much as I miss her during the day, I am equally excited for the experiences she will have and the things she will learn in her new environment!

I knew this would be a big adjustment for us. I'm used to sleeping as long as the kids do, and sometimes even clicking on the TV, throwing granola bars at them, and continuing to sleep for another hour while we all roll around on my bed in our PJ's.

Not so much anymore.

So knowing that I would need a solid schedule in place (especially if I want to manage my time correctly as I talked about in my earlier post), I went looking for something simple and cute I could edit myself.

APPARENTLY that doesn't exist though. Like seriously, why would I pay someone for an empty schedule to fill in just because its cute? I'm no graphic designer, but I can get around GIMP and picmonkey.com pretty well, so I just up and made my own.

Why not, right? And since I went through all the trouble to make it, I'm happy to share if you think you could use it! I'm uploading the empty schedule for you to fill in. Just go to picmonkey.com, select your fonts, and add them as you wish. That way it's customized for you and whatever your family needs. I also uploaded my completed schedule so you could see what it might look like.

It's really a very simple background for you to add text to (again...not a graphic designer over here!), but it has owls. I love owls.



If you think it might be useful, then feel free to grab it! And have an awesome start to your week, whether you were on the ball with you schedule this morning, or you were like me and stood in the shower for fifteen minutes too long.


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Big News--Pitch Conference in September!

My writing partner has decided to take the plunge. We feel very confident about our latest book (which is still in development, but we are almost done, thankfully), and we wanted to give it the very best chance we could. Since this is my mother's lifelong dream (and mine too...its just...her life has been 21 years longer than mine...), she has decided to take our pitch and manuscript to the New York Pitch Conference in September.



This is an expensive endeavor, and definitely a financial risk to undertake. But we wouldn't do it if we didn't think that pitching this book in person to a round of agents would result in something fruitful. We've done some research, and after hearing story after story of successful writer get rejected in letter form, and accepted in person, we felt this was a good step for our book. We haven't pitched it to anyone yet. No queries sent. And we'd like to keep it that way by spending two days refining the pitch through the workshops, and then presenting it in person to some of the top agents at the conference.

Unfortunately I can't go! I've got 3 kids, and traveling to New York while 9 months pregnant is, obviously, not really doable. So it will just be Eileen Sharp representing the dynamic writing duo. We're both nervous, and working feverishly on our manuscript to a.) finish it and b.) polish the beginning.

But here's the really, truly exciting part about this post. You ready?

I'm going to reveal the first hint about what this book centers around, why we think its such a unique idea, and who might be interested in reading it. I'm going to give you the title. If you know what it is, then super high five to you! If not, Google it. I think you will find it rather intriguing. This is the first in a working series of three, and is called......................................

Chaebol

Look it up and see if you can discover the angle we have taken with this novel.


Also, I will keep you updated on all things pitch conference as things progress. For now, we sent them our initial pitch and were accepted into the conference, so that's an encouraging start. I know these pitch conferences are a little controversial in the writing spheres, so feel free to give your opinion, but also know that we're still doing it. ;)

It should be an exciting adventure! And if it doesn't work out, then guess who will tell you all about it in detail? Isn't it fun to have a writer friend willing to take crazy risks? You can learn about it from us before you try it yourself!

Have a great week, my friends, and remember to leave your blog address when you comment so I can visit you in return! Happy writing!


Friday, August 14, 2015

Your Author Photo



Once you have decided to become an author, whether that is through a publisher or your own marketing savvy, at some point you will need an author photo. In fact, it's probably good to have one even before you get started with publishing. I recently read a great book about self-publishing called The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard. She's quite successful with self-publishing, and I found some great tips in her book. One of which was to create your author presence before you release your book. Something I never thought to do.

But if you plan to self-publish, or even if you don't, it's always a good idea to get into the writing community beforehand. For that, a photo would be most useful.

So how to get your face looking good in this photo? Because lets not lie here, just like we all judge a book by its cover, we also kind of judge faces. It's what we do as humans. So its my opinion that your photo, your first impression if you will, does hold some importance.

If you've got money to burn, you could get it done professionally. There are lots of options for that--a full on photo shoot with locations and such. The little photo place in Wal Mart with all the corny angel baby pictures on the wall. Whatever strikes your fancy and tickles your wallet just the right way.

OR if you're like me, you don't have cash to drop on beauty shots. So how to make your picture look great and still professional? Here are my best tips below to give yourself a good looking head shot:

1.) Put some thought into your appearance. If you're taking the picture on a random day with your hair in a pony tail, or after you get home from work and you look like you haven't slept in four days (because you've been up at all hours writing), it's not going to turn out as well. I know not every woman is into makeup and primping, and most guys don't give a flying fart what their hair is doing, but for this, for me give it a go. The more care you put into your appearance the more professional this will look. Pick a nice outfit, do something with your hair or makeup. Just be neat and tidy, and don't wear a grungy t-shirt (or any t-shirt really...v-neck might be an exception), and please no sunglasses.

**Side note: What we want is professional. As self-published or Indie writers, our curse is that we lack of the big dog support behind us. So what we want is for readers to look at our books and at us, and think, "Wow, they look legit!" Dress for the job you want. Take an author photo for the gig you desire.**

2.) Pick an ideal location. It doesn't matter what kind of camera  you have, really. If you have a friend with a high-pixel camera then call in a favor, but if that isn't within your means, then the right lighting and location will do wonders. Natural sunlight is best. It brings out the best in us, and it looks the most professional. So you can't go wrong with a nice outdoor location. You can even use your webcam, but make sure the background is neutral and the sunlight is flowing. I've seen some author pictures where they look like they're in their basement at night and taking a selfie. Not professional.

3.) No cats. I mean it.

4.) Natural positions look best. The hand shelf, or the thinking pose, or the well-placed hand are, at this
point, pretty outdated. Make the shot from the chest up, and do your best to be relaxed and natural. If you're smiley (like me) pull out the grin. If you're more comfortable not doing that, then go for it. Just as long as its you and its comfortable, that will come across in the photo.

5.) Get a good angle. Angling the camera from above is always pretty flattering. Not too much, but just enough that you get all the pretty angles of your face will usually look good. Angling from below is not suggested. You can do it head on, but my suggestion is to try a few different ways. Whether you're having a friend do it or you're using your webcam, try a few different angles to see what turns out best.

6.) Another tip I picked up from Catherine Howard (it made me laugh, but it might work for you) is to color coordinate with your blog or website. Cohesive things like that are what lend a professional air to your author presence.

For my current author photo, I had my sister take it. We were in the snow (hence the white behind me) and it was sunny outside. I did up my hair, put on some makeup, and angled that sucker up high. Bam. Decent picture.

Want to share your author pic? How did you come by it? Any tips to add?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Be a Professional Writer and a Mom Too!


I present to you a slightly hypocritical article on how to do something that I only occasionally get just right. Balancing motherhood and writing!

I've been doing it for about 5 years now, and although I am by no means perfect, I have learned quite a few tips and tricks that might help YOU as you juggle your own priorities. And heck, it used to be harder when I was a full-time student, so I guess I'm just grateful that I am only torn between the two now. But even then, with a 5-year-old, 4-year-old, and 2-year-old, I still feel like I'm being ripped in several different directions on a daily basis.

How do you hold yourself together? Here's what I've learned thus far:

1.) Learn to Write on Cue--I realize that this is not something that most authors can do...or even want to do for that matter. The creative process is very different for everyone, but I learned when I sat down to write Lunula (I had a 22-month-old and a 6-month-old at the time) that I would need to write in short, productive bursts. It was really hard to train myself to write this way. In all my creative writing classes we had learned about going with the flow and knowing when to write as inspiration struck. That doesn't work when you have little kids who need your attention. 

So I trained my brain to write when needed. I can't really even tell you how I did this; I think it was just a skill driven by desperation. I needed to write this story or my brain would explode. But my kids needed me even more. So I treated it like a job or school assignment, and put all my focus on the paper. I will attribute some of this will-power to the charter school I went to for High School. We were required to write 1-2 page essays on the spot, and very frequently. I think my brain was already halfway there when I applied it to my creative writing. 

So if you can manage to train yourself to do this, it will help you tremendously! I still saved most of my writing time for when the kids were sleeping, but as they have gotten older and naps have bitten the dust, this has become a huge life saver for me. When you have children, your free-time is limited. This means that you must make the most of every spare minute!

2.) Schedule Writing Time--Somewhat related to the above tip, you should schedule your writing time for actual times of the day. Again, it's really hard to just force the creative flow to happen at a certain time. And being totally honest, I can't always make myself write! Even if I schedule it and the kids are cooperating, occasionally the words won't come to me. Such is the life of a writer.

But that doesn't stop me from trying! The thing with little munchkins is that they like schedules. They like routines, and for the most part, will thrive if you have a somewhat recognizable pattern throughout the day. They will also be more understanding of "writing time" if it is done during a familiar part of that routine they enjoy so much! My kids don't even bat an eye when I tell them mommy is writing. They just know that this is that part of the day where they need to entertain themselves, and mama isn't likely to be available for an involved craft or story reading marathon. 

3.) Take Breaks--Even during your "writing block," I highly recommend timing some breaks. I don't use a stopwatch (although I have tried), but I try to follow the flow of my writing. If I have finished a chunk of dialogue or have reached some kind of transition, I put it aside and do something else. Usually this is something for my kids, like getting them a snack, setting them up with a craft, or reading a book to them. I find this also helps me keep my writing more focused, and I'm less likely to become distracted. The temptation to open Facebook or Pinterest is strong! 

4.) Make/Plan Activities Ahead of Time--I'm not going to pretend that I haven't had days where I pulled out the free babysitter called "boob tube." I have used the TV in the past, and I really feel no shame about having occasional days where I just let the kids camp down with blankets and pillows and marathon their way through Netflix. Heck, I do it. 

However, I also know that it's not good for their little noggins to do that too often, so in keeping with the rule of 2 hours of TV a day, I have had to get a little creative in order to occupy them. Especially if inspiration has struck, and I need more than my allotted writing time. There really are days where I have to do nothing but write, or wither on the inside for having not expelled the creativity as soon as possible. 

You know your kids better than anyone else, so I'm sure you know what their favorite activities are. Here are just a few that have worked well for me:

--Busy Bags: I have a Pinterest board dedicated to this very thing, and they have turned out to be completely awesome. I made them originally for homeschool and church, but as luck would have it, they are also fantastic "writing block" entertainers. The best part is that we can all sit at the table together, and while they do their puzzles and activities, I can sit there with them and occasionally interact with them as they need me. It's a lot less attention-intensive than things like painting, fort building, sidewalk chalk drawing, pool time, etc. But its still good for their development. 
Busy Bags

--Folder Games: Along the same vein as busy bags (and I believe I have pinned some folder games onto that Pinterest board as well), folder games can be both educational and amusing for kids of all ages. And they're easy to make! 

--Outside Play: When the weather is nice, we head outside. In the spring and summer this is every day as long as the weather permits. I sit close enough to my house that my Chromebook can pick up my wifi, so I still have access to my writing. (In case you missed my earlier post about this, I use Google Docs for all my novels now). I get the most writing done when they are outside. I supervise and write, and they go nuts in the backyard and on their bikes. It works out perfectly. 

--McChickKings's: Yeah. Fast food joints. After filling them with some nuggets and fruit, I send them off to the play place and then take advantage of the free wifi. I like Chick Fil A the best for this because their play places have tables right up against the glass wall so I can see the kiddos at all times. I do manage to get in a few paragraphs while they're happily occupied. Judge me if you will, but this is a huge relief when they are tearing the house apart with pent up energy. It happens more often in the winter months when I can't take them to a park.  

--Build a Fort: While the actual fort building takes a lot of time and attention, the distraction it provides after the building is what can get you through an entire afternoon. And it's a win/win. You spent a good half hour playing, creating, and giggling with your cuties, and then for an hour or so afterward they enjoy the spoils of your efforts, and so can you! 
One of our awesome forts

5.) Give Them One-on-One Time--What I mean by this is not just doing fun stuff with your kids as a whole, but making sure you give each of your children individual attention at regular intervals. In my experience, kids know when they are being ignored. I might get away with one day where I stare at my Google Document for the majority of the day, and leave the kids to their own devices, but by day two its all out pandemonium. Ignored children become attention-seeking children...and that means a lot of destruction. 

I make an effort to look each child in the eyes at least once or twice while doing some kind of interactive activity with them. With my oldest it's usually drawing or going over a story she has made or picture she has drawn. If I take ten minutes to praise her efforts, talk about the picture, and listen to what she has to say, she's a much happier girl. Even happier if I do this several times a day when I can remember. With my son, if I take a good fifteen minutes to plop myself on the ground and build blocks with him, then he's on cloud nine for the rest of the day. My youngest is actually easier. Snuggles, an unintelligible conversation, and she's off doing her own thing. I have found that they are all much happier playing on their own if I have given them that direct line of communication first. 

6.) Know When to Fold 'Em--There are stretches of days--weeks even--where I don't write a single word. Sometimes this is a combination of writer's block and motherly duties, and sometimes its just a simple fact that my children need me more. And I give in to that. As you can see even from the sporadic posts on my blog, there are times when I am lost in motherhood, and I don't have a lot more to give.

And that's okay.

Remember that your job as a mother (or father!) is THE most important job in the world. I mean that sincerely. If you think about the fact that you are shaping people, and possibly shaping the positive or negative impact they will have on the world around them, then you kind of realize how ginormous that responsibility is. And it's a delicate thing, parenthood. Every moment, good and bad, is added to the overall accumulation of your child's makeup and eventual outlook on their adult lives. So while its okay for me to have "writing days" as I call them, where they watch TV and I hardly interact with them at all, its not okay for me to make that the norm. Because I know what's most important.



The most crucial part about being a mother and a writer is knowing what comes first. 

Everything else is just a balancing act that you have to experiment with and find the best solutions for. So I hope these ideas help you on your journey as a parent AND a super fantastic writer!

Have any tips for getting your work done and still doing the parent thing? Let me know in the comments! (Heaven knows I could use the input.)

Monday, August 10, 2015

DIY Nursing Pads

I read somewhere that letting your blog be too broad was like a kiss of death for popularity, but I think at this point I am just going to give in and post whatever the heck I want! I'm sure I'll make a writing post again soon. :)

Until then, mom glasses are back on!

I spent all evening last night discovering how to thread and use a serger. It was really hard. I got all sweaty and frustrated, and even though my mom and husband were sitting at the table with me, I might have uttered a few curses under my breath trying to thread the blasted thing with a pair of tweezers and whatever remnant of patience my children hadn't already sucked out of me for the day. Have you ever seen a serger?

LOOK AT THAT THING. When I brought it out of the closet, my husband said he felt intimidated and he wasn't even doing anything with it. It's my mom's, but she's not entirely sure how it works either. She bought it to make curtains, and after she sort of successfully fumbled her way through hemming them, she forgot how she did it in the first place.

I was on my own.

But I did finally figure it out (after two Youtube tutorials, reading the manual, and ruining a lot of fabric scraps), and set out to make my first project.

Nursing pads!

So glamorous. I know, it's borderline TMI to share my nursing pads with you, but dude. They're cute. And I worked really hard to figure out how to make them! I'm all about making my own stuff for half the price of the items I find on Etsy, so I'd call this a success. $10 for 17 pairs of cloth nursing pads? Steal. Stolen, my friends. (Along with like 4 hours of my life, and a dollop of my sanity).


I kind of used a plethora of tutorials to give myself a base for making these, and gleaned my favorite parts from each of them to make my own version. I see a lot of tutorials that shape these into cones, but I didn't do that last time I made these (sans serger. It was actually harder to use a zigzag stitch on a regular machine in the end), and I didn't really feel like taking the extra step. I'm lazy like that.

These are made with two layers of flannel, one layer of fleece, and another layer of flannel on the back to make it pretty. I used a CD as my guide for cutting the circles, and I HIGHLY recommend the use of a rotary cutter when cutting out all these circles. It goes a lot faster. Then I just stacked them on top of each other in the correct order, and blundered my way through serging them. The stitching isn't pretty, but they'll hold! I'm sure I'll get better at this stuff as I go.

So there you have it! That's what I've been up to last night and this morning.

But I really should get back to finishing that book I've been writing for almost a year...


Friday, August 7, 2015

Fall Themed Newborn Checklist

Alright, so putting my mom glasses on here, I had to share this for any other pregnant women out there who might be due in the Fall.

Let me preface this by saying I love binders. Ardently.

I have a binder for our family planning, one for homeschool, and one for each month of the school year with a break down of that month's curriculum, supply list, schedule, and calendar. I have one for bills, and one for church, and if I could find an excuse for another one, I would.

Oh, wait, I did.

Our fourth child is coming in October, and part of my nesting instincts manifested in the desire for a binder. So I thought to print out some checklists, gather hospital and insurance documents, and generally make a little booklet for my Auchling. But guess what? They don't make cute newborn checklists! I'm not kidding you guys, I couldn't find anything online even to purchase.

So naturally I made my own. And when I was done I thought, "Well heck this is cute!" And then I figured I might as well share it with you.

So here you go! Autumn-themed newborn checklists in both pdf and Word form so you can add your own text or print them off and hand-write your desired items. They're totally free, and please share with your friends and due date clubs if you think they might want to use them!