The Home of the Ghosties!

The Home of the Ghosties!

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Sunday, 17 July 2011

Yummy Mummies


I remember when I was pregnant with the Pink Kid, the OB-GYN commenting to me that the baby was probably going to be quite large, “You would be in the 90th percentile for size, so your baby will probably be large – canaries have canaries!”  (with the unspoken corollary, ‘elephants have elephants’, or perhaps the even less attractive version, ‘hippos have hippos’).

It’s concerning that you bestow your less attractive traits on your poor unsuspecting kids, and, it seems, in a less equitable quantity than your better ones.  But the good news is that there is someone else whose genes are in the mix, so blame is not clear cut J. 
Anyways, I guess the insecurity that has me stream-of-consciousnessing today is that lack of attractiveness I’ve always felt since passing 175cm when I was 15.  Problem is, I am not upset about it!  In fact it is a constant source of amusement, and it’s still following me!
I mean, start with school pickup - a fairly routine, uneventful task, angst-free for most.  But no.  For me it is now filled with apprehension.  You see, I’ve realized that mothers look much better than they used to.  Today’s woman has not accepted flabby abdomens and tuck shop arms as inevitable and she has fought back into her pre-pregnancy wardrobe with 21st century project management and efficiency.  Exercise, diet and all round health consciousness prevails.   Designer brands are in abundance during school pickup!  It is the era of the Yummy Mummy!
Conversely, I have maintained my post-pregnancy figure with a diet featuring all 5 food groups (Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, Fish’n’chips and Donut King).  I have marvelously developed jaw muscles.   I have a wardrobe consisting mainly of my work clothes.  Since I work from home, this means trackie pants, sheepskin moccasins and sloppy windcheaters.  Yep, I am the variation on the theme.  I am… Crummy Mummy!
So pickup, when one has to show one’s food-stained face to collect Pink Kid and Blue Kid, becomes a time for odious comparisons and ego reduction.
Wherein we arrive at today’s book review (haven’t done one for a while, have I?). 
“Charlie the Chick” is a cute book with a wonderful ‘surprise’ pop-up ending!  It is simple for the very young child and both Pink Kid and Blue Kid have enjoyed it right through the 3yo to 5yo age groups (and they still laugh uproariously at the ending even now).  Let me elaborate…
<SPOILER ALERT!>
Charlie the Chick has big body parts, and it is explained, piecemeal, as to why each of these body parts is big.  Each page has a pop out, so when we are talking about Charlie’s beak, the big beak pokes out from the page.  When we’re talking about his big feet, they too protrude expansively into one’s face.  This is great for young kids, but be warned that all the pages will ultimately be mutilated by inquisitive little fingers!
But the thing my kids love most about “Charlie the Chick” is the same idea with which I’ve opened today’s blog.  Canaries, elephants, hippos and the like… that idea.  Because the punchline for “Charlie the Chick” is, that “if you think Charlie is big… you should see his… mother” <insert Pink Kid and Blue Kid’s raucous laughter> and the final page of the book unfolds to reveal a monstrously large chicken.  Ah dear, Crummy Mummy strikes again…

Friday, 8 July 2011

Speaking of Pole Dancing...

No, hopefully this is still rated G.

But The Animated Woman performed a twitter striptease/pole dance to get those last 10 followers to achieve 10000!  CONGRATULATIONS!  This cunning plan worked a treat!

So in celebration of her achievement, here is the pole dancing ghostie for your delectation...


 and, of course, the audience:

I do encourage you to visit The Animated Woman's website, it's wonderful!  Oh, and follow her on Twitter! @LittleAnimation
 

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Pink Kid pulls a Sickie

It’s school holidays and today (Friday) is the last day of the holiday swimming programme at the Swim School where the Pink Kid and Blue Kid attend.  Pink Kid doesn’t feel well.  On closer questioning, it seems she has a roaming headache (changes location each time you ask her).  There is also the chance of throwing up (very effective opt-out symptom due to the mess-threat).  She might be sick…  I’m inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt.  But just for the record, there’s serious doubt.
In her favour, she is a good participant.  She’s made great progress this week with her swimming.  She’s doing laps with a kickboard and is “nearly there” with freestyle.  I’m impressed.  So, I figure, she might be sick, and, well, ok, I can live with the existing effort to date… unlike that of the Blue Kid.
On the way to the Swim School, I give Blue Kid a lecture on the fine art of swimming…
“No spaghetti arms!” I say, “strong arm movements, punch out firmly… like in Tae Kwon Do!”  Blue Kid nods absently… 
Blue Kid, it should be noted generally, does not always “make effective use of class time”.  (Does anyone else recognize this phrase from school reports?)  Blue Kid can sometimes be relied upon to diligently perform a given exercise with the proviso that close monitoring by the authority figure is uninterrupted.  Stop looking… he stops doing.  In the current context, this means that when the swimming instructor looks away to help another kid, Blue Kid’s feet drop to the ground and he gazes about, occasionally splashing the children in the other pool lanes.
So Pink Kid’s sickie means that I have an uninterrupted 30 minutes of watching the Blue Kid craftily learn as little as possible.  Spaghetti arms feature pervasively… until the instructor turns her attention to him.  When he realizes she’s watching, I realize that he was really listening in the car – with unintended results!  At each stroke, he SMACKS his arm into the water with a strong downward motion. 
Ah, the best laid plans…  Bad Mum strikes again.
I meant that he should strongly push his arm out straight and then slice into the water causing a forward projection of his whole body to assist in driving forward through the water.  Instead, the Blue Kid achieved a hard downward slap, commendably Tae Kwon Do-like, resulting in a sinking momentum and a horrified swimming instructor.
Between laziness, craftiness and following bad advice, the Blue Kid hasn’t had a very successful lesson.  So the inevitable question followed.
“Can I have a lollipop for being so good at swimming?”

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Just when you think stereotypes are actually true…

I found out that if you order more than 25 pounds worth of books from Amazon UK, they will ship for free to Australia – YIPEE!  Shopping Spree!  I shopped for 2 hours online, I didn’t have a maximum limit, just a minimum prerequisite!
I bought two Fancy Nancys, a Splat the Cat primary reader,  “A Bad Case of Stripes” and then in a fit of nostalgia, lashed out on “The Magic Faraway Tree”, narrowly avoiding bumping into Mr Pinkwhistle.
The magic brown parcel of books arrived at the door a couple of weeks later.  Of course by that time I had forgotten I’d even ordered them… so it was a SURPRISE!!  As I unpacked them, my heart sank in my chest.  In my pleasurable haze of book buying, I’d forgotten the Blue Kid.  All these books were really Pink Kid material!
The Blue Kid likes “Battleboy”, “Zac Power” and other zappy, sci-fi, super spy stuff bordering on computer game playline storylines.  Most unattractive to my (naturally?) more traditional bent.  I lean towards magical fairies rather than magical destruction.  So when presented with an opportunity for self-indulgence, the Pink Kid became the beneficiary.  Bad Mum strikes again…
Thinking quickly, I handed out the booty.
“This is for you”, I said to the Pink Kid, giving her the Fancys, Splat and Stripes, “and this is for you!” …passing the Blue Kid “The Magic Faraway Tree”.
Turning towards the sink I winced inwardly, waiting for the Super Whine to start – goes something like, “Yuuuuck, what did you buy me THIS for??  It’s a GIRL’S book!”
But it didn’t happen!
“Oh!  I’ve seen this one at my cousin’s house!  This is a great story!  THANKS MUM!!”
Well, I’ll be…  Maybe there is a visit to Mr Pinkwhistle in my near future after all.


Books mentioned in this blog post (and actually, I can recommend all of them!):

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Parent/Teacher Interviews and a Fancy Plan

We have just had our parent/teacher interview for the Pink Kid.  She’s only in prep, so you don’t expect many problems…  But it turns out that while the Pink Kid is very well-behaved, pliable and eager for teacher approval, there is a lack of willingness to push herself beyond the minimum requirement.  She’s managed to avoid learning the Golden Words (this is a list of the most common words in English – “the”, “that”, “this”, “if” and so on, including "so" and "on") and always chooses the easiest take-home books to read.
Pink Kid is lazy!!
Well, we kind of knew this.  Pink Kid is very cute and has adopted some charming attitudes and engaging manners.  It has become much easier for Pink Kid to “oversee” than to “do”.   With a helpless sigh and a politely worded request for help, she finds many willing volunteers.  Blue Kid, surprisingly, can be cajoled into many things and tantrumed into others.
“I can’t change the channel on the television.”
Blue Kid can and does.
“I can’t do up my button.”
Blue Kid can and does.
“I can’t do this on my DS.”
Blue Kid can, but she might have trouble getting it back from him, because I have banned him and confiscated his.
Recently, she accompanied me on my morning inspection of rooms.  We went past Blue Kid’s room and to my surprise, he’d made his bed and “cleaned up” (shoved all toys and dirty clothes under the bed).  In any event, I thought I could make some mileage out of this…
“Look, isn’t Blue Kid a good boy!”  I said pointedly to Pink Kid, “He’s cleaned his room and made his bed!!”
“Yes, that’s wonderful!” she replied enthusiastically.
Moving on down the hall, I came to her room…
“Oh, no!” I said in mock horror, “What happened here??” – the bed was unmade and every Barbie Doll and Pony she owned was scattered amongst yesterday’s clothes on the floor.
“Oh, Blue Kid didn’t have time to clean up here before he went to school,” she replies.
So you get the picture.  Pink Kid is trying to sail through life on the back of female helplessness.  I cannot abide this.  It must cease.  So we’re not helping the Pink Kid anymore.
Furthermore, we have implemented a reading program, and we don’t accept the plaintively delivered “No!  You read it to me!” anymore.  She must read.  And none of those easy word books.
“Here,” I said, last night, throwing Fancy Nancy on the bed, “read this to me.”
Fancy Nancy is a favourite.  It fulfills all the requirements for Kid Like – “FUNNY”, “BEAUTIFUL” and “SHINY”.  It’s very pink, with glitter on the front cover!  The illustrations are very cute and funny, and, of course Nancy’s views about conducting a fancy life are shared wholeheartedly by the Pink Kid.  Fancy Nancy, whilst pink, shiny and funny, avoids being trivial, and is clever and engaging enough not to annoy the adult who thinks she might be reading this one often.
We’ve only had the book a short time, so Pink Kid doesn’t know it off by heart, but she has heard it at least twice.  So even though it is well above her reading level, I want her to work out the words by sounding out and story context.
And she did a remarkably good job.  As a matter of fact, the only words she did seem to have trouble with were the Golden Words!  When I reminded her to sound out the letters, she often read those correctly too.  She even managed to sound out the French words like “merci” and “peignoir” – with a good Aussie accent (I had to tell her the ‘g’ was silent, though…).
So we’ll continue on my reading regime and I will refuse to dumb it down for her.  Any story I would read to her, I will now expect that she reads to me.  I will try to add intellectual rigour to a child with great emotional intelligence… by refusing to be sucked in!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

GHOSTIES go LIVE!!

Well, I was excited...

Moon Ghostie Manners is finally released and will be for sale on Amazon in a few days!

I received the proof this afternoon and I'm finally happy with it!  I came bouncing in waving the proof in my hand and did the "shoving under the nose" thing to my husband.

"Yes, I've read it," he comments in monotone.

Well you can't be satisfied with that!  So I go and push the copy into the viewing range for the Blue Kid (ie:  in between his face and his laptop).  He actually tries quite hard...

"Oh, cool!"  He even takes the book and reads aloud the first sentence... then hands it back.

And that's it for potential audience.  Pink Kid is having solo Grandma Time ("I don't want you to come with me!  Then you and Grandma will talk and she won't play with me!").

So I think I'll go and ruin Pink Kid's day by stealing Grandma away and making her read the Ghosties (again!).  Well, it's only fair... she's my mum!  She HAS to be impressed!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

What happens when computer nerds procreate?

Well don't let's mince words... my husband and I are... nerds!

We both work in computers and love all things electronic.   Assembler programming under a towel on the beach is our idea of a vacation.  As they say, however, what goes around comes around -- around came the Blue Kid.

At the parent/teacher interview in prep, we were advised that the Blue Kid's fine motor skills were a little behind as his dexterity with a pencil was somewhat lacking.  DINGDONG went the bell in my head... that could be because he doesn't use a pencil.  He's had a laptop since he was three and his dexterity with a touchpad is superior!  But okay, I'm a bad mum, I didn't let him paint with paint, but with (ms)Paint!  We didn't make the same mistake with Pink Kid, but that didn't really help the pencil-challenged Blue Kid.

And so the years went on and sometimes Blue Kid lifts his nose out of the Nintendo DS/laptop/playstation.  This worried me greatly.  You hear anecdotes of children with affected attention spans, sleep disorders (due to playing with a backlit screen too close to bedtime), and all sorts of other evils which emanate from overuse of all things electronic.

Children should read real books on real paper and play with real pens, and such activity is rarely rationed.  Electronic gadgets, however, particularly those which partake of the INTERNET should be locked away and produced as a supervised and brief reward for persistent application in more traditional and acceptable children's passtimes.  This seems to be the general view held by parents and "those who know" about kids.

Hence we have that one hour on, one hour off rule (which others think is still too much and Blue Kid sees as cruel and unusual punishment).    So like an outraged dowager, I march into his room and snatch the evil gadget away at the 61 minute mark!

"NO!!  I have to SAVE it!!!"  he cries.
"No, I will save it," I say, because Blue Kid can be devious and knows I get distracted easily.  I start to press buttons on his DS ... (how hard can it be???  I've supported Enterprise Servers!!), "So how do I save it?"
"Just keep pressing 'A'" he replies, sighing heavily at parental stupidity.

And so I do.  And I get a story.   It's an illustrated story with fantastic computer graphics (some of our best artists these days are in game development).  It's an adventure story line which involves the reader in the plot.  There are many possible paths to take to the "finish" of the game.  There is scene setting, instructional text and interactive challenges.  The language is kept at about a 10 year old's ability to read and there's lots of text.

I start to suspect that there may be very little difference between these kind of games and that much vaunted idea for the super new, bleeding edge fantasy that publishers are starting to talk about, THE INTERACTIVE BOOK ... and I wonder...  are they a bit behind?  We call these things games, but the text content is significant.  The child interacts with the story (and there is a definite plot), and there is animation and audio.  So where is the taxonomy going to draw its battle lines??

The Blue Kid is not a voracious reader (as historically defined).  Paper books are okay, but not adored and are only taken from the shelf under duress.  But for an 8yo, his vocabulary is extensive and when he reads aloud, even well above his level, his recognition of words and comprehension are astounding.  He uses electronic initiative to find answers to questions we can't always answer, and, I have to admit, ways to cheat in the electronic games/interactive books.

Yes, too much of a good thing is still too much of a good thing, but perhaps some things are not as evil as they're marketed...

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

What makes a good children's book?

So I was asking myself that question, "what makes a good children's book?"  And of course it depends on who is answering... the child or the parent.

Well, you should go to the ultimate source, so I asked the 5yo Pink Kid, "What's your favourite book?"  Of course, I was hoping she'd say, "Making Rainbows" or "Moon Ghostie Manners", but of course she didn't. 

"Hairy McClary from Donaldson's Dairy!" she exclaimed.  But then (because we were looking at the Penguin site at the time, she saw the cover of Jane Tanner's "Isabella's Secret" ...  "Oh, no!  This one, I have this one.  I LOVE this one with the fairies!"

Well, I love Hairy too, and no one can argue against the fact that Jane Tanner does the best fairies in the business!  But what about "Diary of a Wombat"?  And all those lovely picture books with Australian animals.  And then there's multiculturalism which is a great theme this year... what about a book that deals with children from different cultures?    Nope, not popular with the Pink Kid.  She likes 'FUNNY', 'BEAUTIFUL' and 'SHINY'.  (Also, I should emphasise 'funny', not 'amusing' or 'humourous'.  'Amusing' and 'humourous' are too subtle.  We're talking 5yo here).

So here we are.  Parents buy (and often choose) the books.  But when my children choose their favourite books, they rarely pick the ones I would.  So there's a tug of war between what I see as educational, humourous and interesting on the one hand, and what is 'FUNNY', 'BEAUTIFUL' and 'SHINY!' on the other.  I still reckon that parents buy "A Very Hungry Caterpillar" to teach their children about the wonder of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, and kids like it because it's the biggest banquet they've ever seen!  Pink Kid virtually salivates when we get to the part about the cake!

So perhaps that's it then, the "best" children's books are ones that bridge the gap between the adult "wants" and the child "wants".  So books like "Hairy McClary" and "The Very Hungry Caterpillar".  Adults get to smile, kids get to belly-laugh, it's visually attractive and not too boring to read aloud for the 100th time.

So the small Pink Kid sits in the corner while I gleefully read "Dairy of a Wombat" (having refused to read Disney Princesses yet again).  I laugh at the wombat slowly training the family he adopts while Pink Kid sort of listens, sort of waits for it to be her turn to choose...

Sunday, 29 May 2011

How it almost(!) happened...

So I have to tell you the story of the day I released and then had to snatch back "Making Rainbows" (my first book!).

It was only last week, actually.  Got my hot little hands on the proof (about the 5th proof I should add - had to change the layout, then had to change the font, then didn't like the cover, and so on...)  Anyway, this time I was sure I had it right!  And here it was in its pristine glossiness!  I ran into the computer to press the "GO" button and publish this thing and promptly went ahead and ordered 50 copies to send to reviewers, friends, family and the like, racing away so I could complete all these exciting tasks before school pickup.

Went and picked up the blue kid from school...
"LOOK", I shove book in blue kid's face "Mummy's published the book!" - manic delight bordering on hysteria - I can hear it in my own voice.
"Oh, cool, have you seen this pokemon?" ... humph.
So, spitefully, I ask, "Have you got your homework bag?  Did you get a new book to read?" - well no, he forgot, so I can dive in for the kill....
"Good, well there's my book, read that aloud to me!"

So he did.  And there was a problem.  I'd used the same word twice, too close together!  This is a tragedy.  It's a tragedy because it's a children's book with not much text.  Therefore, each word of the text is of utmost importance and a mistake like that stands out... way out!
It's a tragedy, because I don't speak or write Chinese and I have a Chinese translation of this book... and I have to change 1 word in English and I won't be able to fix the Chinese version without bugging my good friend, Carolyn, AGAIN!

It's a tragedy, because I've ordered 50 copies of the book, print on demand, no refund.
*sigh*

The good news is that I now have a good supply of kindling for my fire.

The other good news is that the blue kid is very proud.  He found another mistake mum's made.

Every cloud has a silver lining.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Gloria Lapin's books for beginning readers

Well, my pink kid (the 5 yo "beginning reader") has done a little Red Riding Hood - ie:  she's gone to grandma's house!  Ahhh... it's like taking off a tight pair of shoes.  The kid is adorable, but loud, clumsy and... adorable.  All I can say is: TGFG (thank God for Grandma).

I have the blue kid under AV restrictions (for every hour of audio/visual, he has to do one hour of something else).  We've spent some time creating a progressive story (where he writes one paragraph of a story and I write the next - leads to some interesting, if disjointed creations).

Hmmm, but speaking of 'beginning' readers - I was, wasn't I? - I wanted to tell you all about Gloria Lapin's books on Smashwords (http://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/littleteacher) because I've discovered her books when looking for something that the small pink kid can read ("all by herself!").

Gloria's books are great.  They are very simple.  Simple illustrations and simple words (with some good repetition) which makes them perfect for children who are just starting to read.  There's some good variety, and the stories, while -shall I say it again- are very simple, there is a story, unlike some of those early readers like the "P" Book etc., which are really just word lists with small sentence examples.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather hear an actual coherent story, no matter how simple!

They display really well on the iPad too, which is a bonus, because the pink kid loves the iPad (so does the blue kid, but he's banned).

So thanks, Gloria.  I thank you, my pink kid thanks you (and my blue kid is ignoring you because he's probably surreptitiously playing his DS under his doona).

Cheers everyone!

Picture Books I love!

Well, I have to say that having 2 kids is a really good excuse to read picture books (which I love).

One of my favourites in recent times is Jude the Dude; The Peanut Allergy Kid and another book by the same author called I Promise.

Both books are well illustrated (a must for me!) and each perfect for the use for which it was intended!  (to use some consumer affairs language).

"Jude the Dude; The Peanut Allergy Kid" is a great book to leverage for a discussion with children on allergies in general (for kids with them and for kids who need to understand why they should not share their food, or why the school has banned certain things from school lunches!).  I love the illustrations which are cute and appropriate.   I can really recommend this one.

The other book, "I Promise" is a poem of dedication to the author's son.  Love it... I even teared up!  Again, cute illustrations and a lovely book to read to one's son.  So I'm not going to read it to mine until he cleans his room, makes his bed and stops playing incessantly with his DS.  Then I might tell him how much I love him and read this book to him...

Well, that's all for today!  Past my bedtime and the small pink kid wants warm and fuzzy time.

Night!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Hi Everyone! This is my blog

Well, we're finally in the countdown to book launch for both Moon Ghostie Manners and Making Rainbows (English/Chinese)!

Can't wait to see those hardback proofs!  I'm still aiming for a June launch!  (ok, it's probably going to be July...)

Of course I'm now on to the sequel to the Ghosties, which is going to be entitled Moon Guesties.  Text complete and five illustrations in...  I'll post some of them on deviantart (http://jinxbooks.deviantart.com/) when I get around to it. 

Anybody with some good book promotion ideas needs to contact me to let me know!  (visit website at:  http://www.jinxpicturebooks.com/) I'm new to the marketing thing.  Hmmm... this is what happens when you start your own publishing company instead of submitting your books to other publishers.  Here's hoping someone buys and reads the books!  Here's hoping anyone sees the books!

In other news, just picked up pink kid from kid party (nearly forgot her when I got carried away creating this blog!)  Blue kid spent quality time with Dad and a a todo list I drafted before I left.  Got back with pink kid, 2 helium balloons and a monster lollipop to find todo list in pristine virginity on the kitchen bench... oh well, a girl can dream.

Have a kool weekend everyone (oh, fave music at the moment is now Wild at Heart by The Birds of Tokyo thanks to the fact that they played it at the Air Show while the jets were blowing us away!! <presses repeat button on ipod>)