6 Things I Learned by Blogging Every Day

Achievement Unlocked!

via says-it.com/achievement
I have now posted to this blog every day in a month! I'm feeling happy about that. I posted more times in any month than I have before, and I posted more days in a row than I have ever posted before. And I'm proud of the things I posted and the things I learned along the way. Yeah!!!

I think we need a picture of me showing off my muscles, to celebrate this occasion.

I did it!
There were both pros and cons to blogging every day. Here are some of the things I learned from blogging every day this month:

1. I can do hard things - I already knew that setting and completing goals makes me feel great. Now I know that setting and completing blogging goals makes me feel great, too!

Some days it was really, really hard to get something written. Some days it was easy and I was overflowing with enthusiasm. I think it's interesting to note that it didn't really matter where I was in the month, it just depended on my mood when I sat down. I mean, I wasn't all gung-ho at the beginning, and then by the end just slogging through. My motivation was interspersed throughout and I think that's a sign that I set a goal at the right level for me.

It was good to figure out that even if I didn't feel like blogging when I first sat down, I could always get going and eventually post something worth posting.

2. I can blog about whatever I want to - I guess because I knew I was going to be posting more often than I ever have before, I felt more free to post on any kind of topic. I did some types of posts I haven't done before (or haven't done in a while), and introduced Sunday posts with a new tag: spirituality.

It's not that I previously felt my spiritual walk had no place on this blog, but I think knowing I had to post on Sundays made me willing to expand the scope of the blog to include more spiritual and religious content.

3. People love to see someone chasing a dream - When I told people offline that I was blogging every day this month, they were interested. They wanted to hear more about it, and about my blog. It gave me something good to talk about, and people seemed happy to hear about what I was working on. I think people love to see others chasing their dreams.

I'd love to know what dreams you're chasing, if you're reading this. Will you leave me a comment? I'll respond to each one.

4. I didn't have time to do back-end stuff - Put this one down under "reasons NOT to post every day." Because I was creating a whole new post every day, I didn't have time to do some of the behind-the-scenes stuff that I usually do. For instance, I said I was going to update my Cybils posts after the big announcement on the 14th, and I still haven't done that! (Hope to do it after this post goes up tonight.) EDIT: They're now up to date! Here and here. :)

I think there's a sweet spot though, for sure. If I post too infrequently, I forget to do post improvements and promise-keeping type stuff. If I post too often, I don't have time to do it.

5. Repetition increases speed - Boy howdy I have gotten a LOT faster at writing copy and creating fancy-pants images! Doing these things every day has helped me tremendously to improve my speed, and honestly I don't think the quality has suffered much, if at all. I think mostly what was making me take longer was overthinking and too much tweaking.

My friend Meghan and I have been giving each other online assignments lately, and she said something that has really helped me out: "We're shooting for, like, 80%. B+ work, ok?" Haha! Every time I catch myself spending way too long on one aspect of a post, I remember that I'm not supposed to be trying for an A+, just a B. What a relief.

6. Consistency helps with strategy. I've known about the blogging strategy of breaking big topics down in to small posts for a long time. I've wanted to do some different series, in the past. But I guess I just didn't trust myself to finish a series? Now I do. I knew I wanted to tell a few examples of times that storytelling had helped me wrangle the kids. So one night I began to outline that post. I could see from my outline that it was going to take me far too long to write this post and that it was probably going to be an overwhelmingly long piece, if I did. So I was like, "Hey! I'm going to break it up!" I did, and when I posted the next parts, I linked each of them to the others with a quick "more/previous" link at the bottom of the post. Bam!

Going forward...

I can tell you now that I do not plan on posting every day in March. I'll commit to a Monday Wednesday Friday schedule for the time being, ok? That ought to give me time to work on some of the updating I want to do, and write a couple of guest posts I've promised and still have lots of great, new content going up here on Everead.

Please tell me what you thought of this month! Did you not even notice I was posting daily? Did you notice and love it? Did you notice and thought it had some pros and cons? I want to hear it. And if you've got dreams and big goals you're working on, please share those, too.

Talk to you soon!


"The efforts of these days will not have been in vain"

Probably one of my favorite quotes of all time is this one from Gordon B. Hinckley:
Gordon B. Hinckley
"Resolutions are easily made and easily forgotten. But, in a year from now, if we are doing better than we have done in the past, then the efforts of these days will not have been in vain." 
To me, this quote means that I don't have to be perfect, I just have to keep trying to improve. It means that even if I'm taking a step backward now and then, I can still celebrate my steps forward. The full context of the quote is here.

Today I'm recommitting, resolving once again, to become a better person. One way that I would like to do this is to spend more time out of doors. Another way I'd like to do this is to get a little more exercise. So I think I'll start taking some walks. Let's say three 20-minute walks each week. I live in a very walkable area, but I forget to walk, because the last place we lived was so very unwalkable. Probably also because of winter. I think if I set the goal of walking 3x/week for the month of March, I'll get back into a walking groove.

What do you think of the quote? And are you making any resolutions right now? I'd love to hear. Leave a comment, below.

Horrible things to say to an author

This afternoon I met an author by accident.

I've met many, many authors. I often go out of my way to meet authors. But this afternoon, while I was attending the baptism of a family friend, I met an author by accident.

This wouldn't be a very big deal except that I completely stuck my foot in my mouth. Afterward I was like, "I'm pretty sure that a couple of things I said could be listed in a BuzzFeed article about what not to say to authors."

Here's how it went down:

Our hostess introduced me to Ann Haywood Leal, whom I had actually met earlier, because we sat next to each other during the program. Then our hostess told me that Ann is an author, and is working on a new book. "Oh!" I said, smiling, "tell me about it."

Ann began to describe the plot of her book. She only got about two or three sentences in.

For some crazy reason I felt compelled to tell her about another book I had read, with a similar-sounding plot. I felt compelled to describe this plot in pretty good detail. Good grief! I hope she knows that I wasn't trying to communicate that her idea had "already been done" or something. I wasn't. I was just saying the first thing that came to my head.

I think Ann wasn't too put off, because we kept talking.

"What are your books?" I asked her.

Ann named them: "A Finders-Keepers Place, and Also Known As Harper."

I thought for a minute, and then said, "I haven't heard of them. . . . but that's okay!" Oh my goodness.

Ann was very gracious.

She seems like a lovely person, and now I've got some good books to put on hold at the library. A Finders-Keepers Place and Also Known As Harper both look like interesting, middle-grade realistic fiction. I enjoyed Hilary McKay's Casson series, Linda Urban's A Crooked Kind of Perfect and Leslie Connor's Waiting for Normal, so I bet I'll like these ones, too.

p.s. Found a BuzzFeed article. Thankfully neither of my faux pas are on it. Phew!

Books for a 13 Year Old Boy: 7 Adventurous Titles He'll Love

Hello, again!

A couple of years back I wrote up some book recommendations for a 13-year-old boy, a friend of mine. It's time to update that list! Some of these are books that I have read in the meantime, others are old favorites that I've kept in my personal library.

As usual, you can click on the covers of these for more details. If you shop through the links, I earn a small commission.

The Letter for the King
by Tonke Dragt. Originally published in the Netherlands in 1962, but not published in the USA until 2015, this book is an old-fashioned hero's journey of the best kind. The Lettter for the King is realistic historical fiction. I loved it, and I think fans of The Hobbit and Crispin would enjoy it, too. In it, a young squire is about to be knighted when a secret mission literally knocks on the door.

by David Almond. This book earned a Printz Honor in 2000, and when I first read it I was completely blown away. The Printz is like the Newbery for an older age group. Skellig is short and very atmospheric. It had so much suspense in it. In it a boy and a girl in the same neighborhood discover a man who might be part bird.

Boxers & Saints
 by Gene Luen Yang. This is actually two books, but they're meant to be read together: first Boxers, then Saints. It tells the story of the Boxer rebellion in China from both sides of the conflict. These two graphic novels surprised and educated me. I reviewed them here.

The House of the Scorpion
 by Nancy Farmer. I originally read this book in college, because it was being taught in a children's lit class. It tells the story of Mateo Alacran, who has to figure out why he is respected and feared, guarded and living a life apart. I won't spoil it for you, but I'll say that I like it even better than The Hunger Games. It's dystopian YA lit, but it was written before Hunger Games. As you can see it got lots of awards.

Bad Machinery
 by Jon Allison. This series is like my new Calvin and Hobbes. It follows 6 British middle-schoolers as they solve crimes with a supernatural twist. Somethign about the way the author makes me laugh and mixes humor kids will like with jokes parents will appreciate makes me love these books.

Ender's Game
by Orson Scott Card. A classic choice for sci-fi lovers, regardless of age. In this book, Andrew "Ender" Wiggin is recruited to battle school where he quickly rises through the ranks, depite being the youngest person ever admitted. His size and age are an issue with his peers, and he has to overcome constant challenges.

Bonus! Tonight I talked with a 13-year-old boy, Joseph, who likes to read. I'm one of the leaders for our church's youth group, and asked Joseph for his top book recommendations. I'll list them here for you.

The Animorphs series by K. A. Applegate - I have fond memories of reading these when I was young! Now they're being released with new covers.

The Warriors Series by Erin Hunter - I haven't read any of these, but my younger siblings really like them, too.

Wings of Fire
Wings of Fire series by Tui T Sutherland - Looks like Joseph has good taste, because my sister recommended this series to me, too. I haven't read it yet, but it looks great.

Click the covers to shop the books

(Back to previous post)

A Spoonful of Story Helps the Medicine Go Down

Hi guys!

I just have to share with you something that my cousin Mary reported to me today. She read my post about How to Charm a Stubborn Toddler, which talks about using a story to help your child imagine that something they don't want to do is going to be amazing and fun.

Mary said she was going to give it a try. It took her a few days to find the right moment:
I tried this today and it was amazing! [My daughter] didn't want to go pick up [her brother] from preschool. So, I asked her if she was ready to ride her blue unicorn. Her eyes lit up and she jumped right up and ran out the door. :-) Although she did seem slightly disappointed when she realized it was her same old stroller. LOL. But we did have fun continuing to imagine on our way. 
First, that is awesome and hilarious!

Second, there is a fine line between pretending and lying. Definitely make sure that when you apply the storytelling technique I described, you use a fantasy element (i.e. a unicorn) and not real elements (i.e. a friend's minivan that your kid loves). Pretending with your child, and teaching them that "this is imaginary" actually teaches your kid the difference between pretending and lying, unless you use these opportunities to lie to your child. Please don't do that. Keep it fantastical and imaginary and help your young one learn to pretend, not deceive.

Third, I think that continuing to imagine is one of the big keys for getting this strategy to work well. If you just pretend with your child until they've done what you want and then you drop it, they're gonna know. If you keep playing with them, they'll not only realize you wanted them to comply (toddlers are smart!) but also realize that you wanted to play with them. And playing and talking with grown-ups helps kids feel loved.we are still getting a lot of use out of unicorn stories ourselves.

Fourth, we are still getting a lot of use out of unicorn stories over here. Just today Jubilee didn't want to have lotion put on, and she desperately needed it. (Anyone else have a toddler with eczema?) So as I began to rub her down I told her a story about her unicorn, Princess Pinky Pie and how her mommy explained to her that lotion was good and Princess Pinky Pie then gladly let her mom put lotion on her. After the story was done, Jubilee still complained that the lotion felt strange, but she at least let me put it on her.

A few minutes later, I told her the story of a unicorn who was brushing her teeth. I think you can guess what that story helped us accomplish.

I don't think the story always has to match the plot of what you're doing -- in fact I think it usually works better for me if it doesn't match. But it is much easier to just change reality slightly, isn't it?

What to Read to the Kids If You Like Jazz Music

Hello, hepcats!

Do you love jazz music? Do you want some good children's books to go along with your favorite tunes? I've got some really good ones for you!

My husband, Jacob, loves jazz. I've learned more about jazz from him than from anyone else. He likes to quiz me when we're listening to jazz and I'm getting pretty good at identifying Dave Brubeck, John Coltrane and Medeski Martin & Wood. I already knew Louis Armstrong, of course. He always gets me with Fats Waller though! One day I'm going to guess Fats right.

Here are five picture books we love for their strong rhythm and jazz influence:

Charlie Parker Played Be Bop by Chris Raschka -- This picture book by a Caldecott-winning writer/illustrator was the first one that came to my mind. The words of the book can be sung to the tune of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker's recording of Night in Tunisia. They're so silly that my kids loved them, and I can still remember the chorus. 

Mysterious Thelonious, also by Chris Raschka, is the picture book that Jacob wanted to make sure was on this list. It's words fit with the song Misterioso, by Thelonious Monk. It looks like this one is only available used on Amazon. Jacob got a real kick out of how perfectly this book matched the song.

Harlem's Little Blackbird by Renée Watson is one that I read back in 2013 when it was nominated for the Cybils award, and it has stuck with me. It's the story of Florence Mills, who was a voice for change (literally and figuratively) in the early days of jazz. Sadly, she died before her singing was ever recorded. Happily, she has an awesome picture book now, illustrated by mega-award-winner Christian Robinson.

Mama Don't Allow by Thatcher Hurd is a book that really gets my toes tapping. In it, a young musician gets kicked out of the house for his wailing and jiving music, only to find that all of his friends are in the same boat. If you can find this one on audio, snag it! If not, at least enjoy it with the Reading Rainbow episode close at hand.

How Do You Wokka-Wokka? by Elizabeth Bluemle, illus. Randy Cecil. Reading  this super rhythmic picture book sounds almost like scatting. Shannon Hale recommended it on her blog years back and I love it! A walk through the neighborhood turns into a dance party.

Add your favorites to this list in the comments below, and share this post with your jazz-loving friends!

p.s. If you want to try out Amazon Prime Music, I've got a link for that. Since they've got 30-day free trials, it's worth a spin!

Starting Chapter Books: Worry-Busting Advice and 9 Top Picks

Lindsay, mother of six-year-old Addison, has questions about chapter books. What age should you start? How do you know if you're picking a good one? Here's what she wrote:

So speaking of chapter books, what age did you start chapter books with the kids? (I guess with multiple kids, the youngers earlier than the elder probably.) Also, do you already have a post about what chapter books you would start with? I feel like I'm ready to start something with Addison, but I'm not sure where to start since I'm so limited in my kidlit. "Harriet the Spy" was a favorite of mine in childhood, I remember, but is that still too old. Tips?

Thanks for asking, Lindsay! Here are my tips and answers to your questions.

When to start reading chapter books:

With you: Start reading chapter books aloud to your kids at whatever age you want. I honestly don't remember how old my oldest was when we started. You don't need to worry about starting them too early or too late, and you don't need to "save" the chapter books so that they can read them on their own later. There are so many great chapter books that you are not in danger of reading them all. I distinctly remember trying to read Charlotte's Web to him, and then deciding to wait another year or so, when it became apparent he wasn't into it.

Independently: Kids can start reading chapter books on their own once they can recognize a good amount of sight words, pick up clues from word context (not just picture context), and sound out some words. I know I'm not giving you specific numbers, but see the "5-finger test" below.

How do I know if this book is too advanced for my kid? 

With you: If you've been reading it aloud to your child, you can pause and ask your child a few questions like "What did you think of that? Do you understand what's happening here?" to gauge their interest and comprehension. A child doesn't need to get every joke in the book in order to appreciate it. You don't need to have 100% comprehension in order to get something out of a text. So if your child is interested, and basically understands what's happening I'd give the book a green light.

Independently: Try what teachers call the "5-finger test." Here's how to do it: The child reads a page of the book. Any time they don't know a word, or have to stop to sound it out, they put up a finger. If they use all five fingers on one page, the text is at "frustration level." The difficulty of the text will be getting in the way of the flow of reading, and the child won't be able to enjoy the experience. The kid should choose a different book. Of course this is just a rule of thumb. If a kid gets to four fingers and just doesn't seem that interested in the book, let it go. If the kid gets to five fingers but she's still very engaged, go for it.

Some chapter books to start with . . .
Here are some of my favorite chapter books to read to and with my kids. Mix in some favorites from your own childhood, for sure, because there's nothing like re-living a book through your child. It's so enjoyable.

Click cover images to see these books on Amazon. If you make a purchase through these links, I earn a small commission. Every one of these books is a series, so if your child likes the book, just hand 'em the next one!

Mercy Watson -- The many misadventures of a pet pig.

Princess in Black -- This pretty princess is actually a monster-fighting heroine.

Alvin Ho -- The hilarious life story of a boy who can't talk at school.

Mr. Putter and Tabby -- An old man and his cat pass the time.

Henry and Mudge -- A boy and his dog who are best friends.

Fly Guy -- Wacky adventures of a boy and his pet fly.

Clementine -- Friendship and life in the first grade.

My Father's Dragon -- A fantasy adventure and a classic

Geronimo Stilton -- A mouse who runs a newspaper

Check out some next level chapter books I recommend! 

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