Category Archives: books

National Poetry Month: One more for Sandra

It’s the last day of April, and time to say goodbye to National Poetry Month. April really is my favorite, and to end it, I would like to introduce you to one of my favorite people, my amazing cousin, Sandra.

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As you can see, if anyone is deserving of their very own poem, it is her. She dances in her chair with amazing tutus (in various colors depending on the season), she always has a smile (which is contagious), and her hugs are beyond compare. I love you Sandra, and I am so glad that you are a part of our family.  I wrote this poem just for you. Next time we are together, we will wear star-shine glasses and sing this song to everyone that walks by!

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National Poetry Month Week 3: Finding Inspiration

If you Google the top five questions that authors are asked one would probably be: Where do you find inspiration?

For me it’s a combination of a lot of things. Things that are happening in my life, people I’ve met, places I’ve been, the world around me . . . all of this inspires me. But I’ve also found inspiration in other poets.

Hope

I’ve mentioned Robert Louis Stevenson and Shel Silverstein in previous posts. I will always love these poets, but as I grew older, I found myself drawn to female poets. Emily Dickinson and Maya Angelou being the two most prominent. I even painted a “Hope” mural on my bedroom wall.

 

The picture above is not my artwork, I’m no artist, but the poem inspired some of my best awkward high school/college poetry. I fully intended to open up the old journals and spill my 16 year-old heart out, but alas the notebook cannot be found. I am so sad because there were some doozies. For now, you will have to use your imagination, or maybe break out your own journal to rediscover your own teenage angst.

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I did find this picture of me with two of my amazing grandparents, yet another inspiration, but totally underappreciated in my youth. I’m sure I wrote a poem that went something like:

 

 

Cold day, Easter egg hunt,

Hawaiian shirts, and family fun.

Wish I could feel the sand on my toes.

Had to put sunscreen on my nose.

Instead I’m helping kids hunt eggs.

Running on their little legs.

Next time let’s just hit the beach.

Skip the eggs and have a retreat.

Fast-forward to 2018, and I’m helping my own kids hunt eggs on an equally dismal day. There weren’t any Hawaiian shirts, though. My, how times have changed.

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Today is also Earth Day, so I thought I’d share a poem from my new book, Bumble Bee Sneeze, that was inspired by a nature scene. Thanks again, to my amazing husband, Tevin, for the illustrations. I gave him a challenge this time around. The illustration that follows this one is a “finding/counting things” that are from the poem.

Jump Grasshopper,

Slither Snake,

In the grass down by the lake.

Sunshine warm,

Gentle breeze,

Flowers full of bumble bees.

Fish are splashing,

Birds in trees,

Thankful for this nature scene.

 

Happy Earth Day!

 

National Poetry Month Week 2

It’s week two of National Poetry Month, and I’m still excited!

Swing

The first poetry I remember hearing was Robert Louis Stevenson. My favorite was The Swing. I remember getting lost in my mom’s voice while she read it to me. I loved to swing, and this poem captured the movement and the joy. I don’t think I really understood the language, but the feelings were there. This poem is one that I share during events, and love reading to my own children. I even captured a bit of the magic in my children’s counting book, Kids Count.

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Kids Count is a repeating, rhyming picture book that teaches counting. There is a character that is the age of the number they represent. Livingston is one, Clementine is nine, etc. For number three we meet Annalee, and just like me when I was small, she loves to swing!

Poetry can be a great way for children (and adults, too) to connect with emotions and feelings. It can be something as simple as the love of swinging. But sometimes feelings are more complicated like anger, sadness, or loss. A few of the poems in my upcoming book hint at these feelings. What happens when a new baby sister suddenly appears? Or when you get into a fight with your best friend? What if mom says, “no” when you want a pet, or maybe she says, “yes” and you don’t know which one to choose? Emotions and feelings are hard to process, but by talking about them, sometimes through poetry, they can be easier to manage.

I’ll be back next week with more poetry!

Happy Poetry Month

April is national poetry month!

Most of you are probably aware of my career as a mother of two, and might even be aware that I’m the CEO of Handersen Publishing. But I also write children’s poetry.WhenIWasAGrown-up

My first collection of poetry was released in 2015. “When I was a Grown-up and Other Poems” was inspired by my two kids, and what it’s like to grow up. It includes poems about everything from parents who are too busy to play, leftovers that sing karaoke in the fridge at night, and dust bunnies that might carry you away.

To celebrate poetry month, I want to give you a sneak peek – every week – into my new book, and also share some of my favorite poetry books from my childhood.

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My biggest inspiration growing up was (and still is) Shel Silverstein. “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is the first book that I remember getting as a gift. Although we had lots of books in our house, this book was SO magical that I wrote my name in it…with a multi-colored pen. (You know the pen I’m talking about!)

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Lazy Jane was a stand out, and I remember thinking, “This can be poetry? I want to write poetry like this! I want my poetry to be fun!”

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I still feel this way, and hope that I can bring even a quarter of the whimsy and creativity that Shel Silverstein brought to his work. I want kids (and adults, too) to want to write poetry and know that it doesn’t have to be complicated or pretentious. Poetry can be approachable. It can be relatable. It can meet you where you are.

That is what inspired “Bumble Bee Sneeze,” my upcoming collection of children’s poetry. Once again my very talented husband, Tevin Hansen has done the illustrations. This book will be a little different than the last. Each poem is still about growing up, and many of them still have silly elements, but sometimes growing up isn’t always funny. Some things are a little bit tricky to navigate, and this book has a few of those poems, too.

But today’s poem is all about smiles. This is the title poem, “Bumble Bee Sneeze”. Everything from the short length of the poem, to the cute little guy in the illustration, hints at the fun of the book.

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Thanks for checking in, all! I will be back next week with more great poems from my past, and another sneak peek at the upcoming book!

I also have an awkward high school poem reveal planned, but you’ll have to keep following along to see when that gem makes its appearance!

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Happy April!!!

 

Stepping out of your sister’s shadow

Our eldest is a hurricane. She started talking at six months, walking at ten months. The first thing people ask upon meeting her is, “Does she always talk that much?” My answer is, “Yes.” She wears every emotion on the outside, for the world to see.

When our little guy was born, it became clear that he was a completely different kind of kid. We quickly dubbed him the “normal one”. He is an observer, a thinker. He does not run on impulse, instead he takes his time. He looks at little bugs on the sidewalk, clouds in the sky . . .

Then he turned three . . .

He is still an observer, and he is still my Pokey Little Puppy, but there was an explosion, a burst of language and coordination, and silly fun. Now instead of the “normal one” we ask, “Remember when he was the quiet one?”

The timing could not be better. As our daughter is getting into the swing of Kindergarten, our little guy is becoming his own person. He’s stepping out from behind the hurricane and finding his own way to be, which is something like a monsoon, intense torrential rain with beautiful calm sunshine after.

It’s hard not to compare kids, it’s one of the key building blocks to education, sorting and categorizing. As parents, especially moms, that’s how we relate to other parents, we compare children, experiences, lifestyles. I don’t think comparing is a bad thing, it’s important to embrace our differences, but it’s also important not to judge.

I received one of the best compliments from a friend. She said, “You let your kids be who they are.” I replied, “I try to,” because sometimes it’s really hard. But by embracing their natural tendencies, and encouraging kindness and empathy, they are turning into little humans that are ready to take on the world!

 

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Lauren Child has a way of creating stories that seem to have stepped out of any child’s life. The New Small Person, is the perfect example of this.

In this book a family of three turns into a family of four, and the biggest adjustments must come from the boy who was once an only child. As his new baby brother grows this big brother finally comes to the realization that maybe this new small person isn’t so bad after all.

My favorite part of this book is when he finally calls his little brother by name.

This is a very typical Lauren Child book, with the familiar characters and illustrations that go with it. It is full of texture and color and approachable dialogue that is fun and engaging to read together with your favorite “small person”.

 

 

We are bullies . . . all of us

So maybe, just maybe it’s time for us to stop trying to convince others to follow our point of view by trying to make someone else feel stupid?

Maybe we can actually speak to one another instead of posting mean hurtful things on social media?

Maybe we can be honest with ourselves and call ourselves out for being bullies . . . all of us.

Whether you’re right or wrong, aggressor or victim, justified or opposed, just because someone was cruel to you does not give you the right to be cruel back or be cruel to someone else. It doesn’t prove a point, it’s just mean.

At first I thought it was the election year with all of its negative rhetoric, but then I realized it goes so much deeper than that. It’s been a year of Black Lives Matter, Police Lives Matter, All Lives Matter. It’s been another year of justifying hate with belligerence on all sides. It’s been a year of selfishness, ego, and narrow-minded narcism . . . from everyone. Whether I agree with you or not, whether the majority agrees with you or not, this isn’t a post about my beliefs. It’s a post about treating people, like people, not profile pictures on the internet that don’t have feelings or families.

There are consequences for actions like these, and we will see them in the next generation. Our children are reflections of ourselves. They are like fun-house mirrors, turning our behaviors into over exaggerated  versions of what they see. But if this type of behavior gets any bigger, I worry about what that means for us as a society.

I realize that in posting this, in a way, I’m giving into all of these things, but I’m tired . . .

I am a naturally positive person, so much so that I drive my husband nuts with thinking the best of people. But lately the light in people’s eyes has seemed a little dimmer.

There is hope, though, always hope. I see it in several Facebook feeds that I follow.

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There are more, I know, and I plan on surrounding myself with them, and blocking/turning off the negative flood that has surrounded the people of our country. And I will pray for our country, for our leaders (whomever they may be), for the next generation. I will pray that they can all find compassion for someone other than themselves. That they can become selfless, humble, and generous. I will pray that we can all embrace our differences and grow together instead of tearing each other down.

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There are thousands of books on bullies, but there is one that is close to my heart, and speaks a lot to the point I’m trying to make. Alexia Versus the Birthday Bear by my husband, Tevin Hansen.

In this book Alexia is a very smart girl who finds herself at the school bully’s birthday party. It is up to her to save her not so nice classmates from a party entertainer that is actually a real bear that wants to eat them all for lunch.

The premise is silly, but the story speaks to the enormous problem of bullying. Almost every character in the book is a little mean at some point. Even Alexia is a bully to an extent because she holds her intelligence over her classmates. There is a section at the end of the book that asks the reader to answer a few questions about the characters in the book and examine why each are, in their own way, a bully.

This book is a great conversation starter. And hopefully with a little thoughtful dialogue we can be honest with each other and honest with our selves, and finally put an end to bullying.

This is NOT our normal toilet paper.

It looked like the toilet paper that I normally buy. It was the same brand, same packaging . . . I didn’t even read the label. It had been a long day of errands, and this was my last one. With two kids running around the store like maniacs, it was time to go. I just didn’t realize that when we got home and it was time to go, that we would have a problem on our hands.

Growing up, there was one rule in our house: “Don’t buy cheap toilet paper.” And I was grateful for that rule. Now as a mother, I try to live by it as well. Until, that is, Aldis changed their packaging.

My son put the toilet paper away. It’s his one big responsibility and he LOVES stacking the rolls in the bottom cupboard. So I didn’t realize my mistake until it was too late.

“Bogies, mum…” said my 3-year-old, arms at his sides–we’re trying to teach him not to use his shirt, or his arm as a tissue.

“Okay, hold on,” I said.

As I went to grab some TP, I was not greeted with the soft, two-ply, quilted delight that is usually there. This was worse than the toilet paper you find in mall bathrooms. This was one-ply, rough, falls apart, awful.

I went to the trash and checked the packaging. It was the same brand, but it was NOT our normal toilet paper. And now we had a LOT of it because when it’s only one-ply there is a lot more paper on each roll.

I’m pretty frugal, so I thought, “Hey, we can handle this. It’s just TP, right? Nothing to get upset about.” But it’s been over two months with this horrible and never ending cache of toilet paper. Our family will persevere. We will get through this. And from now on, I will take the time to make sure I get the right TP.

 

In honor of going, my new book review is Even Firefighters Go to the Potty by Wendy Wax and Naomi Wax with illustrations by Stephen Gilpin.

Firefighters Potty

This book had the kids and I laughing very hard because, let’s face it, what preschooler or toddler isn’t obsessed with bathroom humor? The premise is pretty simple. Adults from different professions are mysteriously missing. As you lift each flap, you see that they are in the potty.

This was a nice sturdy flap book, but it is not for the faint of heart, or the mom who is so tired of hearing the word poop, and jokes about poop, and kids talking about poop nonstop…that she just might scream. This book encourages dialogue about the bathroom, and all that it entails.

My little guy is already potty-trained, so I can’t say for certain that it would help with that. It might make it less scary to think that even people as brave as firefighters, pilots, and astronauts use the potty.

So if you’re ready for lots of giggles, especially about the train engineer’s locomotive themed underwear, then this book is for you.

 

 

4th of July in Denmark, Kansas

My favorite parts of the Fourth of July are:

  • Homemade Ice cream
  • Annual parade through the mecca of Denmark, KS
  • Patriotic Music (who doesn’t love a marching band?)
  • oohing and ahhing at fireworks – especially the lame ones

There are many reasons to love Independence Day. But my little guy will quickly tell you that the booms are not his favorite–too loud. Last year we spent the evening inside, wearing noise reducing headphones, while looking out a window, shaking with fear (him, not me).

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Maybe this year we can at least sit on the front porch?

So be careful, everyone. Have a fun (and safe) Independence Day.

 

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I am boycotting a book review for this blog because we are on a repeat cycle of Barbie books at the moment. We try to let the kids choose their own books for story time, but if I have to read A Paw-some Mystery (Barbie and Her Sisters in the Great Puppy Adventure) one more time…I’m going to look like this:

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Expectations

I have a mantra, and it goes like this:

I will not worry, obsess, or dwell on the things, people, or situations I cannot change.

There’s another saying that goes something like “you can’t change the situation, only your perception of it.” Then there’s that one about having no control over anyone’s actions but your own.

What I’ve found, though, is that it all boils down to expectations.

Sometimes what you want isn’t what you get because what the other person has to give doesn’t meet your expectations. Maybe it’s better to change your expectations because sometimes what the other person is giving is more than they ever thought they could.

This isn’t about lowering standards, like the skit from MadTV. It’s more about empathy and understanding. It’s about being grateful, and working to make yourself a better person outside of the situations you find yourself in.

It’s becoming a better wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend. And when I reflect on past conflict, it mostly comes from ME expecting too much. Too much from myself, and definitely too much from my family and friends.

You have to meet people where they are at, and not expect them to know where you’re coming from or where you’re going. Because they are coming from and going to their own places. Places that are sometimes filled with conflict outside of your own.

I have one more mantra that I sometimes use:

Don’t throw dirt in my hole because I already throw enough on myself.

Okay, so maybe that one’s not as profound as the others. But if you dig yourself into  a hole that you created, that means you’re the one that should dig yourself out. So you better find a large, durable shovel.

As a mother this becomes all too apparent when it comes to scheduling. Especially when you run a small independent publishing house that just took on two new authors. This on top of your mom duties, wife duties, daughter duties, friend duties. Then you buy a house. Next up it’s being the maid of honor at your sister’s wedding. Now it’s time for your husband to start school, then your oldest kiddo starts Kindergarten.

Let’s just say life is full of dirt. It must be time for a bigger shovel.

 

My review for this week is appropriately titled Dig by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha with illustrations by Marc Rosenthal

Dig

This great board book is fantastic for your little ones that are obsessed with construction. And I know there are a lot of them out there. I have two myself.

In Dig, Mr. Rally and his dog, Lightning, have five jobs to do. As they go to each site to complete their tasks, they:

Dig up rock and dig up clay! Dig up dirt and dig all day!

This book has all the elements of a great beginner children’s book. There is counting, rhyming, and a repetitive rhythm that will have your little one “reading” along in no time. The illustrations are bright and offer little things for your child to discover along the way.

The accountability of hardwood floors

We recently moved from an apartment completely covered in carpet (with tile in the kitchen and bathroom) to a house completely covered in beautiful hardwood floors. I’m guessing that there are at least a few of you that know what’s coming next . . .

Hardwood floors are always dirty and dusty and the little balls of lint that float around the corners drive me nuts!

I’m not naive enough to think that this dust and dirt and lint didn’t exist in my carpets (and I am, only now, a little disgusted thinking about it), but now I see it. I see it while I’m gathering laundry, and I sweep. I see it while I’m reading stories, so I sweep. I see it after doing dishes, and I . . .

IGNORE IT.

Because let’s face it, there are a lot of other things I’d rather be doing than sweeping.

But there’s an accountability here, and I am thankful for it in some ways. The dirt isn’t hiding in the carpet, it’s out in the open. And that forces me to look it in the eyes and either say, “Your time is up, it’s time to sweep.” or “Okay, you can stay for now, nasty puff-balls of lint. I am going to jump on the trampoline with my kids.”

Sometimes we need hardwood floors in our lives.

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My book review for this week is one that I won in a Facebook giveaway. And I’m SO glad that I did!

Is Lena Pretty? by Liza Dora is one of those books that has an important lesson to teach, but doesn’t say it in a preachy way. It is also very age appropriate and very approachable. This book is a wonderful tool for teaching character.

It’s important to mention that this is NOT a rhyming book. Don’t get me wrong, I love a whimsical, sing-songy rhyming book. I even write children’s poetry—and yes, it usually rhymes. But it isn’t always necessary.

This book is a breath of fresh air. The illustrations are simple and fit the text nicely. I love what author Liza Dora signed in the front of our copy:  “Smart is the new pretty. And who says you can’t be both?! Keep being kind, and smart, and helpful, and keep reading!”

I really loved this book. And I hope that our household can be accountable for teaching these standards of beauty.

Momma smiles. “If I told you someone was smart, helpful, kind, talented, and brave, would you think they were pretty?”

Lena thinks for a minute before she answers: “I’d think they were beautiful.”

Visit Liza Dora’s website to get your very own copy of Is Lena Pretty? http://www.lizadora.com/books/shop/