Mom! Can I Have Some Friends Over?

Mom! Can I Have Some Friends Over?

With almost every group of childhood friends, there’s usually a favorite place where everyone likes to gather. For young kids, it’s most likely an area in the schoolyard at recess or in an after school club or activity. Here, teachers and parents can keep a close watch and give just the right amount of safe space for the kids to do, well, kid things.

From what I've seen, most older kids prefer to meet their friends at someone’s house and hopefully away from the adults.

For my kids, it was our house.

Okay, parents, I know you might be thinking...

“Oh man, you were that house?”

...And you’re counting your blessings that it didn’t have to be your house or that it still isn’t.

Kids coming and going at all times. A clutter-y mountain of stinky shoes at the front door. Endless supplies of snacks being raided from the kitchen. Well, you know what? I say, bring it on!

I loved that my kids wanted to bring friends back to our home.

I loved that they felt comfortable doing so.

The funny thing was, the more they did it, the more I started to notice that it was the same type of kids. You know, the ones that had very few freedoms in their life because of super strict and controlling parents. Or just the opposite, kids that had parents that were absent from their lives. It wasn’t long before I realized that a lot of my kid’s friends were in our home because they didn’t really want to go back to their own.

At first, this made me feel sad for them. How crappy to not feel comfortable in your own home. But I didn’t pity them because my childhood home was similar and I remember feeling like a lot of my friend’s houses seemed so much more relaxed and fun.

So, when my kids brought their friend’s home, I simply respected the fact that they felt comfortable in our house and I embraced the title of

“hostess to the gang!”

I think they felt comfortable because just like our own kids, they knew that they could be themselves with little parental judgment. We gave them time alone, while still being close-by in the house. They could hang out and just be kids. Saying silly stuff and doing silly kid things without worrying if “the parents” were going to step in and shut it all down. No judgment. When my kid’s friends visited, my husband and I treated them like they were our own.

Of course we had some rules when my kids had friends over, but I like to think that they were fair and put in place mostly to set some safe boundaries. All kids need to feel like someone’s in charge and responsible (some adult, whether it's their parent or not) and they can be shown this, without actually saying it to them over and over again. Subtle reminders have always worked best for our family and my husband and I set straight forward rules that we usually only had to say once. Like, no smoking, don’t touch the booze, help yourself to food, but clean up after yourself, and treat our home and everything in it (including each other) with respect.

 

When I was a tween, my mom allowed my brother and me to have friends over, but it wasn’t always so comfortable. At least not as much as when I was at their house. There wasn't a lot of lenience at my house and instead of just hanging out like a kid, I always felt a little more worried about something getting broken or making too much of a mess.

In my kid’s house, there have been messes.

But, they always got cleaned up, mostly by my kids and with their friends helping them. There was loud playing and screechy laughter all the time. And there were also quiet, intimate moments where these same kids poured out their hearts to my husband and I. There was sadness and drama and all the pre-teenage hormonal states. And, there were plenty of hugs to go around, no questions asked. 

Having consistent boundaries and restrictions is an essential thing for all kids-especially tweens and teens, who are just starting to push the limit. But kids also need to feel like kids in a safe space that allows them to test these boundaries.

Just like when they were younger and back in the schoolyard at recess or in after school activities when adults are standing right there to catch them, older kids need these same safe places too. Only away from someone to catch them if they fall. They need to catch themselves and each other or fall and get right back up again.

My daughter is now living in her own home. Which just happens to also be the favorite place to go with her friends. She has her own sets of rules and boundaries, and it’s nice to see that some of them seem very familiar.

My son is still at home with us and I’m savoring every last moment of his time here. I know it won’t be long until he finds a home of his own too to share with his friends. It will be too soon I’m sure.

Even though both of my kids have almost left home, I still feel lucky, cause my daughter visits regularly and both kids still ask to have friends come stay with us all the time. You might think it’s because we live in a warm climate by the beach. You might think it’s because we always have yummy foods and drinks stocked in the fridge.

I believe it’s because here

they feel comfortable and at home.

Here, they can fall.

 

Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie Author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12.

Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! and they just released their second picture book together called Too Many Things!

Are You Still There Margaret?

   

Are You Still There Margaret?

Lately, I’ve been inspired to broaden my writing horizons, so I’m reading kids books out of my genre and revisiting some of the tween books that I read as a kid. I’m hoping to spark some creativity, and if anything, to remember what it feels like to be a “middle-grader.”

In my last post, I introduced the idea of re-reading the classic (and somewhat controversial) tween book Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The weird thing was that when I went to find it in my local bookstore, it was located in the teen genre section. That intrigued me.

Looking back when I was that age, I remember feeling like the book was so relatable. I was a pre-pubescent kid with all these angsty feelings and so was Margaret, the main character.

So, why was the book now in the teen section and not shelved with the other middle-grade fiction books?

At first, I thought that maybe the book is more controversial than I had remembered. Then it occurred to me that maybe my childhood fave was now considered a “banned book” and the bookstore was stowing it out of the kid section to appease some of the “gatekeepers of diverse children’s literature.”

After researching a bit, I learned that sadly, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is indeed a frequently challenged book.

According to the American Library Association or ALA, there is a difference between a banned book and a challenged book.

What is a Banned Book?

A banned book is one that has been censored by an authority—a government, a library, or a school system. A book that has been banned is actually removed from a library or school system.

What is a Challenged Book?

A challenge is an attempt to remove or restrict materials, based upon the objections of a person or group. A banning is the removal of those materials. Challenges do not simply involve a person expressing a point of view; rather, they are an attempt to remove material from the curriculum or library, thereby restricting the access of others.

Photo from ala.org

Over the last few decades, Author Judy Blume has been challenged so many times for her books. Five of her titles have been banned, so I’m only going to give some quick specifics about Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

(My information comes from the ALA's Office of  Intellectual Freedom or OIF who has only been collecting data since 1990 for the Banned Books Coalition*)

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret has been in the top 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books list from 1990-1999.

The top 100 Most Banned/Challenged Books list from 2000-2009.

As of 2016, it still remains on the Frequently Challenged List and is “restricted” (except with parental permission) in some libraries across the nation.

So, currently it’s only challenged but not officially banned. However, the facts appear ambiguous, hard to find and there still seems to be some discrepancies about tweens having access to this book.

Why is Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret considered a frequently challenged and banned book?

Fear.

Based on popular opinion and from what I've read, a vast majority of people in our society (particularly in the Children’s Lit community) see banning books as an action that is provoked by fear. Fear based on religious, political, and social beliefs are all influencers that can perpetuate more fear and the motivation to want to ban or challenge a book.

Judy Blume said it most profoundly when she stated in an interview with The Guardian:

“Censorship grows out of fear and, because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children do not read about it, their children will not know about it. And if they do not know about it, it will not happen.”

In all fairness, it’s understandable and important to have fear for our children’s well-being and want to protect kids from possible harmful information or situations. No parent wants their child to be exposed to damaging book content before they are ready to process or understand it. But what about the kids that are ready because they're unfortunately experiencing it  and need guidance through their life’s muck?

No parent wants their child to go through any pain or uncomfortableness that derives from the difficult challenges and situations in their life. Yet, realistically, most do. It's just a very real part of the world we live in. 

Many contemporary kids are faced with inequality, inequity, discrimination, exclusion, bullying, sexism, gender diversity bias, racism, and misogyny at some point in their childhood.

Sheltering and restricting material that has contemporary ideas, issues, and situations doesn’t help kids. Censoring just provokes more fear. 

*If you care to, read more about my thoughts on banning kid's books here*

With regards to my beloved book, Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret, having access to it as a pre-teen helped me understand my body and feelings better when no one else in my life could. It allowed me to feel somewhat normal and loved for who I was at such a not normal feeling time in childhood.

I can’t imagine what it feels like for a child that is restricted from books and materials like this.

In truth, the only prominent social issues that Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret deals with are religion and puberty. Looking back on legitimate reasons for banning a book, this one doesn’t have age inappropriate content. In fact, just the opposite.

Different faiths (including non-religious affiliations like atheism) make up the wonderful diversity of people in our society.

Unless a person’s faith involves harming someone else or themselves or entails obscene rites or encourages hate towards others, why wouldn’t we want our kids to be enlightened about all the different cultures and faith and religious-based practices of other people?

In our society, religion and spirituality is something that many kids are exposed to at any early age. Most are born into a family that practices some form of faith or belief system. Some are not. 

The point here, though, is that my book wasn’t about informing the reader about different religions or faiths in order to convert them. It wasn’t about endorsing one religion, faith or belief over another or about pointing fingers at which one was better or worse.

It was more about a pre-teen girl’s quest to understand the different religions that her parents had been born into. It was also about her finding faith in the people and the world that she lived in. Mostly, it was about a young girl cultivating a belief in herself.

It was also about puberty. The natural, uncomfortable human experience that every young person has to go through. I just don’t understand why any parent or adult could have fear about giving children necessary, honest and helpful information about this topic, particularly when the content is coming from a peer’s perspective.  

If we can make it as less uncomfortable as possible for kid’s who are going through puberty and similar experiences, by offering materials that encourage them and give hope, let’s do it!

In some bookstores, public libraries and school systems across our nation and world, tweens are restricted access to Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret because it’s inappropriately shelved or banned and not shelved at all.

The irony of all this is that even though it's quite clear that the book is about a tween's life experiences, there are still so many inconsistencies about who this book is recommended for.

The original publisher of Judy Blume’s book was Bradbury Press in 1970 but they stopped publishing in 2010. Archives of the book info on WorldCat.org classify the book as Juvenile Fiction with no age or grade recommendations.

Her current publisher of the book (Atheneum Books for Young Readers or Simon and Schuster) reprinted it in 2014 as a book recommended for ages 8-12 or grades 3-7. However, it’s also listed in a Teen Collection for ages 14 plus.

My local Barnes & Noble shelves it in the teen section too. Yet, the more universal online site of my bookstore, recommends it for kids ages 9-12.

Amazon recommends it as a book for kids 12 and up or grades 7 plus.

Scholastic (under the teacher’s bookstore category) recommends grades 3-5 and 6-8.

Wikipedia says the book is typically categorized as a Young Adult novel. 

Judy Blume herself recommends it as a Middle-Grade read and honestly, that’s all I need to know.

I wonder who Margaret would most want to inspire with her words?

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Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie Author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! and they just released their second picture book together called Too Many Things!

Tracy also writes non-fiction for kids. Check out her Awesome & Diverse Book Series for kids aged 8-11. 

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Check out the Banned Books Week Coalition*

(a national alliance of diverse organizations joined by a commitment to increase awareness of the annual celebration of the freedom to read) and see what you can do to help spread awareness for your favorite banned or challenged book.

Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, Tracy

Are You There Margaret? It’s Me, Tracy

Looking back, I must have been about ten when I received my first book about puberty. The book was

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.

In the early 80’s, it was a staple in almost every household across North America with a tween girl living in it…if they were lucky. Whether it was given to said girl by her parent(s) or smuggled into her bedroom via backpack or purse, most pre-pubescent girls in my generation counted on this somewhat controversial book to learn about their body.

Basically, the book is about quirky and awkward Margaret Simon, an almost twelve-year-old on the verge of puberty.

“There's some talk about periods, boys, bras, and bodies -- Margaret grapples with some big questions about growing up, including what religion she should be (if any).”

From what I remember, the book is so not about religion. Yet, on that note, growing up in a quasi-multi-denominational family, where going to church wasn’t a weekly thing, I felt relieved to read about another family similar to mine. 

In the book, Margaret and her family don't go to church. Her parents don't want any religion forced on Margaret. Her father comes from a Jewish background but hasn't found God in religion. Margaret's mother comes from a Christian upbringing, but doesn’t practice.

When I read this book, I found hope in the fact that there was a girl, just like me (even if only a fictional character) that struggled with having spirituality and going through puberty too. Margaret was the idyllic peer that left me feeling normal. Normal meaning; just as confused about adult behavior and customs as pretty much every other kid my age.

The puberty years can be so unbearable. With crazy hormonal imbalances and seemingly freakish body changes, I think most kids just want to glide invisibly through this stage unnoticed or skip right over it entirely.

The problem with my generation of kids back then, and contemporary tweens too is that at this age, we naturally feel an eagerness (hormones) to grow up ahead of when we’re emotionally ready to.

To me, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret was about a young girl discovering acceptance in herself and her place in society. Although it had hints about religion, it was much more than that. Margaret is confronted with so many physical and emotional changes in her life, like moving, meeting new friends and dealing with peer and family expectations, yet she copes with these in a brave and honest way.

“My mother's always talking about when I'm a teenager. Stand up straight, Margaret! Good posture now makes for a good figure later. Wash your face with soap, Margaret! Then you won't get pimples when you're a teenager. If you ask me, being a teenager is pretty rotten—between pimples and worrying about how you smell!” Margaret excerpt from the book (4.10)

Tackling her puberty on top of all her other life changes, made her a genuine and relatable pal to this tween. Margaret believed in her own version of a God and sought this person out for wisdom, assurance, and friendship. When I read this book, Margaret became these same things for me. She spoke to me when I needed a guiding and supportive voice at a most critical time in my own life.

Margaret gave me strength to face my own challenges and inspired in me a hope that even the gawkiest of girls could fit in…eventually.

“For the first time since I'd started writing, I let go and this story came pouring out. I felt as if I'd always known Margaret. When I was in sixth grade, I longed to develop physically like my classmates. I tried doing exercises, resorted to stuffing my bra, and lied about getting my period. And like Margaret, I had a very personal relationship with God that had little to do with organized religion. God was my friend and confidant. But Margaret's family is very different from mine, and her story grew from my imagination.

Margaret brought me my first and most loyal readers. I love her for that.”

-Judy Blume

An interesting side note:

For a little nostalgia, I went to Barnes & Noble this week to purchase a copy of Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Thankfully, they had it, but, it was shelved in the Teen Genre section. This shocked me. 

Why? Well for starters, I myself read the book at age ten and that was way back in the seventies! Secondly, let’s face it, the book is intended for a pre-pubescent child because the main character isn’t quite a teen yet herself. Third and most importantly, kids today are going through puberty earlier than previous generations.

So, why on earth would it be in the Teen section then? I know, seems strange, right? My only guess is that because the book was so controversial at the time, it may still be a “banned book” and isn’t available in certain schools and libraries.

Without getting into it all (yet), hold that thought. Because anyone who knows me knows that I think if kids are asking about a certain topic then they should be informed/encouraged to read age-appropriate material about that topic...so, this is to be continued.

Stay tuned for my next post. Maybe it’s just a fluke of poor book organization by the bookstore. Maybe this is a banned book. Either way, I’m going to do a little research and find out exactly why my childhood favorite can only be found in the Teen section of the bookstore instead of with the more appropriate Young Readers books for kids aged 7-12.

Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie Author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! and they just released their second picture book together called Too Many Things!

Tracy also writes non-fiction for kids. Check out Feeling Precocious! Understanding & Accepting Early-Onset Puberty in her Awesome & Diverse Book Series for kids aged 8-11. Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret is still Tracy’s favorite book ever!

Click on the book to have a preview

  

Other Recommended Puberty Resources & Books for Tweens

https://sexedrescue.com/2016/10-puberty-books/

https://www.babble.com/mom/need-to-have-the-talk-top-20-parent-recommended-books-for-boys-and-girls-of-every-age/

http://thestir.cafemom.com/tweens_teens/166436/8_momapproved_books_on_puberty

https://geekdad.com/2014/02/top-10-sex-ed-books/

Kindness…Just Because

Random Acts of Kindness Day was on February 17th. I love the concept of this, having an intention to do good for someone else, but I wish that there was a little more of this being done every day by everyone.

Realistically, having a designated day to be kind to someone is a really great thing, especially in this busy, chaotic world where we all have so much going on.

However, I personally believe that the only way to heal this messed up world is to

spread more kindness every day

“Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” - Lao Tzu

On that note, here are some kindness ideas that I’ve compiled and hope to act on every day for the rest of year:

More Kind Words

Compliments, Praise, Empowerment, Cheers, Admiration, Congratulations, Tributes, Inspiration, Encouragement, Greetings.

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”

- Mother Theresa

 

More Kind Actions 

Giving, Politeness, Equity, Paying It Forward, Affection, Gifting, Smiling, Laughing.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”

- Aesop

More Kind Values

Trust, Gratitude, Equality, Forgiveness, Patience, Compassion, Empathy, Generosity, Love, Honesty.

“Here are the values that I stand for: honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated and helping those in need. To me, those are traditional values.” - Ellen DeGeneres

Why save kindness for a rainy day...join me in any and/or all of these Random Acts of Kindness every day (or as much as possible) this year!

More Kindness Ideas

http://www.kindspring.org/ideas/

 

http://www.actionforhappiness.org/take-action/do-kind-things-for-others

 

http://www.boredpanda.com/random-acts-of-kindness/

 

http://www.oprah.com/spirit/35-little-acts-of-kindness

 

http://www.virtuesforlife.com/100-ways-to-be-kinder/

Classroom Kindness Ideas

& Activities for Kids

 

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/kindness-lesson-plan-rebecca-alber

 

http://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/100-acts-kindness-kids/

 

http://www.sixsistersstuff.com/2014/12/50-random-acts-of-kindness-for-christmas.html

 

http://kidsstuffworld.com/2015/02/22-kid-approved-acts-kindness-can-week/

 

http://www.momentsaday.com/acts-of-kindness-for-families/

 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” – Dr. Seuss

          Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie Author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! and they just released their second picture book together called Too Many Things!

                       

*Quotes Courtesy of Brainy Quote*

 

We Need More Every Day Heroes

I just love Jamie, the main character in my new picture book called

Too Many Things!

He’s an Every Day Hero.

He shows compassion, kindness, gratitude, and love for everyone and everything in his life. He wants to help make his world a better and happier place and he’s not afraid to inspire this in others.

We need more “Jamies” in our world. I know there are some out there, though, and they live in all walks of life; kids, adults, and animals. I’ve witnessed first hand Every Day Heroes like Jamie, and this Valentine’s Day, if you look closely you too just might see one, feel loved by one, or even be one.

 

I think now, more than ever when scary things are going on in our world, we look to those who are close to us for inspiration and to be reminded of how much we’re loved. Sometimes, a person needs an Every Day Hero to swoop in, spread some insight, do good deeds and bring a little happiness, and love to their world.

This month, my Everyday Hero is my son.

He’s my Hero and one of my favorite Valentines.

Since he was a little boy until now, as a grown young man, I’ve told my son that I’ll always be one of his Valentine’s. Just like my daughter will always be her Dad’s, and in addition to mates and/or spouses, both my kids know that they are loved every day and especially on Valentine’s Day.

To me, Valentine’s Day isn’t just about romantic love. It’s about celebrating the love I have for all the different people (and animals) in my life. Love for my mate, children, pets, extended family, friends, neighbors and other people in the world too. Even the people I don’t know.

My son has told me that the unconditional love both my husband and I have shown him throughout his life makes him feel valued and complete as a person. It’s obvious, in the way that he is, that the love we’ve shown him and the love my husband and I have shown each other, has helped sculpt the loving person he is today.   

Like most parents, I like to believe that all these years of showing him everyday love has given him the ability to love himself right back and completely.

It’s nourished in him an understanding of people and that’s encouraged him to want to share this love, like we do, with others in the world. Particularly to those who need it most.

Frequently, my son reminds me of how much love is needed and missing in the world and like the Everyday Hero that he is, he puts his words and intentions into action. This month, he’s going to Figi to volunteer in a Community Development Expedition. This inspires me so much and mostly, it gives me hope. That’s my little Valentine.

Now, more than ever, when scary things are going on in the world, we need to look to those who are close to us for inspiration. We need to be reminded of how much we are loved and how much potential we have to love others.

Have a Happy Valentines Day and don’t forget to show yourself some love. Then, because of the ability to love yourself and because you’re inspired to, swoop in, spread some insight and bring a little love and cheeriness to someone else’s world.

 

This month, try to be an Every Day Hero, like Jamie and my son, and show someone you don’t know some Valentine’s love.

    Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie Author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12.    Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! and they just released their second picture book together called Too Many Things!    

“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness. Understanding someone’s suffering is the best gift you can give another person. Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”

-Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh

 

Learn more about Thich Nhat Hanh’s ideas about love here

Valentine’s & International Book Giving Day Giveaway

               

Welcome!

Happy Valentines  

&

International Book Giving Day (Month)!

Thanks for visiting my website. Did you drop by as part of the International Book Giving Day Blog Hop?

Or are you just here to wish me a Happy Valentines?

Either way...

Happy Heart Day

back and I hope you know that you are appreciated and thought of this holiday by someone who thinks you're pretty special. (me!)

In the spirit of love and gift-giving, my writer pals and I are hosting this Blog Hop and Giveaway because we're devoted to the love of children's books. Aren't we all?

Learn more about 

International Book Giving Day here.

Speaking of book giving love, please have a peek at my blog here.

This was a guest blog I wrote for The Children's Writer's Guild about books and random acts of kindness. 

Next, visit other #Gr8Blogs listed at the end of this post for more book giving inspiration.

 

Don't forget to 

enter the *Rafflecopter Giveaway below 

(which runs from Feb 1st to 15th)

for your chance to win some amazing children's books...

From the bottom of my Valentine heart,

I'm giving away signed softcover copies of:

                                   

But, that's not all...together, we're giving away 14 signed Softcover books and 4 Ebooks! 

 

Just our little way to share in the spirit and

love

 

of book giving!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Before you go...

Thanks for stopping by my site and please, please, please, don't forget to

visit the awesome authors below.

Check out their blogs, and/or like/follow them on Facebook and/or Twitter and see what books they're giving away!

#Gr8Blogs

to love...

Cat Michaels Corner

Julie Gorges, Baby-Boomer Bliss

JD Holiday

Corrina Holyoake, Venturing into the Unknown

James Milson

Carmela Dutra, A Blog for your Thoughts

Rosie Russell

Sandra Bennett

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*Rafflecopter Terms & Conditions:

*************************************

There is NO purchase necessary to enter or win. Winners will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget within 48 hours and notified by email once the giveaway ends. The winners will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner(s) do not respond within 72 hours, a new winner(s) will be chosen. This giveaway is open to all who live in and outside of the US. However, as there are several sponsors of this giveaway who live both domestic and international. Print books are available only for domestic country of author origin; ebooks offered outside author's country of origin at their discretion.

Learn more about Rafflecopter here

Highschool Never Ends!

Highschool Never Ends!

A couple weeks ago, I was at a writing conference for Children’s Authors and I have to say that I’ve come away from it feeling enlightened and discouraged.

Sort of like my highschool experience.

I try to go to as many conferences and workshops as I can. I hope to connect with other writers, learn more craft to improve my writing, and mostly, I want to be inspired. So far, I haven’t been terribly disappointed and have always been able to take home something valuable.

A lot of these conferences are not cheap, but I feel the money spent on them has been well worth it. The only downside is that every conference like this so far has left me feeling just a little blah, filled with self-doubt and questioning myself why I keep going to them.

Why do I keep going to them you ask? Good question. I guess the enlightening conversations with other creators, the gathering of writing tools and overall inspiration for new material outweighs the negative.

This particular conference was no exception.

I arrived feeling ready to learn, with my computer and conference agenda handy. The day went pretty smooth. I heard great speakers and picked up some insightful tips about writing for kids. 

I chitty chatted with the occasional colleague at the coffee machine and listened to feedback during the Q and A session.

Was I really absorbed in the conference? Not really. Again, kind of like highschool.

I find I learn my most valuable lessons and have my most life changing experiences outside of the classroom. This time, it was in the hotel bar.

It was getting towards the end of the day and my husband and I had just gotten back to the hotel after dining. As we were passing by the bar, I recognized a fellow writer. She was sitting with some other conference attendees and welcomed us to join them.

I need to confess...I’m not a joiner. I like to coast through on the sidelines and observe.

I’m comfortable with this choice to be an introvert and my intentions at these conferences are more to focus on the learning of craft rather than to socialize.

But, something told me that I should get out of my box and join them. So I did.

Treading carefully, I casually immersed myself in the conversation. At first, it was all small talk about the conference, but before I knew it, we were all sharing our different views about the Kid Lit Publishing industry. It was awesome.

Gradually and one by one, people went off to bed, but my writer friend and I stuck it out till late into the night. Still awesome, right? Well...

It was right around this time that our conversation went off the rails. She told me that there were people at the conference who looked down on Indie Authors.

Looked down on me.

Our discussion had been about the differences in traditional publishing versus indie publishing. Because both of us follow different paths in this, it had been a really interesting conversation, until her comment. 

I let it fly. But I have to be honest, it did bother me. At first. How could it not?

And then I thought about it a little more.

Here's my take on this...

As far as I know, the organizations and their committees that hold these types of conferences, somewhat depend on funds and appearances by the traditional publishers, editors, and agents to keep the conferences running. I get this, it's expensive to hold them and they need professional talent to present at them.

What I definitely know is that the organizations also depend on the members (writers and illustrators) to pay their membership fees to the organization also to help keep the conferences running and to pay attendance to the conferences and to actually go to them.

What I try to remind everyone is that included (and therefore needed) in some of these groups of members (who contribute to the conferences by helping to pay for and going to them) are Indie Authors and Self-Publishers.

However you/me/we decide to publish or fit into this publishing industry, we all contribute and we all can have value and give value to each other. Because in the end, what matters is not necessarily where the books are coming from, but where these books are going…to the kids.

 I’m proud of the fact that I’m Indie. I’ve learned so much and grown so far because of who I am. 

I'm proud to say that I write all my own stuff and I’ve learned how to write better because I want and choose to. I’ve learned how to build a website and platform all by myself. I’ve learned how to search for an illustrator and editor. I’ve learned about different Print on Demand publishing routes and researched much about the Traditional ways to get some context. I’ve learned about marketing and advertising all on my own. I’ve learned a lot and some of it, the hard way, but I’ve learned it and... at least I’ve tried.  Honestly, it’s going to take a lot more than peer pressure or fear of being different to keep me away.

I hope to keep connecting with all types of other writers and creatives. I hope to keep learning more craft in order to improve my writing. Mostly, I hope to keep being inspired. Do I hope to be accepted by my peers? Maybe. Will not being accepted keep me from going to the next conference?

Absolutely not.

Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie Author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families.

Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone!  and they just released their second picture book together called Too Many Things! 

Still Being Jolly & Mindful!

 

As I finish putting up the last of my Christmas decorations, I’m thinking to myself, Am I ready for the holidays? Am I ready for the hustle and bustle of the season that lies ahead of me?

I hope so…

Every year, I assure myself that I WILL get through the hectic season. I always do. 

But...there's also a little bit of fear, lurking in my mind, that threatens this assurance and leaves me feeling really uncomfortable. You know, the pulsing heart rate with moments of panic and flashes of self-doubt? This does not feel jolly!

 Sometimes, even when I remind myself that these are only thoughts of fear, that I can choose to ignore, isn’t enough to get me through the uncomfortableness.

 How do I ignore my negative thoughts about fear and get rid of these panicky feelings? 

This is where my mindfulness practice comes in handy.

 First…as soon as those thoughts come creeping into my mind, I set an INTENTION to switch them off. Yup, it’s as simple as that!

If I begin to think thoughts like, I feel stressed! or I can’t possibly do all the things that I have to do! Or I’ll never finish this in time! then, I simply stop thinking and doing what I’m thinking and doing… and I take a few deep breaths in and out.

 I have a MINDFUL MOMENT.

It doesn’t matter where I am. So far, I’ve managed to be able to mindfully breathe through uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, pretty much anywhere and everywhere I am.

I can take a mindful moment anytime...after stopping whatever I'm doing, with eyes closed (or not), I BREATHE for a few moments, until I can feel my body calming and my breath slowing down. This is the part I love about mindful breathing...it’s like magic how it helps me regulate and manage my emotions. How appropriate to go along with the magic of the holidays!

Once I’m a little more balanced, I NOTICE what is going on around me…I notice if there is a certain thing, person, place or situation that is stressing me out.

While noticing and by listening to what is going on in my body, I BECOME AWARE of what is going on in the present moment. I become aware to my body and what is making me feel so stressed.

Thinking doesn’t help me get through the uncomfortable feelings in my body... JUST BEING with my experience and feeling the fear in my body helps me recognize and understand what it is that I’m afraid of. 

Am I afraid of failing or not succeeding? Am I afraid of NOT being super human this holiday?

 

At this point, I usually realize that I place way too many unrealistic expectations on myself during the holidays. I need to slow down and take more breaks. I need to make sure I have more MINDFUL MOMENTS!

Once I’ve breathed through my fear, calmed my body and cleared my mind, I feel better. Once I understand what I’m afraid of, and this is half the battle of dealing with it, I RESPOND to it. Mindful moments help me to respond to situations, instead of reacting to them.

So, back to those feelings of I feel stressed!... Well, now I don’t really feel this anymore. I've changed my fearful thoughts because I now know that they can't threaten me...they are only thoughts!

Why waste all my time, this holiday, on fears that may not even happen? I have better things to do, like wrapping Christmas presents.

I have better things to BE…

like jolly and mindful! 

Tracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families. Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! . They are currently working on their next book together called Too Many Things! due to be out in January 2017! View the pre-release book trailer here!  

Too Many House Things!

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Most of the children’s books that I write relate to social issues. One of the worries that I have when writing these types of books is that my message will come across as too preachy to the parents and kids that read them. 

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So, I try to poke fun without poking fingers. This can be a very difficult task, especially when some of the issues that I address are not a laughing matter. It takes sensitivity and creativeness to write about serious topics for children. I like to provide valid and important information all while using just a smidge of comic relief so the child reader and their parent will still be entertained. shutterstock_187342154

My latest project is called Too Many Things! This picture book is a glimpse at one contemporary family’s consumerism. It’s no surprise that this topic pokes fun at the consumer(s) in the family-the parents. picture1-copy-2

shutterstock_18862693I do however also want the child reader to understand my message about why mindful shopping is important and be able to grasp the concepts of needs versus wants. Even further, I would hope that parents will discuss with their kids, positive solutions towards balancing excessive consumerism, such that are outlined in the book. 

dreamstime_xl_35394033Hopefully, all family members will come away with a more progressive attitude towards their shopping behavior and an intention to work together to promote a society that is filled with fewer things.

In a nutshell, the purpose of this project is to educate and amuse families and have them take from the story what they choose to. If they feel enlightened, even better.shutterstock_87873340

On that note, the issue of excessive consumerism in our society is becoming a growing concern. It’s obvious to me, when I look around my own house and notice all the too many things that I have collected over the years.

Not to mention the over filled homes I’ve been in of my neighbors, the stuff around the outside of other people’s houses in the towns and cities around me, and the houses I see on television and in the media. Not to be too dramatic, but everywhere I look lately there seems to be massive accumulations and collections of thingsshutterstock_267993119

Housing people in America is a whole other topic, but I think by gaining insight into the cost and size of people’s homes and their income level, this helps us understand why people are driven to fill their homes. Also, how they have the ability to spend money on their house things.

shutterstock_210363646According to Pew Research Center, “In early 2015, 120.8 million American adults were in middle-income households, compared with 121.3 million in lower- and upper-income households combined.

"Households in all income tiers experienced gains in income from 1970 to 2014. But the gains for middle- and lower-income households lagged behind the gains for upper-income households."

dreamstime_xl_41311981Furthermore, “The average size of the American home has nearly tripled in size over the past 50 years.” 

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So, what does the average American spend their money on?

Too Many Things! 

The average U.S. household has 300,000 things, from paper clips to ironing boards. Apparently, “Contemporary U.S. households have more possessions per home than any society in all of global history.”

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Because I write for and about kids, I focused my research on what kid things American parents fill their homes with.

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A consumer survey report based on the amount spent by U.S. homeowners on furniture and decor for their kid's bedroom in 2016 revealed that “25 percent of respondents spent up to $500 on furniture and decor for their kid's bedroom.” 

shutterstock_123013096Psychology Today found that “Americans spend more on shoes, jewelry, and watches ($100 billion) than on higher education.”

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According to USA Today, “Half of American homes have three or more TVs and only 19% have just one.”

dreamstime_xl_38477139“The average American family spends $1,700 on clothes annually,” states Forbes magazine. Yet, The Huffington Post found that “the average American throws away 65 pounds of clothing per year.”

What I really found interesting was our nation’s tendency for toy clutter.

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According to a new study by the Toy Industry Association, “parents will spend $6500 dollars on toys over the child’s lifetime.” Also, “the average home has 71 toys with a fifth of them having over 100 and a tenth having over 200.”

Wow. That’s a lot of toys!

An excerpt from an article I found by Anne Bromley (University of Virginia Communications Analyst) could explain why parents buy the toys.

“Allison Pugh, an associate professor of sociology at the University of Virginia, has studied the gift-buying frenzy and why parents feel compelled to fulfill their children’s material desires.” shutterstock_269281454

She found that “both affluent and low-income parents disliked the pressure they felt to buy the most popular gifts for their kids; affluent parents were worried about giving in to materialism, while low-income parents knew that popular items cost money they would prefer to spend on household essentials. In both cases, however, they usually ended up buying the most-desired toys anyway, because of a social process that defines children’s desires as essentials for their everyday lives. Both sets of parents bought popular items and experiences to ensure their children “belong” to their social group.”

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That’s sad. So in some cases, are parents buying toys for their kids so the kids will feel like they belong? What are we teaching these kids? That they need material things to be loved and accepted?

dreamstime_l_22777958Today Moms and Parenting.com online survey of 6,000 parents found that, “three-quarters of us think our children are a little or a lot spoiled. Almost 60 percent of us think our children are more spoiled than we were as kids.”

shutterstock_197892860So... why do we keep buying them more things?

By the looks of it, most American homes don’t have much more room to fill with more things. Besides, aren't these extra things just being thrown away at some point anyways?

Honestly, our children can do without more stuff. We all can. Not to mention the fact that some of us can’t really afford to spend as much as we do on our things.

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According to the Guardian, “The average American household has over $15,000 in credit card debt and Americans generate 254m tons of trash a year.”

Don’t you think it’s about time we stop getting so much of, become more aware of, condense most of, and start giving away some of our too many things?

Me too.

thingscover3-copyTracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families.

Tracy’s debut fiction picture book with illustrator David Barrow is called Put Away Your Phone! . They are currently working on their next book together called Too Many Things! due to be out in January 2017!

Visit here to learn more consumer statistics

Check out this real-time graphic that tracks where Americans spend their money.

For more interesting American clutter statistics, visit here.

     

Too Many Food Things?

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Sometimes I hear people say that kids these days have too much. I can see that. Most contemporary kids in this nation from middle-income homes do seem to have too much. Too much food, too much to play with, too much to watch. Too many activities to do, too many clothes to wear, too many choices to make. Just too many things!

It’s natural for one generation to feel that the next generation has far more things and/or has more going for them. But…

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Do contemporary kids have more things than the previous generations of kids?

 

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According to the most recent statistics about how much it costs to raise a child in America,  

“…a child born in 2013 from birth to an 18-year-old adult is $245,340 for middle-income families with two parents and up to five children. For low-income families, this cost is $176,550. For high-income families, it is $407,820.”

 

Historically, “Between 1960 and 2011, the cost of raising a child grew by $40,000, or 23% in 2011 dollars, according to a new study by the USDA.”

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Does this mean that contemporary kids in America are actually getting more things or is it just that much more expensive to live?

Also, what things exactly are they getting more of and do these things make them better off and/or give them more opportunity than the kids of previous generations?

In order to get answers to these questions, it’s important to first look at the basics and find out what contemporary children actually need. Then, a fair comparison can be made between the different generations of kids.

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All kids (all humans for that matter) have always had basic physical needs that demand to be met-air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink and a home to live in for shelter.

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Depending on where they live around the world, the needs of children differ, particularly concerning what type of living conditions they have.

 

Children around the globe, are faced with environmental risks. These and threats to their natural resources affect the air they breathe and determine what the air quality will be like for generations of children to come.

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(*I’ll be addressing more about national and global child housing, child household items and environmental issues that children face in the blogs following this one.)

   

What about access to healthy drinking water?

Before 1974, drinking water around the world was a cause for concern and a public issue due to pollutants present in the water. In response, Congress passed The Safe Drinking Water Act.

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The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the federal law that protects public drinking water supplies throughout the nation. Under the SDWA, the Environmental Protection Agency or EPA sets standards for drinking water quality and with its partner’s implements various technical and financial programs to ensure drinking water safety.

 

This is not a perfect system and considering the recent crisis in Flint, Michigan, the EPA continues to face challenges with regulating the quality of drinking water in certain areas of the nation. For the most part, and because of measures such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Lead and Copper Rule, the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, most American children have access to healthy drinking water.

shutterstock_217539169In 2010, due to the rise in childhood obesity in America because of a raised intake of soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks, the U.S. Congress also passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act. This requires schools to offer healthy beverages such as milk, water, and 100% juice in schools and make safe drinking water available during mealtimes to students at no charge.

Unfortunately, around the globe, 663 million people - 1 in 10 - lack access to safe water and

1/3 of all schools lack access to safe water and adequate sanitation.

 

Globally there is much room for improvement with regards to safe water.

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The food shortages that the children of the world face is another issue.

shutterstock_136547222As far as basic food needs, while it seems huge, only a small portion of the contemporary kids in our nation have to go without food compared to those who live in developing countries.

However, this is still an overwhelming figure. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), “13.1 million children under 18 in the United States live in households where they are unable to consistently access enough nutritious food necessary for a healthy life.”

Globally, “the poorest 20 percent of the world’s children are about twice as likely as the richest 20 percent to be stunted by poor nutrition and to die before their fifth birthday.” shutterstock_192555887

 

This is really grim. 

 

This recent child hunger data can be compared to that of research found in 1960 that states: “There was little public discussion of the subject during the post-Depression era until the mid-1960s, when unscientific but dramatic media exposés of the extent of hunger in the country helped launch the “war on poverty.”

 

It was later revealed that, “between 1977 and 1991, from 2% to 4% of households in the United States reported that they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat.

shutterstock_143796796Additionally, in the mid 1980’s, following a recession and reductions in federal food assistance programs, “the Physicians’ Task Force on Hunger in America reported that 20 million Americans were “hungry.”

 

Globally children’s needs may differ, but relatively, there are still many children all around the world that are not having their basic needs met when it comes to food and water.

Understandably, developing countries continue to struggle and face child hunger, but why does the richest nation in the world still have starving people in it? 

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More than 48 million Americans rely on what used to be called food stamps, now SNAP: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Low-income families in our nation depend on this and other nutrition programs such as the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), and the School Breakfast Program, so they will have food security for their children.

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“Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”

 

dreamstime_xl_40211279Food is one thing that every child has always needed and always will, yet not every contemporary child in America is getting their fair share of it.

   

Low-income families suffer the most by not getting access to proper food and nutrition.

 

shutterstock_72579025“Obesity among food insecure people – as well as among low-income people – occurs in part because they are subject to the same often challenging cultural changes as other Americans (e.g., more sedentary lifestyles, increased portion sizes), and also because they face unique challenges in adopting and maintaining healthful behaviors.

 

A major reason for this disparity may be because low-income families are living in “neighborhoods that frequently lack full-service grocery stores and farmers’ markets where residents can buy a variety of high-quality fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.” 

shutterstock_15454807Ironically, for some kids, absence and excess of money can create a diet that lacks healthy food or food poverty.

 

According to a survey, released by the Centers for Disease Control, “America's love for fast food is surprisingly income blind. Well-off kids, poor kids, and all those in between tend to get about the same percentage of their calories from fast food.”

 

Interesting and sad. 

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The percentage of children aged 6–11 years in the United States who were obese increased from 7% in 1980 to nearly 18% in 2012. 

In America, some kids just aren’t getting enough food. Some are getting just enough. Surprisingly, a lot are getting too many food things and some of these foods aren’t healthy enough.

Something needs to change. 

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Overall, contemporary kids have similar and more complex basic needs and food related challenges than those of previous generations.

Middle-income kids in America have more opportunity than most, but they have their own set of new problems because of this. 

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Child hunger still exists all around the globe, and while there are many programs in place to combat this; food insecurity, food poverty, and food obesity problems are ever present in our world.

The solution?

Awareness. Also, a continued effort to supply, distribute and share the nation’s supply of food things equally to this generation and hopefully to those in the next.   

Something can be done.

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screen-shot-2016-11-09-at-9-24-48-pmTracy Bryan is an award-winning Indie author. She writes whimsical books for kids ages 4-12. She likes to tackle important and diverse topics that affect kids and their families.

Tracy just released her debut fiction picture book called Put Away Your Phone! with illustrator David Barrow. They are currently working on their next book together called Too Many Things! due to be out early 2017!

Food Charities for Child Hunger

http://www.feedingamerica.org

http://www.actionforhealthykids.org

http://www.feedthechildren.org

https://www.nokidhungry.org

http://www.actionagainsthunger.org

Organizations for Childhood Nutrition Awareness

https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Childhood-Nutrition.aspx

https://www.healthiergeneration.org

http://thefoodtrust.org

http://www.actionforhealthykids.org

http://www.farmtoschool.org

https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/parent-toolkit

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