Writing Inspiration Courtesy of Orlando

Mindy and kids with Chip and DaleWe are back from a jam-packed spring break trip to Orlando. I love travel because I always come back enthused (even if I am exhausted!).

I found writing inspiration in so many places throughout the trip. If it weren’t for the amazing imaginations and willingness of so many to put pen to paper, Evan wouldn’t get to battle Darth Vader and Miss Madelyn wouldn’t get to give Minnie Mouse a hug.

Evan at Jedi Training Academy at Walt Disney WorldEvan, Bryan, Mindy and Madely with Mickey and MinnieAt Universal Studios we wandered through the Harry Potter section and I stayed up late each night to read the Hunger Games Trilogy.

The trip reminded me how grateful I am to those who create the fantasy worlds we all love to slip into and enjoy.

Today I’ll embrace the structure of real life. I’ll unpack our suitcases and prepare for the week ahead, but I’ll also sneak in a few minutes with my Kindle and do some writing of my own. I’ll read books with talking fish, trains and animals to my kiddos, because they love the little escape books provide, too. And, I’ll continue to be grateful for the writers who create them.

A Favorite Kid Read: Ten Little Puppies

Ten Little PuppiesMy kiddos are both in love with Ten Little Puppies by Marian Harris and illustrated by Jim Harris. The book has wiggly eyes that move as you move the book, which adds to the fun. My kids like the rhymes and the illustrations of puppies doing everything from jumping on the bed to riding on fire trucks. It is a cute read. I took this book to Evan’s preschool class (full of four and five year olds) when I was the mystery reader and it did not disappoint. It is also Madelyn’s go-to bedtime book right now and one of her favorite things to read to her stuffed animals.

Ten Little Puppies and Madelyn

Digging for Dinosaurs

My little guy has been studying dinosaurs in school for the past few weeks, so we made up a bunch of treasure stones with dinosaurs hidden inside for his class. Each of the kids got to take a stone home from school and unearth the dinosaur.

Evan loved breaking his apart.

Evan loved breaking his apart.

Treasure stone with dinosaurThe stones were easy (but messy) to make.

Here’s the recipe:

2 cups flour
1 cup coffee grounds
1/2 cup salt
1/4 cup sand
1/2 cup water

Mix it all up, shape into a ball and insert a dinosaur (or other treasure). I let mine dry for several days, but you can also put them in the oven on low for a few hours. I had to make five batches of dough to get 20 treasure stones, but I made my stones a little big because of the dinosaurs I bought.

Also, I’m not a coffee drinker, so I called up one of my seven local Starbucks and asked if I could have some used coffee grounds. They were more than happy to share them with me. The stones did smell a bit like coffee, but Evan didn’t seem to mind.

Loving Hibernation Station

My sister-in-law is a teacher and is always giving my kiddos awesome books. One of our latest favorites is Hibernation Station by Michelle Meadows and illustrated by Kurt Cyrus.

The first time I read it to Madelyn, Evan was taking a bath and overheard the story. He hopped out of the bathtub and hurried into Madelyn’s room (dripping water on the hardwood floors) so he wouldn’t miss anything. He loves that it is a rhyming book. Madelyn loves it, too. She recently selected it as one of the books she wanted to read to Minnie.

The story and the illustrations keeps keep both of my kiddos engaged to the end and  Madelyn always asks for more and we read it again and again. The best part for me is that it is one of those books that I don’t mind reading over and over and over! I highly recommend it.

The Squirrel Channel

Evan Watching a SquirrelLately when I need to entertain my kids for a a bit in the mornings, all I have to do is open up the front door so they can watch what I call the squirrel channel. After we made our bird feeders, we had some bird seed left. Evan sprinkled it across the front porch and squirrels stop by for breakfast each morning.

Kids Looking at Squirrels

They’ve gotten quite friendly and spend as much time watching us as we do them. Opening the front door is so much better than flipping on the t.v.

Batman + Phonics = Fun

My little guy is in love with the Batman Phonics Fun box set of books. It is awesome! Each book outlines a different sound and highlights the words in the book that use that sound.

Plus, it combines easy-to-read words and superheroes. Yeah! That short ‘a’ sound is so much more fun when it is in the word Batman and don’t even get me started on the long ‘o’ in Joker. Evan gets so excited when he hears the featured vowel sound and he always shouts, “I heard it!” We have had to stop reading the books at bedtime because he gets so into it.

Evan is also learning to recognize words in the books. I love that he is learning to read simply from having fun with the books he likes. As both an avid reader and a writer, I want my kids to associate reading with something that’s enjoyable. That’s what its all about, isn’t it?

Easy Bird Feeder

If you’re looking for a quick and easy activity to keep the kids entertained, try these simple bird feeders. Just spread peanut butter on a toilet paper roll, roll it in bird seed and slip onto a branch. The level of parent involvement needed depends on how much mess you’re willing to clean up at the end.

Evan loved making the bird feeders (Madelyn was napping). As we were placing them on branches in our front yard, a flock of birds flew overhead. Evan shouted, “Look, mommy! I think they can smell them.”

It was a hit.

A Day in the Life

I love being a full-time freelance and mama. People often ask me how I structure my days to make the most of my time. I shared a little bit over on The Traveling Writer, but to give you a sneak peak into a typical day for me, here is a play-by-play account of a day last week:

5:00 a.m.: Our house is up and moving thanks to two little kiddos that have no idea just how early 5:00 really is. I spend the next three hours finding just the right Elmo video, getting myself ready, preparing lunches, packing school bags and feeding the kids breakfast.

8:00 a.m.: The whole family is loaded in the car and we’re driving to Metro to drop my husband off at his train, then it is off to preschool. As my husband is driving to the train station, I check email and have a message from a client asking if I can write about a new regulatory issue for her newsletter. I write back and ask if I can turn it in on Monday morning. She agrees.

9:30 a.m.: Finish the preschool drop off and head off to a meeting with an editor to discuss taking over two sections of his magazine on a regular basis. I am super excited!

10:00 a.m.: Arrive at my meeting. Take a diaper and a Spiderman mask out of my purse and replace it with my monogrammed leather portfolio. Realize I’m a little early and spend some time reviewing the magazine I’m going to be discussing. At this point I also realize that in the morning rush of making sure everyone else was fed, I didn’t eat any breakfast. I check out my snack stash and discover that all that is left are some Cheeze-Its and a half-full box of hard raisins. I opt for the crackers and make a mental note to stick some better snacks in the car.

10:30 a.m.: I have a great meeting with the editor. We discuss his needs and the timing and exactly how he wants the final product delivered (separate files, one file, etc.). I use the face-to-face meeting as an opportunity to discuss the top issues he expects to cover this year and what his readership is the most interested in right now.

11:30 a.m.: Drive back to my home office, grab a protein bar and finish proofing a magazine for a client.

12:30 p.m.: Start researching a story I would like to pitch to a new publication and conduct interviews on two features due next week. Surprisingly, I connect with three sources on the first try! Yeah!

2:20 p.m.: Go and pick my kids up from school. We stay and play on the playground before leaving for home. We spend the rest of the afternoon playing, making dinner and tidying up around the house.

5:30 p.m.: Feed the kids dinner. Then, like a fool, I mixed up some homemade bathtub paints and put the kids in the tub. The kids loved it, but it made an awful mess for me to clean up.

6:30 p.m.: Pick my husband up from Metro.

7:30 p.m.: Put the kids in bed. Wipe the tub down one more time.

8:00 p.m.: Work on the features that I researched during the day. Catch up on Facebook (a guilty pleasure) and watch Jersey Shore (the ultimate guilty pleasure).

11:30 p.m.: Call it a night and go to bed!

P.S. In case you are foolish enough to want to treat your kids to some homemade bathtub paint, mix ½ cup cornstarch, ½ cup hot water and one cup of bath wash. Mix in some food coloring and let your kids have at it.

Channeling Christmas Excitement in My Kids

Are your kids abuzz with anticipation over the holidays? Mine are. Even Madelyn seems to know something special is going on. All this excitement can make it hard for busy mommas to get anything done. Luckily I’ve been able to channel my little ones’ creativity. I don’t know about you, but I have a to-do list that is a mile long, so I need all the help I can get over the next few weeks.

Our top go-to activities right now:

Santa’s Workshop

All it takes is some in lumber from Home Depot, wood glue and craft

s from the craft store to turn my son’s tool bench into Santa’s Workshop.

Evan has spent hours creating Star Wars ships, necklaces and other creations. He dons his Santa hat each time he gets to work.

Felt Christmas Tree

Miss Madelyn loves rearranging the ornaments on this felt Christmas tree. I just cut a triangle out of green and multi-colored circles. I taped the tree to the wall and the felt sticks to itself, so she can move the ornaments anywhere she pleases.

I also made a felt nativity using patterns from the blog Under my Polkadot Umbrella.


Admittedly, adding my kids’ help to kitchen activities means we spend more time accomplishing our tasks, but they enjoy the one-on-one time that can buy me time to myself a little later in the day. A great acitivity is making cereal treats, as I can have Evan measure and re-measure the cereal at least five times. This treat made with Chex cereal was fun to whip up with the kids. 




Mummy and Pumpkin Oreo Pops

Last year I posted a little how-to on Oreo pops. Thanks to PInterest, I've been getting a lot of hits on that original post. A few people have emailed questions about the eyes for the mummies. I've always ordered mine in bulk from a bakery supply store, so I decided to host a giveaway!

Halloween isn't far away, so there is a short window to enter. Just leave a comment by 8:00 a.m. Thursday (Eastern time) about your favorite childhood Halloween costume (mine was either Pippi Longstocking or Ernie from Sesame Street). I'll select a random winner and drop a set of twelve eyes in the mail that afternoon. Hopefully they'll arrive in time for you to whip up a dozen mummies for your Halloween celebration. 

About the Oreo Pops:

This is a great kid activity. Evan and I spent a few hours making these one day and he was in heaven. You need are Double Stuff Oreos, candy melts, lollipop sticks and green Tic Tacs for the pumpkins or candy eyes for the mummies.

Here is what I did: 

1. Remove the top cookie from your Oreos. I did a bunch at a time and my little helper and I were happy to eat the broken ones. 

2. Insert a lollipop stick and close them back up. If you want to be sure they stay closed, you can melt your candy melts at this point and dip the stick in some candy before putting it in the Oreo. 

3. Melt your candy melts in the microwave according to the package directions.

4. Dip the Oreo into the candy and make sure to cover the whole cookie. Lay the dipped cookie on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper. 

5. For the mummies: add the eyes now. For the pumpkins: after it sets just a little insert the green Tic Tac into the top. Since the Tic Tac on the pumpkins is balancing on top, you want the candy to have hardened just a bit.  

6. Once the cookies harden all the way, place some of the melted candy in a baggie, snip the end and drizzle some candy back over the cookies.  

Oh, and, if you don't win the eyes, you can order them online. Amazon has 1/4" eyes that look similar to mine. 

UPDATED: The winner is Kelley! Thanks for reading and for entering. Send me your mailing address and I'll get them on their way. I also sent you an email.