Tag Archives: children



Singing show tunes,
Good books,
Word games,
Helping others,
Jumping for joy.


Raccoons, Leaves, and Cacao Beans


While we raked leaves, we pretended the big oaken tree in our yard shedding them was a cacao tree. The acorns it was also shedding? Well, those were cacao beans. The leaves being gathered up by our thin little rakes were magic leaves. When you wrapped the cacao beans in them, it filled the beans with magical powers, that would be given to anyone who ate them. We had to hurry and eat the cacao beans before a raccoon ate them.
Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Yeah, I’m getting a little old for these games. These were all Jenny’s idea. Especially the part about the raccoon. I love raccoons. I love all animals. But ever since Jenny got bitten by a rabid raccoon and had to go to the hospital, raccoons have had to be the villains in her games. Sometimes I’ve reminded her that raccoons can be nice, but Mom and Dad always tell me to let my sister use her imagination to get over her trauma. They say they let me do the same thing I was her age, but I don’t remember any trauma, nor do I remember having fantasies as elaborate or nonsensical as hers. If I did, I’m sure they were at least more coherent than hers often are.
I must say, though, the things she’s coming up right now are pretty cool. I wonder what kinds of magical powers these cacao beans will give us when we eat them? What kinds of powers would they give a raccoon? Would a raccoon be able to transform himself into a human if he ate these magic cacao beans? What would he do then? Would he still bite people if he had rabies? Maybe not. Maybe if the raccoon who bit Jenny turned into a human, she could talk to him and ask him not to bite her again. Maybe she could even take him to the hospital to get rabies shots, just like she got when she was there.
“Hey, Jenny,” I said. “We should find the raccoon that bit you.”
“Why?” asked Jenny, her eyes shining with fear.
“Don’t worry, he won’t bite you again,” I continued. “I won’t let him.”
“Then why?” Jenny asked again.
“So we can give him some of these magic cacao beans,” I answered, picking up a handful of acorns. Jenny looked at me again, even more fearfully this time.
“There will be plenty left for us,” I added. “And by giving the cacao beans to the raccoon, we can make sure he won’t bite you again. Jenny shook her head.
“No!” she whined. “A raccoon with magical powers could hurt me even more badly!”
“Maybe,” I said. “Or maybe, a raccoon with magical powers could turn himself into a human.” I went on to tell her my idea of taking him to the hospital to get rabies shots and then having him promise not to bite her again. Jenny’s eyes brightened, but then she looked worried again.
“Come on,” I said. “What are you afraid will happen if we gave him magic cacao beans?” Jenny thought for a minute.
“He might cast a horrible spell to give more people rabies,” she said. “Then we’d all start biting each other and getting sick!”
“Why would he do that?” I asked.
“Don’t raccoons want the people they bite to get sick?”
“No,” I said. “That raccoon was just scared. He didn’t know he had rabies, and he didn’t mean to give it to you.”
“Promise?” asked Jenny.
“Promise,” I said.
“Okay!” said Jenny. “Let’s save some of these magical chocolate beans for the raccoon. But we have to wrap them in leaves first!”
“Okay,” I said. “But they’re called cacao beans,” I reminded her for what seemed like the twentieth time.
“Right,” said Jenny. We wrapped each acorn we had collected in a magical leaf before putting all the raked leaves in the compost. Then we pretended to eat our magical cacao beans. It gave Jenny the power to fly, but I wasn’t sure what magical power it would give me. I had to think about that.
“Stay open-minded,” said our mother. “That’s one of the things imagination is best for. Maybe something will come to you.”
“Yes,” said our father. “Maybe even in a dream.”
I didn’t have any dreams that night, but the next morning, Jenny came down in her pajamas full of smiles.
“Guess what?” she asked, grinning from ear to ear. “Last night, I told the raccoon not to bite me again. Then I took him to the hospital to get rabies shots, so he would never make anyone else sick!”
“That’s wonderful, Jenny!” said Mom. “Did you have any dreams last night, Jeffrey?” I shook my head, feeling too grown up to get into this. Mom and dad looked at each other.
“Just remember, Jeff, you’re never to old to be creative,” said Dad.
“That’s right,” said Mom. “Open-mindedness comes from imagination, and so does creativity. Both are good for grown-ups as well as children.”
I thought about what my parents and little sister had said. Then I remembered how much fun Jenny and I had with the cacao beans and magical leaves. I’m old enough to know it was just a game. But I still keep waiting to dream about the magical power I get from those cacao beans.

I Am Grateful For My Sense of Sight Because…


Note: For this prompt, I felt it necessary to also write what I believe I could still do if I were blind. (I, of course, have no way of knowing for sure what I could still do, but these are my guesses).  I have incorporated all of these activities except the most important two into the reasons I am grateful for sight. The two most important activities I could still do if I were blind are read, because books come in both braille and audio form, and write, since I write on my computer, and computer keys can be in braille.  (There are also devices that say what a person is typing back to her). So, without further ado, here are the reasons I am grateful for sight:

I can see little children, so beautiful, so dainty, yet so strong.

I can do art

I can collect dolls, stuffed animals, and fairy statues, and see them displayed on my shelf

I can blog

I can watch my favorite movies

I can see trees in the forest, especially their trunks and branches, which I probably wouldn’t be able to appreciate with no sight. If I were blind, I could probably still hear the leaves whispering in the wind.  Most likely the only way I could appreciate autumn leaves if I were blind is by hearing the sound of them crunching under my feet.  Other ways I could appreciate autumn, my favorite season, if I were blind, are by feeling the cool air and smelling the changing leaves.

I can see deer, squirrels, and bears when we cross paths. These animals are usually quiet, so I might not be able to notice them if I were blind.

I can see spiders and their webs. Spiders are silent, and so are their webs.  I cannot see how I could appreciate spiders, one of my favorite animals, if I were blind.

I can maybe garden someday

I could maybe someday identify birds by both their song and their appearance. Right now all I can do is identify a few birds’ songs.

I can see all the animals at zoos and the nature center. I probably wouldn’t even be able to pet animals in a petting zoo if I were blind. I could pet dogs and cats that I know, but not less tame animals like the goats at the nature center.

Thoughts On Children and Secrets, Part 2


I care deeply about all children.  Yesterday I mentioned that I’m not a parent or a teacher, but today I’d like to mention that as someone who cares deeply about children, I still have strong ideas about how to raise and teach them.  That’s one of the reasons I want to be a children’s author.  That’s also why I’d like to share these thoughts with people who have more experience with children than I do and see what their thoughts are.  If you are a parent or a teacher, please tell me your thoughts.  If you’re not a parent or teacher, please still tell me your thoughts, because I’d like to hear from everybody!

Yesterday I talked about one of the reasons secrets can be problematic for children, which is that children often treat secrets as a form of passing the torch.  Another reason is that secrets can be scary.  I think most children get scared when someone tells them not to repeat something to anyone else.  This is true even when there is nothing scary about the secret itself.  If somebody tells a child not to tell somebody something, whether it’s another child or an adult, chances are the child will get scared.  A little bit of getting scared is okay for a child, as long as it’s the right kind.  When I say the right kind, I’m talking about scary things in movies, books, TV shows, and of course on Halloween.  Fear of keeping a secret is the wrong kind of getting scared for a child, one that should be avoided.  That’s why adults should never tell children to keep secrets.  It’s also why a very important part of stranger danger is teaching children not to keep secrets from their parents, especially if someone tells them to.  I would even argue that this is why children should be discouraged from telling each other secrets.  How parents and teachers can prevent this is difficult to suggest.  My best advice is to tell a child that if another child tells him or her to keep a secret, he/she should be honest with the other child and say he/she can’t keep a secret.  This would allow the child wanting to tell the secret to decide whether or not he/she wants to tell his/her friend something he/she may want to keep private.

Thoughts On Children and Secrets, Part 1


This is today’s writing exercise response.  It was inspired by a freewrite on the word “secrets,” which in turn is one of many prompts suggested by “Story Sparkers: A Creativity Guide for Children’s Writers” by Debbie Dadey and Marcia Thornton Jones, authors of the popular Bailey School Kids’ Club series.  This is Part 1, and I will post Part 2 tomorrow.

This response has some of the same sentiment as yesterday’s post about a TV free childhood.  It talks about both oral storytelling and what I feel is important in raising and teaching children, oral storytelling being one of those things.  I am not a parent or a teacher, so these views could be completely wrong in the eyes of people who have more experience with children.  I’d understand if that’s the case, and I’m encouraging parents and teachers to tell me their thoughts on this post and the “TV Free Childhood” post.  I look forward to seeing their responses as well as anyone else’s.

I believe secrets should not be as common as they currently are among children.  Secrets can be very problematic, especially since they are hard to keep.  Most children want to tell a secret as soon as someone else tells them one.  Maybe this is because they think of secrets as a game of telephone, or as a form of passing the torch.  After all, there are many instances where children are encouraged to pass on what they are given to someone else.  Think about those days in preschool, when you were asked to pass a special toy around and look at it.  Or how about when people tell each other stories?  When you hear a good story, you tell it to someone else.  In olden times, that was how stories got spread around and changed, an important thing to remember when teaching children the joys of old-fashioned storytelling.  Another thing children are encouraged to this with is advice.  When someone gives a child good advice, they are encouraged to tell someone else the same thing.  Many children do this on their own.  That’s why you’ll see children teaching their baby dolls how to go potty, or telling them not to spit.  They may also try to teach their younger siblings things they learned in school, and maybe sometimes read them books their have parents read to them.  These are all forms of passing the torch, and children are big fans of it.  I think that’s one reason children like to tell secrets and thus shouldn’t be trusted with them.