Vagabonding with Kids

Mexico, Australia, Brazil, Alaska - we're all over the place. As a result, most of my activity these days takes place over at Vagabonding with Kids. Please check it out. You'll find blogs on our travels, what it's like to be a digital nomad, homeschooling overseas, and information about my upcoming Vagabonding with Kids book series. I hope to see you there!

NaNoWriMo Tips from Grammarly

Are you rocking your daily word count in pursuit of a working draft this month? If so, keep going - you're halfway there! When writing and reviewing your work, here are some friendly reminders to keep in mind from Grammarly. Because no matter how much you love your masterpiece, chances are you have one of these lurking in your pretty prose.

These might seem basic, but even veteran writers would do well to remind themselves of these from time to time. And these five mistakes are also why it's good to have another pair of eyes on your work.

I'm guilty of #1 and 5, while my husband is notorious for #2. He randomly Capitalizes Things for no apparent Reason. Whatever your weaknesses may be, make sure you don't edit your work as quickly as you wrote it. NaNoWriMo is great for getting a draft down on paper, but when it's time to review, slow down and keep the following in mind...

Five Mistakes To Avoid in Your NaNoWriMo Novel Infographic

Angry Devil Mom

My first-grader brought home a stack of completed school work last week. I look forward to this. Most of the papers make their way to the recycling bin when she's not looking, but every now and then there's treasure in there, some adorable little drawing or story that I'll keep forever. 

I found a series of papers on which she was given a word to illustrate. Here's the first:

I think it's pretty good. It communicates her absolute terror regarding water, which she unfortunately inherited from me. She also has my morbid inclinations, because she could have drawn herself helping with chores around the house or how a step stool helps her reach the sink, but she apparently wanted the stakes a little higher.

If you asked me to draw a picture to communicate the word "very", I wouldn't have the slightest idea where to start. That's no easy task. Ivy went with the above, because it's very green. 

And then we have this little gem. 

If I had to communicate the word "now", I might lean toward something that communicates time, like a clock or calendar. But not Ivy. No, when it comes to the word "now", this is her first impression. That's her on the left. Little, blond, sad, and crying. And that's me on the right. Angry, devil mom pointing at the floor and demanding "Now!"

Most of the time, we are happy and harmonious. But my patience has its limits. There are times when I lose it. It's not something I'm ashamed of, but the above picture is a good reminder to be aware of it, to remember that I have influence over how my kids see me, over how I make them feel. I'll try to remember that the next time my temper flares, because the idea of "now" should not be a scary one. And while I'm certainly no angel, that doesn't mean I have to be the devil. 


Want to feel better about yourself as a parent?

Which Literary Monster Are You?

This is the time of year when you're dying to know which literary monster you are. Never fear. The good folks at Grammarly will help you figure it out. I'm the werewolf. Of course. Now it's your turn. Take the test, get your evil on, and let me know which literary monster you are. 

My Dearest Daughter by Ruth Knox

Author Ruth Knox read this recently at a writing retreat. 
At my request, she's allowed me to post it here as a guest blog. 

My dearest daughter, I woke up today with thoughts of you, of your path through life, of what you've endured, what you've overcome, and last but not least, who you have become.
Your path, while unique, still bears the pattern I know so well from my own, a zigzag meandering back and forth, up and down, some nasty switchbacks along the way, and some mountains seeming impossible at the time, but you climbed them anyway. And here you are, probably not even halfway through your life's journey. Do you ever look back to see how far you've climbed?

You are living your deliciously imperfect life, in your own deliciously imperfect way. I have learned so much by watching you grow. From the moment I took all 4 pounds of you into my arms as you screamed your way into the world, I knew you were a force to be reckoned with. But really, I had no idea of the woman you would become.

As a child, you had no understanding of that shut-off valve most of us have that we use to censor our thoughts before they come out of our mouths. Other than the fibs you told to get yourself out of a jam, (and by the way, you were never any good at lying), you were the most honest person I had ever encountered. Now, you would think that would be a wonderful thing, but not always. Like the time when you sat on my lap running a hand over my face, and you piped up in a room full of guests, "Mom, why do you have a whisker on your chin?" Yeah. That's my girl!

And I may have been a tad wrong about that "bad at lying" thing, because I just remembered something. The phone call I got at work from the principal's office asking me to come in for a talk. It seems you thought your lunch looked pretty good so you decided to eat it on the way to school. Yes, you had already had breakfast at home. And when the teacher asked you where your lunch was, you told her that I didn't let you take lunch to school because we had no food at home. By the way, thanks for that. It was just as fun as when I was hauled into the principal's office as a kid.

You were, in a word, exasperating at times. I remember telling myself that the same things about you that drove me crazy, were the very characteristics you would need to keep you strong in a sometimes unkind world. You were also a delightful child in so many ways. Whenever I thought about you, I pictured a bright sunflower, face turned towards the sky, full of joy and expectation. And talk? You sure had the gift of the gab from the moment you could form words, so I am not surprised that you used it to carve niches in life that suited your temperament and fed your soul.

It still brings tears to my eyes when I recall those stormy teen years when you seemed so sullen and broken. Unreachable. Even when exhausted from caring for your sick father, I'd lay awake nights trying to figure out how to help you. It was like your light was not yet out, but flickering, and for once, you didn't have a lot to say. That scared me. You and I had come so far. I didn't want to fail you when you needed me most. It was the hardest storm we ever faced, and you taught me that sometimes what a girl needs is not something that her mother alone can give. Sometimes she needs space. And wings. Even if she's not sure how to use them yet.

And now, look at you. Effervescent as ever, full-time career, busy mom with three rambunctious teenagers, and sometimes five. Your house is full of noise, laughter, bickering kids, barking dogs, wedding's a place of happiness. And you made that happen. You, with your infectiously joyful spirit, your childlike sense of play, and your love of family. I couldn't be more proud of you, not just as a daughter, but as a strong woman and a beautiful spirit.

I'm glad you still call me when something wonderful happens that you want to share, when something challenging comes up and you need advice, or when something awful happens and you just want your mom.


For more on mothers and daughters, check out 

Celebrating Literacy

The good folks at Grammarly recently compiled information to raise awareness of global literacy and to celebrate International Literacy Day. It's a reminder of just how lucky we are, how much progress has been made, and far we still have to go. 

In Boise, we're fortunate to have wonderful organizations like the Learning Lab. Grammarly recommends First Book and Reading is Fundamental. Illiteracy is everyone's problem, if you agree, I hope you'll considering donating a small amount of your money or time to one of these organizations. You can also check with your local library about volunteering as a literacy coach. 

"Illiteracy is more than just a lack of reading skills. Around the world, it is a clear predictor of poverty, illness, and disempowerment. It’s not a problem confined to the developing world, either. Even in the United States, there are thirty-two million adults who cannot read, according to the U.S. Department of Education."
  - Grammarly's Brittney Ross
Literacy Day
This infographic is courtesy of