‘Guest Posts’ Category

  1. Guest Post: A Pirate Story

    June 4, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    Jennifer Busick is a freelance writer and homeschool mom who lives in north Alabama with her husband, her two daughters and a very large dog. She has never actually made anyone walk the plank, but there are days when it has sounded like a good idea.

    Yesterday afternoon, Ashley Rose wanted me to play The Brave Princess and the Pirates with her. I consented, on condition that I could do housework while making appropriate pirate noises.

    First we had to settle the matter of which pirate I was, exactly.

    “I will be Hook,” I said.

    “No,” she said.

    “Greybeard?” I offered — the pirate captain from “Madeline and the Pirates.”

    “No,” she said.

    “Red-Handed Jill?” I asked — Wendy’s pirate name, from Peter Pan.

    “Mommy,” Ashley Rose said with some exasperation, “You cannot be a pirate from out of a movie, because then we will not make up our own pirate story. We will just want to play the story from the movie.”

    I have to say, there are a great many writers who have never grasped this concept, so I was impressed.

    “Well, then, what should my pirate name be?” I asked.

    “I know! You are Black-Handed Pants!”

    “I am the pirate Black-Handed Pants?” Really? Oh, dear.


    “Well, hey . . . ” I put on an appropriately piratical voice and growled, “I am the pirate Black-Handed Pants!”

    I proceeded to capture the Brave Princess Sarah and carry her off to my pirate ship (the kitchen), where she sat in a chair and I swabbed the deck.

    “What are you going to do?” she asked, quaveringly.

    “We are going to Happiness Island, and we are going to kill everybody and turn it into Pirate Island,” I growled.

    She rolled her eyes at me. “Those are not good names,” she informed me.

    “I’m sorry,” I said. “What should the names be?”

    “You are going to the Island of the Sky,” she told me, “where you are going to kill everybody and turn it into the Island of Blood.”

    “Well, I guess those are better names,” I conceded, and got back into character. “We are going to the Island of the Sky, and we are going to kill everybody and turn it into the Island of Blood!”

    “Oh no!” she said, “I will have to escape and warn all my friends on the Island of the Sky!”

    “You’ll never escape! I am going to make you walk the plank!”

    “No, you are not,” she said with assurance.

    “Yes I am!”

    “When?” she challenged.

    “Um . . . When I get done swabbing the deck, here,” I said.

    “Why do you have to swab the deck?” she wanted to know.

    “Well, because if I do not the pirate captain will be mad at me.”

    “So the pirate captain kidnapped you and made you be a mean pirate and now he makes you do all of his chores?” she inquired.

    “Gee, when you put it that way, I’m not sure I like being a pirate so much,” I said.

    “It is okay,” she consoled. “I am sure the other pirates are swabbing the other decks.”


    At that point I looked up, and she was out of her chair. I growled, “Aaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrgggggghhhh! Get back in your chair, princess!”

    She gave a little scream and collapsed on the floor.

    “What’s that all about?” I asked.

    “I am not supposed to hear people say ‘aaaarrrrrrrrgggghhhhh,'” she informed me, from her picturesquely prone position. “So when somebody says that, I have to fall down.”

    “I see. That could be a real handicap,” I observed.

    She popped up, and I gave chase, but then realized that I could just say “Aaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggghhhhh!” and make her swoon. Which made her easy to catch.

    At that point, since it was naptime and since I was done swabbing the deck and since having a princess for a prisoner is very trying, I threw her into the ocean to drown.

    That darn prince Frederick saved her.

  2. Guest Post: Stopping the Crayon on My Carpets

    April 26, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    Today’s guest post comes to us all the way from Australia, courtesy of Janet Matthews – a mother of two who runs a carpet cleaning business with her husband, Carpet Cleaning Melbourne. She enjoys a good book, lazy Sundays, and figuring out ways to manipulate her kids into behaving.

    All kids love coloring in – it’s something built into them from when they are born. I’ve yet to meet a child under 7 whom I couldn’t keep occupied for an hour with a coloring-in book and a stack of crayons. This was particularly true of my daughter when she was around that age. She’d spend hours and hours coloring in pictures of all her favourite cartoon characters.

    She eventually got tired of the books and moved on to drawing on other things. You know, the typical stuff: tables, walls, the driveway out front…and, probably worst of all, the carpets.

    It was around that time that I noticed something else kids are really good at…


    Even more so than coloring in, lying seems like an inbuilt function for kids. Of course the experts will tell you that kids lie because of a fear of punishment. I’ve always thought it more likely that they just lie to try and throw you off their scent. Anyway, back to the story.

    So one afternoon I come along only to find a picture of a girl and a boy holding hands drawn all over the wall (in water-soluble crayons, thank heavens). Just below the wall on my beautiful carpet I see a mish-mash of green crayon. I calmly called my daughter over:

    Me: “Louise, do you know what happened here?”
    Louise: “Ummmm, Jake did it.” [Jake is my son, who is well past the drawing-on-walls stage]
    Me: “Really? Because I don’t think Jake draws like this.”
    Louise: “Yes, I saw him do it.”

    Now, many parents believe anything their kids tell them, but I’m not that naïve. I come out with the only thing I can think of:

    Me: “Really? Well, that’s it. I have to call the police. This is the last time he will get away with this. Hopefully, they can come by soon to arrest him.”
    Louise: *silence*
    Me: “Do you know where the phone is, Sweetheart? Because I want to call them right away.”
    Louise: *more silence*
    Me: “Oh, I remember – it’s in the lounge room. Now I just need to find the phone number for the police station.”

    This goes on for a minute or so before:

    Louise: “Mommy, I did it… I drew on the carpets and the walls.”
    Me: “WHAT!!! You did it? How could you? I thought it was Jake.”

    I then went on to explain how drawing on the walls and lying are both bad – and that she could get into big trouble if she continued doing either one.

    Now, some might call me mean, but I’d say in the end the result was beneficial for everyone. She came to learn that there are serious ramifications for doing the wrong thing. I got clean walls and carpets again. But beyond all the biggest gain from all this was that I got a great story to tell, and something for my husband and I to laugh about for a few years. We’ll probably even bring it up at her 21st birthday party.

    So – what devious ways have you used to get your kids to behave?

  3. Guest Post: Little Kids and Their Big Accomplices

    March 22, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    Today’s guest post is courtesy of Marcela De Vivo, a freelance writer in the Los Angeles area. She has written on everything from health and beauty to travel, marketing, real estate, and technology.

    Image By Mary Bloom / AKC, Inc.

    We already had two furry kids when I brought my eldest home from the hospital. We had no idea how they would respond to the new baby, but it turns out that Lucas and Lola LOVED him. They loved him a little too much and wanted him to play with them even when he could barely crawl. But they were excellent nannies and by the time I had my next two kids, they were old pros at keeping the kids safe…and getting them into trouble.

    These days, especially on rainy days, the house is little more than a blur of black fur and little feet and hands, and invariably, somewhere the sound of crashing, something smashing, and sometimes someone crying.

    There are times I swear it’s Lucas who’s instigating the chase. He gets this glint in his eye and I know to move all my breakables (what’s left of them) up into the study and close the door.

    One day my husband came home before I had a time to put all the picture frames and vases back to their original locations. He went to his study to drop off his briefcase, as he usually does. Opening the door, he stopped short on the threshold, and drily observed to me that he didn’t realize that we had a “ceramics wing” and asked whether or not I was charging an entrance fee.

    At this point, if I don’t hear a smashing, crashing sound somewhere in the vicinity of the house, I get worried. Once, I was washing dishes and suddenly became aware that it was just entirely too quiet. I couldn’t hear the dogs, or the kids, so I knew they had gotten into some kind of trouble.

    I went to the living room. Nothing. I looked out in the backyard. Not a hair to be seen. I went upstairs to each of the kids’ rooms. Not a creature was stirring. Now getting alarmed, I went to the master bedroom…and heard the sound of water running.

    I rounded the corner to the master bath to find my bathroom floor absolutely flooded with bubbles and water, three sopping wet children in various states of undress, and two miserable looking dogs, one half in the tub with two kids pushing feverishly at his feet, and the other one sitting resignedly with her eyebrow cocked up at me, as if to say, “now would be a good time to stop this game.”

    The kids were adamant that the dogs had asked for a bath, and that a bubble bath would make them all “shiny” like the “dog on TV.”

    Sometimes I wonder what if our house is maybe a little too full.

    But there’s nothing like seeing such big dogs (no matter how soft at heart) being protective of a gaggle of tiny tots. When my oldest got the flu (probably not helped by being soaking wet from his dog washing experience), we had to separate him from his siblings and constant companions because we were worried about exposing his siblings, especially my youngest who was just a toddler at the time, to this virus.

    The only company he had was me (of course) and Lucas and Lola. The sight of two giant dogs cuddled up around him, dwarfing the feverish little boy, soothed my fears that he was going to be lonely in isolation.

    Or when the kids were playing out front, and some strange car pulled up alongside the curb (it’s a small neighborhood—we know everyone who comes and goes). Lucas and Lola got right in front of the kids, hackles up and growling. I’ve never seen them behave like that before, so I went out to investigate.

    Turns out the poor guy was just trying to parallel park and visit a friend down the street, but the sight of two massive, angry dogs was more than enough to warn him off! He ended up parking two streets over, which I found out the next time I ran into the neighbor that he was trying to visit. He was as surprised as I was that L & L would be so protective!

    So even with all the crazy shenanigans (and endless cleaning that I end up doing) and broken heirlooms and destroyed carpets, I can’t imagine a better full house than mine.

  4. Guest Post: If You Give a Kid a Drink at Bedtime

    March 7, 2013 by Jennifer Carsen

    Today’s guest post is courtesy of Angie Rose, who writes at Easy Living Mom. You can also follow her on Facebook. She strives to be the mom version of George Takei.

    (Based on If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Also based on a true story of every house with children, on every night of the week.)

    If you give a kid a drink at bedtime, she’s going to purposefully spill it on herself so that she can buy more time before going to sleep. You’ll tell her that she has to change pajamas by herself because she’s a big girl and you really just want to sit down with a glass of wine and watch Modern Family.

    When she’s changing pajamas, she’ll tell you that her underwear is on backwards and she can’t fix it. You’ll have to pause Modern Family and go help her. Once she realizes that she’s suckered you back into her room, she’ll ask you, in her sweetest voice possible, to read her a book because she “loves the way you read to her.”

    You’ll pick out the shortest book you can find, Goodnight Moon. This will remind her that she needs to say “goodnight” to everything and everyone that she can think of. “Goodnight lamp, goodnight bear, goodnight window, goodnight mommy (who has now dozed off in the bed), goodnight girl from preschool who is best friend of the week.” That will remind her that tomorrow is her friend’s birthday party, and she’ll wake you up to tell you.

    This is the first time you’ve heard of the party, and you’ll realize that you’ll need to get her friend a present. You’ll tuck her back into bed, and raid the playroom for any toys that are still unopened, or possibly opened but could pass as brand new. After wading through Barbies with missing body parts, dozens of markers that have dried out because the caps haven’t been put back on, and electronic toys that have spilt orange juice caked on the buttons, you’ll give up. Acknowledging this as a lost cause, you’ll write a note to yourself to go to the store tomorrow before the birthday party.

    This is when you’ll hear her yell for you again. You’ll go back up, and she’ll say that she has to go to the bathroom because of the water that she drank earlier. This time is different than every other night when she says she has to go and then doesn’t, because this time, she has to go “really really really bad.” You’ll bring her into the bathroom, where she’ll try to go, but again, won’t. Looks like she has a bad case of constipeetion.

    After ten minutes of waiting, she’ll finally go, and will then need to wash her hands. The water will remind her that she’s thirsty, and she’ll ask for another drink before she goes back to bed. You’ll revert back to your 6th grade D.A.R.E. class and remember what they taught you (who ever said that D.A.R.E. was an unsuccessful program?!). Just. Say. No.

  5. Guest Post: Children’s Books I Will Never Buy

    November 26, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    Today’s guest post is courtesy of Maria L. Hughes, a children’s book enthusiast, parent, and online publisher for childrensbookstore.com. She enjoys blogging about reading and kids’ books.

    As a parent of three, I have watched every one of my kids learn how to color (my youngest is learning right now). I’m a firm believer in the importance of coloring books, from helping foster a child’s creative mind to teaching patience and concentration.

    So it should come as no surprise that right alongside the adolescent books that I order for my two older ones, I’ve been ordering coloring books for my youngest. That’s how I came across this little gem:

    Machine Gun Inventors: A Military History Coloring Book is one of those books that, while interesting, is probably not going to make it onto my list of “must haves” anytime soon.

    I decided to see what other types of “interesting” kids’ books were out there (I’ll admit, I got a little carried away marveling at the absurdity of some of them), and I decided to post some of the odd ones that made me chuckle.

    Mommy, Why is There a Server in the House? by Tom O’Connor, Ph.D.
    This one was one of my favorites. After a little bit of research, I found out that this is actually a bit of propaganda from Microsoft – a book they put out as advertising for their own server. Still, it made me laugh.

    The Gas We Pass: The Story of Farts by Shinta Cho
    When it comes to educational children’s books that explain natural bodily functions, I’m all for it. I would even consider myself somewhat of a proponent of Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi because of its ability to neutralize potty humor by naturalizing it. The Gas We Pass, on the other hand, starts with “When an elephant farts, the farts are really big.” I can only imagine reading this to my children.

    Never Smile at a Monkey by Steve Jenkins
    Okay, so I might buy this one for my children. Still, there is no denying that this book is a little strange. From what I’ve read, it is filled with interesting facts about animals, particularly about how they protect themselves. For example, “a kangaroo can deliver a kick powerful enough to cave in a person’s chest.” Or, when describing a cane toad: “It’s harmless except for two large sacs of venom on its neck. If pressed, these pouches squirt out a blinding, and sometimes deadly poison.” Probably not something I would read right before bed.

    Ma! There’s Nothing to Do Here! by Barbara Park, illus. by Viviana Garofoli
    This is a story told from the perspective of a baby in utero. Probably more of a gift for a pregnant mom-to-be than your 4-year-old daughter, and definitely out there (though it looks clever and humorous).

    Gangsta Rap Coloring Book by Aye Jay
    No. Just no. Need I say more?

  6. Guest Post: Why You Should Never Move With Children

    August 3, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    This guest post is courtesy of Kathryn Thompson, a freelance writer and mom to three daughters. Kathryn used the services of Man with a Van to help during her last move. They were great – the kids were not!

    They say that moving house is the most stressful life event that most of us will experience at some point or another. Clearly whoever compiles these lists has never been to my house at eight-thirty on a school morning, but I digress…

    I can’t deny that moving house in general is quite stressful and tiring. When my husband and I first moved to our poky three-bedroom fifteen years ago, we did argue about where the sofa should be placed, we did forget to register our names with the local doctors, and I did pack the keys at the bottom of the heaviest box, which was situated furthest back in the boot of our car – stressful stuff.

    But oh! How I wish I could rewind fifteen years and experience that stressful move again, because it was NOTHING like the experience I have just encountered moving house with three children in tow.

    For the benefit of all parents out there, I will impart five of the valuable lessons I learned during our recent house move:

    1. Choosing your new house

    Having read various parenting articles about the best way to prepare my children for the traumatic process of moving house, I decided to invite them along to view a couple of the houses we had shortlisted. I wanted them to feel involved in the process and feel comfortable in their new surroundings.

    Big mistake.

    I quickly learnt that children do not care whether the central heating works, whether there is an oven to cook in, or an inside toilet. All they really want to know is if their bedroom is painted in a colour they like and whether there is a tree house. Everything else is inconsequential and they will make your life miserable because you didn’t pick the one closest to their best friends.

    2. Packing

    Never pack a box in front of a child, or they will suddenly discover a passion for ratty blankets and cuddly toys that haven’t seen the light of day since 2002. They will madly begin unpacking as quickly as you can pack things away.

    Also on the subject of packing, for any teenager who says they would like to pack their own boxes, do not agree to this under any circumstances as it just won’t get done – thus causing you to wildly fling things into anything with an opening which may then fall off the shelf you have balanced it on, hit your toes, and cause you to scream profanities at the innocent neighbour who popped in to help. I speak from experience.

    3. Moving Day

    Do not let your children carry any boxes out of, or into, your new house, particularly if they contain their toys or games. They will take great pleasure in unpacking the box directly in front of the door you are about to stagger through with your fridge freezer/double bed/sofa (choose as applicable).

    Children will also run crazily from room to room the minute you arrive, traipse mud all over your brand-new stair carpet, and jump excitedly on anything soft enough to make them bounce – even if this thing is their grandma’s handbag containing expensive glasses and a china mug (why was she carrying this in her bag – why?).

    4. Find a new naughty spot

    In the event you didn’t read lesson 3, you will need to implement lesson 4 as quickly as possible.

    5. Assemble the kids’ beds first

    You will be tired, emotional, and longing for a bath and glass of wine, but I promise you if you don’t put the children’s beds together before doing anything else in your new house, you will regret it.

    Moving day is only the second day they will actually ask to go to bed early (the first being Christmas Eve) so take advantage of it and give yourself a well-deserved break.

  7. Guest Post: The Universal Laws of Children

    June 18, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    Kathryn Thompson is a British lifestyle blogger and mom to three children. She enjoys online shopping and earning money in her spare time by using Rewardit Cashback – the online cashback and reward site.

    You may as well accept it now: The moment you decided to have kids, your life changed inconceivably and irrevocably – in ways you never even dreamed possible.

    It may also be worth mentioning that a few overarching laws of the universe changed at that very moment, too. Accept them now, so that you can move on with the rest of your life:

    1. The Law of the Phone

    Whenever you’re on a phone call, your children will scream, sing, and/or fight at the top of their voices. Their absolute volume will increase in direct proportion to the importance of said phone call.

    You will try to find a pen to record the caller’s number, so that you may call back during a later, mythical time when things are calmer, but you will invariably discover that the nib of every felt-tip has been pushed in and that every pencil is blunt or snapped in two.

    You will resort to writing in blood or baby sick – whichever is more plentiful at the time.

    2. The Law of Finances

    You are effectively broke from this point forward, regardless of how much money your household brings in.

    Any extra above and beyond the bare necessities of food and shelter will immediately be spent on nappies, formula, hair-grips (for girls), and socks. Both hair-grips and socks will vanish the moment they enter your home, only to turn up again under a sofa cushion in two years’ time.

    3. The Law of Cleanliness

    This law applies to both child and parent. As a parent, you will spend the first three months of your new child’s life covered in a mixture of drool and vomit. It won’t matter, though, because you’ll be wearing only your husband’s boxers and a nursing bra.

    Your children will only ever look clean and tidy for the first five seconds immediately after getting dressed, at which point they transform into street urchins (whether or not they actually set foot outside the house has no bearing on this Law).

    4. The Law of Arguments

    You will, quite frequently, find yourself arguing and negotiating with your three-year-old about the most ridiculous things, like why going to the bathroom is a much better alternative to going behind the curtains and why she really does need to wear more than just a pair of sandals to accompany you to the supermarket. In turn, your child will argue with his or her siblings about practically everything.

    At times, life will feel like one looooong argument. You will invariably forget both which side you were originally on and why you felt the need to spend your precious time weighing in on the debate over which half of the cake was the largest.

    5. The Law of the Doctor’s Office

    You are terrified: Your child is burning up with a high fever and is covered in a head-to-toe rash that (from your online research) bears a passing resemblance to something rare and tropical that is fatal 100% of the time. You don’t think your child has spent any time in Borneo lately, but you can never be sure.

    You carefully bundle up your ailing, screaming child and rush to the doctor’s office. As you throw yourself at the receptionist’s mercy, begging for the soonest possible appointment, you notice her looking over your shoulder – where your child is smiling, jumping up and down on a chair, and making funny faces at the other patients.

    It’s a medical miracle.

  8. Guest Post: A Good Reason To Declutter

    June 4, 2012 by Jennifer Carsen

    Kim Duran is a TV writer, mom and occasional loser of things. Her son Jake has his own blog, although Kim is rumored to have something to do with it.

    I’m in the kitchen with my just-turned-four-year-old son, Jake, when he asks, “Mommy, how come you never wear the apron I made you for Mother’s Day?”

    Now, “never” is a relative term, since it had only been a week since he gave it to me. But try explaining time to a child. “Oh, I’ll wear it now, honey,” I say. “Thanks for reminding me.” Jake runs off to the living room to play with his trains.

    I instantly reflect on the Friday before Mother’s Day when I picked him up from preschool. He was clutching a small gift wrapped in tissue and tied with a pink ribbon. “I made this for you!” he exclaimed. “I picked pink for the wibbon ’cause it’s your favowite color!” I opened the gift right when we got home because he simply couldn’t wait til Sunday to show me his hand-crafted treasure.

    It was an apron. One he drew trains and tracks on – his favorite thing in the world. To the casual observer, it’s a white apron covered in black marking pen, but to him it’s Starry Night. He’s literally jumping with pride. I gush. I tell him how beautiful it is and how much I love it. He’s overjoyed.

    So now, a week later, I open the kitchen drawer to get the apron. It isn’t there. I check another drawer. Everything in it but an apron.

    Huh, I think. Wouldn’t that be classic if I couldn’t find it? Oh, it has to be here somewhere.

    I check the crap cabinet because that’s where my husband puts the pile of stuff that collects on the counter when he can’t stand looking at it one more day. Needless to say, he’s the neat one in our family. But it’s not there either. There is, however, a pile of crap – as always. Why can’t that be lost?

    I decide that since it’s not in the kitchen, it must be in our bedroom. Nope.

    Now I am flying around the house, stopping in every room – in here? In here? I call my husband. Did he move it, by chance? Start a second crap cabinet? Nope. I check my son’s artwork folder where I keep other “treasures” he’s made. Nope.

    Panic. How am I going to tell my son that I lost his beautiful apron before I even wore it? Oh, why didn’t I wear the friggin’ thing? At least then he’d have one lousy memory of me in it.

    The walk of shame down the hallway is tortuous but I have to tell him.

    Jake is waiting for me in the living room, still tinkering with his trains. Yes, the very trains he probably envisioned as he drew them for me on the damn apron.

    I feel like dirt. “Jake, honey, I can’t find it – but I’m sure it’ll turn up somewhere.” I brace myself for the inevitable No, it won’t! You lost it! before the crying begins. But he doesn’t say this.

    “Find what?” he asks.

    In the 20 minutes I’ve spent looking for the apron, he’s forgotten about it. An opportunity. But it comes at a price. Do I tell him the truth and make him cry anyway? Or do I lie and face the guilt that comes with that?

    “The iPad,” I say. “I can’t find it.”

    “Oh. It’s in the kitchen,” Jake says.

    I smile, thank him and exit with my guilt. Better that I suffer. (Not that my confession followed by his meltdown would have been a walk in the park, either.)

    Two days later, I stumble upon the apron. I had put it in the drawer of a console table by the front door. And then I recalled why. The kitchen drawers and cabinets were far too full and I didn’t want it to get lost.

    Yeah, wouldn’t want that to happen…