Pieces of String is Changing…

When I started this blog it was with the intention of posting stories for children and young adults. I hoped that parents would find free stories that they could share with their littlies here. But, as is often the case, Pieces of String evolved in a different way.

For one thing, I just couldn’t keep up a constant flow of stories which were also of a quality that I would feel comfortable sharing. Not between writing a novel and caring for a family. For another, some of the ideas I had for the blog were never really fulfilled, they became little more than menu headings.

So, Pieces of String is going to go through a bit of a change and become more of an author website. Hopefully, one day, I’ll have people who have read an actual book that I’ve written visiting the site. Let me take a minute to picture that…YES!

The stories and crafts (or should I say craft) are going to be moving to my other site but my observations, writing progress, and questions will remain and be ongoing.

To all those people who followed my site from the beginning – I can’t tell you how grateful I am and I hope you stick with me.

Mums

Today is my mum’s birthday (happy birthday Mum!) and I suspect Mum has had a wide range of birthdays. This year she is celebrating in England with my dad (who is also her husband, so that’s handy) and her twin sister (hi Aunty Trudy), but she’s spent plenty of birthdays without Dad, who works away, and plenty of birthdays with her kids – which I suspect was not always the gift you’d think. After all, even on your birthday, children demand need attention and care. Not just love, which is fairly easy to dish out any day of the year, but they need to be clothed, fed, woken up (if they’re teenagers), sent to bed (if they’re little ones), bathed, played with, refereed. The list goes on. So while I’m sure she would love to have us all with her (especially now we’re adults and can more or less feed, dress and bathe ourselves) I’m also sure she’s enjoying having a day that really is all about her (and Aunty Trudy of course).

But the thing is, because my mum was the sort of mum who gave me (and my siblings) time and energy and attention and affection and love, every single day of the year, I really miss her. Today especially because I would love to give her a present and have a meal with her. It’s something I’m really looking forward to when she and Dad are finally in the same time zone as I am. Which makes me wonder, will I ever stop needing my mum? If I need her now, when I’m thirty and have children of my own, is there ever a time when I’ll have outgrown my mum’s hugs and chats and advice?

I hope not.

And I hope B1 and B2 never do either.

So happy birthday Mum. Have a wonderful day. You deserve it.

And Dad, I miss you as well.

 

 

Books that make me cry…and why that’s ok.

When I was a kid, probably about ten or eleven, my mum sat on the hard wooden floor in my bedroom and read The Lord of the Rings to me and my younger brother. For much of the book I sobbed my little eyes out. From the moment Sam has to leave the pony, through each harrowing description of death and deceit, I balled. Gandalf falling into the Abyss? Almost. Broke. Me.

And that’s why I love the Lord of the Rings. Because it had me by the heart.

Little Woman is my favourite book of all time (that may say something about me) and when Beth dies…I can’t talk about it.

The Animals of Farthing Wood…a group of animals making their way across England to a wildlife sanctuary. What could go wrong?

The point is, getting emotionally involved in a story is what makes it worth reading. In many of the books and programs that my own children now enjoy conflict of any kind is kept to a minimum. Races always end in a tie. Arguments always end in an apology. Naughty, rude, little piggies characters always end up gently reprimanded and then jump in muddy puddles are given ice cream. And this is fine for now because B1 and B2 are only 4 and 2 years old.

But I’m looking forward to the day when we can enjoy a good book together…and cry over it.

p.s. Thanks Mum, by the way.

I’m a bad person because…

I’m a bad person because I want to get off Facebook because I don’t really care about other people.

I know. Of all the dark and despicable deeds in the world it’s hardly worth mentioning. But the realisation that I’m just not that interested in others and their lives goes against a basic assumption that I’ve always made about myself – that I’m a selfless, caring, person.

Partly I know it’s a personality thing. While it might seem a ridiculous claim for someone who blogs to make, I don’t really like sharing my private thoughts and feelings in a public forum and I find the comments and status updates of those who do a bit unnerving. I know this is simply a personality clash – online as in the real world there are people who gush like a tap on full blast and then there are those people more like a tap that’s been rusted off for years. They’ll only open up given the right lubricant (usually wine or beer). I fall somewhere in the middle. I can overshare at times but not to a complete stranger on the bus.

On Facebook I don’t share pictures of my children because I feel this opens them up to people I don’t know and who might use those pictures in unsavoury ways. I try to steer clear of being political or controversial – my mum always told me not to discuss politics, religion or money with people and I apply to this rule equally to Facebook as I do to my real world relationships. The exception being good friends and family, because always agreeing would be so dull. And I rarely comment on other people’s status updates simply because between B1 and B2, my husband, my writing and the evil overlord cat, I don’t have a lot of time.

But other people, of course, are different. They share their hopes, dreams and worries. They share photos of their kids, their accomplishments, their illnesses, their failures and how crap (or otherwise) their teacher is. They make political statements. They condemn some and laud others. They make annoying philosophical comments which then encourages others to make comments like, ‘oh hun. wots rong?’ *shudder*

And the artificial intimacy created by a forum such as Facebook maintains relationships that might otherwise have fizzled out. It’s like thawing and refreezing and thawing and refreezing a friendship. And we all know how that well that works out with chicken.

So why, you may be screaming at your computer, don’t I just pull the plug? After all, no one is forcing me to read other people’s Facebook posts.

Partly it’s because I don’t want to be a bad person. Or, more accurately, be seen as being a bad person who doesn’t care about the lives and interests of others.

And partly it’s because I don’t want to miss out. Increasingly friends, actual friends who I actually see in real life, communicate only through Facebook. Party invites, birth announcements, job promotions, and the list goes on, are all put on Facebook. If I’m not…how will I know these things? This poses some difficult questions about friendship that I’m not ready to face yet…but will wake me up at 3am.

 

So, tell me, how Facebook savvy are you? And how much do you share or not share? And do you have any tips for me on finding Facebook zen?

A picture book set in … a war zone

littlemissw:

Picture books can be as relevant to older children and young adults as they are to younger children. One Red Shoe is a case in point, allowing parents and teachers to engender empathy and compassion in their children. Boys, in particular, are very visual (as are men apparently). If you’re looking to encourage your son to read more then a picture book or graphic novel could very well be a good place to start. More specifically, if your looking for a way to start an age appropriate conversation with your children about conflicts overseas, One Red Shoe, by Karin Gruss and Tobias Kreijschi and published by Wilkins Farago, sounds like a good place to start.

Originally posted on Wilkins Farago's Blog:

One of Tobias Krejschi's award-winning illustrations for 'One Red Shoe'

One of Tobias Krejschi’s award-winning illustrations for ‘One Red Shoe’

How do you even start to explain to a child what’s happening in the Middle East?

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve seen some dreadful reports from Israel and the Gaza Strip.

Do we turn off the TV and radio and hide the newspaper? I’ve been sorely tempted.

We’re lucky in Australia that violence on such a scale is largely alien to us. It would be forgivable for kids here to think that such problems are ‘overseas problems’ with little relevance to their lives.

But, of course, we know that such ‘overseas problems’ have a history of finding their way to us sooner or later, often in ways we don’t expect—in the past century, Australia has not been immune to terrorism, refugees or war.

Earlier this year, we bought the rights to Karin Gruss and Tobias Kreijschi’s One Red Shoe, a picture book…

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Broaching the Tough Stuff

On Friday night I was watching the News and, like so many in world, finding it difficult to understand how a commercial aircraft could be the target of a missile attack. Not to mention the why. Why that plane? Why those lives? Why then? Why…at all? These are difficult, perhaps unanswerable, questions for an adult so imagine how much more difficult it is for a child to understand. A child like my four year old son who had got out of bed and come to find me.

He honed in on the TV. The vivid graphics of twisted metal. And he was curious. What show was this and what were they doing and why were they doing it? I explained that some not-very-nice people had shot at a plane and it had crashed.

He explained to me that, that was dangerous. People could get a scratch.

And I said yes, lots of people on the plane had been very badly scratched and it was a terrible thing for anyone to do. And then I changed the channel.

The thing is, I had been completely unprepared to explain these things to my pre-schooler. The best I could do was simplify and follow his lead. Because I don’t want to lie to my children, I think that does them a disservice, but I don’t want to traumatise them either or rob them of the innocent way in which they perceive the world.

Confronting difficult issues with your children can be so daunting. From a family pet dying to something terrible they see on the TV, these things come up for us all. I’m still not sure I handled it as well as I could have and I’m curious, how do you broach the tough stuff with your little people?

Guest Blog: Five Fascinating Facts about A. A. Milne

littlemissw:

Some very interesting facts about the author of a true classic of children’s literature, Winnie – the – Pooh.

Originally posted on Interesting Literature:

In this special guest post, Simon Thomas from Shiny New Books looks into the interesting life and work of Alan Alexander Milne, creator of Winnie-the-Pooh…

1. A.A. Milne had a famous schoolteacher. A.A. Milne’s father John ran a small boys’ school, Henley House, and one of the teachers he employed was a young H.G. Wells. Wells was a few years away from publishing his first novel, The Time Machine, when he had a post at Henley House 1889-90 and taught Milne mathematics. It obviously rubbed off, as that was the subject Milne read at Cambridge.

2. He wrote a very prescient play about Christopher Robin. Almost. Before the success of Winnie the Pooh et al, and indeed before Christopher Robin was born, Milne was a very successful playwright. One of his early plays was The Great Broxopp, about the resentment a child felt against the father who had used…

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Epic Fail

Falling short or failing (for want of a better word) sucks. That’s it, that’s the truth. But it’s something we all must contend with in life.

As young children (egocentric little buggers that they are) we tend to measure our success by how well our latest attempt at something measures up to our most recent attempt. But as we get older we begin to judge our success by how we measure up to others. When we don’t do as well as expected or hoped then we class that as fail. We fail tests, fail classes, fail races. Some of us even fail relationships (which seems harsh). And though there is an argument that ‘you only fail if you don’t try’, I think that’s a bit of a cheeky argument.

It’s always worth trying, in my opinion. If you don’t try you may save yourself the pain of failing but you also rob yourself of the joy of succeeding. That said, if you try and don’t succeed then that is a fail. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, you certainly shouldn’t fear failure, but if (and when) you try something and fail then it’s ok to say, ‘I failed and it sucks. I feel bad about falling short. And now I’m going to dust myself off and keep trying.”

Or as my mum put it, “Cry it out and then get on with it.”

This week I had two failures. I entered pieces of writing in two separate competitions and wasn’t short listed in either of them. On the plus side, I can now post my stories here for people to read and perhaps share with their little loved ones. On the down side I really, really, wanted to win ;)

When the time comes that my own children try and fail, I hope that the lesson that my husband and I instil in them is that: we all fail sometimes and failing isn’t an awesome feeling, but once we’ve dealt with the disappointment we need to get up and give it another go.

If you’re interested in reading my two stories have a read here and here and feel free to let me know what you think.

And in the meantime, what are your thoughts on failing? When have you and how do you deal with that? And how do you encourage your children to deal with it?

Quack

One brand new day, a brand new hen arrived on the farm and the whole hen house was in a flap.

Chicks giggled, hens squawked, Dot blushed from her toes to the tip-top of her comb.

“What’s going on in here?” asked the short sighted rooster.

“Quack!” said Dot.

“Oh dear, oh dear!” squawked Rooster, “No ducks in the hen house please. Go back to the pond with the other ducks.”

“But…”

Rooster bundled her out of the door.

“I guess I could be a duck,” thought Dot.

The ducks were heading off for their morning swim.

Waddle-waddle, slip, slide, splash.

Dot followed them.

Wiggle-waggle, slip, slide, splash, glug.

“You can’t swim,” said the ducks as they pushed Dot onto the bank, “you can’t be a duck. Crows can’t swim. Go to the paddock with the other crows.”

“I might be a crow,” thought Dot.

The crows were just beginning their choir practise.

Caw-caw, caw-caw-caw, caaaw-caaaw, ca-aw.

Dot cleared her throat.

Caaw-arg-arg-erk-awk-ark-yurk-erg.

“You can’t sing,” said the crows, “you can’t be a crow. You look a bit like a pigeon. You should head over to the farmhouse.”

“That must be it,” thought Dot.

The pigeons were practising their plies.

Up, down, up, down, up, down, up.

Dot stretched her legs.

Up, down, up, stumble, trip, oomph.

“You lack grace dear,” said the pigeons, helping her up, “you can’t be a pigeon.”

“Then what am I?” Dot said, fluffing her feathers.

But night was coming and the pigeons had all flown off to their nests.

Dot trudged back to the hen house.

“What am I?” wondered Dot. A tear dripped off the end of her beak.

Her stomach growled…

Gurgled…

Groaned…

Grumbled!

Dot flew to her feet, “I forgot!”

She dashed into the hen house, leapt into her nest, crossed her eyes, held her breath and…

Laid one perfect brown egg.

“Woohoo! I quack like a duck but I lay eggs like a chicken,” crowd Dot.

“What are you then?” asked the chicks.

Dot looked out of the hen house door. The moon was rising high into the sky, big and bright and nothing like the stars around it.

She snuggled into her nest, “I’m just me.”

Bunyip’s Night

Bunyip in his watery bed tossed and turned, groaned and grunted, wriggled and wiggled, fidgeted and flicked his tail.
He yawned and yawned again.
But still Bunyip couldn’t sleep.
“Who’s making so much noise?” he said.

Bunyip checked his fish were sleeping tight and then splished and splashed out of his dam.

He saw Platypus floating on top of the water.
“Are you making that noise?” Bunyip said.
“Not me,” said Platypus, splashing out of sight.

Bunyip stomped between the pale Eucalypt trees and saw Possum over head.
“Are you making that noise?” Bunyip said.
“Not me,” said Possum, leaping away through the leaves.

Bunyip stomped towards the edge of the forest, whipping his tail behind him, and saw Wombat snuffling in the leaf litter.
“Are you making that noise?” Bunyip said.
“Not me,” said Wombat, backing away into the shadows.

The noise was louder now. It bopped and it zinged, it flew and it crashed, it thudded and it sang.
Bunyip stepped out into the clearing. His enormous mouth dropped open.

There were Bunyips everywhere.

Big ones and small ones, ones with feathers and ones with fur, ones with shimmery scales and ones with twisting tales. Bunyips of every colour and hue. All of them prancing and spinning, dancing and grinning. All of them having a wonderful time.

And Bunyip’s feet started tapping, his hands started clapping, his hips started swaying and his head started bobbing.
“Wow, you look great!” said a Bunyip passing by, “Come dance with us.”

And Bunyip did. He twisted and he twirled, he grinned and he guffawed, he waved and he winked, he fandangoed and he flounced. He was having such wonderful time that he didn’t notice the other Bunyips were drifting away until he heard a low roar and then another and then another!

There were bright lights that made Bunyip blink and thuds and growls that made Bunyip jump. The other bunyips were taking off their tails and their ears and getting into growling boxes.

Monsters! Monsters everywhere!

With a shudder and a shriek Bunyip ran back into the forest, through the Eucalypt trees, and splashed back into his dam. He sank to the bottom and his fish snuggled in around him.
To think! He’d been dancing with monsters and he never even knew it.

It had been a lot of fun though.

He yawned. He didn’t toss or turn, grunt or groan, wriggle or wiggle, fidget or flick his tail. He just snored, snored, snored.