Full Swing of Summer

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Its carefree mood took me by surprise.

I wasn’t expecting it to intrude so quickly, but it it’s here and I am hardly prepared to relax.

Party. Beach. Vacation.

Kids standing around the pool on the hot cement waiting.

Can we jump in? Summer says “Yes!”

Cotton candy, carnival, fairgrounds, amusement park rides.

Standing in lines. Waiting for the fun to begin.

Finally the whistle blows.

Summer is here, but it will leave us too soon.




A New Adventure Begins

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photoRecently, I made the decision to do some dog sitting. I went to a site called Rover.com, filled out a profile, got a review, and the rest is history as they say. I just finished my first job with a dog named Kira. We had a great time walking and playing fetch. Kira turned out to be everything that my present dog isn’t. What a contrast! Roxy doesn’t play fetch. Kira would play fetch for hours. Roxy lays around all day–especially after a walk. Kira is never idle. And the list goes on. Of course this made me think about the dog in my current story, Dot and Scribble Fall into Adventure.

I named the dog Boon in my story and let’s just say Boon is a lot like Kira: lively, carefree, and always alert. Here’s an excerpt from the story.

Then Scribble felt something wet on his hand. He was afraid to look down, but he did. A stick dog with huge ears and a fuzzy line for a tail stared back at him.

“Does he bite?” Scribble asked, pulling away. The dog knocked Scribble over, bit his arm, and slobbered all over him.

“Of course he bites,” Dot said.

“Stop it,” Scribble said.

“Now you’re both dirty,” Dot fussed.

“Get this mutt off me.”

“His name is Boon, silly. Maybe if you were nice to our dog, he wouldn’t bite you, but I doubt it. He knows you too well.”

“Okay, Boon.” Scribble patted the dog. “How was that?” Boon jumped on Scribble again, covering him with more mud.“I think Boon needs a little adventure.”

Dot pushed the dog away.“We have all the adventure we need right here,” Dot said.

“Is that so?”

Scribble felt something latch onto his foot. He looked down at Boon who had his foot in his mouth. “Hey! Boon took my foot. Give me that, you crazy dog.”

He took off after the dog, running like a peg-leg pirate. He heard Dot sigh behind him, but he was already on his way.


Beach Day

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photo 5 (8) Yesterday, I went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk with the family. If you’ve never been there, I’m sure you’ve heard of it. The Boardwalk is really a fun place to visit. There are so many activities to do within a small radius. You can go on rides, play mini-golf, climb a rock wall, do more rides, and then there’s the beach, which is where I tested fate. I brought my suit, of course, so I had no excuses. My wife encouraged me to take a dip.

“Sure,” I said. “Maybe later.”

“I dare you to swim out to the buoy.”

I love a dare. Without too much thinking, I waded into the water, and began my swim. Halfway out to the buoy, I was breathing hard, but I had set my goal. After a few more minutes, I reached the buoy and held on to it for dear life. Realizing that even the life guard wasn’t going to come out and save me, I headed back.

After about 15 minutes of swimming, I arrived back to cheering fans and applause. Not really. My wife smiled at me and handed me a towel while Clay and his friend ate snacks and played football.

“Good job, honey, you did it.”photo 2 (21)

I plopped down and took a well deserved rest. Of course, I got to brag for the rest of the day about my exploits.photo 1 (26)

I’m sure you can relate. We’ve all been challenged to do things that require tests of our abilities. Now that I’ve shared about my exploits, tell me about your most recent challenge. Did you heed the call for bravery and jump into the waters of adventure or did you stay on the beach in the safety of your beach blanket?

I dare you to tell your story.


Vacation Adventure

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disneyland 07 117 (3)Did some say vacation adventure?

The thought of an adventure, I’m sure, brings pleasant thoughts to mind. Visions of the Hawaiian Islands or the peaks of Yosemite probably race through your memories, but vacations and adventures can be chaotic too. Vacations take us out of our routines and place us in unusual places filled with unpredictable activities. And most people like their predictable routines.

Add to that, how some people like to chill out on vacation and sit beside a pool. That’s the definition of boring for me. Like kids, I want to go, go, go! My wife recently told me about a family she knew who had gone on vacation to a foreign country. The family had a lousy time. They spent lots of money, stayed in fine hotels, and had it all planned out, but they couldn’t wait to get home. I’ve been on trips like that too. You tend to hear phrases like, “Let’s make the best of this.”

disneyland 07 084 (2)Once I went to Florida in August. 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity. Disney World in August is not the happiest place on earth. We were running from indoor show to indoor show to shops to restaurants. The experience makes a great story now. At the same time, I don’t know one person who would turn down a free family vacation. disneyland 07 190 (2)

Vacations and adventures are like that. Unpredictable. Some people thrive on the unpredictable, but most of us like our routines. Which type are you?



Fall into Adventure


IMG_0511Last summer my son and I went on a whirlwind tour of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. Along with my brother-in-law and Clay’s cousin Kyle, we visited Glacier National Park in Montana, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone. I still have fond memories of hopping from campground to campground. 2,300 miles! Whew! There’s nothing like adventure!

This summer, I’m struggling to think of a trip to top that experience. Great adventures are like that. We all have them, but they don’t come often enough and it’s hard to top the last great time we shared with friends and family.

In my newest book, Dot and Scribble Fall into Adventure, I explore the need we all have for great adventures. The central character, Scribble, is bent on having adventures as much as possible, but Dot his friend, is reluctant to push the limits.

Here’s an excerpt from the first chapter, where Hudson begins an adventure of a lifetime by drawing Dot and Scribble.

The picture Hudson drew was supposed to be a copy of the medieval picture on his desk, but it lacked the realism he wanted. Life was like that for Hudson. He could never quite make the picture into a work of art.

“I need a few characters,” Hudson said. “I need a knight, a few dragons… a troll or two, and a princess.”

Hudson looked at the picture and then at the pencil in his hand. “Come on, do your thing,” he commanded the pencil.

He knew all he could draw were stick figures. Who was he trying to fool? He drew a stick boy, frowned, and crossed him out. The boy wasn’t quite right. Maybe if he tried another.

He drew another stick person and smiled. “Better—some pretty hair and a nice dress,” he said to himself. The stick girl stood tall with straight legs, a polka dot dress, and wavy hair.

Hudson finished the picture of the stick girl, smiled, and added some dots for eyes. He looked at the stick boy and shook his head. “You’re Scribble, ‘cause you’re a mess.”

Scribble looked reckless in a fun kind of way, but he was no knight in shining armor. And the stick girl was hardly a princess.

He looked at the stick girl. “You’re Dot.”

Dot and Scribble smiled back at him.

“Honey, it’s a beautiful day outside.” Hudson’s mother poked her head inside his door. “You should go out and play. Go on an adventure. Take a ride on your bike or something.”

“I’m busy, mom.” He barely heard her close the door behind her when she left.

Hudson drew a great tree at the bottom of the mountain near the lake. He looped a rope over the tree for swinging. The final touch was a small wooden house for Dot and Scribble to live in.

He imagined that Dot swung without a care, her pretty dress and long hair flapping in the breeze. Scribble, however, swung too high and jumped off into the sky when it was his turn.

Scribble screamed with glee before he went splat.

Hudson laughed. Sometimes he wished he were an adventurer like Scribble.

He drew a dog that ran free. The dog sat pretty before Dot, but chased Scribble all over the yard.

Dot liked to sit in the tall grass and sing to the lilies. Scribble liked to run, fall in the dirt, and roll in the sloppy mud.

“Not exactly what I had in mind,” Hudson said. He looked at his picture. “But it’s a start.”Picture 4a

The picture from the book on medieval times made Hudson wish that he lived during the times of the knights. He could almost imagine what would happen. Knights would protect the castle from
invaders and dragons. There would be a key or a princess in the castle keep.

Hudson decided on a key. He drew the outline of a special key worth all the wealth in the kingdom because of its magical ability to transport its holder anywhere. Then, he cut the key out from the piece of scratch paper and placed it in the castle keep.

He finally pulled the chair up to his desk and sat, taking in his work of art.


Online Activities for Families

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Keeping kids engaged over the summer is important. Of course, going outside should always be the first choice, but kids can’t stay outside all day. As you can imagine, there are plenty of things online to help your children pass those long summer days. There are lots of other quality websites for kids — here are a few more of my favorites:

PBS Kids: This site offers great activities, contests, and interactive games.

National Geographic Kids: offers great nature videos, activities, games, stories, and more.

Discovery Kids: video, games and activities to explore dinosaurs, sharks, space, pets, history and more.

Young Explorers: Museum Run, The Great Dig, Time Explorer and more online games from the British Museum.

Smithsonian Kids Collecting: how to start your own collection and see what other kids collect

Explore Dinosaurs: FAQs and top 10 myths about dinosaurs, a virtual dig, behind the scenes tours, and more from the National Museum of Natural History

Smithsonian Digging for Answers: a site that tests your research skills and knowledge
NASA Quest: interactive explorations that engage students in real science and engineering. Topics include robots, helicopters, lunar exploration, and designing your own human-friendly planet

My Wonderful World: a multimedia tour of our seven continents

Time for Kids: fun games (The Great State Race), an online weekly magazine written for kids, and news from around the world
Introduce your students and their families to stories from around the world. Let them know about the International Children’s Digital Library, an amazing (and growing!) collection of international children’s books available to read online in their original languages. Big Universe is another online library of fiction and nonfiction books for kids 0-12. The site also offers adults and kids the chance to create and publish their own stories.

I also suggest audio books as an alternative to print, especially for kids with learning disabilities that make reading a struggle. You can now download stories to iPods and other mobile devices, perfect for car rides or a lazy hot afternoon. AudibleKids has an extensive collection of downloadable books, and some of them are free through a partnership with RIF.

For students with vision or learning disabilities, tell your parents about Learning Ally which provides free audio books for kids to listen over the summer.

Summertime Gershwin


Smooth and easy just like a summer day.

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