Grumpy Kid? Angry Kid? You’re Not Alone

I’m a mom of a grumpy kid. Like other moms, I was looking for ways to help my grumpy kid not be so grumpy. In the search for a way to help understand that he could choose to be grumpy or choose to be happy during his days, I told him a little story.

What started as a story just for my son Dylan turned into the children’s book The Bumpy Grumpy Road. And now other moms are telling me it’s helping their grumpy kids, too.

After I wrote it and read it to Dylan, I mentioned the story to a few close friends. They shared it with their kids and told me the idea helped them, too. So, I wrote an essay about our family’s struggle and slow road to success and sent it to one of my favorite magazines,Family Fun It was a delight to learn they also enjoyed the story and published it in their April 2012 issue.

Not long after the issue came out, I received notes from other moms who said reading my essay felt like they were reading about their own families. I received emails, Facebook messages, even a handwritten note from a mom!  It was a relief  for all of us to know we’re not alone, and that’s something I try to remind my own children – they are never alone when they feel sad, angry or frustrated. We’re always there to help them find their way back to the smooth, fast road.

“Steering Clear of Grumpiness” (page 1)
“Steering Clear of Grumpiness” (page 2)

Grumpy Kids? Not these Kindergarteners!

This post originally appeared in June 2012. 

Kindergarten Thank You Notes

At the end of May, I read The Bumpy, Grumpy Road to two kindergarten classes here in Pittsburgh. At first they laughed with delight when they saw Dylan, a little boy, driving a car. They were impressed! But then Dylan started to use grumpy words. In each of the classes, a child called out, “The sky is getting darker!” They were worried for Dylan. One girl even shook her head when Dylan shouted at his brothers.

I continued reading and we got to the page where Dylan sees the first sign. In each of the classes again, a child called out “That stop sign says “Sorry!” They watched with relief and amazement as the sky brightened and the road got smoother with every good choice Dylan made. At the end, they were beaming and laughing again.

Those children traveled the bumpy road with Dylan and sped down the smooth one with him when he learned that he can choose his words and attitude.

I love the fact that not only did I get to share my book with two wonderful classrooms, but that one class of children decided to make their own books! These thank you notes are actually small booklets complete with author’s names and a few pages inside with words and illustrations! Is there a future writer in this class? Possibly!

These thank you notes are the first I received from children, but I hope not the last. Of course the best thank you came from Dylan the night I read him the story, and he cried and said “That’s me, Mommy. Sometimes I am on the bumpy road and don’t know how to get off.” I’ll never forget that moment and hopefully the children who heard this story will remember they, too, can choose which road to drive!

Review for “The Bumpy, Grumpy Road”

Is there anything nicer than a great review from a expert in the field of dealing with emotions? 

I’m lucky enough to be part of an amazing group of women as a contributor to  30 Second Mom. I found many other moms running their own businesses, writing books and dealing with grumpy kids! Dr. Christina Hibbert, a psychologist focusing on women’s health, postpartum health, and parenting issues. Her post on handling whining really hit home with me.  She was kind enough to review a copy of The Bumpy, Grumpy Road and sent me her thoughts:

The Bumpy, Grumpy Road is an adorable book that will help children of all ages learn to navigate feelings of anger, frustration, sibling rivalry, and plain old grumpiness. It not only entertains, it teaches practical skills children can apply to help them overcome their “big feelings” and find their way back to the “smooth path” of sharing, caring, and feeling happy again. I will read the book to my younger kids. I particularly loved your “signs”–what a great way to teach kids how to stop and change their behavior. A really great idea!”

Thanks Dr. Hibbert!


Best Children’s Books

I would say the best children’s books are the ones that keep kids reading. As an author of children’s books, I’m always looking for ways to learn what my children and other children love about books to help me write better books.

Lots of character, no plot

Lots of character, no plot

But what makes some books better than others? And what do children value in books that adults overlook? Is it the magical illustrations? Gripping true-life tales? Otherworldly or down-to-earth story lines? I know a lot about what makes my three boys tick, but I needed insight into other children…and girls. I needed a focus group.

So I worked with the director of our local KinderCare and created their first-ever Summer Book Club! I’m a volunteer, totally unpaid, but like most volunteer experiences, I expect I’ll get a ton out of my weekly commitment. I get share my love of books and reading and I also hope to learn more about what little ones love in books. This will help me, as an author, create books that other children will adore.

Our director sent home a note inviting kids ages 5-7 to join the Book Club, and for our first meeting we had 10 members! (Yes, that includes two of my own kids.) But I recently learned we have 2 more kids who will be there next week!

I put together a schedule featuring two books a week. Our wonderful center director ordered journals and fun pencils for the Book Club attendees. After we read the books and discuss them, I’ll make a suggested assignment for the kids to do on their own. There are no grades, no requirements, it’s just a sort of writing prompt for them to complete if they want. We had our first meeting this past Thursday and read two of my personal favorites: Wild About Books by Judy Sierra and The Crocodile Blues by Colemon Polhaus.

This children loved The Crocodile Blues because there are no words and I asked them to tell us what they think was happening in the story. Some answers were serious and scary while others were just silly but regardless, the children were totally engaged. As we read each book, I’m not only watching how the children react and listening to what they say, but I’m analyzing the word choice of the authors, thinking about how they stayed focused on their storyline, trying to study the construction of each sentence. I’m using this as a writing boot-camp.

I can’t wait to see the results of their first writing prompts, if there are any. But I do hope at least one Book Clubber puts pen to paper. I have this feeling their writing will inspire and enrich my own.

I’m not bringing The Bumpy, Grumpy Road to Book Club, but we will be discussing emotions at the end of July when we read Where the Wild Things Are. Writing and storytelling are time-tested and effective ways to deal with difficult emotions. I hope the children choose to write their own stories to help them handle strong feelings, just like the story I wrote for my son Dylan.

If you have a favorite book from your childhood that you would’ve put on our Book Club list, share it here!

Your Kids Are Watching

Do your kids copy you?

They want to be like you!

Of course they do!

I was reminded of how much my children copy my behavior and choices this summer when I trained for triathlons. I usually run every day, but suddenly I was biking and swimming twice a week. And then my children started riding their bikes more, every sunny day. When we went to the pool, my children were eager to swim. My seven year old learned to go underwater and leapt off the diving board! My five year old, who last year could not be bribed to dip even his toes in, was practicing putting his face in the water!

It was great that they copied my triathlon training because we were all active and having fun. Good times.

But kids also copy how we act when we’re angry and frustrated.

Do you shout? Are you rude to the people you love? Do you refuse to calm down and carry a grudge for hours? Days?

Maybe you need help getting off that bumpy road, too. I did. When’s the last time you took a look at the signs and followed them off the bumpy, grumpy road?



Help for Picky Eaters: My Food Notebook is here!


A tasty alternative to the dinnertime battle

I’m so excited to announce my newest title is now available – feast your eyes on My Food Notebook! Again inspired by the challenges we faced as parents, this handy workbook gives kids a place to journal about food they try and consider whether they liked it, didn’t like, or were curious to try it again. It also encourages kids to try foods more than once and consider what seasonings or sides they like with a food.

I sent a few lucky parents some samples pages to try out on their children. Here’s a review from Heather and her daughter Maggie:

“Ok – first experience was GREAT!  I had Maggie (6 1/2) try a slice of canned peaches.  She’s had them 2 or 3 times before in the past year or so, never liked them much.  I had explained about the food journal before she sat down to lunch.  As she was eating the first bite of peach, she said “Hmm, it’s kind of ……” making a “so-so” motion with her hand.  Then after lunch, I said ok! It’s time to write in your food journal.  She was excited to do it – pulled out a “peach colored pencil” and went to work.  At first she said she was going to check the middle box, but after thinking about it a few seconds she said, “you know, I think I liked them.  I’m going to check the like box.”  Then, she said the most amazing thing: “Can I have another?”


I’m so curious to see how this plays out but I was really amazed at how the process of the journaling affected her thoughts about the food.”

Do you have a picky eater who could use some help from My Food Notebook?

Is it your job to get kids to eat?

Do a quick search of “picky eater” and you will discover parents are constantly stressing about picky eaters. But what if we didn’t? What if we served meals and let our children choose whether to eat it – or not? Is it ok, as a parent, to not make my kids eat?

I wish I could do that, but it just annoys me when he doesn’t eat. It bothers me that I (or my husband) cooked food and he refuses to even taste it. It gets under my skin that he claims he doesn’t like “anything.”

Providing nutritious food to my children feels like one of my main objectives as a parent, and because I am intrinsically motivated to complete objectives, I work hard to get them to eat.

Not interested.

I’ve tried these strategies:

1. One bite of each food based on your age. Simple math.

2. If there are 3 things on the plate you must finish two in order to do X activity after dinner. (Fractions are fun!)

3. You don’t have to eat what I cooked but I’m not cooking anything else. (The theory here is he’ll eat a better breakfast).

4. You don’t have to eat what I cooked and there is no dessert or “bedtime snack.” (Motivation. Or bribe.)

5. Reverse psychology! “I’m leaving the table, when I come back, all that food better be there!”

6. When you’re hungry later, I’ll re-heat this dinner for you.

Sometimes I just give up. Even though I feel like it’s my job to get him to eat, I know there is no end-of-the-year review of my performance.

Do you ever give up?

What’s Your Obstacle?

Make each minute count.

Make each minute count.

We’ve made our New Year’s Resolutions. Mine is: Finish, polish and publish that young adult novel you’re writing. I’ve got the desire to achieve this and the support of my family. This is the “Year of the Book.”

But it’s not going to be easy. There are obstacles.

How will I reach my goal? By identifying and eliminating obstacles.

I used to think my obstacle was “not enough time.” But it’s not. It’s “bad use of time.” There are lots of things that can distract me, use up my time and waste my time. Some I can control, some I can’t.

Do you know your obstacles? If you want to reach your goals or resolutions, you need to know what obstacles you will confront so you can be prepared to face them…and knock ’em down.

Be honest. Be specific. Be brave.

What are YOUR obstacles?

Ideas for Picky Eaters

Last weekend, Marty’s Market hosted the official launch of My Food Notebook. Lots of kids and families stopped by to try new foods and used pages from My Food Notebook to record their opinions. While not too many were eager to try to the almond-pine-nut butter and strawberry jam sandwiches, the grilled cheese on sourdough and chocolate meringue cupcakes went fast!

Kids who tried a food and journaled about the food could enter to win free copies of My Food Notebook or gift certificates to Marty’s Market. The agave gummy bears were a big hit at the market. Special thanks to Porter Loves Photography for these excellent photographs of the event!

Look for a giveaway for more Marty’s Market gift certificates in January – I love celebrating great local businesses!


Even my selective eater tried something new!

First try at My Food Notebook

A delicious spread thanks to Marty’s Market!