You’re a Blogger? Just Who do you think you are?

I think every blogger or online creator has thought these thoughts. Who am I to think that I could be somebody? Who am I to think so highly of myself to think that I should be heard? Compared to everyone else, I’m nobody. I’m not some expert, published writer/author, or someone who is part of the elite or celebrity class of online creators.

And you know exactly what I’m going to say next: Anyone who became a prominent online Creator or blogger started somewhere–usually at the bottom. Some people have long paths ahead of them to get where they want to go. Some have to work at it much harder than others just to amass a small following. Life isn’t fair. Some people have naturally superior writing ability and creative prowess than others. They will have an advantage.

When we glance around online, we typically only see the “big ones”; those who have accumulated huge followings. So we are immediately shown a distorted view of things and how success and “progress” actually work.

Anyone who has become successful at anything has given it lots of awkward efforts. There have been tons of bumps and slumps along the way. If you’re lucky, you’ll get one or two people coming back to “check up on your blog”. Most of your spectators will simply move on, finding nothing valuable or intriguing with your content. No snow ball effect just yet. But it can happen. It just takes a certain threshold. 

Really though. You know why you’re blogging and that’s all that matters. You just LOVE it. Some people build stock portfolios and study the markets, some build sand castles and you build blog posts. You enjoy the creative process. All those feeble attempts to find just the right word. You like the integration of writing and pictures. You like the fact that even if you’re often dull and bland at least you’re “working on your writing ability”. Maybe when you’re 50 you can publish a book.

Recently the Mega Millions Jackpot was at 1.5 billion. Do you know what that means? It means that despite people constantly ‘hatin’ on the rich–all those “Wall Street Traders”–all those evil one-percenters–people actually don’t hate the idea of becoming rich themselves.  It’s not fair when other people have significantly more money that I do. Buuuut, when I win the lottery? All bets are off.

The numbers in lottery ticket sales are undeniable. People may hate rich people and think that it’s terribly unfair but they certainly don’t hate the idea that they might get rich. The evidence is in our behavior. Buying lottery tickets is a behavior. Let’s be honest. The majority of humans would have a surprised, pleasant feeling if they suddenly awoke and were in control of over 1.5 billion dollars–even if it was just to give away.

On a different note, I would love to make lots of money on my blog. So would you. Anyone would! But you know what? Unlike the random, “free” nature of the lottery (i.e. you only invest a few bucks to get a chance to win tons), it’s the market that will ultimately determine whether I EVER MAKE ANY MONEY ON MY BLOG. It’s also the effort, time and consistency that I put into it.  It’s the customer–the reader (or skimmer)–who determines whether they are interested in my (your) content. That said…

My goal isn’t to amass an enormous following and then suddenly be “restricted by my readers/followers as to what I can write”. I want to be able to write and post my creations for me.

I don’t want to feel like I have to censor myself for fear I’ll lose followers along the way. This is a struggle that many bloggers experience. If you’re not big yet, you may start to become big because of one blog post.  You’ll find that you have to reduce your blogging because your future blog posts may not all appeal to your current subscribers/followers. You’ll have lots of ideas slamming themselves into your consciousness, but then you’ll have to weigh them against your audience. Will they approve? Probably not.

You don’t want this to happen. Blogging is free. It’s a fun hobby where you get to polish up on your writing and communication, a skill that is considered invaluable in today’s attention economy. You get to weave your creativity and pictures into your posts.

I want my blog to be a grassroots process. That is, interested patrons coming back regularly because they are legitimately intrigued by my content…or how far I’ve gone (or not). It’s only just recently that readers are finding my blog via search engines–Bing and Google. This is completely new for me. I consider this progress! Now, if I can just retain those readers. 🙂

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I MADE A SUMMER TANK TOP (AND A YELLOW SKIRT TOO!)

I MADE A SUMMER TANK TOP (AND A YELLOW SKIRT TOO!)

I think it was Jordan Peterson who said, “Compare yourself to who you were the day before, not to who someone else is today.”

Learning to sew clothes has been a trial and error process–but I’m learning to compare my sewing to how I was sewing a few weeks ago…a few years ago. I’m terrible with spatial cognition. I don’t see things very quickly. My visual processing speed is delayed (compared to others) and my mind has a hard time manipulating objects in space and considering alternative, yet accurate positions.

Sewing has been a rough pursuit but it’s EXACTLY WHAT I NEED. I need to have some outlet for strengthening these intellectual capacities. Even better, I get to meld my penchant for creativity and art with this hobby. I don’t think there is any activity that gives me more FLOW than attempting to SEW. Sorry. Bad rhyme.

It’s the designing part that really draws me in. Attempting to design a piece of clothing and then sewing it. Ahh, nothing feels quite like it–especially when I get it roughly right. Painting is a close second.

I’m realizing that I need to take more risks with design and sewing. I often worry that “I’ll be wasting fabric”, so I hesitate to try something. It’s super easy to mess up! I’ve done it repeatedly even when making a fastidious effort to follow instructions.

If I go all the way off the tracks, can’t I expect to have a mess on my hands and fabric that will end up becoming pillow stuffing? YES. But compared to nonexistence, making mistakes is BLISSFUL!

I’ve started to get more creative and worry less about my final product. I work with what I have–mistakes and all, and try to come up with something. So far, I’m figuring things out.

I was having THE MOST DIFFICULT TIME with this TANK TOP that I designed. It would be the first shirt/tank top I have made for myself. I made enough mistakes to call it quits. I kept adding on and cutting and changing things around.

I used a knit fabric and here is where I started. I also added some teal knit fabric to it because the tank top WAS TOO SHORT.

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And here is my final result! I zig zag stitched the edges around the tank top and a ruffle emerged! INSTANT FASHION!

If you look closely (or maybe even from a distance) you’ll notice its asymmetric. Not on purpose of course, but I’m pretending it was intentional. You can see how the sleeves/shoulder straps (or, whatever you call them) are of different widths.

Not gonna lie, I LOVE IT! IT FITS PERFECTLY. Then again, you’ve got to be pretty bad if you can’t fit into a knit!

I’m just so pleased with it, especially considering how it was looking beforehand, how I didn’t use a real pattern…I just pulled it out of no where. Adding that extra strip of teal fabric from my stash not only added to the length–which I desperately needed–but gave it a fashionista look.

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To think I almost threw out this wad of fabric, but I kept going with it, kept playing around.

I’m so happy I kept playing around with it! It fit perfectly–as knits have lots of stretchy give to them. Perfect for hot summer.

Here is some cheap fabric that I bought from Walmart. I had pieced it together–almost like pillow cases and then started to randomly sew. I didn’t know what I was doing here. I thought, why not sew it all together and form it into a skirt?

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And here is my final skirt result after MANY CHANGES. It was tough to get it just right! I installed a long, 7 or 8 inch zipper in the back and lots of random, off-kilter darts. But who cares? Notice that I added a piece of fringe polka dot fabric on the bottom for extra flair and zig zag stitched the edge! Still, a very simple look.

The trick to making a skirt is wrapping some fabric around your waist and then going from there. That’s all I do. Once you have a rough idea of how much fabric you’ll need for your size, you just start sewing. Towards the end you decide…do I want to add a top waist placket? Do I want to add a zipper or elastic? You can make those decisions later.

The best part? It FITS PERFECTLY! Hello Summer. I feel like I should be behind a Lemonade Stand or something.

 

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How about some homemade lemonade spiked with some Pinot Grigio? Chilled white wine is PERFECT for a summer evening on your porch with your Kindle. I’m still trying to finish Ben Sasse’s book “The Vanishing American Adult”.

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The key to sewing is not being discouraged by Nazi seamstresses who keep insisting that “There’s only one way to do it”. 

Keep trying and keep thinking up creative combinations. You don’t have to follow someone else’s script. You’ll improve with measurements and sewing machine accuracy eventually–but let that go for now! Put your focus on the fun part–THE DESIGN! It will motivate you to keep going!

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COLD BREW COFFEE RECIPE and PAINTING GAUGUIN’S, “THE YELLOW CHRIST”.

COLD BREW COFFEE RECIPE and PAINTING GAUGUIN’S, “THE YELLOW CHRIST”.

This week has been one heck of a ride. Lot’s to be excited about and lots of future adventures on the horizon that I’ll be blogging about. I’ve been doing some “copying” lately with regards to recipes and, well, famous paintings. Learn from the best right? Sometimes creativity is playing around with other people’s ideas–make sure and give them ALL THE CREDIT, of course.

Another thing…I failed at a scratch banana cream pie. I noticed that I had extra whip cream and some bananas (about to go bad), so why not attempt it? It turns out that cooking custard and getting a desirable consistency is something only genius cooks with arcane culinary and mathematical skills can master.

Here is my pie. But I won’t ruin your moment and display the runny, slushy middle. It tasted AMAZING. Impeccable freshness with a deliciously thick homemade graham cracker crust. However, the consistency of the filling was WAAAY off–even after allowing it to set for 6 hours uncovered in the fridge.

Making a “firm enough” custard filling is one of those precarious situations. You better not undercook or overcook it and it has to be done accurately within 5-7 minutes on your stovetop. You have to stir rapidly during the boiling process (no distractions or multi-tasking). Oh, and don’t let your custard brown on the bottom of the pan during your 5-7 minute boil. It’s very difficult to achieve a decent result because the parameters are so strict. Don’t accidentally scramble the eggs either–you’ll get lumps.

I don’t want any liability or litigation, so I won’t be posting this banana cream pie recipe here. I will give the taste of this pie an A+ but the consistency an F–it was very creamy (no lumps) but it just wasn’t firm enough. My daughter keeps asking for more–so we’ll be eating it over the next couple days.

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After my pie failure, I decided to go for something easier. How about cold brewed coffee? I had been skimming over the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook and noticed her recipe. I basically followed her General Plan for iced coffee.

I used a very dark coffee bean (Rwandan Coffee beans) and ground them up. Then I scooped 3 large cups of my freshly ground coffee and dumped them into a glass bowl.

Next, I poured 6 cups of COLD water over the coffee grounds and gave it a quick mix with a spoon. Finally, I covered it in plastic wrap, set it on the counter top and let it brew for over 12 hours.

Once the 12 hours were up, I found a bigger glass bowl, a sieve and some paper towels. I strained the ground coffee mixture through the sieve and about 2-5 layers of paper towels (yes, this will take a bit of patience but I promise it works as a PERFECT FILTER and I didn’t get a single stray coffee ground in my final brew!

 

I poured the cold brewed coffee into a juice dispenser and let it chill in the fridge over night. My only regret is that I didn’t make enough!

Let me tell you, this is the BEST CHILLED/ICED/COLD-BREW COFFEE I’VE EVER TASTED!

Just fill a glass with ice cubes, decant your brewed coffee into the icy mix and dribble in some half and half and a spoonful of sugar (or don’t). Either way, its just luscious!

I thought that the dark roast would be too-overpowering, but it wasn’t at all. It just tasted rich…deeply flavored even after a splash of half and half.

Another thing that I’ve been doing this past month is trying to paint, “The Yellow Christ” by Paul Gauguin. The Yellow Christ has always been one of my favorite paintings of all time. I just find the color scheme breathtakingly original. Gauguin is definitely one of my favorite painters–one of his paintings sold for 300 million in 2015–just to give you some perspective of his classic popularity and talent.

Here is my version:

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We’re also working on another acrylic painting (this one, 100% my own idea) with my little painting helper beside me!

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Refurbishing Vintage Baby Shoes with SPRAY PAINT for less than $4.00!!!

Refurbishing Vintage Baby Shoes with SPRAY PAINT for less than $4.00!!!

Not long ago I was at my Mom’s house, rummaging through a box of one of my brother’s “keepsakes” and “baby items”. This box was no younger than 38 years old and wedged tightly on the cement floor of the storage room–at the bottom of the shelves. As you know, I’m always looking for an interesting, useful find and wanted to see if there was anything that could be salvaged and used for my little ones.

Sure enough, I found the perfect pair of baby shoes in all their aged radiance and splendor! I think these are much, much older than 38 years, but who cares? 

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I decided that I would take these little cuties on a 5 hour drive back to our house in central Oregon and see if I could fix-them-up.  After all, they would still be sitting in that box in the basement for the rest of their existence, so why not? I decided on glossy white spray paint. Here is the one I used:

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MY METHOD:

First, I used a very fine grained sand paper and sanded the rough areas of the shoes. Next, I washed them with soap, water and a toothbrush. I allowed them to dry over night. The next day I applied painters tape to the parts of the shoe that I didn’t want to be touched by paint.

I spray painted the shoes 1x and let them set and dry for over a week. Then, I spray painted them a second time. I separately washed the shoe laces with soap and water and then put them in a small bowl with 2 teaspoons bleach, 1 tablespoon of baking soda with about 1 cup or so of water. I allowed them to sit for a couple hours and then rinsed them and let them dry on the window sill. Finally, I laced up the shoes and voila, here is my result.

These shoes looked rejuvenated and ready to wear when baby boy is a little bigger. Not perfect, but certainly much better than before. I’m excited how they turned out and even more excited that they can be used again instead of sitting in a box, buried in a basement somewhere in eastern Oregon.

 

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Thank you for checking out my little blog. There will be lots to write about with all of our upcoming adventures.

 

Practice Writing Every day! Use your Blog to do it!

Practice Writing Every day! Use your Blog to do it!

We’ve all heard it before, “Good writers write frequently, they practice and sharpen their writing skills by writing 500–sometimes 1000-1,500 words each day”. Practice makes perfect.

Stephen King makes 40 million dollars a year for his wordsmithing, and guess what? He writes 1000-2000 words every single day. He’s been doing this for decades, so if anyone’s getting practice writing, he certainly is! Is it any wonder that the people who succeed are getting practice daily?

Nothing comes for free. Not even talent– because it must be continually refined and updated and this takes time of course, precious time that you could be spending elsewhere. You’re going to have to get good at trying… attempting to write and doing it regularly. And you’re going to have to get good at being brave.

Now, here’s an idea, how about using your personal (or public) blog space to practice your own writing? You certainly don’t have to scribe your inner-most thoughts every single day or post anything too controversial that might turn you into a public pariah, but you can find something to blather about.  I know you can.

If you haven’t noticed, this is exactly what I do here on this blog! I’ve committed myself to once-a-week blogging (which is writing, right?). My ultimate goal for this blog is posting 3 times each week. Do you have any long-term goals for your blog?

There are these random thoughts that come to me while I’m unloading the dishwasher. Sometimes they come while lying in bed just before sleep impales my brain. Perhaps a stranger makes a crass remark in a parking lot. More often than not, it is movement–physical movement–that triggers a cascade of thoughts. As writers, we all need a cascade of thoughts.  We need a supply of input in order to have ANY output. Ironically, now that I have two children, I’m moving so much more and my thoughts are swirling but I have less time to write. These thoughts are the jewels that need to be mined.

In my mind I can think of the two most important things for bloggers:

  1. Posting weekly/regularly.
  2. HAVING CONTENT–you NEED something to write about, to babble about that has the potential to draw a reader or arouse curiosity.

People are unable to blog because of the 2 reasons I listed above. I promise. That’s it!

The content part is the biggie. There are far too many people out there who are worried to write because they HAVE FEARS ABOUT THEIR CONTENT. They worry about how they are perceived. They worry that:

A. they look like they complain too much.

B. they look like they’re bragging/being a show-off

C. they’re making too many (public) errors in their writing.

D. they’re writing is too inane.

E. they’ll leave some indelible mark on the internet so that people can, at some point in the distant future, point to what they wrote and say, :”hahaha, you wrote that piece of crap. You suck”.

F. People will think they’re mentally unstable

How about, who cares? None of these reasons are legitimate reasons for the passionate writer/thinker/creator. In fact, all of the above are great avenues for writing from time to time. Eventually you’ll find other topics to explore, but generating content is definitely going to be the thing you struggle with, so don’t let any of the thoughts above halt your progress if you happen to go into such territory.

Now how about a link with advice from an experienced writer to those of us beginners? Here you go:

Why is Stephen King so successful at writing?

How To Stop Being a Perfectionist (when you become a Mom)?!?

How To Stop Being a Perfectionist (when you become a Mom)?!?

It’s difficult, I know. Maintaining general order in as many areas as you could attempt was that one thing keeping you sane, giving you some sense of comfort and control. You didn’t realize the sense of relief you derived from an organized, uncluttered, esthetically pleasing environment. You are a type A, an ambitious, non-time waster. You accomplish things and make plans. You’re not one of these people who allows messes to build-up. You don’t follow the crowd but chart your own course through life.

Alas, no more. Messes are strewn throughout every corner of your home. Whenever you make a laborious, time-consuming initiative to straighten one space, you’re being taken down in another– often 2-3 steps back. Your tot is creating havoc in every possible dimension with the help of a pair of gooey hands.

Meanwhile, you get to enjoy the non-stop screaming chorus put forth by your 6 month old. You’re frantically trying to remove objects that could trip anyone. You can barely think.

You’re not embarking on any kind of major “spring cleaning” adventure. You’re only trying to make your surroundings safe and prevent an ER visit. That’s it. If you had any spare moments you would be doing the have-to’s: diaper changing 2 kids, meal preparation, folding laundry, taking out all the garbages, vacuuming the entire house, filing the baby’s (longish) fingernails, taking a shower, …even these activities would provide a glimmer of hope that you’re succeeding at something.

Tony Robbin’s aptly said, “Happiness is Progress”. But it’s so hard…because you’re not getting this feeling of progress. Ever. And to make matters worse, you’re a perfectionist so this is kind of your M.O. You live for the feeling of progress. Here is a picture of our mantel: This is how I think of perfection…or, my-kind of perfection, at least. Ahhh, this is what I like.

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And this is my kind of imperfection–our house when we first moved in. Stuff everywhere, in disarray. And, to be honest, there are many days where it looks like this ALL OVER AGAIN. This is what I don’t like. My cortisol levels

I often like to joke, “How does one torture a modern, western woman?” ANSWER: You prevent her from accomplishing anything. No career for you, young lady. We will just give you some money “to get by on” and you can clean up all these messes over and over again and you won’t have to learn anything new. Bonus, we’ll bring you fast food and prevent you from exercising.” NOW THIS IS TORMENT.

Joking aside, How can I ever get away from this incessant, mind-overtaking need to be a perfectionist…to get things done and done perfectly? I honestly don’t know. I’m trying different strategies right now. .. everyday. What to do…what not to do.

I guess what I’ve learned about myself is that I do many things for my own psychological comfort– not because they are that necessary. I want to learn as much as a I can because I want to have the skills and education to fall back on if I were to need them. We all are lucky and unlucky at different points in our lives. It’s easy to assume that you’ll always be lucky or that you’ll always be unlucky. You’ll probably cross back and forth on that road a few times in life.

I’ve recently decided to turn down my perfectionism a few notches. That is, I pick one (maybe two) areas where I allow myself to be a perfectionist. It’s important for us perfectionist-types to have at least 1 area where we can still manage our perfectionism–otherwise, things seem so chaotic to our brains that we can’t even think. For me it’s floors. I hate dirty floors. So I let myself vacuum frequently; every other day for sure…sometimes every day. The other area that I’m committing myself to (besides occasionally taking care of the children) is exercise.

So that’s it. I had to set some limits. I give myself 2 areas to be a perfectionist and try to let the rest go until I have more time in my life. Once I get more time, you can bet that I’ll be crazy.

No TV Or Screens For My Tots!?! Also, Checking out 30+ Library books for My 2 year old each week!!

No TV Or Screens For My Tots!?! Also, Checking out 30+ Library books for My 2 year old each week!!

I know what you’re thinking, “That’s a terrible title”. No it isn’t. You clicked on it. And net traffic as well as ‘time spent on a site’ is the best indicator for Google’s ranking of your content.

We have 1 television (1 TELEVISION) in our home and it’s in our bedroom. I firmly believe that young children should be exposed to very few (if any) weekly screen-hours as possible.

But why? Aren’t there plenty of educational programs that act as free babysitters? Yes. Most are these days. Why rant against T.V’s or screens?

It’s really not so much what your children watch on a screen, but how long they watch it and how emotionally affected and attached they become to it. Since I never developed the habit of “T.V. watching” during childhood, I’m a bit biased. You’re free to scroll past this post if it bothers you. I know there will be plenty who disagree.

I tend to see T.V.’s net benefits as: 1. Fun entertainment that dampens original ideas and 2. time waster (which, I guess, isn’t a net benefit, is it?).

Compared to most of my peers, I spent very few hours seated in front of a screen or even watching movies. But this wasn’t because my parents thought that TV resulted in a “lack of original thinking” or that it “suppressed imagination” (i.e. the reason many educated parents limit T.V. viewing). My mother would comment that television was “too sarcastic” and that it didn’t “provide good morals”. Hence, my brothers and I were not allowed to watch The Smurfs.

We were allowed to watch endless episodes of Leave it to Beaver and my parent’s bought plenty of wholesome Christian inspired movies for us to watch. These were not very enticing. Needless to say, with these alternatives, I simply stopped watching screens. Sure, I watched a few movies here and there throughout my childhood and teen years, but certainly not enough to be able to recognize even the most well-known stars.

So, what’s really the problem with T.V./screens then?

In the end, what TV does is it makes everything else in life seem boring. That’s it. Life is already quite boring for most adults. For young children, the television seems to quickly desensitize them to their once bright and novel surroundings–those things ready to be used for unstructured play–and makes them seem comparably boring.

Furthermore, television, movies and social media homogenize. They make a bunch of people who all talk and think, more or less the same. It encourages a sort of mindlessness. Ever notice how people are seemingly always quoting from movies instead of coming up with their own phrases?

We know that most adults have already been desensitized and/or spoiled to some degree. Children, unless exposed to lots of screen-time, still maintain an air of unspoiled excitement for the mundane. I think its preferable for children to hold onto this tendency as long as they can. It will eventually teach them how to create their own solutions for boredom–how to transcend boredom using their very own intellect and imagination. They might discover hobbies, educational pursuits or even entrepreneurial ventures in the mist of being bored. And this is because they are forced to find a remedy for boredom on their own.

Being able to defer gratification and envision the bigger “future reward” is a skill that can be developed at a young age. I think it’s very important to help your children hone this skill.

A couple months ago we were letting our tot watch 2-3 episodes of a children’s program from Amazon each week. It’s called “Tumble Leaf”. I noticed that on the days that she viewed, she became increasingly angry–even hostile–once the show was switched off. She would throw tantrums–as if she was having withdrawal from her favorite drug. She would screech and thrash on the floor for long periods after the television was off. This made me realize that she was really developing an unhealthy attachment to this program.

The past few weeks she has not been viewing any screens. Before Tumble Leaf, the only shows/movies she watched were: Bambi, Dumbo, Snow White and a few nursery rhyme songs on YouTube (only a couple times each month–at most, and it was when we were in a restaurant or some other public venue where she wouldn’t sit still.)

In other news, I’ve started to incorporate weekly LIBRARY TRIPS into our schedule. I’ve been very consistent the past couple of months. Every week we go to one of the libraries here in our city and I pick out 15-30 books for her each time. This way, at night, after I read to her and tuck her in and she begins her 2 hour screamfest, she ends up being distracted by her new library books. She will sit and look through them until she falls asleep. This is a great way of preparing her to be a future reader while also calming her down before bed.

Turning the pages of a book is much slower-paced than television, computers, tablets or phone screens. There is a much-needed confining or “restricting” quality to books. She learns to delay instant gratification–because she has to go through the physical effort to turn the page in order to find out what comes next.

Compared to a screen, she will likely spend more time on each page, looking at all the interesting pictures, colors and letters without being constantly offered the opportunity to “click elsewhere”–as you see on YouTube videos. She will develop a strengthened attention span as she appreciates all that she is seeing on each page. She might also want to go back to a previous page, and look for what she may have missed. By starting with books, I believe this will instill a deeper and fuller approach to learning…ANY SUBJECT. It kind of paves the way for “how to learn”.

It is this slow, methodical approach to learning that can teach your child how to learn all things.

In the end, it will be books–more than any other object in your home– that will prepare your child’s mind for school learning. They will need the necessary skills to sit still at a desk for a period of time to listen to the “boring teacher” and to read/go-over the “boring paper materials” and books presented to them without constantly jumping from one thing to the next.

I’m willing to bet that over time, a phone, tablet or other screen-type device will inadvertently teach your children how not to focus. I’m convinced that these devices will teach your children to become dependent on them for ALL (or, most all) of their fun.