Thursday, September 20, 2018

More About the Harvest

The kids' book is just days away now. Yesterday I received notification that it had been shipped. It won't be long until I can start watching out the front window for the mail truck.

Harvest the Stars has been good for me. Most importantly, it has motivated me to gather the kids' poems stashed in the various corners of my life and give them some kind of logical platform that allows them to work together. The collection's goal is to take readers on a playful, imaginative romp through the wonders kids find in a typical day.

I can't say enough about the way Billy Jack Boatman enhances the poems with his illustrations, drawn and colored to imitate the pages of a child's coloring book. His style complements the words perfectly, with most of his drawings featuring animals and/or the little boy character on the cover.

Sandy Selby, an accomplished free-lance writer and editor whose work I respect greatly, says,  "Noland's clever poetry dares to challenge and expand a child's vocabulary and ignite his or her imagination. There's wisdom within that adults will appreciate, too." Sandy's comments target exactly what I wanted to do: build a collection with appeal for a wide range of readers and listeners.

Again, Harvest the Stars will be available for $10 from me in person or $13 by mail. If you have let me know you want a copy (and I thank you profusely for that!), your name is on my list and I will contact you before long regarding distribution. Please add a comment to this post or send me a personal message if you would like me to add your name to that list.

The book's back cover calls it a "rhythmical, rhyming world where stars are available for the gathering and nothing is impossible." This affirms my belief that anything can happen in a child's imagination--and yours too if you let it.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Harvest the Stars

When Beenie came to spend the night with me several years ago, he latched onto a plastic dinosaur in my toy box. He played with it all evening, slept with it, and "fed" it Froot Loops for breakfast the next morning. At some point, he named the dinosaur "Darryl."

Darryl ended up going home with Beenie later that day and hasn't been seen around here since. But shortly after that visit, I composed "A Dinosaur Named Darryl," a poem written from the viewpoint of a little boy with a toy tyrannosaurus. At the time, I published it here in "Googie's Attic," and you can read it in my post for March 6, 2015.

But wait. Maybe you would rather read it later this month when it comes out in my new book Harvest the Stars, a collection of fifteen poems for kids. Creatively illustrated by my friend (and pastor) Bill Boatman, this project has been a couple years in the making, but 100 paperback copies should arrive within the next couple weeks. Needless to say, we are excited.

Initially, Harvest the Stars will be available from me in person for $10 a copy or for $3 more by mail. I think it works nicely as a read-aloud book for preschool and the early grades, while older elementary children may like reading it on their own. Measuring 6 x 9 inches, the book makes a good Christmas gift or stocking stuffer.

As I wait for the books to arrive, I will be doing a series of blog and Facebook posts providing more information about the project. And, I have already tried out a proof version on Beenie, as you can see here:

I hope you will watch the blog and social media as this latest writing adventure unfolds. I look forward to sharing more of the backstories explaining how these poems came to be and some of the nice review comments we have received.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

The Recipe

Take six kids ages four to eleven. Stir in a couple warm August days. Add the annual state fair to the mix, and you have a recipe that serves up a big batch of fun for all of us. This year was no exception.

Our Missouri State Fair has so much to offer that it takes us two days to do it justice, and even then there are things we miss. But, as always, we once again gave it our best effort and, from what I can tell, we were left with the usual aftertaste of pleasant memories. Here are some of this year's key ingredients.

The fairgrounds never lack for free entertainment. Although we have yet to enjoy the annual circus, we finally made it to the pig races this time. Heero would be the first to tell you that "our" pig won the big race, meaning he got to the Oreo first in the third and final lap. Here, Heero, Zoomie, Beenie, and Sooby wait for the races to start.

Other entertainers stroll the grounds, like this pair of human Transformers. You can tell by the kids' Highway Patrol hats that we had just come from numerous conversations with Otto the Talking Patrol Car.

The Petting Zoo, where the kids can pet and feed exotic animals, is always a favorite, but I couldn't pull my camera out there because my hands were covered with llama slime. The Children's Barnyard is a little less interactive but no less fun, as Bootsie demonstrates with her cousins. No, this cow is not one of the many real ones you can see at the Fair.

In addition to agriculture, Fair exhibits also promote an awareness of conservation. Here, none other than Smokey the Bear himself warns Pooh, Bootsie, and their cousins about the dangers of forest fires.

Just outside the Conservation Department buildings, the kids gather for a group shot around another friendly bear.

Our second day at the Fair takes us to the midway, where the kids do all they can to get Googie's money's worth out of six unlimited-rides wristbands. I can safely say I have never left the Fair feeling cheated. Our matching yellow shirts, which have made it successfully into their third year, make us a force to be reckoned with. They also make it easier for us to find each other in the mayhem.

This year, one of my friends told me she had seen a video clip of our gang on MSNBC as the "Fair Family of the Day." Since I missed it, I am left to wonder what I was doing and how I looked during those few seconds. But one thing I am sure of is that we were having a great time.

Now, a couple weeks post-Fair, I relegate this recipe for fun to the box until we pull it out again this time next year. The kids (and I) will all be another year older then, but I won't worry too much just yet.

I know that one of these days I will wake up and the t-shirts will no longer fit. Instead of the Fair, there will be a whole slew of graduations and weddings, and carnival money will go for more tangible presents. That day will come all too soon.

That's why, for the time being, I don't mind investing in wristbands and enduring the occasional kiss of a llama.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Art Bag

If your grandkids are elementary-school age, Staples can be your best friend this time of year. In late summer, usually the latter part of July, the office store features deep discounts in their school-related merchandise. Traditionally, this is when I like to re-stock my supply of crayons and markers for the kids to use at my house. But this year I am going a step further.

For the first time this fall, all six grandkids will take to classrooms from preschool to sixth grade. So with the help of Staples, I am making each of them a fun "school supply" bag of art supplies to while away the remaining days before school starts. And--drumroll, please--I am doing that for the cost of only $3.44 plus sales tax per child.

Here is what each kid receives: a spiral notebook (25 cents), a box of ten Crayola markers (97 cents), a box of Crayola colored pencils (97 cents), a box of 24 Crayola crayons (50 cents), a colored folder to keep their finished artwork in (17 cents), two mechanical pencils (8 cents), and a pack of 100 index cards (50 cents). At regular Staples prices, the per-child cost for these items would have been $12.21 plus tax. Since I have a bunch of those printed tote bags that come from advertisers at fairs and trade shows, I am going to gather each kid's supplies into one of those.

Next comes the really-fun part. Along with their bags of supplies, I will also give them a printed list of suggestions for things to draw. Here are my ideas so far, but you might want to suggest other activities appropriate to the ages and interests of your own kids.

1. Draw a picture using only your green pencil, marker, and crayon.
2. Make a design using only circles, squares, rectangles, and triangles.
3. Draw a picture using only primary colors (red, blue, and yellow).
4. Draw three different rainbows--one using markers, one using crayons, and one using colored pencils. Which one do you like the best?
5. Draw a picture that shows how you think you will look when you are 16.
6. Imagine that you will visit a place named "Rainbow Beach." Draw what you think that place looks like.
7. Imagine that a storybook or fairy tale character invites you to lunch. Draw a picture of your plate with the food on it.
8. Sometimes we look at clouds and imagine seeing pictures or shapes. Draw a cloud that takes the shape of something you might see. Add blue sky around your cloud.
9. Draw three things you think Santa Claus might have in his bag of toys.
10. Draw two people or animals and add "speech balloons" that show them talking to each other.
11. Draw a picture showing your favorite holiday.
12. Pick a season and draw how a tree looks then.
13. Draw a place you would like to go on vacation.
14. Draw a house that a giraffe might live in.

You get the idea--and the list can go on as far as you and your kids want it to. Maybe they can even contribute some ideas. As for the index cards, older kids might want to make flash cards, a deck of playing cards, or greeting cards. Add a pair of scissors, and they could even design paper dolls or action figures with clothes or accessories. Who knows what they might come up with if you added a glue stick?

Keep your eyes peeled for the summer school supplies sale at Staples, and you can offer your grandkids hours of creative projects to do at your house or at their own home. The art bag can be a way to celebrate a new school year,  a good Christmas present, or just something special you can take along when you go to the kids' house to visit.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018


When my path crossed the outer edge of a little tornado yesterday, I dared for a moment to think I shouldn't have begun the four-hour drive to see the kids after all. A difficult weekend had left me physically and mentally drained, and this would be a whirlwind overnight trip that I would have to make alone or not at all.

But I hadn't seen Sooby, Pooh, Bootsie, and Zoomie since Mother's Day. More importantly, Sooby would turn eleven in four days and Zoomie's sixth birthday had been the day before. I counted on my fingers all the perfectly logical, sane reasons why I should stay home--but the kids had leftover cake at their house, and I had presents. I wanted desperately to see them, and so I set out.

About ninety minutes into my drive, the sky took on a dark indigo tint, and torrents of rain reduced visibility to nearly zero. The farther along I crept, the more vehicles I saw stopped along the highway, flashers blinking. Hail pelted my minivan, and debris flew across the highway. I thought of that memorable scene from The Wizard of Oz where bicycle becomes broom and Miss Gulch turns into the Wicked Witch.

Thank goodness for the semi. With its taillights flashing hope a little way in front of me, I was able to creep behind it through rows of stopped vehicles toward slightly brighter sky and the exit I needed. Weather conditions continued to improve from there, and I drove the last leg of the trip in sunshine.

Turning toward the kids' house, I caught sight of Pooh standing in the street, peering around the brush along the front of their property. Quickly, he ran into the wooded area to alert the other three that, finally, about half an hour later than expected, I was just about there. I turned into the driveway to this:

Four children had waited patiently for me to get there, jack-o'-lanterns full of leaves to herald my arrival. I have never treasured--or needed--a welcome more.

I won't lie--in many ways, I have had a tough seven years. I have watched my dad suffer a terminal illness, sat with him as he died, and cared for my mom as she has grieved, struggled to find her place alone in the world, and faced numerous health issues of her own. There are times when the responsibility is almost too much. Without a doubt, the hardest thing about being the age I am is watching my parents become frail and seeing them through these last days.

But then, if I just hang on, if I look past the hail, the torrential downpour, and the swirling debris, those great little kids--six of them in all--will sustain me and give me hope. There, to balance out the storms, will be cake and make-believe and a leaf-strewn driveway.

Happy birthday this week, Sooby and Zoomie. You, your siblings, and your cousins are my bright patch of sky. The gifts I brought home from your house today are far superior to anything I might have left there for you.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


Woddyodda. This is the newest word in Heero's four-year-old vocabulary, and it's all my fault. But the story of how this came to be is innocent enough.

Who knew a duck could be immortal? Yet, that's exactly what has happened in the case of the children's folk song "The Little White Duck," penned by Walt Whippo and Bernard Zaritsky in 1950 and popularized by singer Burl Ives in the '60s.

Flash back to that wonderful time, and you would see me, the future-Googie, spinning out song after song on my little suitcase-style record player from Sears and  Roebuck. A favorite in my repertoire was a 45-rpm version of "The Little White Duck," a record I talked my dad into buying for me on one of our evening trips to the neighborhood grocery store for milk and lunch meat.

It is easy to see why this little ditty has survived the test of time. Simply put, it is a charming compilation of all the things children love--animal characters, animal sounds that are fun to imitate and listen to, rhyme and rhythm, a catchy melody, lyrical repetition, dialogue, and a good, action-filled story-line. (If you don't know this song, or just need a refresher, take a trip to YouTube and let Burl Ives or Danny Kaye serenade your inner-child.) 

Now fast forward to 2007, when The Era of Grandkids began. I don't exaggerate a bit when I say that all six of them, as preschoolers, have loved "The Little White Duck," asking for it time and time again, especially as I am tucking them in bed. This means I have sung this song an infinite number of times for nearly eleven years now.

Last weekend, when Heero and Beenie spent the night, was no different. But this time, as the song ended, Heero had a question.

"Googie," he asked. "What's woddyodda?"

At first I was stumped. Where in the world did this word come from? But after a few slow, sleepy seconds I figured it out. The key to the mystery lay right there, in the lyrics of "The Little White Duck."

The song begins, "There's a little white duck/sitting in the water. A little white duck/doing what he oughta." There it was: I guess my slurry, sleepy singing voice (combined with my hillbilly accent) does not articulate the best. Instead of "what he oughta," Heero heard woddyodda. And he wanted to know just exactly what in the world it was that the duck and other animals had been "doing."

I gave some lame explanation about the animals doing what was right for them. "A duck is supposed to sit in the water," I said. "A little black bug is supposed to float."

"I always do woddyodda," Heero told me, adding that sometimes his brother fell a little short. And just like that, he owned a new word.

And this, my friends, is how retired teachers of English adulterate the vocabularies of their grandkids. Unfortunately, in Heero's case, it doesn't stop there. I am also responsible for his love of piracy.

Yes, that is a meat cleaver he is wielding. Both it and the costume come from an after-Halloween Dollar General clearance sale (90% off!) that I just couldn't resist.

But that's another story.


Saturday, April 21, 2018

When Superheroes Run Amok

From the perspective of a four-year-old, tonsils and their adenoidal sidekicks are kind of like superheroes. Usually they lie in wait in the back of your throat and behind your nasal passages ready to fight any germ that dares to invade your body through your nose or mouth.

But once in a while, because there are adverse forces in the universe, their super powers run amok. As a result, the tonsils and adenoids can harbor recurrent infection or grow so large that they inhibit normal breathing. When this happens, they can disturb sleep, interfere with eating, and, in general, worsen a kid's overall quality of life.

My littlest grandson Heero knows all about this.

When this brave little guy had his tonsils and adenoids removed last month, I got the chance to spend several days with him as he recovered. That experience sent me online to learn more about those renegade superheroes that, in his case, had caused so much trouble. That process led me to some interesting tonsil facts that I share with you here in the event that one of us makes it to Jeopardy and needs to run the category on The Immune System.

Answer: More than 530,000
Question: In America, how many children under 15 years old undergo tonsillectomies each year?

Answer: About 80%
Question: How many kids who have obstructive tonsils removed experience definite improvement in their quality of life? (

Answer: 3,000 years ago
Question: When was the first tonsillectomy thought to have been attempted?

I am glad Heero had this procedure in 2018 instead. I doubt that the vinegar-milk concoction worked very well in stopping the flow of blood. I'm putting my money on cold cautery. (Rosenfeld, Jordan. "10 Fascinating Facts About the Tonsils." Mental Floss. 23 Aug. 2017.)

Answer: The technical name of a surgeon specializing in ear, nose, and throat issues
Question: What is an otorhinolaryngologist? (I tell you this before you get to Jeopardy so that you can practice the pronunciation. I don't want Alex Trebek to make fun of you.)

Ask Heero what the worst thing about having a tonsillectomy is, and he will tell you it is taking the medicine for the ten days afterward. For some reason, he hates all the kiddie Tylenols and ibuprofens, even the ones flavored like cherry and bubble gum. Go figure.

But we can already tell that the surgery has enhanced his enjoyment of life. He looks healthier. He seems happier, more content, and more outgoing. He embraces everything we do with a new kind of excitement.

No question about it, Alex. For Heero, life is definitely better without tonsils.