Category Archives: parenting

Shocked Mom Wins the Internet #it’saboy

surprise it's a boy
Never trust an ultrasound.

This shocked mama just discovered that the baby everyone had said was a girl was, in fact, a boy. Surprise!

Australian mum Koto Nakamura had been told she was expecting a girl. According to Today Parents, they’ll have bundles of pink gifts and supplies to return since their little guy proved to be sneaky during the ultrasounds.

Nakamura’s priceless reaction to the news was even captured on camera by her birth photographer Jessica Jackson.

I’m pretty sure I made the same expression after my ultrasound.Then I went to the parking lot and sobbed. I, however, had several months to adapt to the concept of raising a boy, not seconds.

Don’t worry, according to Today Parents, all is well, and the couple is delighted with their new baby boy.


See the full story on Today Parents.

MINECRAFT MADNESS: Crafts for parties, classrooms, or libraries

Minecraft parties are all the rage now. From toddlers to tweens, just say the word “Minecraft” and you are bound to have a houseful of party-goers or a library program with sky-high attendance numbers.

I’ve hosted several Minecraft library programs and birthday parties over the last few years, and these crafts and activities have all been hits! With proper prep work, you can run your event with one or all of these actives simultaneously. I break it down into craft tables/stations, each with a (printable) instruction sign, so kids can craft with minimal assistance.

Right click on the signs and templates (if applicable) to save and print them out for your own party or event.


Minecraft Creeper Magnets

Super Easy (& cheap!) Minecraft Magnets -- great party favor or craft

This is E.A.S.Y. and appropriate for any age group.  All you need are Glass Gems
(about 3/4-1 inch glass marbles that are flat on one side & found in the floral section of the Dollar Tree or  any craft store), small magnets (I used a roll of adhesive backed Magnet Tape
, but you can use small round magnets also), good old Elmer’s glue, and the faces printed out from the template below. Note: the template is black ink only.

Prep work: Print template on whatever colored printer paper you like. (I find colored paper far cheaper than colored ink!) Cut into squares, then have kids cut to fit their clear gem marble. It doesn’t have to be perfect. If you’re using magnetic tape, cut into marble-sized pieces.

creper magnet template


super easy MINECRAFT Creeper Magnets


Minecraft Sticker Block Craft

Minecraft printable stickers


I found this idea on Frugal Family TImes. There you can find the printable templates for grass blocks, trees (trunks and leaves), stone, TNT, and iron/clouds.

minecraft sticker art 2





If this is enough variety for you—awsomesauce. But I wanted more. Inspired by my resident Minecraft expert, I created more block templates to give my crafters more building choices.

Printable Minecraft stickers – LIBRARY AND CROPS
Printable Minecraft stickers – STONE AND ORE

Printable Minecraft stickers – LAVA and WATER

minecraft craft, mincraft activity

Prep Work:

  • Get yourself some Avery 5161/8161 label sheets. (Avery Easy Peel 1 x 4 Inch White Mailing Labels 500 Count (5261)
  • Print a combo of the templates linked above.
  • Cut. They print eight columns of stickers. I left them in long strips. They’re easy to peel and make (somewhat) less of a mess.
  • Offer colored pencils or markers so kids can draw their favorite characters/skins/creatures.

But unless all the kids are neat freaks, you’re still going to end up with somewhat of a mess.

Minecraft Stickers

And some really cool pics.

Minecraft stickers for parties or classroom


Printable Minecraft stickers for crafting

 Minecraft Construction Paper Pixel Art

Minecraft craft table pixel art


Cut 1×1 inch construction paper squares. Use a paper cutter to cut the long strips if you have one, then scissors and a ruler/guide to make the final short square snips. Depending on the size of your group, you’ll need dozens of papers sliced into squares. (I lost count how many I used, but I had hundreds of kids!)  Start prepping this activity well ahead of time–days, even weeks if you have the time. Or even better: enlist volunteers!

Next, print out the grid templates:


Minecraft crafts, minecraft pixel grid


Suggest kids lay out the page first, then go back and glue down their design. Elmer’s or craft glue applied to the paper works best. Provide them with some template ideas like these:

Minecraft mob faces


Look—it’s me!


Minecraft construction paper pixel masks

Using this same idea, you can have kids make Minecraft Mob Masks!

Print the grid paper on card stock instead of regular printer paper. (Or you can just glue the regular paper printed grids to a sturdy construction paper baking ahead of time.) Trim the card stock grid to 8 squares by 8 squares. Cut out 2-block eye holes. Have kids design masks as described above. When finished, glue a Jumbo Popsicle stick (tongue depressor) to the back, and voila, you have a Mob Mask!


How to make Minecraft construction paper masks

Do you have any favorite Minecraft crafts?  Share or link below!


It’s real!!! Introducing Lego WORLDS — The Brickmaster’s Challenge to Minecraft

LEGO Fans and Mincrafters unite! Rejoice! Get ready to craft and create.

It’s here. LEGO meets Minecraft in a Sandbox create-you-own-world video game.

LEGO's answer to Mincraft --Introducing LEGO WORLDS, a limitless collection of procedurally generated worlds made entirely of LEGO Bricks, where players build unique environments and define their own experience.


Introducing LEGO WORLDS, a limitless collection of procedurally generated worlds made entirely of LEGO Bricks, where players build one-of-a-kind environments and create their own unique experience.


It's here!! LEGO WORLDS is the Brickmaster's Answer to Minecraft. Available for $14.99for download now (in developmental stage).


It’s REAL. If this rolled out on April 1st instead of June 1st, I’d think this was a bloody brilliant April Fool’s Day gimmick. Yesterday, LEGO and Warner Brothers launched the beta version of WORLDS (called the STEAM Early Access experience) for PC download. Currently priced at $14.99, it’s competitively set against the $26 Minecraft download. But will it have as much to offer young worldbuilders?

LEGO® Worlds embodies physical LEGO brick-building on a digital platform and lets players build and create unique environments one brick at a time. Entire worlds and creations are brought to life with characters and creatures that interact with each other as well as the player in unexpected ways.

Developed by TT Games, LEGO Worlds allows players to use LEGO building sets digitally so they can build and create wherever their skills and imagination roam.  The current format is single player only (so no friends can join in to help you create your masterpiece yet), but mulit-player and sharing features are in the works.  Developers promise players can modify terrain quickly and easily, roam in ready-made vehicles (including helicopters and dragons), and explore vast worlds. Oh, and there’s treasure.

 LEGO Fans and Mincrafters unite! Rejoice! Get ready to craft and create.  It's here and it's REAL. If this rolled out on April 1st instead of June 1st, I'd think this was a bloody brilliant April Fool's Day gimmick.  Yesterday, LEGO released the beta version of WORLDS (called the STEAM Early Access experience) for PC download. Currently priced at $14.99, it's competitively priced against the $26 Minecraft download. But will it have as much to offer young worldbuilders?

“LEGO Worlds embodies the physical, LEGO brick-building fun that consumers have enjoyed for decades, on a digital platform that delivers an entirely new type of experience with the beloved bricks,” said Tom Stone, Managing Director, TT Games. “From the brick-by-brick editor, to discovering an expansive range of items, characters and creatures to populate your worlds – the creative possibilities are endless.”

The idea of product tie-ins does make me a bit nervous—the potential for “to get this special diamond brick sword, enter the product code on your new $69 LEGO set” makes my wallet wince. But might it be a slightly safer environment than Minecraft for young builders? And what will this mean for the current LEGO MINECRAFT building sets?

No matter what, I’m betting it will be a heck of a lot of fun.

Will these price items be phased out?

All I want for Christmas…

merry everything card

I’ve been told I can be *challenging* to buy for. Ahem. Friends, family, and Secret Santa coworkers  keep asking me what tangible, miscellaneous stuff I want for Christmas, but honestly, I have everything I need. I’m saving for a new camera and a vacation or two, and I have more than enough stuff. And my pat reply of “world peace and a winning lottery ticket” seems to drift further from the realm of possibility each passing day.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a few real Christmas wishes…

Wish #1:  I want my son to get into the Engineering/Tech Magnet School of his dreams. The school is beyond amazing, and my bright yet easily bored son could take classes that make him salivate—coding, web & game design, Lego robotics, and so many more. The kid was so awe-struck when we toured the school I thought he’d blow like one of those baking soda and vinegar volcanoes. (They don’t do cheesy science projects like that at this school. Think rockets, forensics, and green architecture.) The place even has an official Minecraft club. Middle school is hard enough, and this school could give him what he needs to survive thrive.

He has the grades, test scores, aptitude, and desire to excel there—but none of that matters. It’s a lottery to get in. Pure. Damned. Luck. Letters will be mailed January 6th—please, oh please Santa, let us receive a “congratulations!” note.

Wish #2:  An agent would be lovely, Santa dear. I’ve been a very good girl this year. But, see, I don’t want just an agent, I want the right agent. When I first began this quest, I assumed I’d be thrilled with any NY agent who showed an interest. But now I’ve come to realize the agent hunt is a lot like online dating. I need to examine out each perspective agent’s profile, and dig deep into what she loves/loathes/makes her tick. We’re talking long-term relationship, here. We need to mesh in just the right way, to appreciate the other’s sense of humor, work ethic, and values. We need to feel comfortable communicating the good and the bad, to not be quick to judge, and to listen with an open mind. Oh yeah, and she has to get my stuff.

I found my true love years ago. I believe my agent match is out there somewhere.
::waving hand:: Here I am!

Wish #3:  Time. (Cue Culture Club or Bangles ear worm…now.) This is a gift I can partially grant myself. Wake an hour earlier each morning. Step away from the internet. I’m lucky enough to have an office with a door. I need to go in there and shut that door more often and not let myself feel guilty about the laundry or the cat puke or what’s for dinner hours from now. I must stop worrying and planning so much about WHAT IF’S and just DO IT. I can’t make time, but if I search hard enough, I can find that elusive little bugger.

Best writer's gift ever--the Gift of TIme. Thanks to the always clever Debbie Ridpath OhiThanks to the always clever Debbie Ridpath Ohi for this *perfect* gift idea. If you visit her site you can download a high-resolution version to print out and give to the writer in your life. Or just forward this idea to a loved one for a subtle hint at what you really want for Christmas and beyond.


How about you? Have any holiday wishes grand or small?

Minecraft Books Kids Will Love — Librarian & Kid Approved!

Librarian, parent, & kid approved Minecraft books! Perfect gifts for boys and girls ages 6 - 16 and a great way to get kids reading. #minecraft #holidaygifts #giftsforboys
Every parent, teacher, librarian, and kid knows that MINECRAFT is the hottest thing out there for kids 6 to 16. The phenomena has taken the world by storm, and been praised for its ability to stretch users imaginations and skills as they learn how to build, create, collaborate, and survive in their Minecraft world. But if you’re like me, you might think your kid plays the game WAY too much—how about trading some screen time for book time?

Buying gifts for kids (especially boys) in this age range can be quite a challenge. With birthday parties it seems like every weekend and the holidays approaching, I’ve been hunting for some winning gift ideas. I’ve always given books to younger kids and adults, but kids in this range can be tricky.  Solution: MINECRAFT BOOKS!

But which to buy?

If you browse through Amazon, you’ll find pages of Mineraft-related book offerings. Almost all the books are very recently published and few offer reviews. Then there are dozens of free Kindle books, but you have no idea if they are any good.

As a library staffer and parent, I’ve personally checked out all of the books listed below. My library system now carries all of these titles, so you know they are librarian-approved “real” books, not something a 12-year-old fan wrote and tossed up on Amazon. They range from introductory guides appropriate for elementary-aged beginners to more complex developmental aids for those tweens and teens with an interest in programming.


Essential Minecraft Books

Minecraft: The Complete Handbook Collection

Age Range: 8 – 12 years (even 6-year-olds will love them!)
Grade Level: 2 – 7
Publisher: Scholastic Inc.; Box edition (October 21, 2014)
Amazon  $19.18
Scholastic $22.00


This is the complete collection of the Official Minecraft books written by the game’s developers and published by Scholastic. Each handbook contains helpful tips and information from the creators themselves, all of which will prove vital to players survival and creativity as they learn to mine, craft, and build in a world that they control. The graphics and layout make the books easy to navigate and the tutorials are spelled out with step-by-step directions almost anyone can follow. This durable yet beautiful set is considered THE MUST-HAVE set for the enthusiasts and beginners (my son and his friends carry it around in their backpacks at school even!).

The collection includes the four handbooks listed below, but at a better price!

Minecraft: Essential Handbook: An Official Mojang Book

The first OFFICIAL Minecraft book, this one is the #1 guide for any newbie or elementary-aged player. Learn how to find resources; make a shelter; craft tools, armor, and weapons, and protect yourself from monsters. With tips from Minecraft experts, including developer Jeb and creator Notch himself, this is the definitive guide to surviving your first few days in Minecraft.



Minecraft: Redstone Handbook: An Official Mojang Book

According to my Minecraft experts, Redstone is one of the most important substances if you want to build contraptions in the Minecraft world. This second book in the Scholastic/Mojang collection explains how to connect and control the blocks that make up the Minecraft world.



Minecraft: Construction Handbook: An Official Mojang Book

Whether players want to build their own mansion and gardens or dream of creating their own roller-coaster ride, this handbook will give them the confidence and skills to fuel their creative genius. Readers will learn how to construct houses, ships, floating islands, bridges, roller coasters, and more!



Minecraft: Combat Handbook: An Official Mojang Book

Creepers and Zombies and Ghasts, oh my! In this book readers can learn how to defend their home, build forts, fight monsters, and craft weapons. Learn how to survive and thrive in player versus play mode, evade death in the Nether, and battle the Ender Dragon in the End.




Chapter Books

Want to encourage your child to actually read? The series below is librarian and teacher approved, and the perfect gift if you want to get your little gamer excited about taking time away from the game to read.


Invasion of the Overworld: Book One in the Gameknight999 Series: An Unofficial Minecrafter’s Adventure

When one of Gameknight’s father’s inventions teleports him into the game, he is forced to live out a real-life adventure inside a digital world. Stuck in the game, he discovers Minecraft’s best-kept secret: the creatures within the game are alive! He will have to stay one step ahead of the sharp claws of zombies and pointed fangs of spiders, but he’ll also have to learn to make friends and work as a team if he has any chance of surviving the Minecraft war his arrival has started.

Age Range: 9 and up
Grade Level: 3 and up
Series: Gameknight999 (Book 1)
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (August 26, 2014)
Amazon $9

Battle for the Nether: Book Two in the Gameknight999 Series: An Unofficial Minecrafter’s Adventure

Epic battles, terrible monsters, heartwarming friendships, and spine-tingling suspense . . . Battle for the Nether takes the adventures of Gameknight999 to the next level in a nonstop roller-coaster ride of adventure.

Age Range: 9 and up
Grade Level: 3 and up
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (August 26, 2014)


Confronting the Dragon: Book Three in the Gameknight999 Series: An Unofficial Minecrafter’s Adventure (Gameknight999 Minecraft)

An evil army threatens to destroy all of Minecraft in the third Gameknight999 adventure!

Age Range: 9 and up
Grade Level: 3 and up
Series: Gameknight999 Minecraft (Book 3)
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Sky Pony Press (October 21, 2014)

Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Book 1: A Scare of A Dare (Volume 1)

In the first book of this hilarious Minecraft adventure series, we get to read the diary of an actual 12 year old Minecraft Zombie. Take a peek at what is really going on between the hollow eyes, and dead expression that we normally see when we face the dreaded Zombies of Minecraft.

Age range: 7+
Series: Diary of a Minecraft Zombie
Paperback: 90 pages
Publisher: Herobrine Publishing (March 26, 2015)

“Steve Crafter” continues the DIARY OF A WIMPY KID meets MINECRAFT series:

Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Book 2: Bullies and Buddies (Volume 2)

Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Book 3: When Nature Calls (Volume 3)

Diary of a Minecraft Zombie Book 4: Zombie Swap

Diary Of The Legendary Ender Dragon

There are DIARY OF A books for almost every Minecraft character out there!


  Unofficial Guides

The Big Book of Minecraft: The Unofficial Guide to Minecraft & Other Building Games

Up to date for the 2014 holiday season, The Big Book of Minecraft is packed with the most recent training, tools, and techniques to help readers get more out of their favorite sandbox game. 2014 was a pivotal year for Minecraft, and this book captures all the latest and greatest things that have happened to one of the most brilliant and immersive games in video game history. From a brief overview of the game to advanced farming, mining, and building techniques, this guide touches on everything Minecraft enthusiasts could ever ask for. Featuring authoritative and engaging content from our internal experts, The Big Book of Minecraft also highlights some of the most influential builders in the Minecraft community today and examines their creations and techniques that catapulted them to fame.

Hardcover: 192 pages
Publisher: Triumph Books (November 1, 2014)
Amazon $14.99


Building in MinecraftBuilding in Minecraft: The Unofficial Building Guide to Minecraft & Other Games

This isn’t so much a “guide” as a cool idea book. The photos highlight some of the most amazing builds ever created, from nuclear submarines to mind-boggling castles. There are no directions as to how to actually build these complex projects, but crafters will flip through the pages with awe. I’ve only found this book inside Barnes and Noble—look for it on the display tables up front or ask.

Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Triumph Books (November 1, 2014)
Barnes and Noble $7.98 (in-store only)


Programming & Mods (Advanced Users)

Minecraft Mastery: Build Your Own Redstone Contraptions and Mods

This book does start with some basic redstone material, but the bulk of its one-of-a-kind tutorials are for the advanced user. Learn how to create logic gates, advanced mechanisms, and much more. You’ll also find out how to host a Minecraft server, use the qCraft and Computer-Craft mods, and develop your own custom mods. Exponentially expand the dimensions of your world with help from this hands-on guide–the only limit is your imagination!
Age: Advanced users—teen & up
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: McGraw-Hill/TAB Electronics; (June 5, 2014)

Minecraft Mod Development in 24 Hours, Sams Teach Yourself

While this book was just above my own 11-year-old’s abilities—a bit of Java knowledge going into this would be helpful—it would be perfect for teens/tweens interested in learning programming.

Learn how to…

  • Set up the environment where you’ll write your mod
  • Create the basics for your mod with the Forge API
  • Establish a framework that makes it easier to build complex mods
  • Work with recipes and other small modifications
  • Create multiple recipes, items, blocks, and entities at once
  • Cook up food items that heal your players
  • Make custom pickaxes, shovels, and completely original tools
  • Use Tile Entities to create complex and unique mods
  • Create interesting custom armor for players
  • Master Java programming techniques you can use far beyond Minecraft

Age: Advanced users (tweens & teens with some programming knowledge)
Paperback: 432 pages
Publisher: Sams Publishing; 1 edition (September 20, 2014)
Amazon $24


Learn to Program with Minecraft Plugins: Create Flaming Cows in Java Using CanaryMod

Write your own Minecraft plugins with CanaryMod and watch your code come to life with flaming cows, flying creepers, teleportation, and interactivity. Follow along with the book and add your own features to the Minecraft game by developing Java code that “plugs in” to the server. You’ll manipulate and control elements in the 3D graphical game environment without having to write tons of code or learn huge frameworks. No previous programming experience necessary.

Age Range: 10 and up
Series: The Pragmatic Programmers
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Pragmatic Bookshelf; (November 8, 2014)
Amazon $20


And Just for Fun…


Amazing Minecraft Activity Book (Volume 1)

This fun and engaging activity book is packed with 75 different puzzles and games to keep Minecraft fans entertained for hours! Wind your way through a mineshaft maze, play Minecraft parkour, unscramble secret messages and more. Clues and answers are provided. Each page can be colored in, too!

Paperback: 82 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (January 13, 2015)


Minecraft 2015 Wall Calendar

Format: 2015 Wall Calendar
Size Closed: 11.5″ W x 11.5″ H
Size Opened: 11.5″ W x 23″ H

Easy DIY MINECRAFT Creeper bag — perfect for Birthday parties or Halloween

DIY Minecraft Creeper Bag - perfect for Birthday parties or Trick-or-treat! Super easy and cheap. #MINECRAFTbag #creepertrick-or-treat

Kids love MINECRAFT. Be it for Halloween or birthday parties, MINECRAFT is the hottest thing going now.

My son wanted a MINECRAFT themed slumber party to celebrate his 11th birthday this year. Since I refuse to do the traditional goodie bags full of junk, I had to come up with something fun, something useful, and something cheap.

Since the party was in October, how about a Creeper Bag? It could be used for everyday activities and as a Halloween trick-or-treat bag. And the kids would think it was pretty cool.

Using a Creeper face template and supplies from my local craft store, I had the materials to make FIVE of these Creeper backpacks for less than $7.50—that’s about $1.50 each! Whoo-hoo!

The kids LOVED them.

Price breakdown: 

Bags: I found “Non-woven Sports Bags” a.k.a. drawstring backpacks at Michael’s for $2 each. After a 40% off coupon, they were only $1.20 each. (find similar on Amazon here and here)

—Paint: $1 at Michael’s, on sale for $0.50 (like this paint on Amazon)

—Brushes: multi-pack at the Dollar Tree for $1

—Cardboard: free from my recycling bin


DIY Minecraft Creeper Bag - perfect for Birthday parties or Trick-or-treat! Now it just so happened that my son received a Minecraft Creeper Box Head as a birthday gift. All I had to do was find a green shirt. (The one in the photos was only temporary. I don’t think Creepers wear Dave Matthews Band concert T’s.) Add in the Creeper bag, and his costume is DONE!

I like using a backpack as a trick-or-treat bag because kids can sling it over their shoulder or wear on their backs. All that candy can weight them down by the end of the night!

He’d gone as MINECRAFT Steve years before with a totally homemade costume (See How-to posts for Steve Head here and MINECRAFT diamond sword and pickax here.)  I have to admit —this year’s Creeper costume was so much easier.

Easy and inexpensive Minecraft Creeper DIY Bag / backpack

MINECRAFT CREEPER Party or Trick-or-Treat Bags/Backpacks

Materials needed:Minecraft Creeper Template

green drawstring backpacks(s)
creeper face template (see below)
black craft paint
cardboard (2 12 x 14-ish pieces per bag)
ruler (optional)
foam brushes

For the adults:

Right click on the template photo on the right and save. Print out as an 8 x 10 (don’t worry, it doesn’t need to be high resolution). Using the template and a pencil, trace the creeper face on one piece of cardboard per bag. With ruler or straight edge, go over the trace marks with a marker or pencil.

Now it’s time to cut. Once again, use the ruler or straight edge as a guide to cut the face out of the cardboard. A razor works best—that way you get clean edges.

Make one cardboard template for each bag. (If you reuse them, paint can smear.)

For the kids:

Okay, the hard part is done. Slide one blank sheet of cardboard inside each backpack to prevent the paint from bleeding through. Lay each bag on a flat surface. Place the cardboard template on each bag (you can tape the cardboard to the bag with masking tape if you wish).

Squeeze some black craft paint onto paper plates or disposable bowls. Have the kids dab paint on their foam brushes and paint inside the creeper faces.

When faces are all filled in, remove template cardboard. Let the bags dry completely before moving or removing inside cardboard. (Our paint dried in about a half hour.)

That’s it!

Happy Birthday, Happy Halloween, enjoy your special day!


homemade minecraft costume, make a steve headminecraft, how to make minecraft sword, minecraft costume


Presenting Three Minus One: Parents’ Stories of Love and Loss

I’m published. No, it’s not my women’s fiction novel…yet... I’m honored to have When Grace is Gone included in the anthology Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss.

The loss of a child is unlike any other—a devastating blow that sends out a shockwave of pain and guilt that begins with the parents and reverberates through their entire community. Yet the majority of those who suffer such a loss, especially mothers, often do so in silence, convinced that their grief is theirs to bear alone. Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss , edited by Sean Hanish and Brooke Warner, changes all that by allowing parents who have lost their children to stillbirth, miscarriage, and neonatal death speak out through raw essays, exquisite poems, beautiful paintings, and stunning photography—and break this poisonous silence one and for all.

Inspired by the film RETURN TO ZERO—the first Hollywood film to tackle the taboo subject of stillbirth—Three Minus One is a poignant, inspiring anthology that offers much-needed insight into the unique, shattering, and life-changing experience of losing a child.

In her poem “Executioner,” Heather Bell relates the difficulty of performing even the most mundane of tasks—a trip to the grocery store—after losing her baby: “And the baby is dead but / we need lettuce in the house, maybe some bread / for morning toast so I am at the store touching the potatoes at the spine, / the slim wrist of carrot,” the poem begins. In her essay “The Almost-Fives,” Abbie L. Smith tells of the nauseating envy she feels at seeing an acquaintance’s daughter—a child who was born just weeks before Smith’s son was stillborn. “They don’t know what that child does to me . . . and let’s not forget the effect of her mother, who has, for nearly five years, gone on to enjoy what I have lost,” she writes.

In his own story, meanwhile, co-editor Hanish describes how he’s tried to recall what he did in the moments after his wife called to tell him that his unborn son was gone—has tried to piece it into a coherent narrative—but hasn’t been able to. “You can’t glue the broken glass back together as it’s breaking,” he explains.

Groundbreaking and revelatory, Three Minus One is a soul-baring journey through love and loss—and a ray of hope for the many parents out there in search of answers, understanding, and healing.


While most of you may be more familiar with my wittier attempts at fiction, this is my heart laid bare…and barren.

My book arrived Thursday afternoon, minutes before I had to leave for work. I had just enough time to rip open the manilla envelope, trace my fingers across the cover, and flip to find my pages inside. I hadn’t let myself believe story had actually been selected, that I was to be included in such a powerful collection, until I actually saw my words in print.

They were there—just below my name.  Each and every raw word.

grace is gone snap

Years after my last miscarriage, the things I’d never been able to say to others, to communicate properly—the devastation, the anger, and the guilt—had poured out of me in a torrent for no particular reason that I could discern except that it was a beautiful Sunday morning and I was finally okay with my life and it was time to let it all go.

Once the words had been freed, my soul felt pounds lighter, as if the story formed a paper lantern encouraging the spirits to drift towards the heavens—gone but never forgotten.

I posted the first version of When Grace is Gone on my blog back in 2011, and later on Blog Her.  I was overwhelmed—no stunned—by the touching comments left and connection so many readers felt. I wasn’t alone. Others had been through this. Some were still mired in heartbreak. Some, like me,  had waded through the devastation and made it to shore.


I can’t “review” this book.  Ithree minus one quotet’s haunting and heartbreakingly beautiful. The amazing pieces I’ve read so far made me set down the book and dig out the tissues. But if you’ve been through loss or miscarriage, this book may be for you. If someone you know is piecing themselves back together after shattering, this book may be for them. If you want to know what your friends or loved ones endured but just couldn’t express, this may be for you.

I know how much this mean to the writers. These aren’t just stories, they are slivers of broken hearts, and the struggles to mend them.

I’d like to thank each and every contributor for allowing us a window into their soul.

May peace be with you all.

Now, buy the book, y’all.


Three Minus One: Stories of Parents’ Love and Loss

About the movie RETURN TO ZERO:

Based on the true story from writer, director and producer Sean Hanish’s own personal experiences, Return to Zero follows the story of Maggie (Minne Driver) and Aaron (Paul Adelstein) who are eagerly awaiting the arrival of their first child. Just a few weeks before their son’s due date, Maggie and Aaron receive devastating news a heartbeat is no longer detectable in the womb.
As the couple attempt to go on with their lives, they quickly discover they cannot escape their grief and their relationship is forever changed by their loss. With infidelity and separation at their heels, Maggie discovers she is pregnant again, and the two must reunite to face another turbulent and terrifying pregnancy that tests their strength and love. The film, starring Academy Award, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Minnie Driver, Paul Adelstein, Alfred Molina,  and Connie Nielsen, debuts on Lifetime Saturday, May 17, at 8pm ET/PT.



Three Minus One

Weird, Wild, and Crazy Toys for Kids

As the 2013 holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, I’ve been scouring Amazon for the most unusual gifts in cyberspace. Let me tell you—there are bizarre toys and gifts out there, and I’ve culled some of my *favorites* for your shopping pleasure. ::ahem:: A few of these products are rather ingenious. Others are crude and gross beyond belief (which means I’m sure many kids would love them). Will Santa be placing any of these presents under your tree?

Daddle - The Dad SaddleDaddle (the saddle for Dads) This one falls under the ingenious category. Some dads will probably love this. (That bit of padding will save their backs from bony kid bottoms). Others might feel slightly offended that fatherhood has rendered them to farm animal status. Either way, it could make for some entertaining Christmas morning video—just practice the toddler riding skills a safe distance from the Christmas tree.

poo doughPrank Star Poo-dough  Just what every parent wants to see—their kid mushing a pile of poo on the kitchen table. This “delightful” gift even comes with two tones of brown dough so you can customize (the manufacturer suggests adding yellow dough so you can create corn kernels and peanuts). What parent wouldn’t love this? N.A.S.T.Y.


unicorn meatCanned Unicorn Meat This isn’t real meat—unicorn, mystery, or other. Instead, you open the can to discover a dismembered stuffed unicorn. The bottom of the can pops right off so you don’t even need a can opener. Perfect for the little girl with an unhealthy obsession with unicorns? Thank you, ThinkGeek.

dragon meat Canned Dragon Meat From the package: “The most dangerously delicious meat on Earth. From the Sisters of Radiant Farms, Scotland. One can contains 100% of your daily value of havoc, terror, inferno, destruction, magic, and rage. Also contains trace amounts of poetry and ballet. (*That part I like.) Warning: This is not an actual food item and is non-edible. There’s a stuffed dragon head inside the can. (SPOILERS!)”

fart blaster despiciable meDespicable Me 2 Exclusive Banana Scented Fart Gun I may be one of the only people with kids who has NOT seen Despicable Me (one or two). Apparently, a fart gun plays a role in the movie(s). (My hubby just confirmed that it’s VERY funny.) So, if you have minion fans in your house, why not get them their own Fart Gun. Not only does this toy gun makes a variety of fart noises, but it smells of banana.  Hey, you can pair this up with the poo dough!


Pig Out Pete game, puke game

Pig Out Pete Game  Plump Pete moves around, making gross sounds and throwing up plastic food. Players must match the food Pete upchucks with the color of food in their slime tray.  Billed as a “skill and action game.” Batteries required.

gassy gus Gassy Gus  A Gut-Busting Game that’s a blast!  Players use cards to feed Gus all sorts of gaseous foods – from broccoli to baked beans. With each tasty dish, players pump up Gus and watch his belly grow bigger until he has a blow-out. Players get a  stinky penalty. Whoever feeds Gus all his food wins.

*Theses last two ‘games’ sound like recipes for early-childhood eating disorders.*


plush organs   ‘I Heart Guts’ Designer Plush Organ Figures So how about instead you teach your kids about the good thing their guts can do? Every kid wants a Immense Intestine Plush – Go With Your Gut!or a Big Brain Plush – All You Need Is Lobe! to snuggle up with each night. If your kids approaching puberty, why not explain the birds and the bees with Womb Service Uterus Plush
or Having a Ball Testicle Plush . Yes, you can cuddle up with everything from a set of stuffed lungs to a cute little sperm. Unless you are a kid bravely battling a health issue, the question is why would you?


doggie dooDoggie Doo This game is back from the last list of different, disturbing, and slightly disgusting toys. Kids feed and walk the little plastic pup. When they squeeze his leash he makes a gassy sound that gets louder and louder until…plop! You have your own, fresh doggie doo. The first to clean up after the dog three times wins. I wonder if it is scented? Manufactures must think kids are obsessed with poo.


crystal meth rock candy, breaking bad candy

Blue Raspberry Rock Candy Crystals (1 Pound Bag)  This year candy coal in the stocking is totally passe. Breaking Bad has brought back the iconic (and often home-cooked) rock candy.  Hopefully your kid is NOT a Breaking Bad fan, but devotes of the show will appreciate this high-grade bag of crystals. I’d bet any kid would get a heck of a sugar high from ingesting this quantity sugary crack—but all perfectly legal. Perhaps this would be a better gift for your adult B.B. fan friends.


crib dribbler prank giftCrib Dribbler There’s a new trend in baby-training: the crib dribbler.  Just attach to the side of the crib, fill with your infant’s favorite formula, water, or energy drink, and like magic—a hands free feeding solution.

Yes, this is a PRANK.  It’s actually just an empty box—your real gift goes inside. Come on, can’t you just imagine your pregnant sister-in-laws eyes widening when she unwraps this on Christmas day? Or how about tucking the handmade, 100% organic baby blanket you made for your slightly crunchy friend’s baby shower inside? Make sure you have a camera rolling to catch the gasps.


So, are any of these products going on your holiday shopping list?



Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How to make MINECRAFT Diamond Sword and Diamond Pickaxe

minecraft, how to make minecraft sword, minecraft costumePin It

Maybe you kid has his/her heart set on being a Minecraft character for Halloween. Or perhaps you’re planning a Minecraft-themed party or just want some props for your kids to play with. It seems like all elementary-aged kids are totally obsessed with Minecraft now, and the cost of the goods proves just how popular the game is now.

My kiddo decided he wanted to be Steve for Halloween. The  Minecraft: Steve Cardboard Head (just a cardboard box printed with squares) sells for upwards of $25. I figured out how to make my own (see super-easy step-by-step instructions here).

But what about the sword and pickaxe?

My kiddo wanted not just any sword and pickaxe, but the diamond versions. (Something about invincibility? I can’t keep up with  all the Mineraft lore.)

They sell on Amazon for around $40 – $50. EACH. Not happening. *Edited 10/14—they used to sell for 40-50 bucks. They’re now down to about $20.* (Seriously—I do not lie: Minecraft Blue Diamond Sword, Minecraft Blue Diamond Pickaxe)

Time to get creative and make my own.

FPXFGames provides printouts you can download to make 3D folded paper swords and pickaxes. My kid would destroy a paper version in minutes. I created images to print and glue to foam core instead.

How to Make Minecraft Diamond Sword and Pickaxe

You’ll need:

Printed images
utility knife/razor
1 20 x 28″ piece foam core board (paper coated, not craft foam)
spray adhesive or glue stick
straight edge (metal ruler or L-square)

diamond sword minecraft diamond sword handle Minecraft-pickaxe-template

  1. Download these images. The sword comes on two pages here and here, the pickaxe one here.
    Minecraft-pickaxe-template pdf
    diamond sword template 1 pdf
    minecraft diamond sword 2 pdf
  2. Print. They should print on 11″ x 17″ paper. For best results (or unless you have an amazing printer) I’d recommend printing at a copy shop. (The shiny paper and high-quality ink looks much better!)how to make minecraft diamond sword and pickax
  3. Cut out around (roughly, you don’t need to be precise now) one copy of each so they will fit onto the foam board. Lay out the three  pieces of the sword together. Spray each piece of paper with spray adhesive or smear with glue stick (making sure you glue well around all edges. Rearrange onto board, smooth, and press to ensure a good to make minecraft diamond sword
  4. Now it’s time to cut it out. Again, I roughly cut out each item so it was easier to work with. Using a utility knife or razor and a straight edge, cut out each piece. The knife must go cleanly through the foam, so don’t do it on top of your dining room table–garage floors work great. Make sure you press firmly so the foam cuts evenly.
  5. Once the pickaxe and/or sword are cut out, you need to cut out the other paper copy. (I had my son practice his scissor work while I worked on the previous parts). Spray with adhesive/smear with glue and align on blank side of each piece. Smooth to remove any wrinkles.
  6. That’s it. You’re done!

minecraft costume For directions to make the MINECRAFT STEVE HEAD CLICK HERE.

Note: the prices of the Minecraft go up and down. If you don’t make your own, I hope you find a great deal!

If still want to check the “officially licensed”  products, here are some more links to Amazon:


Need a fun Minecraft Christmas craft?
DIY Minecraft Creeper Santa

DIY MINECRAFT Creeper Santa Ornament

Looking for some gifts for one of the little Minecrafter in your life?

Check out this list of awesome Minecraft books—all librarian, parent, and kid approved!

Miecraft books for boys, minecraft gifts, minecraft reviews

How about a Minecraft party or trick-or-treat bag?

Check out this super easy (and cheap!) DIY Creeper bag:

super easy creeper bagSuper Easy & Cheap CREEPER Tric-or-treat bag

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How to make a MINECRAFT Steve Costume for less than $10

Halloween will be here before we blink. And it seems like every kid is currently obsessed with Minecraft. (If you don’t hear about this game at least 50+ times a day, you obviously don’t have a 5  to 15-year-old). Trust me: Minecraft is HOT.

Problem: if you stroll down your local big box store or seasonal costume shop, you will NOT find any Minecraft costumes. What? You will find them online—to the cha-ching of $25 and up: Minecraft: Steve Cardboard Head. That’s JUST for the printed cardboard box.

You want the official Minecraft Blue Diamond Sword? $50 and up. The Blue Diamond Pickaxe? 45 buckaroos. You can find the regular Minecraft Foam Sword and Pick Axe for around $25 —but they’re just pieces of foam.

Don’t know about you, but I’m far too cheap to shell out $75 for a cardboard box and a couple of pieces of foam.

Solution: make your own! I am about the un-craftiest mom in the world, and I made one pretty easily. And I’ll show you how so you can make your kid(s) do Minecraft happy-dances, too.

How to make a Minecraft Steve costume for cheap! homemade minecraft costume

Very happy 10-year-old in his homemade Minecraft costume.

After some online research, I found this post at which gives a link to a free Steve face PDF.

How to make a Minecraft Steve Head for less than $10

You’ll need:

PDF pattern
11×17 printouts from PDF
11x11x11-inch box
glue stick or spray adhesive
tape (not necessary, but handy)

  1. Download the PDF from this link via
  2. Save the PDF to a thumb drive and take to your local copy shop to print out. My home printer can’t handle the paper size or quantity of ink, but my local Office Max/Kinkos/whatever can. Tell them to print it in poster setting with tile scale 100% and 0.005 overlap. I had to walk the employee through it. The Steve Head PDF makes 5 11×17-inch color prints and the Steve Hair PDF makes 2. The pages cost me $1.19 each.  steve head pdf  directions
  3. Trim off the white to make steve head mincraft
  4. Prep your box. The pattern is scaled for an 11 x 11 x 11-inch box (can buy at Kinko’s, etc.). This box actually will measure 11.5 x 12 x 11.5.  I didn’t want to buy a box, so I cut down a beer case to about an 11-inch cube. (There’s some room for overlap in the printed patter, so it worked just fine.)how to make a minecraft costume
  5. Glue the hair on top of the box first for a nice overlap. I was going to use my can of spray adhesive, but it was giving me fits. (Yes, I did spray myself in the face. No, it wasn’t fun.) I broke out a glue stick, and it worked perfectly.  Note: I did reinforce the bond with clear tape around the edges—the face pages will cover, so no worries.
  6. Glue on the rest of the head printouts. I did a rough placement to make sure it all lined up correctly before I slathered the papers with glue. On my box, I had several inches of overlap on the back of the box (hair) but it still looked perfect!
  7. Cut eye holes. Yeah, your kid might want to see (he had to remind me).

That’s it. You should now have a kick-ass Steve head for less than $10.

How to make an easy Minecraft Steve costume via kerryannmorgan.comPin It

***UPDATE*** I’ve had many people ask how to keep the box centered on the wearer’s head. I first used bubble wrap and newspaper padding (yes, it kind of worked). I also tried using a plastic play construction hat that fit neatly inside and anchored the box to the head well. BUT, the best option came from checking out a “real” Creeper head. See this simple device? It doesn’t look pretty (neither does wadded up newspaper) but it works great and is EASY to make.

inside of minecraft box head

  • Cut a cardboard square about 4 inches     larger than your box head. (So, if your box is 12 x 12, cut it 16 x 16.)
  •  Measure about 2 inches out from each side and draw an inner square to use as a folding template.
  • Score cardboard along fold line, if necessary.
  • Cut out squares along corners.
  • Cut a rough oval in center so it can sit on your child’s head. (This one measured 6 x 7 inches)

And guess what? You can make the diamond sword and pickaxe too!  Check out my next post for download PDF and easy instructions. (check them out HERE) I made both for less than $5 total!

According to my Minecraft Expert, Steve wears a blue T-shirt and jeans. I picked up the proper aqua/blue shirt at the dollar store (score!) and paired it with some jeans.

Entire costume (Steve head + diamond sword + pickaxe + shirt) for $13!!!

Happy Kid + Happy Mom = HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

Need a cool Minecraft trick-or-treat bag?

Check out this super easy (and cheap!) DIY Creeper bag:

super easy creeper bagSuper Easy & Cheap CREEPER Tric-or-treat bag

These bags are perfect
for Halloween trick-or-treating
or Birthday party goodie bags.

And the best news:
each one costs less than $1.50!

Super easy (and cheap!) DIY Creeper bag


Looking for Minecraft-themed crafts for a party or program?

Super Easy (& cheap!) Minecraft Magnets -- great party favor or craftCheck out this post with 5 crafts/activities including full instruction and downloads for Minecraft Creeper Magnets, Construction Paper Mob Masks, Minecraft Printable Stickers, and more!

Minecraft stickers for parties or classroom


Need a gift for a little Minecrafter? How about a book?

Check out this list of awesome Minecraft books—all librarian, parent, and kid approved!

Miecraft books for boys, minecraft gifts, minecraft reviews

Update:  As of 3/14 the prices of these “official” products seems to have gone down.

If you want to check out of the “real” products:

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”