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Hello! My name is Shannon Taylor. I'm a long-time writer and editor living in the woods of Wisconsin with my husband, four children, a black lab, and two crazy cats.


Want to write and publish a book this year? Join me as I go from idea to completed manuscript...in real time! Just click the button above to get on the Pathway to Published. This week's topic: revising.


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We have big hopes for all the things that can happen in a year, don't we? So big, in fact, that it's easy to feel overwhelmed. This blog is about keeping things simple and fun, sharing tools for getting stuff done, and learning how to balance it all...calmly. Because you know what? Life doesn't have to be crazy to count.

Check out the categories below for ideas and inspiration. We're focusing on a different one each month!

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April: Easter + Getting Ready for Spring

Happy Birthday, Tim!

Will and Tim at Geo Bee

Tim and Will on the Giant Map of Europe at the National Geographic Bee in Madison.

Today is Tim’s 46th birthday. To celebrate those 46 wonderful years, I thought it would be fun to list 46 Awesome Things about Tim Taylor. So in no particular order because I’m typing as I go, here they are:

1. He never complains. I’m not exaggerating. The entire time he was in the hospital after his mountain biking accident, he didn’t whine or fuss once. Not once in more than three weeks. He just worked hard to get better.

2. He patiently listens to me complain.

3. He has a knack for finding great new music and introduced me to some of my favorite bands, like Over the Rhine and The Cowboy Junkies.

4. He’s an amazing father.

5. He makes me laugh every day. Even when I’m mad at him, he can still make me laugh.

6. He’s incredibly loyal and inspires loyalty in others. He’s worked with the same core group of people for more than a dozen years, and they’ve got each other’s backs. One of them is even Lily’s godfather.

7. He plants bulbs with the kids in the fall and a vegetable garden and pumpkin patch in the spring.

8. He spends countless hours making a skating rink every winter.

9. He doesn’t treat his girls like princesses. He has too much respect for them to do that. They’re growing up strong and confident because of his belief in them.

Read more »

Save the Gallbladder!

SCAN0129

So I’m getting my hair cut yesterday and my stylist says, “I think we’ll skip texturing on top today.”

What? She must have sensed my horror because she quickly added, “Maybe we’ll need to do it next time.”

Every haircut I’ve ever had has involved texturizing the hair on top of my head. I have a lot of hair and it tends to weigh itself down if it’s not thinned. I’m absolutely terrible at styling so it’s always been nice to know that while I can’t competently curl or straighten my hair, at least there’s a lot of it.

Until now. And this is just one more thing in a series of things that have been happening lately and I’m starting to think my problems might be related to gluten.

I won’t go into all the hairy details (so to speak), but let’s just say that when I go down the checklist of symptoms for gluten-related problems, either I or someone else around here has it. Tim had his gallbladder taken out a year ago and mine has started acting up recently. It went crazy during our trip to Florida. I thought I was eating really clean (I had salmon twice!) and drinking tons of water and walking a lot, but then I remembered all the pasta and the beignets and the cornbread….

Darn, darn, darn. I’m not organized enough to have a gluten intolerance!

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April Fool’s Day Pranks

Plastic toy food

Does your family get into April Fool’s Day? For some reason, mine never really has. It’s probably because when we flip the calendar over late on March 31st we’re all surprised to see that it’s April 1st and we haven’t planned anything!

I did see an idea that I thought might be funny for the younger kids. You pack their cold lunches with plastic toy food and let them scratch their heads for a minute before showing up with their real lunches. This would take a bit of planning to make sure you got there on time—or else a teacher who’d be up for being in on the joke.

There are always the classics like yellow food coloring in the milk to make it seem like it’s gone bad, tissue paper stuffed in shoes to make them seem smaller, or even jeans a couple sizes too big or too small put in the drawer. Or how about this seriously messed-up trick? Make caramel apples out of onions. That one is for your enemies, apparently.

I’m thinking this jello-as-juice prank might be do-able, and not too mean:

Jello Trick

 ivillage.com

Do you have any pranks planned? Are you usually the pranker or the prankee?

Happy Weekend

Kali River Rapids with Will

Hello! Did you have a good week? We’re back from Andrew’s high school band trip to Walt Disney World and are settling into our regular routine. Funny how easy it is to slip into vacation mode and how hard it is to slip out of it!

I’m so happy we tagged along on the trip. The weather was wonderful (low 80s) and the high schoolers put on fantastic shows at Epcot and Downtown Disney. The best part is that our younger kids are old enough now so we could all play and go on most of the rides together and there was hardly any fussing! I really felt for the parents of little ones who had Had Enough. We’ve all been there.

We took lots of photos, but this one of Will and me is one of my favorites. We were on the Kali River Rapids ride at Animal Kingdom, happily chatting away with the mom, grandma, and daughter sharing our raft. The mom happened to catch the very moment that Will and I got soaked. And I mean soaked. As we got off the ride, she was kind enough to get my phone number so she could text me the photo. Technology can be pretty awesome.

While I catch up on laundry (and sleep), here are some links I thought you might enjoy:

+ I’ve been using coconut oil right out of the jar as a moisturizer, but this simple addition would take it up a notch.

+ Recipes to make with 6- to 9-year-old chefs.

+ Heavenly hummus wrap.

+ Can literature help you make better business decisions?

+ How to put a toddler to bed in 100 Easy Steps. Sounds about right.

+ Is it lame to link to your own website? It’s just that I’m so happy to have finally written an official “editor” post.

+ Thanks to this exercise move, I’m feeling like Po. Ouch. But it’s a good pain.

+ Speaking of fitness, Dani at Fitness Food and Style always has fun monthly challenges to get you  motivated. Lots of great recipes, too, like this healthy version of caramel corn. For real!

+ The most awkward things that ever happened. Some of these made me laugh out loud.

+ Will is heading to the state championship for the National Geographic Bee next week! To celebrate, we’ve been playing this cool game even more than usual.

Do you have any plans for the weekend? We’re celebrating the birthday of one of my lovely goddaughters (bonus: we get to meet their new puppy) and I hear it’s supposed to reach 60 degrees this weekend. Fingers crossed!

 

 

Dear Future Mom: World Down Syndrome Day—March 21

Mom and Daughter World Down Syndrome Day

I’m expecting a baby. I discovered that he has Down Syndrome. I’m scared: what kind of life will my child have?

I think many of us are familiar with “Welcome to Holland,” an essay Emily Perl Kingsley wrote to offer encouragement to parents of children with special needs struggling with the lost dream of a “normal child.”

Well. Imagine that the letter is coming from your future child. And instead of a letter, it’s a beautiful video.

Grab a tissue and check it out:

CoorDown, Italy’s National Coordination of Associations for People with Down Syndrome, created the Dear Future Mom video—with help from ad agency Saatchi & Saatchi Italy—in celebration of World Down Syndrome Day, coming up on March 21st:

The chosen theme for World Down Syndrome Day this year is the right to happiness and well-being of people with Down syndrome. The goal is to promote a culture of diversity and true integration into society, especially in the worlds of school and work.

Jeff Ryan, who is, among many things, Andrew’s history teacher, baseball coach, and our friend, sent me this video and a link to a lovely article written by his niece Erin Gloria Ryan in honor of one of his six brothers, Stewart, who had Down Syndrome. Stewart passed away in 1995, but, as Jeff said, “He had a great life. All of us have said that he defined us a family. My niece sent all of her uncles this video knowing how much it would resonate with each of us. It did.”

I hope this video resonates with you, too. Pass it on.

 

Amy Poehler: No One Looks Stupid When They’re Having Fun

Amy Poehler Fun

{ Bona Fide Amor }

Before I became a mom, I had no idea that my kids would teach me just as much as I teach them. More, actually.

Like this morning. Andrew came downstairs wearing a striped hat à la The Cat in the Hat.

“Why the hat?” I said.

“It’s hat day,” he said.

“Doesn’t that usually mean baseball hats?” I said.

Ugh. As soon as I said the words, I regretted them. Feeble, feeble, feeble.

Luckily, Andrew just shook his head and said, “It’ll be fine, Mom. You worry too much about what people think.”

Ouch.

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U2 Got Rejected and So Will You…So Make the Most of It

Have you seen this rejection letter that’s making its way around social media?

U2 Rejection Letter

{ UberFacts }

As we all know, U2 persevered and went on to become one of the most successful bands in history.

I read through a bunch of comments about the letter and found it interesting that most people are accusing Alexander Sinclair of not recognizing talent when he heard it. And that might be true. But it might also be true that U2 wasn’t that good yet. Bono himself described the group as being “a band before we could play.”

Regardless, they kept practicing. They played as many shows in Dublin as they could to build a strong fan base. They took input from the audiences and tweaked their music and their message. They kept putting themselves out there until the right people liked what they heard. People like my politically-conscious, alternative-music-aficionado friend Aaron, who played his War cassette for our freshman science class one day in the spring of 1983.

In other words, U2 followed this advice:

So Good They Can't Ignore You Steve Martin

One thing is certain: If you put yourself out there, you will be rejected. Read it and believe it: You will be rejected.

So how can you handle rejection? How can you keep it from freezing you up so completely that you don’t even try?

The only thing you can do, really, is make rejection part of the system. As author Carolyn See wisely says, “Rejection is a process, not an event.” So when rejections show up in your mailbox or in-box, Crazy Ivan the darn things and take away their power. Tack them to your wall like Stephen King so famously did. Use them to line the guinea pig cage. Slip them into a bedazzled binder.

Celebrate rejection because it means that you went for it. You are officially a member of the same club as U2 and Stephen King and J. K. Rowling and others who put themselves out there, got smacked down, and kept going. You’re that much closer to success.

Most importantly, take a deep breath and analyze the response to whatever it is you put out there. Does the person have a point? Does the rejection contain any advice or bit of wisdom you can use to make your work better? Make some changes if necessary and then send that puppy right back out again.

And then get back to work. This story isn’t about Alexander Sinclair of RSO Records and whether he did or did not miss the boat with U2. The real story is about being so good they can’t ignore you.

Anti-“Gravity” Workout with Simone De La Rue

Simone de la Rue Workout

So I’m watching Gravity the other night and thinking how old is Sandra Bullock? I googled Sandra Bullock workout and discovered two things: Ms. Bullock is four years older than I am and her trainer is Simone De La Rue. And Ms. De La Rue definitely knows how to fight gravity.

I quickly headed over to the Body by Simone (BBS) website, loved what I saw, and immediately signed up for a month of online videos for $9.99. Simone’s workouts are a fusion of Pilates, bar method, strength training, and cardio dance moves with a heavy dose of plyometrics. The dance routines are challenging (you will be sweating!), but they’re fun and easy to learn. You have to love a trainer who includes some Running Man!

Read more »

“Crazy Ivan” Strategy for Busy Days

Underwater sub

Do you remember the movie The Hunt for Red October? It came out in 1990 and stars Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan, a CIA analyst leading a covert attempt to steal a cutting-edge Soviet nuclear submarine with the help of a defecting Russian submarine captain, Marko Ramius (played by Sean Connery).

I’m thinking about this movie because I need a Crazy Ivan today. Not the drink, the strategy. Although the drink might be nice, too.

If you saw the movie or read the book—which I have, of course, because when you have a Will that’s the sort of thing you read for bedtime stories—you might remember Captain Ramius doing a maneuver called a Crazy Ivan. A Crazy Ivan is something Russian submarine captains used to do to see if anyone was following them: they’d stop their engines and make a sharp turn left or right to look behind. The crazy part was that the other submarines could crash into you.

So, by analogy, a Crazy Ivan is any quick and unexpected change in direction, literally or figuratively.

Read more »

Homemade Shamrock Shake Recipe

Shamrock Shakes

by Lexie

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to try some homemade shamrock shakes. They were really easy to make and judging by how quickly my family consumed them, they taste just as good as the original!

Homemade Shamrock Shakes
makes two 12-ounce servings

Ingredients:
2 cups vanilla ice cream
1 to 1-1/4 cups milk
1/4 tsp. mint extract (not peppermint)
about 10 drops of green food coloring
whipped cream and green sprinkles, optional

Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed until smooth. Add enough milk to get the consistency you like. You might need to break up chunks of ice cream with a spoon, but be sure to turn off the blender first!

Pour into two large glasses and top with whipped cream and sprinkles, if you’d like, and serve with a straw. Sláinte!

Green Beer

Not to be outdone, my dad did his own photo shoot. Yep, that’s green beer. Thanks, Dad.

 

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