Wednesday, November 25, 2009

January Blog Tour

The Motherhood Muse will be going on a blog tour in January! Each day we will be a guest on different blogs. The host bloggers and a random individual who comments each day will receive a free one-year subscription to The Motherhood Muse literary magazine.

If you are interested in hosting The Motherhood Muse on your blog during January, please send an email to editor(at)themotherhoodmuse(dot)com. We are happy to write a guest post for your blog or if you wish to interview us that works too.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Following Foreign Footsteps

Living in Costa Rica, Japan, and Canada for two years each gave me many insights into other cultures. One insight, however, only recently came to the surface of my mind since returning to the U.S. and having my second daughter here: motherhood crosses many barriers, obstacles, prejudices and other challenges. It is its own language, completely universal, and even recognizable in other animals, not just humans.

While living in the rainforests of Costa Rica, I learned that the women living in the particular valley where my tiny hut was located had a deep fear of the forest. Their husband, sons, or brothers would accompany them if they had to walk through the forest before dawn and after dusk. Their daughters rarely ventured out of the house, especially once they no longer attended school (many didn't go further than 8th grade).

At one time I became ill with a serious infection. Unable to get up and leave my hut to report to the local research station where I worked, I remained secluded in my home in pain. Despite their reservations of the dark forest in the early a.m. hours, the local women who came to the station to prepare coffee and breakfast noticed my absence and walked through the forest alone to my hut. They came back and forth individually, bringing me tea made from over a dozen rainforest plants and checking on me. It was as if I was a sole chick with many mother hens hovering around me. At the time I was still in the early stages of becoming fluent in Spanish, so the language barrier presented an additional challenge that didn't seem to faze the women in the slightest.

I saw this capability of overcoming fear and hurdling obstacles while living in Japan. My husband and I had only been married a short time when we decided to climb Mt. Fuji. I had climbed mountains in the U.S. and Costa Rica before this, so I was taken by surprise at the tears streaming down my face as I faced a brutal hike full of sharp jagged volcanic rock and foot deep ash along a narrow path with a steep drop off. I cried because it was too hard. I cried because I was afraid I couldn't go up nor go down. Then along came a five foot tall grandmother. Without a walking stick she passed me up the volcano and continued passing others. She appeared to be at least 70 years old. My eyes followed her footsteps for as long as I could see them, giving me the courage to continue going.

While living in Canada I became a mother for the first time. I found myself missing my own mother even more as I was at a loss what to do to calm my very colicky baby. When I dared to venture out of our house to go on the two mile nature path by our house I often felt panicky if my newborn started to cry, because I couldn't get her to stop crying. It was on this trail among the late-summer blackberry pickers that I found smiles and words of help from mothers and grandmothers. I wasn't alone, and they didn't mind the sound of a baby crying interrupting their quiet solitude. I learned from them that all sounds are welcomed and loved.

We're now residing temporarily on the east coast in the U.S., and I find myself more often at playgrounds than in forests or on mountains. But the mothers surrounding me are no different than the mothers I encountered on foreign soils. We learn from each other just as much as we learn from our children.

Friday, November 20, 2009

FreeDay - For the Bookworms

The Friday idea today is for all those bookworms out there in need of a new book for the weekend! I could not put the following two books down, and I love books that are so captivating I think about them all day long when I am not reading them. So in case you are looking for a new book, perhaps you might try these:

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

These two books are very different from one another, but both grabbed me from the first page. Each incorporates elements of motherhood, nature, and children in unique ways!

I am now searching for a new book to read! Any recommendations?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Our Boutique Giveaway

The Motherhood Muse has a second prize giveaway coming up!! On December 1st a random person who has signed up for our e-newsletter will be chosen to win a prize bag of several items from The Motherhood Muse boutique!!

So if you haven't already done so, please sign up for our free e-newsletter. It comes out only 8 times a year, and we don't give your email address away to anyone because that is not cool.

To increase your chances of winning, you can do any of the following to have your name entered into the contest more than once:

1. Blog about the newsletter and The Motherhood Muse.
2. Provide the URL for subscribing to the newsletter on your blog.
3. Announce the newsletter and The Motherhood Muse on Facebook.
4. Tweet about it.
5. Email everyone you know about it!
6. Join our Facebook group.
7. Join our LinkedIn group.

Make a comment on this post for each item you've done and we'll enter your name into the contest that many times!

Here's the URL for subscribing to the newsletter: .

Thanks! The winner will be announced on December 2nd!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Down and Dirty

Our guest post today is by Stephanie who blogs at The Beautification Project and writes a feature for The Motherhood Muse literary magazine!

Small Boy squats down on the path, intrigued by something at his feet. He points to it first, like he always does; his inquisitive mind limited by his one-word vocabulary as he looks at me and asks, “DAT?” I bend down to get a look at what he sees, keeping one eye on his Big Sister, prancing several feet ahead under the dripping trees. We’ve happily taken advantage of the break in the steady rain we’ve had for days to venture out and get some fresh air.

(Let me rephrase that. With some gentle prodding on my part: “Quick! Get your shoes on! Let’s go! Now!” and some slight resistance on Big Sister’s part: “NOOOOO! I don’t WAAAAANNNT to go outside!!” and an emergency diaper change requiring the removal of all the layers I’d swaddled Small Boy in, we’d made it outside despite the sky’s threats to open once again.)

Back to Small Boy’s discovery, a small stick shivering in the ripples of a mud puddle. His little fingers reach out with a cautious aim.

“No touch,” I say out of habit. “Yucky.”

You see, I don’t particularly enjoy dirt. I’m a city girl by nurture, and though I now live in a community surrounded by mountains on one side and sea on the other, and though I love – LOVE – the smell of fresh air and the beauty of a natural setting, I don’t want any of the nature on me. And so, while I claim to know that kids are kids and they will – and should – get dirty, I don’t really want them to.

Fortunately, Small Boy chooses not to hear me and plunges his small hand into the depths of the puddle. He raises his hand in victory, the stick wrapped in his fist. He looks at me with a pure joy as the grimy water drips from his hand and he presents his treasure to me. “DAT?” he asks again.

He is so happy. As is Big Sister, skipping toward us on the path to see what he has unearthed. It is such a simple moment. One free of the burdens of plastic toys and commercialized cartoon characters, of planned activities and shuttling between errands. Free of expectations and of high standards. My baby found a stick in a puddle, and he’s happy.

It’s a moment for which it’s worth getting a little dirty.

About the Author:

Stephanie Dethlefs is a freelance writer and mom of two in the Pacific Northwest. Despite her aversion to dirt she loves the outdoors, and she and her husband plan to share with Big Sister and Small Boy the joys of camping, hiking, and a global appreciation of the natural world. A former teacher, Stephanie is the founder of the Young Writers Studio and blogs about creating a beautiful life at The Beautification Project

Friday, November 13, 2009

FreeDay - Waterlogged

All this rain from hurricane season is amazing! Whether we venture out in it or stay warm and dry inside, rain can either dampen or uplift our spirits depending on how we view it.

Today's FreeDay idea is simple: Create two columns on a piece of paper. Label one column "Dampen" and the other column "Uplift." List all the ways water (rain, rivers, ponds, oceans, pools, puddles, etc) dampen and uplift your spirit. How does water affect your body and mind? What about your five senses? In what ways does rain influence your emotions?

Perhaps we'll get a bit of sunshine this weekend, but just in case it rains, hope you enjoy this FreeDay idea!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cabin Camping

Today we have a guest post by Ginny Marie of Lemon Drop Pie!

It had been a long morning of driving. Our toddler was on the brink of an “I-won’t-stay-in-my-car-seat-one-more-minute” meltdown when my husband had to hit the brakes and slow down. In the mass of towns and tourism clustered together at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we were completely stopped. There was a line of cars as far as we could see.

The cranky toddler was not our only problem. We had packed a picnic lunch, but there was nowhere to eat it, and we were starving. We drove on, slowly, hoping to find a park or even a bench somewhere to sit and eat. I finally spotted a building that said “Tourist Information” and I thought we should at least pull in and investigate.

There was a picnic bench in the parking lot, obviously meant for employees, so we decided to just go inside for a potty break and continue our search for a picnic area. Once inside, a man stopped us. “Where are you staying?” he asked. When he found out we were staying in North Carolina, he exclaimed, “You’re staying on the wrong side of the Park! There’s nothing over there!” Seeing that we had a little girl, he told us “You just have to go to the Bear Jamboree!” Apparently the buffet was fantastic, and you could eat while being entertained by big, mechanical bears up on stage, banging away on instruments and singing.

We hustled Lily, our daughter, out of the building as fast as we politely could. The bear jamboree, the traffic, and the crowds were not what we had envisioned while planning our trip. So many of the rental cabins we had seen during the planning of our vacation touted satellite TV, hot tubs, and video game rooms. A video game room? In a cabin? Definitely not what we were looking for.

When we finally made it to the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, we breathed a huge sigh of relief. We had our picnic sitting at a bench in front of the visitor’s center, not even bothered by the sprinkle of rain. We drove slowly through the park to our cabin, on the quiet side of the park, in the middle of the mountains. I’ll admit right now that our cabin was not rustic. We did have a hot tub that I couldn’t enjoy because I was six months pregnant; however, my husband soaked in it every night. We did have all the conveniences of home, like a washer, dryer, and refrigerator. But we also spent the whole week enjoying the park and didn’t step foot in the commercialism of the “other side.”

We spent hours eating lunch beside rushing, rock-filled mountain streams, hiking up to tumbling waterfalls, and crossing brooks on narrow, mossy log bridges. Lily crouched down to gaze at butterflies fanning their wings at the muddy edge of a creek. She hugged tree trunks and refused to come out from behind them; she ran across grassy meadows. With her pudgy little legs pumping away she hiked trails next to us and joyfully exclaimed, “We’re climbing a mountain!”

This was the Smoky Mountains we wanted our daughter to see. This was the Smoky Mountains WE wanted to see.

In an interview for the documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, Gerard Baker, a Park Superintendent, states, “We need National Parks to have people, especially our kids, understand what America is. America is not sidewalks. America is not stores. American is not video games. America is not restaurants. We need National Parks so people can go there and say, ‘Ahh, this is America.’” Our family couldn’t agree more.

Ginny Marie's bio: I live in Illinois with my husband and two daughters. Even though we live in the suburbs of Chicago, we try to take advantage of the nature available around us, such as going to Maple Syrup Days at the local forest preserve and hiking trails along the Des Plaines River. This summer, we even enjoyed the company of a red fox in our back yard. (The fox seemed just as surprised to see us as we were to see it!) I blog at Lemon Drop Pie.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Author Interview: Fiona Ingram

Today we have our first guest author on The Motherhood Muse!

Welcome Fiona Ingram, who recently published the first volume of a new children's adventures series. She is on a blog tour with WOW! Women on Writing, so you can follow her on her tour to learn more about Fiona and her new book, The Secret of the Sacred Scarab.

Fiona is also giving away one free copy of her new book on our blog here today. All you need to do is post a comment on this post and a winner will be chosen at random. Please check back on our blog on Wednesday to see if you won, so we can receive your snail mail address.

Thank you Fiona for being our guest author on The Motherhood Muse today! What an exciting first volume of your new children's adventures series, Chronicles of the Stone. The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is packed with intrigue, suspense, mystery and excitement. I think your book will inspire every reader to seek adventure and develop a sense of adventure. Thank you for answering my questions today and for donating a free copy of your book to a reader of today's post!

Q: When children hear the words "travel" and "adventure" their first thoughts might be of amusement parks, landmarks, monuments or city sites. How does your book inspire its readers to see nature and foreign countries in the same light as travel and adventure?

A: Egypt is such an exotic location and the adventure in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab is so different from anything the average child experiences that it is definitely a way to transform their perceptions. They’ll be reading about two boys their own age standing in front of the Great Pyramid, riding an uncomfortable steed (a camel) across a scorching desert, coming face to face with an angry giant cobra, and experiencing such unusual cultural traditions that it will spark their imaginations. The cities they’ll visit with Justin and Adam (the heroes) will be long-dead cities and temples of incredible magnitude, still impressive even in a ruined state. The monuments won’t be modern statues—they’ll be gigantic statues of long-dead pharaohs, queens and tributes to the many Egyptian gods of days gone by.

Q: The element of an ancient scarab is just one of many images of nature that convey mystery and thrill in your book (camels, desert sands, and serpents were some of my favorites!). When writing this book, how did you approach using aspects of nature to help readers understand and relate to the story being set in Egypt?

A: I think I would never have been able to convey this element without actually being there with my two nephews and seeing and experiencing how, although Egypt is a modern country, at the same time Egypt is incredibly ancient, and its cities have roots that reach far back into the mists of time. You can step from the 21st Century into another age, 3500 years ago, by going round a corner and into a temple still standing centuries later. Step off the tarmac and you’re … in the desert with traditional Bedouins galloping past on their camels! Have you got water and provisions? Will you survive the scorching heat? Can you see in that blinding sunlight? Watch out—is that a scorpion that just scuttled by your feet? Or maybe it was a cobra slithering away… Once Adam and Justin are kidnapped, the last links with civilization are severed and they are in the harsh desert, struggling to survive.
Talking of nature, one need only look at the pantheon of Egyptian gods, most depicted with animal heads. This also intrigues the boys.

Q: Readers of this blog are mothers and writers interested in the concept of motherhood and nature. What advice can you give us on writing about foreign cultures, countries, and landscapes to encourage children to seek adventures in nature?

A: I wanted to inspire readers who enjoy my book with the idea that “You can do it. You can go to an amazing place and have an incredible adventure.” When the boys’ aunt admonishes them and says there’ll be no adventures, just a nice safe tour, Adam says to himself in Chapter One, “Anything can happen in Egypt.” Well, more than anything did happen! Life is an adventure so live it, is my motto. The smallest of incidents in a new and unusual place can prove to be an exciting and elevating experience for a child. We have become cushioned and comfortable in a world with techno-amenities. We have forgotten how to really see/feel/touch/taste/hear the experience of life. Any new and unusual location will spark a child’s imagination. It doesn’t have to be Egypt—it can be a wilderness trail, a national park, a countryside visit, a marine excursion, an encounter with animals, a totally different environment that stimulates the senses. My two nephews were 10 and 12 when we went to Egypt and it was amazing to see them react to the things they had only read about—such as monuments, mummies (yes!), camels, vast expanses of arid desert … When they returned they were certainly different. Their experiences changed them.

Q: How has your love of travel influenced your connection with other cultures and countries from a writer's perspective?

A: I am such a globetrotter that I think my adventure series has just given me lots of excuses to pack and explore! I began travelling from an early age and I found the contact with other cultures shaped my vision of life and matured me. I began to see life differently, and to appreciate how other people live, think, and feel about life. When the idea for the series grew, I just knew setting the various adventures in unusual countries would appeal to young readers. (Hint: the jungles of the Amazon are one such destination!)

Q: In your book Justin and Adam are presented with an opportunity through the line of journalism as their aunt is a writer and traveler. What kind of doors might this open for children who read The Secret of the Sacred Scarab ?

A: Adam and Justin (like many young boys, including my nephews) are keen on adventure, and the prospects of history and archaeology. To them, digging up old things present myriad possibilities, not just dry, dusty old bits and pieces from long ago. Archaeology smacks of ancient kings, warriors, battles, heroic achievements. One can also delve back into an amazing past and re-interpret old documents and inscriptions. Egypt is an archaeologist’s dream and the amazing projects the Egyptian government is doing, including The Giza Project, (that is the whole area of the Sphinx/Plateau of Giza) will open up many possibilities for academic or archaeological research. One young lad I know is so keen on my book he is using the book’s website to do his school Egyptian project.

Q: Archeology and ancient history help tie readers to the land. How does your adventure series, Chronicles of the Stone, help inspire children to pursue archeology and ancient history in their home tome and to explore the land?

A: I stress the importance of one’s cultural heritage in the book. The boys meet an Egyptologist called Ebrahim Faza, who proves to be a good friend to them in their hour of need. He meets them at the Great Pyramid and explains to them how ancient people viewed life, their future, and their heritage. That was very important for me because we are shaped by where we have come from. Every country has a rich and exciting past, sometimes joyful, sometimes tragic, but by understanding it, we understand who we are as individuals and as a nation. Preserving treasures and artifacts from our history is of paramount importance. Think of what the Declaration of Independence means to every American. It is has shaped the identity of the USA.

Thank you Fiona for stopping by here today on your blog tour! I'm very excited for the second volume of this series to come out. Congratulations on such a successful first book of the series!

In addition to this fantastic insight from Fiona's answers to our questions, Fiona has also provided us with a wealth of information. Below you will find her bio, a synopsis of her book, sites and books to inspire both children and writers!

Author Bio: Fiona Ingram

I can't remember NOT having a book in my hand. My schoolmates called me a bookworm, and nothing's changed since then. I was brought up on the children's classics because my parents are also avid readers. My earliest story-telling talents came to the fore when, from the age of ten, I entertained my three younger brothers and their friends with serialised tales of children undertaking dangerous and exciting exploits, which they survived through courage and ingenuity. Haunted houses, vampires, and skeletons leaping out of coffins were hot favorites in the cast of characters. We also acted out the stories for my long-suffering parents! I graduated from the University of Natal, Durban, South Africa, with a double first in my B.A. (French & Drama). After completing my Honors in Drama at Natal, I then went to the University of the Witwatersrand to do my Masters degree in French-African literature. I also studied drama at The Drama Studio in London and mime at L’Ecole Jacques le Coq in Paris. Upon my return to South Africa, I immersed myself in teaching drama at community centres, and became involved in producing community and grassroots theatre with local playwrights and performers in Natal for several years. A move to Johannesburg took me in a new direction—that of journalism. I have written freelance for the last fifteen years on everything from serial killers to relationship advice. Writing a children’s book—The Secret of the Sacred Scarab—was an unexpected step, inspired by a recent trip to Egypt. The tale of the sacred scarab began life as a little anecdotal tale for my 2 nephews (then 10 and 12), who had accompanied me on the Egyptian trip. This short story grew into a children’s book, the first in the adventure series, Chronicles of the Stone. I'm already immersed in the next book in the series—The Search for the Stone of Excalibur—a huge treat for young King Arthur fans. Although I do not have children of my own, I have an adopted teenage foster child, from an underprivileged background who is just discovering the joys of reading for pleasure. My interests include literature, art, theatre, collecting antiques, animals, music, and films.

Book Synopsis: The Secret of the Sacred Scarab

A thrilling adventure for two young boys, whose fun trip to Egypt turns into a dangerously exciting quest to uncover an ancient and mysterious secret. A 5000-year-old mystery comes to life when a scruffy peddler gives Adam and Justin Sinclair an old Egyptian scarab on their very first day in Egypt. Justin and Adam embark upon the adventure of a lifetime, taking them down the Nile and across the harsh desert in their search for the legendary tomb of the Scarab King, an ancient Egyptian ruler. With just their wits, courage, and each other, the boys manage to survive … only to find that the end of one journey is the beginning of another!

Curious to know more! Fiona has provided a list of resources for us below!

Here are a number of fascinating sites that will provide information as well as many fun activities to do with your child or pupils (teachers).



· Learn more about the pyramids (recommended)

· Do hieroglyphics look like Greek to you?

· Ancient tombs of Egypt (tomb adventure)

· Read an Ancient Egyptian story

Fiona has been kind to also include a list of books for us today!

Some interesting books on Egypt to inspire thoughts of adventure and amazing events! All available on Amazon.

Egyptology by Emily Sands

Join Emily Sands' expedition to find the lost tomb of Osiris. A jeweled amulet glows on the cover, inside the book, there are fold-out maps, postcards, drawings and photographs, ticket stubs, mummy cloth, a scrap of papyrus. (Activity book) And, don't miss the hieroglyphs writing kit from the desk of Emily Sands: Egyptology Code-Writing Kit.

Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Boy King by Zahi Hawass

Journey back to the time of Tutankhamun with famed Egyptian archeologist Zahi Hawass—experience the thrilling discovery of Tut's tomb by Howard Carter, the boy king's life reconstructed (how old he was, how tall, what clothes he wore, what games he played) and most recent studies of Tut's mummy. Gorgeous photographs. (Picture book)

Secrets of the Sphinx by James Cross Giblin, Bagram Ibatoulline

Get the scoop on the Great Sphinx through the centuries, the sculpture of a lion topped with a man's head. Find out about builders of the Sphinx, rediscovery by Thutmose a thousand years later, protecting the sculpture today. Fabulous illustrations, including reconstruction of the Sphinx with a red face and blue beard. (Illustrated chapter book)

The Ancient Egypt Pop-Up Book by The British Museum and James Putnam

Ancient Egypt leaps off the page in this irresistible pop-up book—a 3-D boat on the Nile, Ramses II in his war chariot, whole pyramid complex at Giza, an Egyptian villa, Hatshepsut's temple at Deir el Bahari, Tutankhamun's funerary mask and mummified head, and Tut's tomb. (Pop-up book)

If I Were a Kid in Ancient Egypt by Cricket Books
Take a step back in time and find out how kids lived in ancient Egypt—eating with your fingers, shaved heads, family fishing trips, popular pets, board games, going to school to become a scribe, and more. (Picture book)

Fun with Hieroglyphs by Metropolitan Museum of Art, Catharine Roehrig

Find out what hieroglyphs mean and how to say them, then write like an Egyptian with 24 different rubber stamps, plus counting, hieroglyphic word puzzles, and secret messages. (Activity pack and book)

The Egyptology Handbook by Emily Sands, Ian Andrew, Nick Harris, and Helen Ward

The companion book to Egyptology, this is a good introduction to the wonders of ancient Egypt—history and dynasties, the great pyramids and tombs, food, dress, work and play, palace life and warfare, hieroglyphs, gods and religion, tales and myths, plus activities to do in each section and stickers. Beautifully illustrated with drawings and historical photographs. (Activity book)

The Riddle of the Rosetta Stone by James Cross Giblin

Find out why this modest-looking black stone is the key to ancient Egypt—where the stone was found, what's inscribed, and how Champollion, having decided at age 11 that he'd read the hieroglyphics, solved the puzzle. (Chapter book, illustrations)

An ABC Escapade through Egypt by Bernadette Simpson

Discover Egypt from A to Z, especially food, animals and culture—dates (Egypt produces the most dates in the world), konafa (traditional dessert for Ramadan), watermelons (cultivated 5,000 years ago), goats, camels and jerboas, village life, city markets and more. Unique and fascinating insights. (Picture book)