How I Accidentally Found a Way to Help Parents and Children

 In Blog

I’ve always been a big believer in the idea that things happen for a reason. And if we are tapped into our hearts and paying attention, we can pair what we’re noticing with our own intuition and take new steps—or big leaps.

I’ve reinvented myself many times in this way—sometimes, accidentally; other times, intentionally.

Here’s the most recent set of events that is accidentally leading me somewhere super cool.

My daughter Sally gave birth 12 weeks premature to my first granddaughter, Phoibe, who weighed in at just over a pound when she was born—and is now four pounds and going strong! 

Because of the coronavirus, I can’t visit Phoibe. I can only watch her on a webcam I call Phoibe TV.

I recalled that Jacques’ two sons were also born premature. He’d once told me he read to them in utero. The first time Jacques visited the NICU, he heard his children wailing as he walked down the hall. When he entered the room, he said, “Hi boys,” and they stopped crying.

The recollection gave me the idea to record myself reading to Phoibe. I wanted her to begin to connect with me, get to know my voice, too.

I started reading every picture book I owned, taping myself with the VoiceMemos app on my phone. Books by Dr. Seuss. Books about Little Critter and Amelia Bedelia. Frog and Toad. I read one each morning and sent it in a group text to Sally, my daughter Molly—who has also been reading to Phoibe daily—my grandson Eli (who has not been listening because he’s almost 12, and he’s too cool), and my son-in-law Tommy. Sally and Tommy alternate daily visits to Phoibe, and they play Molly’s and my recordings.

When the stay-at-home order was extended by the Massachusetts governor about a month ago, and it was determined there would be no more school until the end of the year, and no more day care until the end of June, I got to wondering how I might help parents at home by providing some relief with their children. I thought, “Oh! I’ll upload all those recordings to my website, so any child who wants to can listen.” Thankfully, I remembered there is such a thing as copyright laws. 

“So, what can I do?” I wondered again. 

Then, I remembered all the little poems I wrote when Sally and Molly were growing up. Fancying myself a bit of a Shel Silverstein, I wrote all kinds of ditties as birthday and holiday gifts. I crashed around the house, opening closets and drawers, finding a few but not all of them. My sister-in-law, who lives in the same neighborhood in New Hampshire where Jacques and I own a home, walked over and peeked in the totes in our attic, finding them. 

My long-ago intern, Shannon Grossman, who has worked with me ever since she graduated from Westfield State, drove to retrieve them and type them, and she emailed them to me.

While I waited for Shannon to get the bulk of the work to me, I tested out the poems I had in hand by sending them to the tweenage Eli for his feedback. His rulings:

Yes, I would listen to these. I would listen to all of them, except for “Cluck, Cluck.” That one gets weird at the end. I liked how they were not too short and not too long, and how they were funny. I think you should talk a little more about your writing background. I think having an activity gives kids something fun and constructive to do.

Beautiful. I was impressed by how thorough he was—and I should admit here that I paid him for this task and told him I wouldn’t fork out the money if he was not thorough and honest.

I sent the same poems—sans “Cluck, Cluck”—to Eli’s brother, my stepson, Darrian, who is a talented artist. I asked Darrian to illustrate the poems, and he came back with the most adorable drawings.

During summer vacation, I will upload my poems on my site, one a day; I’m not sure yet how many days’ worth I will have; I just got them yesterday morning from Shannon and have some work to do! 

I will read the poems and offer an activity to go with each one. I’m calling them Poem Pods, and I’m pretty excited about them! They’ll be posted on JaniceBeetleBooks.

I’m also compiling my favorites into a children’s book, which Darrian will illustrate.

Please stay tuned. I’d love it if you started to spread the word. Consider sharing this blog and the links to the pods when I post them. 

Help me entertain little children in this time when I am so worried about them!

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