Category Archives: Kid Stuff & Children’s Books

North Dakota Week – Stacy VanDyck Photography

Article by Stacy VanDyck

Before I begin, I want to thank all of my friends and fans who have supported me as I grow in my art.

I grew up in California where I met my husband, and I followed him to two other states before arriving here in Minot. I started my business in San Antonio, TX and it really took off for me when moved to Minot, ND in 2009, and I have been enjoying capturing families in their precious moments.

Because of my husband’s job, we will be leaving Minot in 2013. I plan on continuing with my business as we travel from station to station; until then I will continue to capture the lives of those around the Minot, ND area.

At Stacy VanDyck Photography, clients can expect to be free of flashes and extra lights causing uncomfortable squinting. My studio is setup in my home, but I love taking photos outside in any weather – even in the cold if families want snow pictures.

I use all natural-light when shooting pictures. I find natural-light more comfortable for my clients who are mostly newborns, children, and families.

After each session, clients are given a personal link to view and to share their images with whomever they choose.

For detailed information about pricing and products, you can check out my website. You can also find me on Facebook and blogspot.

Stacy VanDyck

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Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books, Special Events

North Dakota Week – My Lil Britches Photography

The Zettler Family

Article by Jeanita Kennedy

I was born on a Navajo reservation in Northern Arizona in 1983 to a single mother of three. The closest town was 45 miles away so mom, an emergency medical technician, had to travel and live away from us. We were raised by our grandparents. Life was very simple; we had very little. I can’t describe just how much my grandparents meant to me. These were wonderful years in my life.

We had no “media,” just a small radio that my grandpa would listen to and to connect us to the news of the world. We’d go to school, come home, and play in the dirt. My grandma was old school, so I learned to cook and clean at a very young age and was lectured about the role of being a woman.

Growing up on the reservation we had few pictures and few people owned cameras. There are few pictures of me as a child. We didn’t get lots of pictures like parents do now for newborns, at Christmas, for one-year pictures, or Easter.

Later, mom met my step-dad when I was about 12 years old. Then we were a family of eight. My step-dad was a bull-rider, so that is when I started to rodeo. I spent all my teen years around horses.

My mom is a very determined woman, and my step-dad is a worker. So they taught me about work ethics. One thing I remember my step-dad saying is, “If you want something you work for it, don’t just wish.” I remember my mom saying, “You do it right the first time or you’ll do it again the second time wishing you did it right the first time!”

The Chancellor Family

Leaving home for the Air Force was a most difficult time – grandma had been diagnosed with cancer and the news was not good. I was so afraid that my grandpa would be alone. Grandpa passed away two weeks later.  They passed away within two weeks of each other. What an amazing love they had for one another.

I was in the Air Force from 2002-2006. I loved being in the Air Force – I’ve meet many wonderful people that have become long life friends,  been around the world three times, achieved many awards, and had many experiences not everyone can have. Within those years, I met my husband Steven and had my wonderful daughter, Gracy.

In 2009, with another baby on the way, we finally decided to leave Las Vegas agreeing that it was not the best place to raise a family. Steve became part of the Air National Guard of North Dakota, and we moved to Minot in 2010.

For Christmas that year, Steven bought me my first DLSR Nikon 3100. A couple months of playing around with it, I wanted to know more and do more with it, so I researched and researched. I didn’t go to school for photography; I am pretty much self taught.

The Zobel Family

Before I opened my photo business, I struggled about what to do in life. I knew I wanted to help kids, and being a stay-at-home mom was my priority. While I was in the military, I had to leave Gracy two different times. The first time I was deployed, Gracy was just three months old, and I cried for a week straight in my tent in Baghdad. Then in 2006, I had to deploy again for six months. When I had Hailey, I knew I wanted to stay with her from day one, it felt like I was given a second chance. And I love being a stay at home mom.

Starting my own business meant setting my own hours and doing it from out of my own home – it didn’t sound like a bad idea at all. I knew one of my callings was to work with and help children. So I decide to donate a portion of my profit to a variety of organizations that helped children, like the Northern Plains Children Advocacy Center, the March of Dimes, and St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital this month. I also offered photo sessions to be auctioned off for the Bosom Buddies of Minot for the March of Dimes.

My number one inspiration is capturing that smile for the parents. My local inspiration is Nelly from Nelly Hernandez Photography and Stacy from Stacy VanDyck Photography. I am inspired by their amazing talent and creativity. They established a style of their own and built their businesses with hard work.

Coming from a very poor community, having pictures was rare – we couldn’t afford them. So I try to keep my prices affordable, in line with the budgets of struggling families.

Since I opened my business in August of 2011, I’ve learned so much, and I hope to continue to learn.

See more of Jeanita’s photos at the My Lil Britches Photography website and connect with Jeanita on Facebook.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books, Special Events

“The Magical Tale of Santa Dust,” by Patricia Cardello

The Magical Tale of Santa Dust

The idea for “Santa Dust” and ultimately the book “The Magical Tale of Santa Dust” began when my children were toddlers. At Christmas time I would say to my children, “How is Santa going to know where you live? With all the houses and apartments in the world – how is he going to know which one you live in? He can’t go to them all – he’d never make it to all the children in the world. We have to help guide him along the way.”

So together, we mixed a special combination of glitters and gold stars in different colors, shapes and sizes and put them into plastic bags. We called our creation “Santa Dust.” We would then walk around our neighborhood and sprinkle our magical “Santa Dust” with the hope of guiding Santa and his reindeer to our door. Never fail – Santa would arrive to squeals of delight the next morning.

Our 4:00 p.m. Christmas Eve “Santa Dust” walks became a tradition in our family and neighborhood and took on a life of their own. Every year a few more children were added – each child sprinkling “Santa Dust” with the hope of guiding Santa and his reindeer to their door. I encourage you to make “Santa Dust” a Christmas tradition in your home. Listen while your children tell you their hopes, dreams and desires for Christmas. You will cherish the quality time you spend with them as they sprinkle their magical “Santa Dust” and in the process build memories that will last a lifetime. Years from now your children will take their children on their own “Santa Dust” walks and their children will then take their children and carry the tradition forward.

Patricia reading to youngsters

“Santa Dust” was nominated as one of the 2008 Best New Products of the Year and received the 2009 Seal of Excellence Award.

How I chose my illustrator – I found my brilliant illustrator through a web site called “Elance.” I put the perimeters of the type of illustrator that I was looking for and was overwhelmed with responses. I loved her work from the beginning but she lives and works in Italy and we would have to work over the internet. At first she turned my offer down. After numerous discussions she finally agreed and she brought my story to life in ways that I never imagined. It was destiny to find her and for her to find me.

Patricia Cardello

Patricia Cardello is originally from Providence Rhode Island but now resides with her husband and two children in New York City. She is an actress, writer, entrepreneur and fledgling filmmaker.

The Magical Tale of Santa Dust is the first in a series of books she has written.

See The Magical Tale of Santa Dust website here. You can also find “Magic Dust” on Facebook.

Book Illustrator – Manuela Soriani Portfolio

Profile portrait by Hoberman Studio


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books, Special Events

Hanukkah Memories, by Karen Pokras Toz

In my household, my side of the family celebrates Hanukkah. My husband’s side of the family celebrates Christmas. My husband and I collectively with our three kids, celebrate both. It’s important to me that each holiday is celebrated separately – with equal importance and wonderful traditions that my children can take with them.

As a child, I always looked forward to Hanukkah. My parents decided early on that in place of a Christmas tree, we would decorate a giant Menorah that my father made out of wood and an old bed bolster. Our Menorah was about seven feet tall and four feet wide. We would decorate it with tissue paper first and then hang Hanukkah cards on it that we had received over the years. I loved looking at the cards every year, and we were pioneers in recycling! We were the only house in the neighborhood (probably the only house anywhere) that had a giant decorated Menorah – it was a big deal.

Then we would move over to our smaller ‘normal’ sized menorah, where we would light the candles and say the prayers. I remember it was always coveted to be the one to light the candles (and usually resulted in a fight between my older brother and myself).

My aunt would always come over, and at some point, my parents would start bringing out the presents. In many households celebrating Hanukkah there is a small gift each night of the eight-night holiday. However, in our household, my parents would pile up gifts around the giant Menorah for a single day celebration.  That’s not to say I grew up in a wealthy household or was spoiled. In fact, I was neither. But my parents did want us to have gifts to open. I can remember one year in particular, my parents wrapped up grapefruit and oranges just to make the pile bigger. For us, opening was the best part.

The day of course would end with a great meal and a rousing game of dreidel.

I don’t know whatever happened to our giant Menorah, but I hope that my children are enjoying the Hanukkah traditions that we have incorporated into our family.

However you celebrate your holidays, I hope you find yourself surrounded by the people you care most about!

Nate Rocks the World,  by Karen Pokras Toz

Nate Rocks can do it all: part super-hero, part all-star athlete, part rock-star… part fourth-grader?

Ten-year-old Nathan Rockledge cannot catch a break. After all, life as a fourth-grader can be hazardous what with science projects to deal with and recess football games to avoid. Everyone, including his best friend Tommy, seems to have bad luck when hanging around Nathan. Throw in an older sister who is a royal pain, a dad who is stuck in the past, and a mom who keeps trying to poison him with her awful cooking, and poor Nathan’s life as a fourth grader appears to be completely doomed.

Armed only with his sketchpad, his imagination, and his wits, Nathan Rockledge navigates the perils of the fourth grade in style, to emerge heroic, as Nate Rocks, proving that even a ten-year-old can accomplish great things.

Karen Pokras Toz

Karen Pokras Toz is a writer, wife and mom. Karen grew up in Orange, Connecticut and graduated from Ithaca College with a degree in Finance. She also attended the University of Richmond, where she studied law and business, receiving both a JD and an MBA. Karen has spent the last several years working as a tax accountant, writing in numbers. She recently discovered a passion for writing with words. In June 2011, Karen published her first children’s novel Nate Rocks the World. She is currently working on the second book in the Nate Rocks series to be published in 2012.

Karen is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI), Association of Independent Authors (AIA), and the Independent Author Network (IAN). Karen enjoys gardening, cooking, and spending time with her husband and three children.

Connect with Karen on her website, blog, Facebook, and Twitter. You can find Nate Rocks the World on Amazon here.


Filed under Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books, Special Events

A few tips from a blog groupie

It’s like two rocks in a stream clicking against each other under a rushing snow melt, two leaves falling off divergent trees, or two similar personalities in the blog-o-sphere. You meet someone and you click. For some reason – doesn’t matter why – it just clicks.

So it is with Stacy S. Jensen. Fabulous writer, great pay-it-forward pal, and she’s a mom. So you know she’s busy.

A couple of her recent blog posts include Our Stories about family, team building, and Smores! I love Stacy because she pays it forward, and you can see an example of this at Thank You Bloggy Friends. Check out Stacy’s article on adaptability in writing space, especially when you have children in the mix, at Where Do You Write?

Please welcome, Stacy S. Jensen.

A few tips from a blog groupie

By Stacy S. Jensen

I get around. Some people might say a lot.

Trust me, it’s not a casual thing. I’m focused.

I look for relationships one click at a time whether it’s on Blogger, WordPress, Twitter, or Facebook.

I began blogging two years ago during an online course to create a book proposal for a memoir. The class worked. I crafted a book proposal, but the blog didn’t stick.

This year, through a new blog I’ve connected with writers and people in ways I never imagined. My primary strategy: Visit other blogs and be part of the conversation.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way:

Why I visit:

  • Content and voice — Are you talking about something to help me or can I relate to your topic or situation?
  • A fresh perspective — I’m stopping by to hear what you have to say. So, what’s your opinion?
  • A flop — I don’t mind a dud post. You’re human. I like that about you.
  • End your post with a question to entice me to comment. Seriously, this encourages me to leave a thought or two.

What I strive to do:

  • Leave a comment, if I can move the topic forward.
  • Tweet your post, especially if I don’t comment.
  • Share your posts on Facebook and/or Twitter.
  • Remember your blog when someone asks:  What’s your favorite blog or do you know a blog that offers (fill in the blank)?

When I click away:

  • A “buy my product” push all of the time. I know you have a book or product. Make it easy for me to buy, but leave the when up to me.
  • Long videos — With a video, I can see how much time I need to invest in your site. If you have a 24-minute interview, write something about it, so I’ll know it’s worth my time.
  • Too many pictures in a wordless post. Really? And, why add words to a wordless post?
  • Time is limited. So, keep your posts short and don’t think you have to blog daily.

I don’t freak out as a reader when you step away from your blog to write. It’s OK. I’m not fickle. I’ll be there when you return.

Oh and make it easy for me to follow you via email, RSS feed or Google Reader. I like you, but I don’t want to work too hard to follow your every word.

What woos you or turns you off when you visit a blog?

Stacy’s bio: Stacy S. Jensen, a former journalist, is writing a memoir and learning the craft of picture books. She lives in Colorado Springs and can be found at her blog, on Twitter, Facebook or in your comment section. Visit Stacy at her About Me.

C. Hope Clark wrote in her Volume 11, Issue 34 of the FFW Small Markets about Twitter:

“As I recently told my Twitter friends: Become someone worth knowing. Then your book will become something worth buying.”  -Hope Clark

Photo Credit – Tracy S. Williams


Filed under Blogging, Guest Writers & Bloggers, Kid Stuff & Children's Books