Quick “Caught My Eye” Update

August 7, 2016 @ 9:51 am | Filed under: Links


Just discovered that the Diigo extension I use to collect the links and post excerpts that appear in my sidebar under “Caught My Eye” has been broken for…I have no idea how long. A while, judging from the date on the link at the top of the list. Whoops. It’s fixed now, in theory. Sorry about that!

By the way, if you like the links I share and would prefer to see them in a newsletter format, I use paper.li to pour them into a weekly newsletter template which you can view on the web or receive via email. It’s called Melissa Wiley’s Rabbit Trail and it contains links to the same articles I share in the sidebar and on Twitter—basically just one more vehicle for sharing curated links. Note: my paper.li contains ads because I only use the free version. New editions come out on Mondays.

Another note: the paper.li newsletter is not the same as my semi-occasional author newsletter, which I haven’t sent out in a long while. That one, which I call my Bookletter, is a Mailchimp subscription and contains totally different content (original, not curated). I’ve been meaning to dust it off, but you know…priorities. 🙂

If you need some creative inspiration this month

August 5, 2016 @ 4:00 pm | Filed under: Art

August Daily Drawing Challenge: 31 Art Journal Prompts with Dawn Sokol at CreativeBug. Dawn’s Art Journaling class was what kickstarted my daily sketching habit two years ago this month. (!) This “31 Prompts” is a new class that looks like a good time. A CreativeBug subscription is $4.95/month, which I think is a pretty great deal for the huge array of courses that gives you access to. Rilla, Beanie, and I manage to wring every penny and then some out of our subscription.

(Affiliate link, but I’m also a happy subscriber. I recently took and quite enjoyed Intuitive Painting with Flora Bowley. Other favorites are Creative Doodling with Pam Garrison, Daily Painting Challenge with Augustwren who happens to be one of my favorite Instagrammers, and anything taught by Lisa Congdon.)


Creative Lettering with Andrea Joseph at Sketchbook Skool. Andrea’s week in Sketchbook Skool’s Seeing “kourse” is one of my three favorite sets of lessons in the entire SBS lineup. I love, love, love her art and her mellow approach to teaching. And the way her sketchbook pages are an interplay of words and images is tremendously appealing to me. I also really resonated with a comment she made in one of her zines about how she has always had several “handwritings”—me too! Me too! I never could commit to a single style of R or F. So the idea of a whole course devoted to this subject has me pretty giddy, I must say.


(Not an affiliate—just a huge fan of Andrea Joseph and Sketchbook Skool!)


Assorted Friday notes

August 5, 2016 @ 1:18 pm | Filed under: Books, Family, Fun Learning Stuff, Periscope, These People Crack Me Up

I did a Periscope yesterday on a topic that had been requested by a Brave Writer mom: How I make time to pursue my own interests and hobbies while homeschooling, writing, juggling doctor appointments, etc. Great topic!! Had a lot of fun with this discussion.

And here’s the book I mentioned in the scope: Dear Committee Members by Julie Schumacher. As I said, this was my second time reading it, so you know it was enjoyable. A comic yet touching epistolary novel in the voice of a beleaguered, earnest, overly frank, romantically inept English professor at a second-tier university. Now, you know I’m a sucker for an epistolary novel! This one’s academia setting gives it a unique flavor. You’ll never read letters of recommendation like these in the real world (alas).


What’s happening in my house today:


Receiving a fax from Grandma and Grandpa. Today’s lesson in technology brought to you by 1992. (I’m amazed the thing still works!) Huck really wanted to reply by putting his piggy bank through. Perhaps we’re still a tad fuzzy on how the tech works. (Let’s face it, it always seemed like magic to me.)


This one’s for Emily:


My “things that influenced my homeschooling style” slide from the Brave Writer Retreat.



In which I pluck a lot of photos off Facebook

August 4, 2016 @ 4:35 pm | Filed under: Photos

July hobo page

Argh, Facebook, Facebook. You make it so darn easy for me to slap up a photo or funny kid quip, and then a year from now I’ll be sad I didn’t preserve those memories here. I was looking for a conversation today and found myself scrolling through dozens of moments I’d shared there…instead of here.

Clearly I need to cultivate (re-cultivate) the habit of—at the very least—reposting those moments here every couple of weeks. For me, for my own future enjoyment. But also for the family, and for my bloggity friends who eschew Facebook. After all, this intense life-sharing I do started here, didn’t it?

Okay so here’s a WHOLE BUNCH OF STUFF from July.

Brave Writer Retreat — Photos and Links

Official recap post on Brave Writer Blog (featuring video of Julie Bogart & me hamming it up in a lip-synch performance of “Home” from The Wiz—one of my favorite musical theater songs OF ALL TIME)

Link to my own Retreat recap on Periscope

13669450_10153697908421596_3953756287467637556_o Pretending to be on the set of Between Two Ferns



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Retreat slide show on Youtube


High School Reunion


The three blind mice, reunited








reunion bbq

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And other assorted things I posted

floofy hair

Found in my old room: this page from an issue of Young Miss magazine circa 1985 of the haircut I longed for in my post-Oliver (as in the musical, as in I’d Do Anything for this role including chop off all my hair) days. By the time that awful cut was grown out, this puffy ‘do was no longer in style. Didn’t stop me from sighing over the photo anyway.


Attention Scott Peterson: Your 10yo daughter is listening to Wildfire. WHAT HAVE YOU WROUGHT?


Last month we learned that Wonderboy’s cerebral palsy qualifies him for a lifetime family membership at the San Diego County YMCA through the Challenged Athletes Foundation. *Family* meaning every single one of us. When they handed me my membership card today with that little word “lifetime” at the bottom, I suddenly had something in my eye. A lot of happy somethings. Because “lifetime family membership” has many layers of meaning in this context.


SDCC recovery plan: Naruko sheet mask + @WestWingWeekly podcast.


Using my phone camera as a mirror just now & found myself attempting to expand my own face into close-up view. AS IN I SWIPED MY ACTUAL FACE

Aquarium Hijinks

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pink jellyfish white jellyfish boys and ocean view

And last (but definitely not least), a poem by one of my poetry students:


Especially Pete!

Hashtag: priorities

August 2, 2016 @ 2:27 pm | Filed under: Assorted and Sundry, Family

you sank my battleship

So. August. I spent yesterday recovering from a month of late nights and shifting time zones. This morning it was back to work. Still high summer (low tide) for the kids, but mama’s got a pile of Stuff to Do.

—Submit last month’s invoice for grantwriting gig, check.

—Purchase cleats & shin guards for the kid starting soccer, check.

—Take different kid to pick up her new glasses, check.

—Send note to lit class students about which edition of Beowulf to get, check. (The Heaney translation, naturally.)

—Develop map of suggested smaller project area for county-level grant application in case bigger project doesn’t get funded by the state, check.

—Start working through six weeks of email and FB messages…semi-check?

—Edit articles for side-gig…to be checked.

—Dive into fun new research for other side-gig, check pending.

—Finish picture book manuscript as promised to agent weeks ago, um, does ‘intense desire to check’ count? Yeah, no, I didn’t think so.

—Crank away on Novel Revision With September Deadline: whimper.

—Lose game of Battleship to 7yo: CHECK CHECK CHECK.

My Family’s Skin Care Secret Weapon

July 27, 2016 @ 5:43 pm | Filed under: Skin Care, Sunscreen

pc resist cellular defenseAs promised: my epic skin care post!

First: a quick sunscreen update: despite my previous post, I find I’m still reaching for the Paula’s Choice Resist Cellular Defense most mornings. I just like it so much more than anything else I’ve tried. I do choose the PC Skin Recovery kind if I’m going to spend a lot of time outdoors, since I feel better protected with its combination of zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. And I tested (on my arms only, not face) samples of the Biore Watery Essence and Biore Watery Gel I talked about in that post. Honestly, I can’t tell much difference between them. They both have a pleasant citrusy scent which fades quickly after application. They offer excellent UVA and UVB protection, but they do contain quite a bit of alcohol and that tends to dry me out. Plus they’re chemical sunscreens, not physical. I guess the bottom line is, they don’t check enough of my boxes. I can see keeping them around for arms and legs, though.

Other people gave lots of good recommendations in the comments of last month’s post, so if you’re hunting, check them out.


I’ve learned a lot about skin care in the past few months. Several members of my family suffer from an extreme dry skin condition. It isn’t eczema; it isn’t psoriasis; it’s a diagnosed condition with a long name, and what it means is: their skin doesn’t produce enough oil and is seriously, even painfully dry. Many doctors have recommended treatments over the years. Nothing worked. Neither did natural remedies such as coconut oil. If you’re tempted to suggest it, odds are that we tried it. It has been a long and frustrating journey.

But suddenly, things have changed. Like: massively changed. What happened is: during my sunscreen research, I got sucked into the fascinating world of Asian Beauty forums, and I. have. learned. so. much. While Western cosmetic science focuses on makeup, Korea and Japan tend to put their research funding toward skin.  Conventional wisdom says Korean skin science is about ten years ahead of American.

As a result of my skin-science reading binge, the most game-changing element for me was the realization that the various products our pediatricians have recommended over the years might have worked if we’d known to layer them. Frankly, I’m a little frustrated with the dermatology department at our local children’s hospital. One year: “Use this!” The next appointment: “Hmm, okay try this instead.” “Still no better? Honestly, we’re stumped.” (That is a paraphrase but just barely.)

I’ll skip the narrative and cut to the point: I realized that we needed not one treatment but a variety of them, in layers, used consistently.

  1. A gentle chemical exfoliant to remove dead skin cells;
  2. A humectant to hydrate the skin (and this is where our newly embraced secret weapon comes in; see below);
  3. A moisturizer containing lipids and ceramides to restore oil to the skin (just as Step 2 restores water); and
  4. An emollient to seal in all this nourishing oil and water (when weather permits).

If you’re at all familiar with the Korean approach to skin care, you know that layering is a key aspect: combining different products that do different jobs. This can involve many, many steps (and products), or just a few. The basic elements are: cleansing; actives (such as the chemical exfoliants I mentioned in our Step 1; more on that in a minute); toners and essences; serums and ampoules; moisturizers; sunscreen. For a more thorough explanation, see this post by Tracy of Fanserviced-B. What I’m talking about in this post is a subset of the above—you’ll note that the Very Important cleansing and sunscreen steps are not included in my little list up there.

My steps 1-4 up there refer specifically to treating my kids’ super-dry arms and legs. Their skin needs oil, and it needs water. For years, we have tried doggedly to make that happen from within, through diet—and, as I said, from without, via the treatments our doctors have recommended over the years. But trust me when I say that nothing made much difference. Dry, prickly, bumpy skin that stung in hot weather.

But now, just as summer rolls in (note: I started this post a month ago!), it’s gone. It’s healing. It’s comfortable skinI’m overjoyed for them.


Step 1. Exfoliate.


Physical exfoliants are things like scrubs and pastes. The gritty elements may be sugar, salt, microbeads (ugh), or ground up husks of various sorts. Most scrubs are too harsh for my kids’ delicate skin (and too harsh for your face too, so be cautious). However, a gentle sugar scrub can be useful if you have a lot of hard, dead skin to slough off. You can make one with olive or coconut oil and sugar. (Some people find coconut oil irritates their skin, so patch test your recipes.)

Chemical exfoliants use gentle acids such as lactic acid and glycolic acid (AHAs) or salicylic acid (BHA) to break down and remove dead skin. Many facial products contain these alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids as well. For example, the well known Stridex pads in the red box contain BHA. Your favorite foot cream may well contain an AHA.

(I rewatched Mean Girls recently and got a big laugh out of the scene when Cady and Janice spike evil Regina’s face cream with foot lotion. Their secret plan to wreck her complexion comes to naught—possibly because the AHA in that foot lotion would actually be great for Regina’s face.)

mean girls 1 mean girls skin care

(Peppermint, though. Not great on the face.)

pcAHA5For years (on and off), I have used a 5% AHA treatment from Paula’s Choice for exfoliating my face. I love this product. Quite gentle but very effective. I find that every-other-day usage is the right amount for my skin; more than that and I start to show the telltale signs of overexfoliation: red, tight, shiny skin (for me it’s always right beside my nose). I learned quickly to pace it correctly. Other people have good effects with daily usage and even stronger percentages of AHA.

*Note on Paula’s Choice links: these are not affiliate links, but if you are a first-time customer, you can use my Refer-a-Friend code and both of us will get a $10 reward coupon. Amazon links in this post are affiliate links.


Another reason the Mean Girls foot lotion made me smile was because a certain brand of foot lotion was one of the products urged upon us by a dermatologist some years back. If that doctor had encouraged us to follow it with the darn-near miracle product coming in Step 2, and then to follow that with a good moisturizer, we might have gotten somewhere. But nope. But that foot lotion did contain an AHA which helped with exfoliation.

Another oft-recommended treatment was Amlactin. As the name suggests, it contains lactic acid—one of the gentlest AHAs. The kids always said it stung and they dreaded having to put it on. Again, I now believe that was due in part to its being used solo. Steps 2-4 would have helped enormously.

For my kids’ dry skin, what I’m using now for Step 1 is (on alternate nights):

PC Resist AHA Body Lotion

Paula’s Choice Resist 10% AHA Body Lotion

Cerave Skin Renewing Lotion with BHA

Eventually we will cut this down to a single exfoliant product, probably the Cerave because it’s more affordable and I love the formulation. Lots of ceramides to repair the skin barrier. Also, the Paula’s Choice AHA smells a wee bit vinegary. (Common for AHA products. The 5% face stuff above smells more like citrus than vinegar to me and I don’t mind it at all.)


Step 2: Hydrate.


(Cue trumpets, because this is the product that deserves some serious fanfare.)

Hada Labo Rohto Gokujyun Hyaluronic Acid Lotion.

Hyaluronic acid is the bomb, you guys. You’ll find it in a number of creams and lotions, and Paula’s Choice even sells it as a booster serum that you can add to your favorite product.

The Asian beauty forums are filled with paeans to the Hada Labo lotion, and for good reason. This is an affordable product ($12 on Amazon Prime) that hydrates like nothing I’ve ever seen. A little goes a long way, so a bottle lasts a long time. The consistency is not what Americans typically consider lotion—it’s thin and slippery, like a really really watery serum. Sort of. I squeeze a few drops, no more, into my hand and it slides on like water. Delicious. It leaves your skin feeling a tiny bit sticky at first and then soaks in, leaving you nice and smooth.

My kids’ dry skin LOVES this stuff. We now have bottles in each bathroom and apply it immediately after showers. And again at night after the exfoliating lotions, before moisturizing.

Game. Changer.

(Worth noting: there is a “Premium” version of this lotion which is supposed to be even more hydrating. We haven’t tried it yet. Hada Labo also sells a “Shirojyun” lotion which contains arbutin for brightening—which is often described as “whitening” (ugh) on Korean skin care products (although it’s about improving skin tone, not bleaching skin—perish the thought). Arbutin freaks me out, so if you’re wanting the hydrating product, be sure to look for Gokujyun, not Shirojyun.)

(Another note: I like to use a couple drops of Hada Labo Gokujyun Lotion on my face in the morning mixed with two drops of Vitamin C booster as a nourishing serum to follow my hydrating toner—but that takes us into my personal skin care routine, which is a WHOLE OTHER SUBJECT.  A subject with layers. Many layers. And weird stuff like snail mucin (I know, I know) and propolis. Not to mention sheet masks. I do love me some skin care!)


Step 3: Moisturize. 


This step is all about lipids and rich, nourishing ingredients. And I mean, this is the step I’ve excelled at, all these years. Hail to the rich, thick moisturizer! Aveeno oatmeal lotion was recommended to us early on, and it is excellent stuff; it was our family staple for many years. It just wasn’t enough alone.

What we like these days is Cerave-in-the-tub (or “Tubby,” as my children are wont to call it). As you can see on the label, it contains ceramides and—ding ding ding!—hyaluronic acid. It is gorgeously rich and creamy. It looks like something you’d like a dollop of on your bowl of strawberries. It soaks in quickly and doesn’t leave a film. I now use the Hada Labo Lotion / Cerave-in-the-tub combo myself every morning.

Cerave sells a thinner, pump-lotion version of this product as well, which some people prefer because sticking fingers into a tub can be unsanitary. Other folks use a cosmetic spatula instead of dipping fingers. I’ll admit that we are not that fastidious here. We just make sure to wash our hands before dipping in. (You can also find the tub with a pump on it, but I haven’t tried that.)


Step 4: Seal in all the goodness.


Emollients are thicker products made to form a kind of seal or barrier on the skin, keeping moisture in. The most common emollient is probably petroleum jelly. Aquaphor and Eucerin sell popular emollient moisturizers. And there’s Vaseline, of course. But all these products can leave you feeling greasy. We have found the Cerave Healing Ointment to be less greasy—at least until our weather really warmed up. The kids have to skip that step now. It’s a lot less necessary, now that their moisture barrier has healed and their skin is—I can hardly believe it—truly healthy.

These four steps got us to a comfortable place. I think they can cut back on the exfoliants now, going to a few times a week. Steps 2 and 3 are the long-term workhorses. We’ll resume Step 4 when the weather turns again, as needed.

Doctors are great, seriously

Modern medicine has saved the lives of more than one of my children. I don’t mean to drag on doctors, not at all. But I’ve been navigating the system for twenty years now, and, well, sometimes I’ve had to find solutions outside it. If all the different treatments recommended by my kids’ dermatologists over the years had been bundled together (along with a bottle of Hada Labo), we’d have arrived at the Land of Happy Skin much, much sooner. I’m just glad we’re there now.


inch and roly

Related: my ongoing sunscreen saga


July 26, 2016 @ 6:20 pm | Filed under: Photos, SDCC

Comic-Con was great. I am wiped out.

(A very short story, The End.)

Here: a few thousand more words.


Lunch with Jock and Lee

Alice cosplay

Jenni, Raina, Lissa

Kidlit geniuses

me and the girls

Top of the Hyatt

SDCC Fitbit stats

Huck falls asleep reading Nursery Rhyme Comics

Tomorrow: a return to Regularly Scheduled Life.

Kids’ Comics and Graphic Novel Recommendations

July 19, 2016 @ 10:06 am | Filed under: Books, Comics

The recommendations in this post also appear on my Brave Writer Retreat Resources page, which includes books and materials mentioned in my other talks at the Retreat (Tidal Homeschooling and Read-Alouds).


The following comics and graphic novels are recommendations from my “Comics Make You Smart” talk, presented at the Brave Writer Retreat in July, 2016.

Part of this talk was broadcast on Periscopeyou can view it here. Note: For now, what follows is simply a booklist—no mini-reviews. I’ll add those as time permits. I promised the retreat attendees I’d put together a post of all the comics I mentioned in my talk, so here it is for easy reference. Commentary to come later!


Gotham Adventures by Scott Peterson (my brilliant hubby)—Batman comics aimed at young readers. These came out monthly in the ’90s and are now available in digital editions. (The books at this link that say “by Ty Templeton” were edited by Scott; the others were written by him.)


Brave Writer Retreat Recap on Periscope

July 18, 2016 @ 4:14 pm | Filed under: Periscope, SDCC

Brave Writer Retreat Recap on Periscope

Okay, first things first! Here’s the link to my Brave Writer Retreat Resources page that I mentioned in the Periscope I just finished. I’m still adding links and books to this page—things that came up in the course of our discussions at the BW Retreat. For some reason the comments are broken on it, but you can leave questions here on the blog, or ping me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.

I just finished a scope on the glorious time I had at the retreat, which you can view here: Popping on Periscope after a long hiatus and invigorating Brave Writer Retreat.  I’m listening to the replay right now and it seems to be a bit spotty—some gaps in the recording here and there? Not sure what’s up with that. But you’ll get the gist. 🙂 And as usual we veered down a lot of rabbit trails. Scrivener, Hobonichi, Gotham Adventures, loads of things.

After SDCC, I’ll get myself back into a regular Periscope habit (and I think it’ll be fun to do some scoping from Comic-Con itself!). So many good topics and questions came up during the retreat, things like building habits and read-aloud strategies and comics suggestions and “towooshuns”—tons of juicy stuff I’d like to address both here and on Periscope. So stay tuned for that. I’ve returned from Cincinnati rejuvenated and eager to talk more about Tidal Homeschooling and comics and kidlit and habits and, oh, everything!

Things I mentioned in the ‘scope:

Scott’s Gotham Adventures books



Hobonichi Cousin (my planner)

Wild Simplicity Daybook (here’s a post I wrote about it)

Midori Traveler’s Notebook (featured in my Planner Love post)