Night Buddies - Adventures After Lights Out

You’re Not In It Alone: A Message to Single Parents

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Regular readers of this blog may well know, I raised my son John as a single father. While the memories I have of our time together while he was growing up are special, I know there were as many difficult times as there were wonderful ones.

An article about Kate Middleton, British royalty and mother of (soon-to-be) three, came out on SimpleMost the other day, where she shares this thought on parenting.

“As a mother, just getting used to leaving my own child at the school gates, it is clear to me that it takes a whole community to help raise a child. Whether we are school leavers, teachers, support staff or parents we are all in this together.”  (more…)


Why You Should Attend the Single Parenting Summit

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It’s no secret that I raised my son John as a single parent. What you might not know, however, was how difficult that journey was. Raising children is a huge responsibility that can keep you up at night, wondering if you’re doing everything right—and when you are in the position of raising children without a partner, those anxieties only become harder to manage.

Enter the Single Parenting Summit, put on this year by EverGreen Ministries in Hudsonville, MI. It is the first event aimed at helping single mothers and fathers navigate the challenge of raising children on their own, as well as offers programs for community leaders (like pastors) learn how to support the single parents in their circle. (more…)


4 Ways to Give Your Kids the Best Summer Break!

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It’s finally here! After we’ve all come back from our Memorial Day weekends, the reality of summer break has finally hit. But as exciting as the prospect of two summer months to fill with fun and relaxation can be for kids, it can be difficult on parents to strike the balance of giving your kids an amazing summer break, while still needing to take care of your other responsibilities. Luckily, there’s a way to do both. Here are some tips on how to do so!

Look into summer camps. When you can’t afford to take a vacation yourself, it can be best to let your kid have a fun getaway on their own with a reputable summer camp! You can choose one according to location, interest (dance camps, band camps, Christian camps, etc.), or based on which camp their friends are attending. This will allow your kids to learn independence being away from their parents, give them a fun vacation in a new area they’ve never explored, and allow them to make new friends! And it also gives you a week or two (however long the camp goes on for) to have a kids-free staycation of your own.

Look into day camps. If it isn’t financially feasible for you to send your kids to overnight camps, day camp is a great option! A lot of times local churches, YMCAs, or other community organizations will host day camps throughout the summer where kids can stay entertained and make new friends while you have to spend a day working, or running errands. Save them some boredom, and you some time!

Plan local day trips on weekends. And let your kids help choose the location! Maybe you go to a local park for a picnic and games, or to the next town over for your favorite lunch spot. If you live by water parks or the beach, pick a day to take a trip over there. Whatever you decide to do, it will give your kids something to look forward to during the slower weeks at home when you have responsibilities to take care of.

Make sure they spend some time OFF of their screens! It’s so easy to let your kids plop down in front of the television or their video games when you need them to be entertained, but those memories aren’t going to last all their lives. Try to get them to spend an hour outside in the sun, whether they walk the dog around your neighborhood or play in the sprinklers in your yard. And make sure to remind them that reading is always a great way to stay entertained when they complain about being bored!

What are some of the things you remember doing during your summer breaks as a kid? Let me know in the comments!


Why Your Local Library is the Perfect Summer Hangout

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It’s official . . . school is out for the summer! While your child is probably jumping for joy at the idea of spending an entire season away from classrooms, homework, and early mornings, us parents tend to have a few more hesitations during this long break. How do we keep our children busy? How will we afford to keep them entertained? When are we going to get all of our work done? (A hard enough task for stay-at-home parents when school is in session!)

The best answer to all of these questions? Make the local library your regular summer hangout spot. Here’s why:


Libraries are free entertainment. You’ll get yourself and your children out of the house when they’re going stir-crazy, there are usually summer programs like shows and games for kids during the summer months, and there’s an endless supply of free reading material to keep your kids from watching too much television! Added bonus—when it’s time to head home, you get to take the entertainment with you for free.

Libraries provide an environment for you to work in while your children are being entertained. Pick a nice desk close to the children’s area, set up your laptop, and you’ll be good to go. During those performances or game hours, you’ll be free to enjoy an uninterrupted, quiet hour of work or writing. Added bonus—you won’t have to pay for a babysitter since you’ll always only be a few feet away from your kids!

Libraries are air-conditioned. Save some money on your electricity bill and escape the summer heat in the library. Added bonus—for some reason, every library I go to ends up feeling cooler than my own house!

You’ll be helping your kids progress their reading skills even during their time-off. Chances are, your kids won’t want to feel like they’re doing homework over the summer; they’ve had enough of logging their silent reading hours and writing book reports. But when you enter them into library contests and they end up reading multiple books in a week hoping to win prizes, they’ll be learning just as much as they did in school and will be prepared to enter their next school year. Added bonus—you’re helping them learn without hearing complaints!

So there you have it! The next time your kids are feeling bored with their summer vacation, take them down to your local library. It’s the perfect place for kids and parents to spend their time.

When was the last time you visited your local library? Let me know in the comments below!

P.S. I want to thank everyone who entered in my Amazon giveaway last week. There were so many entries that the giveaway ended the same day it began; it blew me away! Be sure to stay tuned on my Twitter page for more information about future contests!




Taking a Time-Out: Why Fathers Need to Value Their Personal Time

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It’s time to admit it to yourself . . . you need a break.


But why is it so hard for men, fathers in particular, to vocalize their need to step back for a bit and spend some time—whether it be a day, or even an hour—focusing on rejuvenating themselves with some personal time? And I don’t mean time to drop your kid off at daycare to spend working, writing (if your work is writing), or taking care of bills and housework, but actual time to relax and refresh.

Writing a book, being a single parent, and making a living for one’s family is enough to burn out the Energizer bunny, and yet when put in that position some men don’t feel comfortable admitting they need some time off. Stay-at-home fatherhood is still not widely recognized as acceptable in our society, and it’s taken for granted that men should be able to work and parent simultaneously, with no complaint. There are all kinds of studies out there showing how working mothers are affected by the stress of mothering and working full-time, but I’ve found none that accurately do the same for working fathers.

Well, as a single father who also worked full-time, I can tell you that getting burned out is something that happens overwhelmingly and often when you don’t fit personal time into your schedule. It’s time we stand up for ourselves, even if that just means unapologetically taking care of ourselves.

When you feel close to your breaking point, it is a favor to yourself, your child, and your work to get away for a time, go see a movie by yourself, go fishing, zone out to your favorite Netflix show . . . anything that allows you to rest your brain, rest your body, and feel refreshed enough to go back and conquer your very hectic schedule with patience and grace. I found that for me, personally, finding time to read every day, even if it’s only for an hour or so, helps me focus on the other pieces of my schedule more clearly.

My point is, don’t be afraid of calling time-out—you’ll be better off for it.

Do you ever struggle trying to balance all the areas of your life? What’s your favorite “time-out” activity? Let me know in the comments below!


A Single Dad’s Memoir

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It was a terrible shock when my ex-wife first told me that she was going to be moving away and taking our son John with her. I did everything I could to talk her out of leaving, especially since this was at a time when mothers were usually always granted custody by the courts, but when we ended up going through the long, bitter legal process I was the one who was granted full custody of our son.

So there I was.  And, as strange as it may sound, single parenthood ended up seeming perfectly normal to me.  Maybe it’s different if you have several kids, but I had just one boy and ample time to spend on him—on us, I should say, because we did everything together. It was the most fun time I’ve had as an adult.  Spending time with John took me back to feeling like a kid again, but with an adult’s powers and privileges. I was like a vicarious kid on steroids.

We drove through forty-nine states and five Canadian provinces.  Our main travel thing was collecting waterfalls.  I’m fairly sure we saw every notable waterfall in North Carolina, not to mention every great one in North America. We did all of the father-son activities: little-league football, basketball, baseball, boxing, boating, golf, and camping.  We got Henry, a Saint Bernard puppy.  I loved every minute of the whole business (except getting him to practice piano, which I must say was a grinding experience).  I had to show John a good life, of course, and it certainly redounded to a great experience for me.

I fell into my present vocation as a children’s book author from all of this parenting.  I always read to John at bedtime, until he was about fourteen.  Listen, parents, you’ve got to do this!  I read him everything there was for kids, from Grimm and Tolkien and Dahl, up into Dickens and Victor Hugo.  One night when I was done reading (he was about seven), I may have suggested he make up a companion to go off to sleep with—or maybe he did it on his own.  The next day, anyhow, he introduced me to Crosley, his imaginary red crocodile friend.  I was duly charmed, and after that we started throwing Crosley ideas around at bedtime and inventing episodes for him.  This went on for over a year, and eventually I decided to put Crosley and John into a story.  As soon as I figured out why Crosley was red, everything fell into place.  (He was allergic to water!) In fact, if you look into the books, you can meet my son John when he was about nine or ten.  He’s the narrator.

Sands and his now grown son, John.

Sands and his now grown son, John.

With two titles in the Night Buddies series now (a third title will launch in early 2015) and seven national awards won so far, I’m proud to look back on what my son and I created together. Raising John by myself turned out to be quite a journey, but I think we’re both pretty happy with where we’ve ended up because of it.

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What is Ol'Sands Up To?

Sands talks about the origin of the Night Buddies Adventures Series.