Little but Mighty

From BlogPics 2
From BlogPics 2

Mabel hugging her computer teacher.

Last Friday we got a phone call from Mabel’s school, telling us she’d won a prize in a book-writing contest, and inviting us to an assembly this morning (Monday morning) where she’d receive her award. We were asked to keep it a secret from Mabel.

This morning Mabel argued mightily with me when I wanted her to change from her black pants into clean ones. Her black ones were covered with sidewalk chalk from her driveway art projects this weekend. (On Friday, she’d rubbed her fingers raw blending colors and hadn’t noticed until she was in a lot of pain. After that, at my suggestion she used an old rag for blending.) She said they were her only comfortable pants and that no one at school cared if she were wearing dirty pants, that it wasn’t like her teacher would send her home to change, and that I was just making her wear clean clothes because of “fear of man.” This is her favorite argument lately when, for example, we want to clean the house before the babysitters come. I had told the kids that I like the scripture Isaiah 2:22, “Cease ye from man, whose breath is in his nostrils: for wherein is he to be accounted of?” I had explained that I love the image that humans are so frail that we depend on a simple thing like breathing just to survive, and that it shows we shouldn’t be concerned about what people think or be afraid of people, but should care more what God thinks, who provides us our daily breath and everything else that we have. So Mabel has thrown that back on Dean and me, telling us that we only care about things like a clean house and clean clothing because we’re afraid of what people think. I was stumped by this one for a little while, but I’m not the mother of this little lawyer for nothing — eventually I came up with the response that we clean our home or wear clean clothes out of love and respect for others, to make things pleasant for them, and for ourselves so we can feel the Holy Ghost in our home. I also said that doing things for others is the same as doing them for Jesus. She said, “If you had a new baby and hadn’t had time to clean your house, Jesus wouldn’t be mad at you about it.” I said, “That’s true, but if I knew ahead of time that Jesus were coming to my house, I would want to clean it first.”

Anyway, this morning I did eventually get her to change into clean pants, while she continued muttering about fear of man under her breath.

Mabel saw us arrive at the school when her class was filing into the auditorium for the assembly, so she must have known something was up. Also, a screen from a laptop was being projected and she noticed the name of her book, “The Purple Kitten,” so her curiosity (and probably her hopes) were further piqued.

First it was announced that another kid got an honorable mention prize of “not ten, not twenty, not thirty, not forty, but FIFTY dollars.” Next they announced Mabel’s prize: “Not one hundred, not two hundred . . . ” She’d won first place in her age category in a contest sponsored by “Mighty Authors,” and the prize was $500.00. Mighty Authors is a program being promoted in schools, which kids can use to write stories and order real, published books of them. It’s a fairly new company, but there were still 650 other entrants in the contest. The president of the company, who had come to give Mabel her check in person, told us afterward that Mabel had accidentally checked the boxes for both age categories when she entered the contest, and the judges had to call the school to see what age Mabel was because (since the text was typed,) they thought her story could have been written by a teenager. Mabel’s story will be on the Mighty Authors website, and I’ll of course be sure to link to it once it’s up. After she pays tithing, I think we’ll encourage her to use part of her prize money to order copies of her story for friends and family, and we think she’ll also want to spend some of it for a pet hedgehog and its cage and food. According to our family’s rule, she’ll also have to put half the money into long-term savings. (Isaac is going to be very jealous of Mabel’s windfall, I think. He did win $30 in the regional science fair (and we didn’t even make him put half into savings,) but $500.00 is a whole lot of money for a kid. Or for a grown-up, for that matter.)

Here’s another of Mabel’s stories. She got inspired to do this one when Ike was working on a pop-up book report, and she whipped this out for Rose and Henry.

The Little Puppy

From BlogPics 2

Once upon a time, there was a little puppy who lived with his mom. But he was very sad. He didn’t want to be a puppy. He wanted to be a different animal.

From BlogPics 2

One day he went looking for a new animal to be when he bumped into a duck. “Can I be a duck with you?” he asked. “Sure!” the duck said. “But you have to learn to sit on a nest.” The puppy tried. It was lumpy and scratchy. It was too hard. He looked for something else.

From BlogPics 2

He went walking and met a cat. “Can I be a cat?” he asked. “Sure! But you need to learn to climb a tree,” said the cat. He tried, but he couldn’t. He looked for a different animal.

From BlogPics 2

Then the puppy met an alligator. “If you want to be an alligator, count my teeth,” he said. He opened his mouth wide and the puppy started counting. Then the alligator tried to eat him! He barked loudly and ran home very fast.

From BlogPics 2

From that day forward, the little puppy decided that he wanted to be a PUPPY! THE END

Rose comments, “My favorite part is when the puppy decides to be himself. I love that ending.”

This entry was posted in Creative miscellany, My kids actually are funny (and sweet and wonderful). Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Little but Mighty

  1. Lis says:

    That is great! I’m excited to read her winning story.

  2. TARA says:

    Zina, that is awesome! I’m so glad you share stuff like this with us. Congrats to Mabel! I love her story and can’t wait to see her winning story once you get the link up.

  3. Erin says:

    What an exciting experience for Mabel! And I love the pop-up book too.

  4. Thora says:

    Wow, $500 at her age for a prize is a lot. I think Mabel’s pop -up book is as good as any I see published! So all this makes me curious about your vacillating earlier about putting her in the advanced program or not? Obviously it’s not her abilities that are in questions.

  5. I love the argument of fear of man. That is fabulous. What a smart child. Maybe I will start to use that as another justification in my life. I always am looking for more material. Congratulations Mabel!

  6. Mrs. Organic says:

    That is fantastic, she’s so creative! And I love her using scripture to back up her logic.

  7. Jason says:

    I would buy and read and re-read a dozen such storybooks. I almost wish your kids were older than mine so mine could have enjoyed Mabel’s products as little uns.

  8. Melanie J says:

    I remember being a budding writer at her age, and I have to tell you…this is going to become a life defining moment for her, I think. This is an incredible experience for her to have. Yay, Mabel!

  9. Lili says:

    Thoughts I had as I read this:
    I’m pretty sure Mabel is going to change the world.
    Oh. And also
    ‘Fear of Men!?’ I don’t think I even knew what that was until I was 13… not to mention did I ever have that kind of erm, whatever-it-is to challenge my mother in such a way.
    Oh Mabel Mabel Mabel.
    CONGRATULATIONS on your story! We all knew you were incredibly creative at anything you attempt, but it’s nice that other people recognize it, too!

  10. zstitches says:

    Melanie, has that been an all-good thing for you? Sometimes I worry about the pressure on Mabel when so many of us think she will change the world — what if adult life won’t live up to her childhood glory days? Then again, she seems to have her feet on the ground. She said yesterday was the best day of her life, but that it was also stressful to have kids at her school pointing her out and congratulating her all day — at recess she even asked her friends to just play normally so she could calm down from such a thrill, but other kids kept interrupting her to relive the excitement vicariously.

  11. Amy says:

    We are thrilled for Mabel! I look forward to reading about the Purple Kitten. The Puppy illustrations are fabulous too! If she buys a hedgehog, there could be a whole series of hedgehog books! Imagine the possibilities!
    I still remember winning a contest as a third grader and my little book got put into circulation at my elementary school. It was an honor, though I wish I could’ve gotten my book back. Thanks for sharing the exciting news!

  12. Jessie. says:

    Mabel is such a smart, creative, and talented kid. I am duly impressed! Congratulations on her big win! That is certainly a lot of money and I hope she gets a few copies of her new book to pass around and a cute little hedgehog. That pop-up book of hers was so cute as well, it could definitely be published. There is definitely a little authoress in your midst!

  13. jenlinmin says:

    Wowza! I’ll be looking for her published works in about 10 years. Be sure to let us know if she decides to use a nom de plume, but I hope she’ll stick with Mabel Wheeler. I loved her name from the first time I heard it up at Smyth Fernwald (when was the last time you thought about that place?)

  14. There are so many parts of this story that are cool. Good for her, and what a smart little whipper-snapper she is. I LOVED the conversation between you and her about the cleaning the house. I know that my Women’s Conference post about home organizing was a little overwhelming, and I’m sorry about that, but you totally captured the main points when you talked to your daughter, and SHE was smart too about how he wouldn’t care. A great reminder that he IS totally more forgiving about that kind of stuff than we are with ourselves, and that we still try out of respect for Him. Loved it. Thanks.

  15. UnkieJas says:

    I’m moved by the pic of Mabel’s accepting your hug.

    Today I was pondering anew the Fear-of-Man thingie. Your sharp observations and quick comebacks to Mabel’s obvious ploy to get out of work 😛 address the fear-as-opposed-to-non-fear, which is a marvelous redirection. I love too that you don’t escalate Mabel’s dispute above the Playful mark on the Disputometer.

    However, the scriptural accusation is about fearing people’s punishments as opposed to God’s. You could also play with the spectrum between human and Godly concern. They aren’t always in opposition. For example, God uses us to bless each other.

    In The Case of the Messy House, you help God bless your guests by ordering and beautifying their environment. Cleaning the house can be like a prayer.

  16. the MomB says:

    Mabel is a good hugger, and she did hug her mom (as she often does), but that’s not her mom she’s hugging in the photo, it’s Mrs. Smith (oh wait, is that her name, Z?).
    I was surprised that watching Mabes win this award actually made me cry. It was pretty exciting! And I got a nice hug too.

  17. Jason says:


    I feel dreadfully stupid. Sorry, Zina.

  18. zstitches says:

    No harm done. I think Mrs. Smith’s and my backs have a fair amount of resemblance in a dark blurry grainy photo taken from a distance. (But when she turns around . . .)

  19. danithew says:

    Using an Isaiah scripture to propose that chores shouldn’t be so important – brilliant.

  20. Acheté says:

    Congratulations, Mabel! I love the puppy story. It could be published.

  21. OhSusanna says:

    Patrick says that once Mabel graduates from law school he would be happy to help her get a job.

  22. Emily Marble says:

    I found your blog through Lili Hall. She and I served in the same mission as well as another sister. It is her father and extended family that run the program, Mighty Authors. I just thought that was interesting. Didn’t know if Lili knew that or not. That is really cool about your daughter. Don’t worry I don’t plan on “staulking” your blog. I just followed the link Lili gave concerning your brother in boston.

  23. zstitches says:

    Interesting. One of the teachers said she’s taking a class from the guy who owns the company and she seemed to like him.

    If by stalking you mean reading my blog, I have no objections to that. I suppose there are some who set up blogs hoping no one will read them, but I’m among the significant majority who keeps a blog in the hopes of getting as much (positive) attention as possible, be it from complete strangers or next-of-kin.

  24. UnkieJas says:

    We’ll make you a deal, Z. If you keep your blog stocked, we’ll keep it stalked.

  25. UnkieJas says:

    Lately I’ve been trying to go deeper into some subjects for which there are Wikipedia articles or non-fiction works available.

    One of my customers today was named Ramona. In the spirit of my discipline, I was looking for a good biography of Beverly Cleary, one of my favorite (and probably yours) authors of children’s books.

    She has a memoir and obviously much of her work is autobiographical, but I didn’t find a biography as such. But I did find this:,Beverly.html

    I think you’ll find her locale and motives interesting. I also think Mabel might find her bio inspiring. I know I do.

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