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Dr. Seuss meets the CPSIA


Heather Idoni of the Homeschooler’s Notebook and BelovedBooks.com has exposed the folly of the CPSIA in a brilliant and humorous way—she Seussified it!

Heather says: 

    Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote children’s stories that were also often social commentary. Here is a great activity for creative students who love the style of Dr. Seuss. Pick a current event or controversy in the news today (ie: illegal aliens, health care, etc.) and write an imaginary story in classic Seuss style!
    I have chosen to write a story myself that demonstrates my strong feelings about a law I do not agree with — the CPSIA. You can read more about that law at the following links:

Not only will you love Heather’s Seussish spoof, you’ll be inspired to encourage your kids to write their own! 

Her story begins:

    In the town of Beddubble, far out on the Moor,
    there lived a small tot, who was not more than four.
    Little Annabelle Ruth (her close friends would recall)
    had swallowed the string off a dilly-dunk ball.
    And then in the Spring of two thousand and one,
    she died of the thing that the string must have done.
    They were sure of this fact, though the details were thin —
    “Something HAS to be done, we have GOT to begin!”
    Those dilly-dunk balls that tots spin on a string
    are quite dangerous toys — What a horrible thing! . . .

What fun! You can read the rest of Heather’s story here . . .  And I hope you take on the challenge to write your own social commentary—Dr. Seuss style!

CPSC issues temporary testing stay

abacusThe Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has just issued a temporary stay on the stringent testing and certification requirements for lead content in children’s products.

Temporary Relief 

“The stay of enforcement provides some temporary, limited relief to the crafters, children’s garment manufacturers and toy makers who had been subject to the testing and certification required under the CPSIA. These businesses will not need to issue certificates based on testing of their products until additional decisions are issued by the Commission. However, all businesses, including, but not limited to, handmade toy and apparel makers, crafters and home-based small businesses, must still be sure that their products conform to all safety standards and similar requirements, including the lead and phthalates provisions of the CPSIA. ”


Stringent Testing on Hold 

Under this stay, publishers and manufacturers won’t need to test any products or components that are certain not to contain lead. This is great news for publishers who print in the U.S., since lead-based inks are banned anyway. There is no need to test or certify.

If you’re a crafter, or if you sell garments, toys or kits containing components, you’ll only need to test those components that fall into the category of “questionable”—fake jewels, buttons, certain trims, metal zipper pulls, etc. Even so, simple XRF screening for lead will suffice for now. No need for the expensive, CPSC-authorized lab testing.

As my friend Kate pointed out, we’ve all been given a bit more time “to test, to lobby, to enact change, to appeal.” This isn’t a cure-all, but it sure does give some breathing room!

Roman coinsFor some crafters, most of the proposed amendments to the CPSIA won’t completely cover kits containing unique or one-of-a-kind items. Kate’s kits contain items like authentic ancient Roman coins. These “can’t be tested by the manufacturer . . . and each discrete unit is its own batch.”

Manufacturers also get a reprieve from ridiculous testing requirements. Take ordinary books, which don’t contain lead. At least for a year, a publisher won’t have to retest every time he prints more. And for products that aren’t quite so cut and dried, XRF testing will satisfy the need to know for the time being.

Penalties Still Apply

But we’d better know for sure, because even though CPSC put a stay on testing, “Manufacturers and importers – large and small – of children’s products . . . will need to meet the lead and phthalates limits, mandatory toy standards and other requirements.” So even though we don’t have to test, we remain responsible and accountable. The fines and other penalties still apply.

Small manufacturers and publishers are breathing a collective sigh of relief right now. Though there’s still work ahead of us, it’s gratifying to see that all the protesting, lobbying, and outcry over the CPSIA has not fallen on deaf ears. I, for one, am thankful that we’ve been given some time to keep the momentum going as we continue pushing for re-evaluation of the CPSIA.

Update: A few more reads on the subject

Stay, CPSIA! Stay! Good CPSIA.

Children’s Books Get One-Year Stay from Anti-Lead Law

Children’s product sellers get 1-year reprieve on lead testing

Lead rule shelved; Oklahoma libraries relieved


Practice with free writing: A rant against CPSIA

Last week, our guest blogger Kelly suggested free writing as a way to get ideas out onto paper. I found myself free writing yesterday as my frustration level with CPSIA mounted. After I posted my little rant on a publishers’ discussion forum, their enthusiastic response prompted me to share it with you too.

A Rant against CPSIA

After all is said and done, no one seems to know anything. The issues are as muddy or muddier than they were even two weeks ago.

Who is supposed to do what?
And by when?
What counts?
What doesn’t?
All of this?
Some of that?
This is exempt?
That isn’t?
Yes it is.
No, it’s not.
Test for lead.
Test for phthalates.
February 10.
August 12.
Expert X says blue.
Expert Y says Cincinnati.
Expert Z says yesterday.
No, mail letters.
No, send emails.
Here’s a petition.
Books don’t need to be tested.
Books need to be tested.
What’s a book?
It’ll blow over.
Manufacturers don’t know.
Retailers don’t know.
Resellers don’t know.
They amended the law.
The law was changed.
It can’t be enforced.
They’re not looking for the little guy.
They’re hiring more manpower to look for the little guy.
Never heard of this law.
Doesn’t apply to me.
No need to test.
Test new products.
Test old inventory.
Test all products.
If it was manufactured before November 2008, it’s exempt.
I don’t have to comply.
Do I have to comply?
How do I comply?
I’m compliant.
I’m exempt.

I’m tired!

Copyright © 2009 by Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
.  .  .  .  .

In the middle of this crazy whirlwind, I’m so grateful I can rest in the shadow of the Almighty, the author of order and peace. Praying you can too!

Congress bans kids from libraries?

Empty library shelvesThe spirit of the law and the letter of the law continue to clash as the February 10 date looms for the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA). The law, as it is now written, prohibits even the distribution of any product designed for children 12 and under.

Congress and/or the Consumer Product Safety Commission have to clarify—and soon—whether lending of books falls under the jurisdiction of the CPSIA.

The article quotes Emily Sheketoff of the American Library Association: “We are very busy trying to come up with a way to make it not apply to libraries,” said Sheketoff. But unless she succeeds in lobbying Capitol Hill for an exemption, she believes libraries have two choices under the CPSIA: “Either they take all the children’s books off the shelves,” she says, “or they ban children from the library.”

This begs the question: In addition to books, does the retroactive nature of the law mean that other items currently in classrooms, such as crayons, scissors—even photocopied worksheets—must be tested before they can be passed out to the children? The fuzzy language of the law is making this very difficult for anyone to clarify, and you’ll see from the article that, really, no one knows what to do.

Congress Bans Kids from Libraries?


Update 1/23/09: ALA: Consumer Product Safety Commission Still Dragging Its Feet On Book Ruling

CPSIA: What happens when the hammer falls?

 Books and gavel

As a writer/publisher of books for children and teens, I’m deeply troubled by the new Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act (CPSIA) and its far-reaching and impractical implications for anyone who markets to children 12 and under. And I’m certainly not alone. 

A whole lot of blogging energy is being expended—with the number of posts growing exponentially—on the subject of the CPSIA, whose great hammer will slam down on the multi-billion dollar children’s industry in one month.

Furthermore, as the mainstream media has (finally) gotten wind of all this, some excellent articles have begun to crop up online as well. Below are some links to informative articles, blogs, and correspondence that clearly articulate the devastating potential of CPSIA on small businesses (and on our already flailing economy).

WorldNetDaily: Is Feb. 10 financial doomsday for thousands?

The Homeschooler’s Notebook: The Sale of Children’s Books to Be Banned (includes links and calls to action)

Book Burning and CPSIA

Talking Points from Rick Woldenberg, Chairman, of Learning Resources, who has been championing this cause for some time now

Wall Street Journal: Vendors Urge Relaxed Lead-Safety Rule

Association of American Publishers’ letter to CPSC (AAP is fighting for an exemption for books and other paper products)

TheSmartMama.com updates her blog almost daily with the most current CPSIA news

 .  .  .  .  .

Feel free to comment and leave links to other helpful, informative articles and blogs.

CPSIA: Thoughts on the demise of the children’s cottage industry

Closed signFebruary 10, 2009, also known as National Bankruptcy Day. Have you heard of it? It’s the unfortunate result of the new CPSIA law requiring more stringent testing of children’s products for lead and phthalates.

Good Idea Gone Bad 

What started out as a well-meaning law to protect children under 13 has morphed into a potentially catastrophic economic disaster for America’s small businesses catering to kids: manufacturers; home-based businesses; crafters; small publishers; and proprietors of secondhand (thrift, antique, and book) stores.

This law is likely to shut the door on WAHMs, cottage industries, small publishers, and enterprising manufacturers nationwide because the method and cost of testing products for lead and phthalates is prohibitive for the small businessperson. This poorly crafted law not only impacts these businesses, but the millions of consumers who will have fewer choices at higher prices. In light of our current economic downturn, is this the year to:

  • Force thousands of small businesses to shut their doors?
  • Forbid struggling families from reselling used children’s clothing, toys, books, and furniture to help make ends meet? 
  • Bring to a screeching halt the services once provided by secondhand stores to put affordable products into the hands of those who choose to live frugally?
  • Put collectors and used-book stores out of business because they can’t buy or sell collectible antique toys or vintage children’s books anymore?

There are many concerns among children’s toy and clothing manufacturers about the effect that expensive mandatory testing will have on their businesses, and with good reason.

Farewell to Old Friends

We’re self-publishers with a market that includes children 12 and under, and we’re concerned about the impact of this CPSIA law on our business. The bulk of our product line is for older kids, but we do have to make some changes.

We’re not alone. I’m even more worried about my fellow small publishers, booksellers, and manufacturers. 

  • Consignment, antique, and thrift stores will lose a major component of their business–used children’s articles. And the babies-only thrift stores will be forced to close their doors entirely. Bye-bye to donating used clothing and toys to the church nursery and Mexican orphanages. No more lovingly handmade quilts and afghans for preemies, cancer patients, American troops, and senior citizens. 
  • A sweet friend makes a living traveling to homeschool conferences where she resells vintage books she finds at estate, garage, and library sales. Much of her inventory is old children’s books. She could lose her business because she will no longer be able to buy or sell used books.
  • One of my former WriteShop students (now a college sophomore) sews and sells period costumes as a cottage industry. Her children’s line is now kaput. 
  • My daughter occasionally makes and sells custom baby slings and carriers. Nope. No more.
  • A fellow vendor creates amazing science kits from a variety of components. The components themselves are not usually marketed to children, but once he has assembled his science kits, he sells them to schools and homeschooling parents for their children’s use. He too could lose his business because he will not be able to afford to test every component for every science kit he produces. 
  • Similarly, another publisher I know also creates history-based craft kits. For the same reasons as my science friend, she will be closing this line, her most profitable, at a time when her family is faced with over $100,000 in medical bills.
  • And what about collectibles? Collectors who buy and sell vintage toys will not be able to conduct business anymore. Collectible Barbies, comic books, retro toys and lunchboxes, Victorian dollhouses, you name it! If these items are no longer saleable, they will lose their value because no one can buy them anymore without prohibitively expensive testing. These items, once intended for kids, are now adult collectibles, yet the door will be shut on their businesses without a swift and sweeping change in the law.
  • Let’s not forget the garment industry. For every children’s garment in every style and every size, testing will need to be done on fabric, thread, zipper, buttons, and trim. The cost will be staggering, especially for the small manufacturer or WAHM or grandma who makes handmade blankets, bibs, and other sewn items.
  • And landfills. That’s another quandary. Since used items can’t be donated or sold, they’ll end up in landfills. A law whose original intent is to promote green thinking will actually have a horrible backlash as used articles make their way to the trash unnecessarily. How crazy is that?

I have six grandchildren whose lives and health I cherish. I’m not suggesting we lower the lead standards or compromise the safety of children’s products. This law is going to create many more problems than it solves. I just don’t believe that anyone saw the far-reaching effects of the law when it was signed. But in the process, a law was created with the grave likelihood of closing down many entrepreneurs and small manufacturers in this country.

Our government has thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

.  .  .  .  .


The Smart Mama – Environmental attorney, mom, and entrepreneur helps us slog through the law

CPSIA Central – Website with tons of information


Aaack! I’ve been tagged!

I know this is a writing blog and, for the most part, not a personal blog. But what can I do? I’ve been TAGGED by my daughter Karah!

So if you want to learn a few random things about me, read on! And if you don’t, that’s cool. Just come back another day to read more about writing.

Here are the rules :


And here are seven trivial facts about me. Are you ready?

1. I lived in Mexico City till I was six.

My family moved there when I was two because my dad and my uncle opened a chain of Tastee-Freez restaurants. Spanish was my second language; wish it had stuck better.

2. I’m a grammar geek.

I don’t mean to be. I don’t read church overheads or websites or signs in windows with the intention of picking apart the spelling, grammar, or punctuation. Honestly. But sometimes it’s like a neon light that glows against a black sky, and I can’t help but notice.

So I finally created an outlet for this distraction of mine: Twice a month I blog about bad signage for Wordless Wednesday. Serious fun.

And along those same lines…

3. I’m a word geek.

Crossword puzzleScrabble, Scramble, Boggle, crossword puzzles, anagrams—I love word games! Though my husband does enjoy crossword puzzles, and he’s a big Sudoku fan, he isn’t especially fond of word games, so sometimes it’s hard to find someone to play along. I have Boggle installed on my computer. A 3-minute game used to provide a perfect little break in the middle of some tedious task. But a couple of months ago, along came Facebook. Aaack! It opened up a whole new world of word games, not to mention friends to play with. I tell you, it takes real discipline to “just say no”!

4. I had cataract surgery at 15.

Cataracts run in my family—not the typical old-age cataracts that people get in their 70s. Nope. These show up during adolescence. As an added bonus, I passed ‘em down to two of my kids. What can I say? We’re special.

5. I’m scared of heights…but selectively.

Yes, I would definitely say I’m afraid of heights. Even so, I’m not always freaked out about being in a high place. There’s actually a fairly clean line between what wigs me out and what doesn’t. For instance, I’m OK standing at the window of a very tall building. I actually like looking down and seeing cars and people in miniature! I’m also OK sitting at the top of a Spiral staircaseFerris wheel or ski lift or standing at the rail of a scenic canyon vista. And I have absolutely no problem with airplanes. Give me a window seat any day—I love looking down on the world from 40,000 feet!

For some illogical reason, heights don’t bother me when I’m sitting. But what gives me the willies is looking between my feet through the gaps in a bridge and seeing the water so far below. The bottoms of my feet tingle and my stomach flip-flops in a most alarming fashion. Another super-scary thing is to walk on a metal floor grid where I can look waaaay far down. I just don’t do well when I can see through floorboards or mesh. And forget standing at the edge of a high place when there’s no railing. I’m outta there!

6. Once I locked myself out of the house while cleaning windows.

No big deal, right? Except that I was on the roof of our two-story house. Now put this together with No. 5 and, well, you’ve got a winning combination!

7. I was a huge Monkees fan during junior high.

  • The MonkeesNothing could tear me away from the TV screen when their show was on.

  • I got to go to a Monkees concert at the Hollywood Bowl. I don’t remember hearing much of the music, though. Why listen to the songs when we paid good money to jump up and down and scream?

  • In 8th grade, I went to an auto show at the Anaheim Convention Center. And certainly not because I cared a whit about cars in general. It’s just that one particular car would be on display—Mike Nesmith’s own personal vehicle—which is probably, when you think about it, the only way to get a 13-year-old girl to an auto show in the first place.

  • I still have a few of my Tiger Beat and Monkees Spec magazines from 1967. Yeah, I’m a dork.

OK, wasn’t that fun? Don’t you wish you could get tagged? Well, since I have to tag seven people, it’s your lucky day. Tag . . . you’re it!

  1. Janel

  2. Lori

  3. Amy

  4. Tami

  5. Nancy (or Humphrey)

  6. Anne

  7. Heidi

10 things about me

Who’s the woman behind the blog? Sure, I blog about writing. But perhaps you’re wondering if I’m a real person. I am! I hope I don’t intimidate you. Goodness. I’m just a regular wife, mom, grandma, friend—like you!

So I’m taking a detour today. I thought you might like to learn a bit more about me. And if you don’t care a whit, just scroll on by!

  1. I’m not too athletic. (OK. I’m not at all athletic.)
  2. I’m the oldest of four and the only girl.
  3. I lived in Mexico City until I was six (but my Spanish still leaves much to be desired.) Even though I was only four, I remember the earthquake that toppled the famous El Angel statue.
  4. Grant and GrandmaI wear a hard contact lens in one eye and a soft lens in the other.
  5. I have six adorable grandchildren. Here I am with 6-year-old Grant on his first roller-coaster ride! >>>
  6. I can’t drink from a water fountain without choking. (OK. You can stop laughing now.)
  7. Margherita pizza is the best. I’m all about fresh basil.
  8. I’ve been married to my high school sweetheart for 33 years.
  9. I love decorating for Christmas but I hate putting everything away.
  10. Yosemite is one of my very favorite places in all the world.

So there you have it. Ten things about me! Want to play along? Tell me 10 things about you!

7 tips for writing clearly

pen and notebookWriters’ handbooks—written by more knowledgeable folks than I—abound. But certain principles for clear writing are just plain universal, and I’d like to share a few with you.

Write simply.

Many readers can’t read difficult writing. Others just won’t bother. Unless your writing must contain specialized vocabulary for your field, know that brief, clear writing is what will draw and hold your reader. You’ve hooked him when he can read your words with interest and joy!

Start off with a working title.

Brief titles and subtitles help you organize your material and stay on track as you subdivide it into more manageable pieces. Your title should do its job by giving the reader a clue about what’s coming.

Use short sentences.

It’s fun to incorporate colorful, interesting words. And we definitely want to encourage this in our kids so they can grow and mature their writing vocabulary! But sometimes the best of us can get carried away with 30- or 40-word sentences! A sentence should be long enough to do its job yet short enough to be dynamic and purposeful.

Choose shorter words.

Of course, there will always be exceptions, but as a rule, long words are often more formal—even dull. On the other hand, short words tend to have force and directness. And as language gets more direct, clarity improves. It’s interesting to note that short, familiar words—typically words with fewer syllables—are more easily understood than their longer counterparts. For example:

    usefulness – value
    procedure – method
    unadorned – plain
    persnickety – fussy
    subsequent to – after

Use active instead of passive verbs.

Active verbs help us deliver our ideas more forcefully. For example:

    Passive: The beauty of our landscape is considered spoiled because the roads are lined with trash.
    Active: We hate the trash that lines the roads and spoils the beauty of our landscape.

Use transition words.

They direct and guide the reader so he can follow your ideas. Words like besides, in addition to, and furthermore tell him you have more to say about the subject or more examples to present. Terms such as however, on the other hand, and conversely tell him you’re going to make a U-turn and offer some opposing points of view. First, second, next, last, and finally offer points in sequence, keeping both writer and reader focused.


Editing helps make your message clear to the reader. We all try to improve grammar, punctuation, spelling, and word choice. But don’t forget to look for ways to make even the most complex ideas clear and simple to grasp.

Copyright © 2008 Kim Kautzer. All rights reserved.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape

Parents: If you’re looking for ways to teach your teens to write effectively, take a look at WriteShop. The principles of concrete, concise, organized writing will help your students gain confidence and skill!

New baby!

OK, it’s the weekend. I don’t normally post on Saturday or Sunday, but I figured I’d make an exception. After all, my sixth grandbaby just entered the world!

We welcomed Baby Ginny into our family just this morning and only two days overdue. As you can see, she’s being simultaneously kissed and manhandled by her big sister Hannah, who (so far) loves this new “toy” with feet and hands that move, a hat and booties that come off, and eyes and ears to poke!

God is good! We’re blessed and thankful, and I’m especially grateful that Ginny arrived before I had to leave for the homeschool convention in Orlando this coming week. Let’s just say I’ve been a bit nervous these past few days, but now I’m breathing that proverbial sigh of relief!

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