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W.Va.'s biggest liar dispenses parenting advice

By Staff reports

"Muddling Through: Perspectives on Parenting." By Bil Lepp. Familius. 72 pages. $9.99.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Best known as West Virginia's biggest liar, Bil Lepp is now dispensing advice to parents.

Lepp has written an ebook titled "Muddling Through: Perspectives on Parenting," which recently ranked No. 2 in sales in its category at Amazon Kindle. A paperback version published by Familius will be available next spring.

The South Charleston resident is the five-time champion of the West Virginia Liars Contest and an occasional humor contributor to the Sunday Gazette-Mail.

Lepp and his wife, Paula, have two children, ages 12 and 8. He said he draws on experiences from his own family life to try and to help other families do a little better.

He begins each chapter with a humorous incident, then offers advice on subjects such as patience, having fun, traditions, the importance of reading, faith, fishing and other topics.

Lepp said he was contacted by Familius, a publisher in Utah, and asked to incorporate some of his tall tales into an advice book.

The storyteller tours the country speaking at festivals, fairs, corporate events, civic clubs, colleges and elementary schools. He has published 11 CDs of his tales, three books of humorous stories, one novel and a DVD. His first children's picture book, "The King of Little Things," will be published by Atlanta-based Peachtree Publishers in fall 2013.

Making cookies with children: It's all about having fun

Excerpted from "Muddling Through: Perspectives on Parenting" by Bil Lepp

Last Christmas I told the kids to head to the kitchen to make sugar cookies.

I have few rules for cookie making. No matter the season, I get out all the cookie cutters. My goal in making the cookies with the kids is to have fun. If they want to make a green and red jack-o-lantern at Christmas, that's fine by me. Mutant Ninja Star of David? I love it. Vampire Santa? Let it roll.

When we make cookies I keep in mind that we are not making these cookies to give to the queen or the president. We are making them to have fun, so it does not matter how they turn out.

My daughter was focusing on Santa-shaped cookies. She has an artistic flair and enjoys decorating. She will spend hours carefully administering colored sugar so that her Santas end up with tartan sweaters, argyle socks and plaid toy bags.

My son was cutting out dozens of little stars and arranging them in a careful pattern on the cookie sheet.

"What's that?" I asked.

"Orion, Taurus and the Pleiades," he said.

Duh.

This past year I decided to introduce icing into the whole process.

My daughter asked, "Can we add food coloring to this?"

Here is one reason it is sometimes best to make cookies when Mom is otherwise occupied: Kids and dads have good ideas that moms might frown on. As soon as my daughter asked about food coloring, all three of us began to chuckle.

When Mom came to see how we were doing she was greeted by an army of glittering, icing-smothered, yellow snowmen.

Delicious.

The thing about fun is that it is supposed to be fun. I like making cookies because there are no serious consequences if the process goes wrong. We are not baking cookies to win a prize, we are baking cookies to spend time together. This is an important aspect to keep in mind when you are having fun. I want the kids to have the power to express their creative sides and their senses of humor. That's what the cookie process is all about.

The cookie baking process is also about teaching the kids about the kitchen, but I don't mention that to them. A good way to learn your way around the kitchen is do something like baking cookies. It is an entertaining way to learn. You could take your kids on a tour of the kitchen, "Here's the stove. This is how you turn it on ..." but that is boring. If you are cooking in the kitchen, then your kids are learning at least some survival skills.

Adults: We often get all wrapped up in the right and wrong way to do things and thus we forget the fun way. We get all goal oriented. You don't always need to be goal oriented when you are having fun. Let the goal to which you are oriented be having fun. Drop the whole concept of 'good cookies' and let loose.

Kids: Your adults can get all uptight about the way things ought to be done. 'Snowmen need to be white,' they will tell you, 'pumpkins are orange.' Bleck. You know, as kids, that the world can be any color you care to paint it. Tell your adults to ease up a bit. Challenge them to a contest. Tell them you want to see who can make the absolutely ugliest cookie. Try getting them to help you make a scene from Little Red Ridinghood. Make the best ever Red Ridinghood cookie decked out in red sugar and cinnamon hearts. Then, proclaim yourself the wolf and eat Red.

Kids and adults have very different views of the world. Adults have been worn down by the burden of being several decades old. The worst thing that happens to adults is that we acquire logic and skepticism along the way. We forget that as a child all things are possible. Adults have these weird concepts of 'the odds,' and 'enough.' Kids look at the world and see 'chance,' and 'some.'

Last winter I looked out the window and about 11 tiny snowflakes were falling. "Hey kids, it's snowing," I said.

My kids jumped for joy like it was the blizzard of '78. "Let's go sledding!" they yelled.

When I pointed out the meager snow to the kids I wasn't saying, "Look, winter fun is on the way." I was saying, "Children, the climatic conditions associated with winter have in fact created a small amount of the traditional wintertime frozen precipitation."

It doesn't matter what I meant. The kids saw snow and they were ready to go sledding. My argument of "there isn't enough snow to go sledding," fell on deaf ears because to a kid, any snow is enough snow to go sledding. Again, kids don't think about 'enough.' Kids think about 'some.' Some is enough to a kid -- especially if you are talking about peas or broccoli.

As the adult you know sledding might be futile, but that is because you are thinking like an adult. Adults think in quantitative terms. The snow has to be so deep, the air so cold, the slope so steep ... Think back to when you were a kid. Did you ever consider such things? As a child you did not go sledding with a specific set of requirements in mind for what would constitute quality fun. You just went and played.

Let it go, you knuckled-headed grown up. Don't bring your expectations to the fun. Honestly, adult person, the amount of fun you have isn't quite as important as the amount of fun the child people with you have. Instead of making the kids play like you want them to, do as they do and play as they play.


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