Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Guest Blogger: Mary Connealy on BOYS

A Boy’s Life

I’m the mother of four daughters, no sons. My husband is from a family of seven sons, no daughters. In Petticoat Ranch I felt like I was really writing what I knew. I can bring a lot of authenticity to a novel about a woman with four daughters and a man who’s never been around women.

So it’s time for the sequel, Calico Canyon. What could I do but tell the flip side of the story? Grace Calhoun is a prissy schoolmarm who’s never been around men. She’s forced into a marriage with Daniel Reeves, the father of five sons…her most unruly students. They’re monstrous brats.

Or maybe they’re just boys.

Grace has no idea what boys are supposed to act like, but surely it’s not like these rude, hyperactive, messy little sons she just acquired.

Calico Canyon is written in the same style as Petticoat Ranch but Calico Canyon, though it has suspense elements, is more of a flat out comedy. Those five boys just lent themselves to comedy.

The whole book was tricky because I have no sons. I’ve had exposure to lots of little boys, brothers, classmates, cousins, neighbors, students, nephews. But can I bring honesty to the story?

To bring the authenticity I needed to it I listened a lot to my mother-in-law, Marybelle, the mother of seven sons.

She’s got this great love for her sons but she’s very clear-eyed in her understanding of the behavior of little boys. And Marybelle tells great stories.

I love the story of the time, in response to some article she read, in an effort to make her little sons more sensitive she bought them each a doll. I guess in modern language you might say she was trying to help them get in touch with their feminine side. One of the boys ran the doll around on the floor on its belly making vroom-ing noises. One "rounded up" the doll, found it guilty of heaven knows what and hung it.

You can’t believe the list of stitches and resulting from from fights and dare devil behavior and general mayhem. One son was hanging by his fingertips from the eaves of her house, one went head first through a window, one backed over the other with a tractor, one swung a hoe back to whack a week and smashing the hoe into his brother’s head. The boys all lived but there are lots of stitches and blood in Marybelle’s stories.

She says she can laugh now, but at the time it wasn’t a bit funny. Like the time one started walking home from the movies. The movie wasn’t close to over. It’s a ten mile walk home. He had to walk across a highway. Marybelle was waiting for him and his four big brothers in the coffee shop next door to the movie. He was four.

She thinks boys are different than girls. It’s hard to convince her it’s all nurture and not nature. But really how hard did she try except for the dolls, huh?

I dedicated Calico Canyon to Marybelle Connealy, my mother-in-law and one of my very favorite people on the planet.

So what do you think? Are boys different than girls? How? How much is nature or nurture?
If you have boys and need advice, go ahead and ask. I can’t help you, but I can check with my mother-in-law and get back to you. If you’ve got girl problems, bring it on. I am a master.


Anonymous said...

No kid problems, but I just wanted to say what a GREAT book this is!!! I was very privileged to copy edit this one, and I highly recommend it to everyone: male, female, young, old. Resounding with Mary's trademark comedy, tender scenes that pull at the heartstrings abound as well. It is a welcome addition to the "Lassoed in Texas" series. The only problem is the many months until "Gingham Mountain!"
Aaron McCarver

Mary Connealy said...

Girls are simple. Others will disagree but not me.

I've got them figured out.

Mainly it's just listen and let them vent. That'll take care of about 80% of their problems.

Boys? I don't know. My sources say they don't talk much so what are you going to do, huh? Listen to the sound of silence???

Mary Connealy said...

Hi, Aaron. I'm so glad you liked Calico Canyon. I really appreciate your help and EVERYONE'S help.
I'm trying to learn how to do all the things I leave for you to fix. But so far, your job is SAFE!!!

Erica Vetsch said...

I have one of each, and both have their own challenges for me. My daughter is a female clone of her father, while my son is the male image of me in personality. It makes for some interesting times.

I LOVED Calico Canyon, and I'm with Aaron...can we scoot up the release date of Gingham Mountain? :)

MaryLu Tyndall said...

Hi Mary! I have to say, I admire greatly any woman who can raise 7 sons! I have 2 boys, 4 girls and without a doubt, there is a vast difference between the genders! I never tried to encourage either feminine or masculine tendencies in any of them. They just took off on their own. Boys love mud, bugs, and making gross noises with their mouths and armpits. Girls like to be clean, have their hair done, and watch fairy tales on TV. I keep meaning to pick up your first book. I've heard nothing but great things about it. God bless!

Marcia Gruver said...

Hi, Mary!

I learned about boys the hard way. I raised one prissy little girl then later in life married a man with four boys, ages 5 to 14. These rascals would give the Horsemen a run for their money!

The next few years were a bumpy ride. (Boy, do I have stories!) But we all survived. Now that they're grown, I miss having them underfoot. Sort of miss the excitement. :D

Ausjenny said...

i have no kids but have babysat and its interesting. boys seem to be busier but girls tend to have more drama.
I helped at 2 kindergartens for a term each,(one was every morning the other 2 afternoons a week), on was more country kids and everyone seemed to mix well.
in the other it was mainly town children who grew up with each other (4 year olds) with a group of about 4 boys from a country area. the girls seemed to stick together in there groups and didn't want to include others. but the Boy from Kyby (the area the were from) wanted to include everyone and wanted people to join in, (i was there to help or read etc whatever was needed) I loved those days when the boys came.
I think enviroment can play part in it.when you have a big area to play in like a farm you tend to be more creative etc. (I lived on a farm for 8 years with boy boys around so learnt to join in with them but still play on my own too)

Gina Welborn said...

Boys are simple because they think simple things in simple terms.

For example...

Last week-ish I helped my youngest son (Jadan, 8) to clean his room. He'd done a fairly decent job so I suspected a simple solution.

Me: Jadan did you clean under your bed?

His eyes widened.

Me: Clean it all out.

He slowly does the job. Eventually he pulled out a 2-liter of Sprite and handed it to me.

A should-be-empty 2-liter.

A not-in-the-least empty 2-liter.

Me: What are doing with a Sprite bottle in your room?

Him: Umm, trying to see how many times I had to pee in it before it filled up.

I cautiously examined the liquid level. About a 1/2 inch above the bottom edge of the label.

Me: How many times did ya have to pee to get this much?

Him proudly: Once.

Me: Impressive. Now go throw it in the trash.

He left the room.

I yelled after him, "And don't unscrew the cap!"

Sugar and spice and everything nice--that is SOOOO not what little boys are made of.

Vickie said...


I have the four boys to go with your four girls. For my guys, it's all about personality. I have two strong-willed, stubborn Alpha males(who take after me) and two quiet, sweet Beta males(like their father). We had a couple of broken bones, but nothing super horrible--well...except for the ruptured appendix our #3 son experienced.

Now God has given us a two-year-old granddaughter. She's smart, cute, and every bit as ornery as her father was.

Can't wait to read Calico Canyon.

Tammy Doherty said...

I have a 12 year old daughter and a 3 year old son. In fairness, my husband was home when my daughter was young (I worked full time). Now I'm home all day w/our son.

I think boys and girls are different by nature. But I disagree w/ daughter hates fairy tales and doing her hair and all that "girly" stuff. My son refuses to get his hands dirty, like say fingerpainting, and doesn't like bugs. However, my son is a natural born daredevil, whereas my daughter is overly cautious.

Oh, and my son is the drama queen (should that be king?) You know Red Fox's routine about having "the big one"? That's the kind of melodrama my son exels at. At 3 - what does that mean for my future? LOL

Mary - the story your mother-in-law told about 1 son walking home from the movies. That sounds like my son :D

Can't wait to read Calico Canyon

Anonymous said...

Three boys and one girl.

The only advantage I can see is hand me downs.

Girls and hormones..ugh.

Mary I am so excited about this book. The cover is just gorgeous.

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Mary. I have two girls. So far so good. But I might have a few writing questions (as you well know). Can't wait to read your latest. If Family Christian Store doesn't have your book on their shelf tomorrow, they're going to be ordering it. Pronto.

Donna M said...

I have two boys ages 12 and 6 and then we were blessed with a little princess age 4. Boys are simple. There is a great book about marriage that our small marriage group is reading called Men are like Waffles and Women are like speghetti. This book describes how men compartmentalize everything and with women every aspect of our lives touch. Even though this is a book about marriage it wa very helpful in understanding my boys. They have boxes much like a waffle as squared and they don't jump easily from one box to another.

Tiff (Amber Miller) Stockton said...

Hmm, nature vs. nurture. I'd say it's a combination of both. Nature of boys in general is risk-taking, mud-covered, bug-searching, rough-housing menaces. :) Girls lean more toward the prissy, with hair, clothing and make-up.

BUT, put a boy in a home with all women and you're likely to see him develop a softer side due to outside influences. Same with a girl in a home of all boys. She'll develop a bit more tomboyish behaviors.

Personally, I wholeheartedly support letting the tendencies develop themselves without trying to force either way. When you force, you possibly cause problems and inner damage that could have lasting results. When you let them develop then adjust your parenting accordingly, everyone wins.

Me? No children yet. Hubby and I are working on it. But I grew up in a family of all boys. I was the only girl. Definite tomboyish behaviors, but still balanced with the ability to be feminine when necessary. And I helped raise my younger 2 brothers. Try corraling them into anything remotely feminine? HA! Good luck! :)

God makes us all unique, with underlying similarities. But when we attempt to influence a child one way or another through our own habits and behaviors, we run the risk of hurting them. Nurture does play a role, but in my mind, it should be used as a balance to the nature, not a force to eradicate the nature.

Just my .02 worth. :)

Oh, and I LOVED Petticoat Ranch. Calico Canyon is in my TBR pile. Will get to it once I'm done my book deadline.

Jessica said...

Hey all,
Three boys under four. So far their personalities are so different that I wonder if there is a difference between boys and girls. Then I see my niece. Definitely a tomboy. She'll get dirty with the best of them, but she's also prissy in her very cute little way. (She's four)There's just a difference, I think, in the things they say and the things they notice. My oldest son is fairly neat. He used to organize his toys and eat very cleanly. But he's all boy still.
So, I don't know. Like others said, you shouldn't squash nature or try to mold your kids into what you think they should be.
At the same time, I just can't see a girl peeing into a soda bottle and leaving it beneath her bed.
Is that what I have to look forward to?
By the way, my boys alread think it's funny to fart on me.

Jo said...

I have one daughter who was very hard headed and than two sons. In some ways it was a lot easier to raise the daughter than it was the sons.


Missy Tippens said...


I loved Calico Canyon! As Aaron said, great Connealy humor with touching scenes and romance as well. :)

I have two boys, then had a girl. With the boys, I was determined not to stereotype them. I bought them dolls just like I would have if they'd been girls.

They threw them down and stomped them, dragged them around, "shot" at them. My middle son took his all over the place, just like he took his Hot Wheels cars and big dump trucks. But still, they didn't seem to know what to do with the dolls other than target practice.

When my daughter got her first doll, she immediately loved on it, rocked it, sang to it. She mothered each and every doll without ever being shown how. It was amazing. Of course, with 2 older brothers, she's a pretty tough cookie! She says carrying a purse is prissy, yet she loves to put on makeup.

Go figure. :) (Who's still laughing at poor Gina and her son's escapade!)

Missy Tippens said...

That last comment was supposed to be signed with my name, then have my comment about Gina's son. Sorry for the confusing typo. :)


Jennifer Johnson said...

Mary, I loved Petticoat Ranch, and I can't wait to read this one. I know it's going to be a hoot!!!

Julie Lessman said...

Oh, Mary, I just started Calico Canyon (2 chapters in), and already I have laughed more times than I have in the last month!! Comedy is sooo your forte!!

I actually had a heated discussion with a woman's libber friend of mine once over the fact that she thought that girls and boys were exactly the same -- she thought it was the toys and treatment that made them be boys or girls, so she said she intended to give dolls to her boys and toy guns to her girls. I tried to convince her by telling her all I ever saw in the church nursery where I babysat was little girls in one corner of the room playing tea party and kitchen while the little boys piled toys in the other corner and tried to hurdle them in flying leaps. She wasn't convinced, but I am.

Mary Connealy said...

My three older girls were like stair steps to my husband's brother's three sons. It's like his wife and I took turns having a baby every other year.
When they were little my girls were every bit as busy and running wild as my nephews. I'd have put them up against those boys anyday.
But there came a point when it changed. When the girls settled down and the boys just kept getting more and more reckless.

Still, whatever we decide about boys and girls, it's absolutely true that within each gender there is a lot of variation.

Oh, I just read this and Donna's 'spaghetti and waffles' comment reminded me of it.

Men are from earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it. --George Carlin

Mary Connealy said...

Gina, have you for sure looked under your daughters bed? I mean now, fair is fair. Who's to say what's really under there!!!!

Mary Connealy said...

ausJenny, I think my experience is more like yours. I've been around a lot of little boys. I can remember school field trips with the boys just wiggling like worms and always wrestling and shoving.

But of course, not all of them. Still, for the purposes of my book, I fashioned the Reeves boys after the most hyper little boys I could imagine.

Myra Johnson said...

Wow, Mary, I see you're as popular as ever . . . or maybe it's the topic! I raised two girls and then had to wait through FOUR grandsons before we got our granddaughter. Differences? YOU BET! Number one is their preference for camo, hunting, and anything with wheels.

But I think it was an episode with grandson #3 that epitomizes the difference for me.

Scenario: Grammers points out to 2-year-old precious little grandson, "Oh, look at the cute ladybug crawling on the sidewalk!"

Response: Grandson immediately stomps on said ladybug until it is nothing but a blurry blob.

The difference: my granddaughter would have oohed and aahed and sang sweet songs to the ladybug while it crawled up and down her finger.

Mary Connealy said...

Myra LOL that is PERFECT.

I'm not saying my girls were little angels you know, unless you consider that in the Bible, angels spent a good part of their time telling people to RUN or scaring them to death.

Hey, maybe they ARE angels?

Mary Connealy said...

The real problem, Julie, with deciding about the differences is how can we ever really know the fundmental differences in the way we TREAT our babies.
I mean maybe we're nurturing them difference from their first breath.

I do think for all the time we spend trying to 'mold' our children into whatever we think they should be, the truth is, when it comes to how they grow up... they're really just watching you.
Then they imitate that.

How scary, huh?

Patricia W. said...

I have all boys too. Three sons. But lots of nieces.

The differences, to me, aren't so much in their interests. They have more to do with their emotions and how they handle them. Part of it is learned but I'm sure part of it is genetic. Because it's impossible for a kid to come out of the womb making faces like his father. What's that about? LOL!

I've got one kid is who is Mr. Athlete; another is who is Mr. Scientist; and another whose interests, apart from his brothers' interests, are as yet undetermined. I've got very clean and very messy. I've got into bugs and runs away from them. I've got eats everything and very picky. I've got daredevil and afraid of heights. I guess kids are just kids.

Susan Stitch said...

Oh,my, YES, boys are VERY different than girls. We had three girls, then when the youngest was eight we adopted twin boys (15 months old at the time). My youngest daughter is a tomboy, but she never came up with the things these boys do. Give them 5 minutes and ANY topic turns to bodily functions and rude noises! And my sweet little girls never called anyone 'poopie head' -- the favorite retort of the boys when they were only two! We have daily wrestling bouts that almost always end up in minor injuries (he did it on PURPOSE) despite numerous warnings and separations. Their little brains work so differently than the girls! Once they get an idea in their mind, no amount of discussion or punishment will disuade them from following through. I loved the portrayal of the boys in Calico Canyon -- Mary, you got it right!

Mary Connealy said...

Well, I wanted to protray them as just little wild men but still have them be loveable and have a sweet side (well hidden, but there!)
So I hope I wasn't too hard on little boys in Calico Canyon. I think I had the little girls in Petticoat Ranch be equally a handfull.
But in girlish ways. :)

Keli Gwyn said...

I have one daughter. She's 17, and it's all about clothes, jewelry and shoes--lots of each.

I remember spending my entire pregnancy convinced I was having a boy. (I was carrying low, so the "old wives" told me it was a he-child.) I was scared witless. What do I know about boys? I have to hand it to you women raising future men. (BTW, my mother-in-law raised a fine one.)

I loved Petticoat Ranch and can't wait to read Calico Canyon. And what's this about Gingham Mountain? Please tell me this is for real and where I can read a blurb.

Becky said...

30 comments? Gee, Mary, you sure know how to draw a crowd.

Mary Connealy said...

Yes, Keli, Gingham Mountain, coming in February from Barbour. Once you read Calico Canyon you'll know Hannah has to have her own story.
Find out more here

Mary's Books

Mary Connealy said...

I'm actually impressed myself, Becky. I did a quick math formula and realized that I only have compromising photos of 62.75% of these responders.

Pretty cool.

Ausjenny said...

I know I grew up with boys around and I love getting my brothers handme down toy cars but I loved the dolls just as much. But I think being on a farm you tend to get out and get dirty (also mum didn't make a fuss if i was dirty)
Climbing trees was my thing and i was as good as the boys.
Boys seem more daring but then you get some girls like that. I think sometimes its does depend on parents reactions.
My SIL would not let me buy a tonka truck for my Niece she wouldn't let her have toy cars or barbie dolls. But there boy the last child is almost 9 and still sleeping with his stuffed toys. I think they are all so different. (but from having boys living next door on both sides) I have to say they are Loud!

Darlene Franklin said...

I have one boy of my own but I've taught boys ... and boys ... and more boys ... in SS for years. (I decided God must think I have a gift for reaching boys!)

They are VERY different.

A wise friend once said, "If anyone thinks the differences between boys and girls is learned behavior, they should teach first grade."

'Nuff said.

Darlene Franklin said...

I have one boy of my own but I've taught boys ... and boys ... and more boys ... in SS for years. (I decided God must think I have a gift for reaching boys!)

They are VERY different.

A wise friend once said, "If anyone thinks the differences between boys and girls is learned behavior, they should teach first grade."

'Nuff said.