Archive for July 2010

Competing With The Pope

July 30, 2010

“You know how it is in the kid’s book world; it’s just bunny eat bunny.” Anonymous

Imagine you’re a children’s book editor going through the slush pile and you come across a manuscript written by Benedetto XVI—the Pope! You can’t say no to a submission from the Pope. He’s God’s right-hand man. Since the Pope is infallible, the manuscript is flawless. Editing will be a cinch. This is a windfall from heaven—a miracle for your publishing house. Give His Holiness a book contract!   

Competition in the book industry is brutal. Writers not only compete with one another, but they compete with well-known celebrities who decide to branch out and try their hand at writing children’s books. Some books are well done. Others are not. No matter what, a celebrity name almost guarantees a publishing house a good sell. And now the Pope has written a children’s book. How does a writer compete with the Pope? He’s a celebrity above and beyond all celebrities.   

Gli Amici di Gesù (THE FRIENDS OF JESUS) was published this spring by the Milanese publishing house Piccola Casa Editrice in Italian. It’s soon to be published in English and Spanish.

I have no doubt that it’s an excellent book. After all, it comes from the top, and the Pope is well-versed in his subject matter. I wonder what will come next.


The Obsessive Gardener

July 27, 2010

“The average gardener probably knows little about what is going on in his or her garden.” — Ken Thompson 

This is an ugly garden. Unlike the garden that was planted by a child and her mother in Grace Lin‘s book, The Ugly Vegetables, the garden pictured above was planted by an obsessive gardener — also known as my husband. 

Each year he spends hours pondering what he should plant, and each year he plants the same things ─ tomatoes, peppers, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, kohlrabi, and peas. He makes sure he plants every seed in every packet. All goes well until we leave on vacation, and like teenagers left home alone, the garden goes wild! Weeds become uninvited guests. Tomatoes bully the peas. Beans and cucumbers do the “vegetable tango,” and radishes turn into baseballs. When we finally return home, the nice neat rows of vegetables no longer exist. Instead, a raging green mess threatens to overtake the yard.

It takes hours of hard labor to get the garden back to looking its best. (I know. I’ve watched my husband work.) Then the harvest begins.

This is not a zucchini. It’s an overgrown cucumber. A normal cucumber looks like the one below. Compare the two.


This is one picking of beans.

And then there are the peas — the ones bullied by the hundreds of tomatoes we have growing. It took me forever to pick and shell the pea pickin’ peas, and this is all we got!

Besides the pitiful peas, each year we have an overabundance of overgrown vegetables. My husband is very generous with the harvest, but, lately, I’ve noticed neighbors run when they see him coming. What’s for dinner at our house? Vegetarian!

Comment from the obsessive gardener:  “Next year I’m cutting back.”

Yeah, sure.

Get your kids started on veggies now!  The Vegetables We Eat by Gail Gibbons (Holiday House, 2008), Up, Down, and Around by Katherine Ayres (Candlewick, 2008), My Garden by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow Books, February 2010), Growing Vegetable Soup by Lois Ehlert (Sandpiper, 1991)

It’s Funny Friday!

July 23, 2010

“Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.” — Mark Twain

Need a pick-me-up? Out of the mouths of babes came these comments that struck me as funny.

Said by a preschooler:  “My sister’s name is Abby, but her naughty name is Abigail.”

Kindergarten twins announcing the birth of their sister:  “We got our baby out!”

Question by our three-year-old neighbor after tornado sirens went off:  “Is the tomato gone yet?”

After looking at old photos, a teacher’s grandson noted:  “This picture is when you were newer.” And added:  “You have a cracky face, Grandma.”

And here’s what happened the first time my daughter was given gum.

“Mrs. Wagner gave me gum. It tasted funny.”

“What did you do with it?” I asked.

“I gave it to Sarah to eat.”

(If nothing else, I taught her to share.)

Hope you have a Funny Friday! 

Boston Move: Done

July 20, 2010

Friday’s blog was reported missing. The reason:  There was no computer available for me to express the delight of moving my daughter from one apartment to another in the traffic, heat, and humidity of Boston. Below are some of the highlights.

One evening as we were trying to maneuver our way to the new city apartment with a carload of “stuff,” we ran into detours. A detour in Boston is a major disaster because of the one way streets. You can spend an entire week trying to find your destination unless you know where you’re going. Frustrating as it was to go in circles, we got a glimpse of a movie that was being shot— the reason for the detour. 

Okay, you can’t see too much, but it was really neat!  

On Sunday, after moving more belongings to the new apartment, Philip, a very charming friend of our daughter, invited us to relax on his family’s boat for the afternoon.

She looks relaxed. We’re just tired!

Then came the big move.





How much stuff does one person have?

I am happy to report The Adventures of the Mad Movers are over. My husband and I are back home, nursing our aches, pains, and bruises. We’ve made a pact with one another. If there is ever another move, which I’m sure there will be, we’ll be delighted to help by providing our daughter the names and address of professional movers.  


Boston: On the Move

July 13, 2010

Today is major moving day. Tempers and temperatures are hot, hot, hot! If we survive this ninth move, The Adventures of the Mad Movers finale will appear on Friday!


On the Move in Boston: Part 2

July 9, 2010

I arrived safely in Boston on Tuesday and was greeted by my lovely daughter and a blast of wickedly hot air. Notice the temperature. 

And then I was greeted by this.

As you can see, there is much to be done before my daughter’s ninth move is complete. One would think she would have packing down to a science after all of her previous moves. Within one hour of packing together, I knew she needed to enroll in the “Moving 101” class at the local Get-A-Move-On University. Compare the difference in our piece work of packing.

This is hers.

This is mine.


I guess she didn’t get as much packed as I did because she was too busy making a list of things she wanted me to do the next day while she was at work. Who’s the mother and who’s the daughter around here anyway?

Meanwhile, it’s back to work. The sooner I get my chores done the sooner I get to sit back and enjoy the chocolate candy I found while packing up the kitchen pantry.

Dad arrives tomorrow. That should stir up the pot as The Adventures of the Mad Movers continue. Will we succeed in our quest for a quick and easy move from one apartment to another, or will there be a backup in the pack up? See how the move moves next Tuesday!

Moving adventures for the younger set:  It’s Moving Day by Pamela Hickman (Kids Can Press, 2008), Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move by Judith Viorst (Atheneum, 1998)

On the Move in Boston

July 6, 2010

How many moves does it take for a daughter to find a just-right place to live?

In our family, our daughter is approaching nine moves in the past ten years. There was a move to a new place each year during undergraduate school at UW- Madison. Then for three years, we were lucky. Our daughter stayed in one place while working on her Au.D. at Western Michigan University, but she made up for that by moving to Los Angeles for her fourth-year externship. After graduating, she surprised us when she accepted a position in Boston—all the way across the country— where she now works. Since arriving in Boston, she has moved twice and is now about to make her third and final move — so she tells us.

Call us crazy, but my husband and I have been with her each time she makes a move. Even though we keep telling her to find a place and stay there, helping her move is the highlight of my summer. You just never know what’s going to happen!

I leave for Boston this evening. Decisions, decisions. What do I pack?

A dress for movers and shakers?


Dress for movers?

If you’re interested in The Adventures of the Mad Movers, stay tuned for more on Friday. Stress levels should be high and that makes for good storytelling!

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