If You Love Something.... (A Frog's Tale)

Today each of the kids had $5 to spend at Target.

Zoe bought herself a tall cup of Starbucks.

Zack couldn't find anything "in his price range" so I dragged him to get the rest of the stuff on my list (trashbags that aren't crappy; honey; k-cups; bananas...).

As we turned from the water aisle and pass the cheap chip section, Zoe stops short in front of the cart, saving a life (temporarily) -- " Stop! Look! A frog!"

Zack throws himself on it, both called and carried by a ball of puppy dog enthusiastic love he feels for all living things. "Can we keeeep it? And call it George? And please can I have it and put it in a ..."

"Yes." I interrupt his needless begging. "Yes, get George, come on," I beckon him to follow me past the wine, towards the honey

"Yip-Hoo," he shouts,  clicks his heels, loses George who makes a heroic leap towards the cream corn, then reclaims him. "Come here guy, I LOVE YOU!"

For the next hour Zack carries George cupped in his hands through Target, then through the grocery, chatting away at his captive happily and unselfconsciously.

While I pause to consider Triscuits (are they worth $3.50 or wait until they are buy-one-get-one-free? are they a necessary food group? do I really need them? is there cheese at home? can I please have a can of spray cheese just his once? how much is the spray cheese? $3.99, sigh, absolutely not, but I'm PMSing just this once please? NO...  ),  a rack of overpriced overmarketed underquality plastic toys catches Zack's attention.

"Mom, do I still have $5?"

I put down the Triscuits, turn away from the spray cheese, reach in my pocket and pull it out to show him.

"Good, I need to buy this turtle for George, so he will know I love him..." He plops an overpriced bauble into the cart.

I stop there, (hugging a box of Wheat Thins, wondering if there is cream cheese at home...) and consider whether to pop  Zack's happy love bubble and ask him if he really meant what he'd said.

He doesn't notice me, all of his attention on narrating to George the joys of  marshmallows and the many sub-species of goldfish (by size, by color, by flavor, sorted like wines).

I really have to know, so I put the Wheat Thins down, skip all crackers for the week, and catch up to him. "Zack, are you buying this turtle as some show of love for the frog? or is it for yourself?"

"Myself," he whispers, "but I'll pretend it's for George."

I wink back in complicity, deciding not to untangle his ethics as we pass pickles, salad dressings, olive oil and salt (which I later realize I forget to buy. Again).

Later, while I unpack frozen pizzas and Trix yogurt, Zoe and Zack join George the frog in some Roman Bath ritual celebrating the initiation of a frog into the family.

In silence (more accurately: ignoring their pleas for me to SEE THIS and EEEEK MOM and my favorite A TOWEL A TOWEL A TOWEL),  while wiping down the counters, brushing lunch crumbs into the sink,  I thank the universe that the best things in life are free.

(except for George the frog, who is in captivity)

Chocolate Chip Cure

Zack stands in front of me, frowning.

"What's up? Do you need to go to the bathroom?" I ask concerned enough by the way he was holding his stomach to put my novel down.

He shakes his head. "No, it feels like I'm getting my period."

I get him a handful of chocolate chips from my super secret stash, then we cuddle and watch last nights shows from the Lifetime Channel.

Soon enough, he is cured, and - after sneaking more chocolate chips - I go back to my novel.

Book Review: Because She Can by Bridie Clark

Set "The Devil Wears Prada"in the publishing industry and you have "Because She Can," a sharp and witty romp through New York, the Hamptons and the angst of all the major life decisions that come with achieving mid-to-late 20s status in America.

Good enough to pass on to a friend who is headed to a beach, then later on ask her to buy you at least two margaritas and you know she'd have to say yes because the book was so good. 

Book Review: Storyville by Lois Battle

Take a trip to Storyville, a time and place in New Orleans history!

Beautifully researched, highly detailed, delighful.

A great summer read*

Book Review: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

Why had I never heard of this book? Nevermind, I guess it arrived at the perfect time in my journey. 

This wisdom fable reminds me of "Illusions" by Richard Bach and  "Celestine Prophecy" -- I loved them both, and I loved this too.

When I'm rolling in $$$, this will be a book I would give to friends and students.

It's that good.

It's that important.

So, until then, I hope a copy of this book finds its way to you *

Book Review: Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult

Thank you, Jodi Picoult. I expected your usually enticing  heart-wrenching narrative, and you didn't let me down.

When I finished this book I sat still for awhile, unwilling to leave the characters that Jodi Picoult lead me to love.

 I hugged this book and passed it on to my Mom.

Book Review: That's Amore by Wendy Markham

I am so thankful a friend passed this delightful and just slightly magical book to me.

Because I'd never heard of Wendy Markham I kept sticking this book on the bottom of my book-pile,  mostly expecting it to be another "single woman wants to get married and can't find anyone until BAM she finds him and WOW they get married and all their friends love each other and the end" book.

Forgive me, Wendy Markham, I underestimated you.

This book reads like a twelve hour movie (think: When Harry Met Sally with a little... *more*), so stock up on popcorn and poptarts before curling up for what I promise will be a delightful romp of a story.

Book Review: Mrs. Kimble by Jennifer Haigh

Masterfully told story about the three women who marry the same man, one at a time, told through the eyes of the man's son. 

This is a  smart and delightfully woven tale of family,  courage, honestly, poverty and optimism told by a brilliant writer.

Book Review: Sugar Queen by Sarh Addison Allen

It wasn't a mystery, but I couldn't put it down.



Sweet, southern and enchanting.

When I finished this book, I hugged it and carried it around for a few days.

Harmony con Leche

Afghanistan Song: The Next George Clooney Movie

"The general's staff is a handpicked collection of killers, spies, geniuses, patriots, political operators and outright maniacs. There's a former head of British Special Forces, two Navy Seals, an Afghan Special Forces commando, a lawyer, two fighter pilots and at least two dozen combat veterans and counterinsurgency experts....By midnight at Kitty O'Shea's, much of Team America is completely shitfaced. Two officers do an Irish jig mixed with steps from a traditional Afghan wedding dance, while McChrystal's top advisers lock arms and sing a slurred song of their own invention.

 "Afghanistan!" they bellow. "Afghanistan!" They call it their Afghanistan song.

McChrystal steps away from the circle, observing his team. "All these men," he tells me. "I'd die for them. And they'd die for me." (Rollingstone.com)
That's enough, I don't need to read any m0re, I want to see this all unfold in a movie (Hello Trey Parker?).
 I see George Clooney in the corner, singing into a shoe. 
Matt Damon and Ed Norton are sprawled somewhere bragging. 

This is going to make a very very good movie. 

And I thought the only good Rolling Stone-related movie was "Almost Famous."


As America waits for an announcement after the McChrystal Obama talk,
I am thankful to not be called to be a journalist in this lifetime.

I can't imagine spending weeks with military command watching,
listening, building confidences, then telling a story that sows or
shows conflict, disrespect or discord. Even if the story needed to be

I bet if I'd been there, my story wouldve been about moments of
kindness, courage, and service.

Meanwhile, I'm glued to CNN...

Dream Man, con't

We are lazing on the sofa planning another summer day.

Can we still get paint?

Sure, I tell him. I imagine Zoe Zack and myself outside with lots of
towels and rags, painting a birdhouse or something along those lines.

Bear! He proclaims.

You want to paint a bear?

No, I want BEAR.

You want bear, I repeat, continuing, that doesn't make sense, that's
not grammatically correct...

Buckets of bear! He explains. Lets buy buckets of paint and rollers...

Oh. You have a preferred BRAND of paint. I'm impressed. That'll get
you places. I can't afford that now, I've budgeted $10 for all the
paints. You still on board anyway.

He crosses his arms and nodds his head, building and painting
imaginary houses for us.

My Dream Man

....Zack elbows by where I am huddled up writing.

He grabs a piece of paper, pushes by again declaring, "I've got some
fly killing to do..."

Last week he discovered Norm Abrams and offered to build furniture and
shelves (and a car? Out of wood?) for me.

Such love...

Camp Mommy - postcard

Anonymous Quote

From Camp Mommy, running 24/7, all summer, in my life*

"I've never been happy in my life. And it's all your fault."

I ask, can I write that?

And I sneak away, and do.

Happy Camping*

Kamikaze Daredevil Procrastinating Web Students

Here is a screenshot of my gradebook on Blackboard for a Web class.

 The exam closes on Saturday, and less than 1/3 of the students have taken it.

 This is the scariest part of teaching online.

Revealed: The Pregnancy Scare of 2010

Zack lays next to me on the sofa, moaning.

"What's wrong little guy," I ask, patting and rubbing his bony back through his oversized shirt.

Zoe is on my other side.

"Mom you smell like triscuits...in a good way."
I thank her, kiss her on top of her head.

"Ohhh" he moans again.
Zoe leans across me and asks him, "are you having a baby? Are you pregnant?"

He snaps at his sister, "No I'm NOT. I haven't even had sex yet."
She nods in agreement.

I choke down my laugh, get up from between them and sneak more triscuits.

I was wrong. Twice. (Chikfila and Karate Kid)

Today was a day of errands and dragging the kids around. By 4pm they were starving so I broke my "no eating out on weekdays" rule and went to the Chikfila in the mall before seeing Karate Kid.

I ordered their new spicy chicken sandwich.
It was spicy.
Yep. Spicy.
That's all I have to say about that.

Which is disappointing because Chikfila is so good at being good. Their lemonade is -- perfect.

Their sandwiches and fries are always crispy, hot, perfect. (Except on Sundays)

Even their Chikfila sauce is an amazing little tub of wonderful.

So I expected the spicy chicken sandwich to be special, I expected to love it.

I was wrong.

After dinner I took the kids to see Karate Kid in the mall.

We were the first ones there in the biggest theatre of the complex, and settled in the top back row.

I didn't expect to like it. I had three books packed, and planned to daydream or mentally write, or otherwise distract myself during the predictable kids movie.

I was wrong, again.

Halfway through the movie I started writing fan mail to Will and Jada Smith thanking them for their son (who my son was sure was a girl for the first hour of the movie) and thanking them for making this delicious movie, for the casting, the writing, the cinematography.

The story line -- even if you know it -- unfolded at a masterful pace. Even though most of us knew how it was going to end, the audience laughed, cheered, clapped and jeered. It held my attention for the entire 2+hours, and was well worth the ticket price.

I didn't want to love this movie, I didn't even want to like it.

I was wrong.

For the second time in one day.

Wow. Now go see the movie!


Around noon I finish writing Marvin's Book, send it to my agent and
pay attention to the kids.

We decide to see Shrek 4 at 2:00.

Zoe is ready by 1, Zack soon after.

I think I'm ready to go, wearing a new dress that I accidentally
bought a size too large.

The neckline droops. The arms look flappy. I feel bad not giving it
one good shot at walking out the door.

As i sesrch for keys, Zoe takes one look at me, shakes her head and
proclaims, "No. Too....medieval."

I look down and see it too.

Daughters can be helpful.

Waiting at the Door for Carol

*again, from Marvin's Book. "Reprinted with Author's permission, lol"

Waiting at the Door for Carol

I never start without her. She is always early.  Today it is time, she isn’t here.

I can’t start late, but I can’t lecture to everyone except my deaf students – the slides I use are all pictures, they’d be lost without the story.

I ask the class permission for five more minutes and they sit still while I go out the lecture hall’s back door and stand at the glass door entrance to the building.

This was the third semester I”d had her in my classroom, she was never late.

How long should I wait?

When she appeared  I hugged her while racing her into the room. 

Don’t ever be late.

 You gave me a Marvin scare.

Nothing will happen to me, she said as she took of her jacket and settled into that day’s war.

I absolutely believed her.

Point Your Guns at Carol

*from Marvin's Book: The Story of a Professor and a Promise.

Point Your Guns at Carol

One way – just one, of course – to teach the Cold War concept of “containment” is to pretend your translator is the Soviet Union.

Now, move the classroom furniture around and surround the translator, shouting “Don’t expand!!! NOOO!!” while pointing overhead projectors and finger guns at him or her.

Then, while you are acting all crazy, shoutout, “who wants some money?” to your wide-eyed class. 

If they say yes (and believe me, they’ll say yes, especially the ones who are never in class and are so lost they aren’t even taking notes)  tell them to point their “finger guns” at your translator if they are your real allies. 

Believe it or not, a few students will make guns. 

 Usually a guy in the back stands up, finally ready to be called to action.

While they are laughing at the translator translating the entire scenario, race around the room all panicked saying something like

Usually, at this point, your students will decide they might like the Cold War.  

Your translator will probably a little traumatized, though.