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Giving Thanks

At a recent school visit, I spoke about my journey as an author, and how it started long before I ever knew that I wanted to write. I talked about when I was in school, and how impatiently I'd wait for the book club orders to come in.

How exciting it was when I started writing, and my first publication was in a magazine that I loved as a child, Highlights for Children! Now my own children read that same magazine, and I have to admit - I still do too.

Thank you Joanne, and all the wonderful children at Princeton Elementary. I was so proud that you chose Ocean Hide and Seek for your 50th book, and I loved celebrating with you. To the one little girl who asked for her very own copy of Highlights... it's on its way.

And thank you Highlights, for not only providing the very best for your readers but also for supporting writers and illustrators everywhere. Highlights just resold rights to my story, Dumplings on Sunday, to Riverside Publishing. YAY!

100 Smiles

For the 100th day of school, my 5 year old's kindergarten class wrote about what they would be when they were 100 years old. What wonderful answers they all had! Some children had big dreams like being President, a rock star, or a superhero. Others wrote about being a grandpa or a teacher or having their own house with a dog, an iguana, and three hamsters.

My child wrote this... "When I am 100 years old, I will not be bald."

Gobble, Gobble!

This week has been a whirlwind for me. I've attended five Thanksgiving feasts, one Thanksgiving class play, and one Tuneful Turkey performance. Ummm... do you think Dominos delivers on Thanksgiving?

Actually, I love the holidays. It has three of my favorite things... family, friends and food! Okay, okay, I like the shopping too. It is tough this year because I am trying to get my arms around my new job and find some kind of balance between being a mom, a writer, and a technical writer. It has been a little while since I have been in the corporate world, so it is a pretty big adjustment.

In the meantime, I'm still trying to finish off my school visit presentations and fill up my calendar for the Spring. One of my friends has been sending me letters with coffee/work stickers that have been apropos... e.g. "Drink coffee - do stupid things faster and with more energy!"

In the meantime, the MIL is coming, and I have a pile of laundry that would support a herd of mountain goats. Thank goodness for that laundry room door. As you can imagine, I'm in desperate need of a GNO (gal's night out). Though I love our troop, Girl Scout meetings do NOT qualify.


My favorite moments of the week:

PJ as Squanto in his class play. He was BRILLIANT! :-)

JR yawning really big TWICE on stage during a rousing rendition of Old Tom Turkey. But he did an excellent Turkey Woogie.

A little girl in PJ's class, who announced at the end of the play that she played the role of the Pilgrim woman, the messenger, and the LOG CABIN.


I am thankful for every one of you!

Kid Talk

Older Boy: PJ was blushing in the car line today.
Me: Really?
PJ: I was just hot. I played two hours of soccer today!
Older Boy: No, he was talking with his girlfriend.
Me: His girlfriend? Would that be...
PJ (shaking head vigorously): No. That's not it. She isn't my girlfriend. I mean, she likes me, but I don't like her.
Me: You don't like her?
PJ: Yes, I mean no. I mean, I like her but I don't LIKE her.
Me: Oh, you don't LIKE her.
PJ: You know, like-like her.
Me: Oh yes, like-like. I understand. Sort of like... I like pickles but I don't LIKE pickles.
PJ: M-o-o-o-m!


She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain...

Wow. It has been a whirlwind weekend. But my giggle of the week happened yesterday. We had some large pine trees in the back that unfortunately had to be removed. A mighty wood chipper made short work of the branches and trunks, spewing the wood chips into the kid's play area. With hindsight, we could have had them move the wood chipper around a little and saved ourselves a literal mountain of work. Alas, we did not.

So Mount Wood Chip sat there, at the bottom of the slide. A monument of backbreaking work. With heavy sighs we grabbed rakes and shovels, climbed to the top, and began the first of many hours dispersing wood chips as best we could. After awhile my little ones came out to help. My daughter found the rake a little unwieldy, and we found her a little well, dangerous as she swung it around much like a pinata stick - with us as the pinatas. So we sent her back to the house to find something a bit smaller. She came back... with a spoon.

Plastic. Not a tablespoon, but a teaspoon.

The pain in my back and arms didn't begin to compare to the ache in my sides as we laughed ourselves silly on top of the mountain. Before I had kids I thought being a parent meant teaching your kids. Instead I learn something every day. Like no mountain is too big to tackle... with a spoon. :-)

A Conferencing We Will Go...

The Southern Breeze Fall Conference was everything it should be... inspiring, instructive, illuminating. Paul Fleischman's keynote speech had me running home to encourage my kids to start playing more with their food. Thank you so much to the organizers of the conference, the wonderful speakers, and the attendees, who each reminded us what a remarkable journey we are on together.

A special thanks goes to to Alexandra Penfold of Simon & Schuster, who judged this year's Annual Writing Contest. She gave my work-in-progress, a book about the amazing history of our flag, Old Glory -- 3rd place! Congratulations to everyone who entered. If you are a member of Southern Breeze, and didn't enter this year, start polishing your entries for 2009! Larry Rosler of Boyds Mill Press will be one of our judges. His keynote address at last year's conference showed us all what lies at the center of great writing... heart. Speak to the heart of your reader and the rest will follow.

Ummmm... Mama?

Remember Miss Viola Swamp in the wonderful picture book, Miss Nelson is Missing?

My name this week is no longer simply Mama. It's 'Ummmm Mama'. Because this week is a little crazy and my poor kids are too nice to tell their Mama that she has lost her marbles, so instead they just start every sentence with "Ummmm... Mama?".

Noone is safe from the foibles of Ummmmm Mama, especially at mealtimes.

JR: Ummmm... Mama? Did you know that when you microwave burritos on paper towels, they stick together? And that paper is not edible?
[Translation: Mama, please, PLEASE watch more Martha Stewart]

MA (oldest boy child): Ummmm... Mama? Did you mean to pack me the Barbie thermos in my lunch box?
[Translation: Did you mean to destroy my 5th grade social life before I have even reached the end of the first nine weeks?]

PJ: Ummmm... Mama? Did you mean to put peanut butter and HAM on my sandwich today?
[Translation: Ewwwwww... gross!]

JA: Ummmm... Mama? Did you forget to open the window for the tooth fairy?
[Translation: Remember that bird who flew into our window and died?]

Ummmm Mama will be serving take out pizza tonight.

SCBWI Rocks!


Remember that commercial with the kids who make Mikey 'try' the cereal first, while they wait to see whether or not he likes it? And the eventual jaw-drop when Mikey proceeds to eat, and eat, and eat?

Well, that THUD was the sound of my jaw dropping. Because ohmigoodness... THEY LIKED IT! I couldn't be more thrilled with my SCBWI Letter of Merit for my biography of Augusta Savage, an artist whose legacy is not only in her art but in the people she helped and inspired. For me, this story has been both a labor of love and a risk, as it is one of my first attempts at a biography. I am so excited that it was chosen as one of the finalists.

Congratulations to everyone who sent in an entry for the SCBWI Works-in-Progress grants!

Thank you SCBWI!

Ahoy There Mateys!

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Week, I thought I'd share a pirate story (well, sort of).

Last summer, I read an article that talked about how there were too many rhyming books. Too many pirate books (since Pirates of the Carribean). Oh and by the way, the picture book market was still soft.

DH didn't read the article. So of course, he wrote a rhyming, pirate picture book inspired by our children. A few months later, he got THE CALL. His book is due out with HarperCollins in 2010. His illustrator is the incredible Leslie Lammle.

Write what you love.

And never stop BELIEVING.

When The Cat's Away...

DH is in San Francisco at a trade show. He gave the usual admonition to me to 'behave', while telling the kids to 'take good care of me'.

So they have.

So far, we have survived two vomit attacks (one child, one dog), one trip to the principal's office, multiple back seat brawls, and one emergency trip to the store for school supplies in the pouring rain.


This was my trip to the grocery store (with an accidental trip down the toy aisle)...

Little One: Can I have this monkey, mama?

Me: Not today, sweetie.

Little One: I really need this monkey. I really, really need this monkey.

Me: But you already have a monkey.

Little One: But I don't have THIS monkey. And my monkey is lonely.

Me (attempt to divert): Can you help me find the yogurt?

Little One: No, but the monkey can. Monkeys are very good nag-avators.

Me: And do they cook too? Because we could really use a good cook in the house.

Little One: Mom, get real.

Little One (a short while later): You can be a good cook, Mom. You just have to watch Martha Stewart.


Then, somewhere between the yogurt aisle and the soup section, Monkey finds his way into the cart...

Little One: I think he jumped in there. Monkeys do that, you know.

Me: Is that so?

Little One (nods vigorously): Awww... isn't that cute. Monkey loves you. Look, he's giving you a kiss.

Me (spitting out monkey fur): I love him too, and we will visit him often. But he is happy here. Just think. All the bananas he can eat!

Little One: But I'll give him lots of snuggles. And he'd rather have snuggles than bananas.


Then, at the checkout lane, as I am still trying to figure out how to get out of the store without the monkey, my little helper empties out the grocery cart. He very helpfully passes me each item in turn, which I scan and bag. Unbeknownst to me, when he runs out of items in the cart, he runs over to the ALREADY SCANNED AND BAGGED groceries, and passes them to me again. Because who wouldn't want to pay for the same groceries TWO and THREE times?

Meanwhile, I am late to pick up the kids from school. In our hurry, we left two bags of groceries there and ran over one can of Chef Boyardee with the shopping cart. I imagine the 'monkey' was laughing his furry, stuffed head off.

I have a friend, Lisa, who says she would rather have a colonoscopy than take her three little ones to the grocery store. She may have a point.