Tag Archives: books

The Dreaded School Summer Reading List

A version of this piece was published in Brain Child last year. Ten To Twenty Parenting has republished it on their blog. Some things change over time…my feelings towards this summer assignment has not.


Do You Believe In Magic?

I am in a really bad mood today. Don’t know why, maybe its the never-ending pile of snow outside my front door. Maybe it’s because the door on my car was frozen shut when I went to drive the kids to school.  Maybe it’s because I had zero gas in my car once I finally opened the car door and then had to stand out in the snow and wind and freezing rain to fill my tank. Whatever the reason, I am not in a good mood. So on the advice of my sister I am headed to HomeGoods to buy something with a starfish on it and then I am going to bake a cake. A chocolate cake. In the meantime here is a little story I wrote about a girl who woke up in a bad mood, and the help she gets from her brother to turn it around, because sometimes all it takes is a little, fun, child-like magic…(and sometimes it takes HomeGoods and chocolate cake)

Harry’s Magic


Eliza woke up on the wrong side of the bed,

her hair all askew, her eyes seeing red.

She didn’t know why but she felt angry and mad;

her insides felt twisted, and crinkly and bad!

Her head was all groggy, her lungs full of steam;

she wanted to shout, she wanted to scream!

She put on her shoes and downstairs she clomped,

Each step getting louder: stomp,






“Hello!” Called her brother,“ What’s that? Whose out there?

Is a there a dinosaur in the house?  A monster? A bear?”

“No, Harry, it’s me,” Eliza said with a growl.

“I woke up feeling grumpy, my mood is just foul.

I don’t want to laugh or smile or play.

I just feel like yelling, so stay out of my way!

I am furious, irate, annoyed and quite fuming.

I feel like a beast, like something not human!”


“A beast!”  Harry said. “Well, I can fix that!

Quick, bring me my wand, my cape and my hat!

I will drive out that fiend! I will shatter that curse!

I will make you a potion before it gets worse.”


“Now, let’s see…

First, I will need the dog’s chew bone, then some old bubble gum,

three hairs from a hairbrush and an earring from Mum.

A sock that is smelly, a Band-Aid that’s new,

a crayon that’s green and dad’s left running shoe.

Some Halloween treats, an old boiled egg,

a button from your sweater, a scab from your leg,

some bologna that’s slimy, an elephant with wings,

three rotten apples and a dolly that sings.”


Eliza reached under sofas and reached under chairs,

she peered into closets, and ran up and down stairs.

She pulled back the curtains and opened the drawers,

she climbed into the bathtub and searched behind doors.

She gathered it all, the old and the new,

the smelly, the gross, the slimy, the chewed.


“Let’s go!” Harry said, throwing open the door.

“Outside! We aren’t done, there is still a lot more!

We must search all around and find all that we need,

like that slippery worm! Quick! Over there, by that weed!

Next a butterfly, then some flowers: both yellow and red,

a grasshopper and a rock from under the shed.

Wild goose feathers, and a jumping bull frog,

a nut and a twig and some moss from that log.”


So, Eliza ran and jumped and climbed into the trees,

she crept through the bushes on her hands and her knees.

She gathered it all up and put it into a pail.

“And lastly,“ said Harry, “one teeny-weeny snail.”


Eliza searched and searched until at last she found one.

“There!” She said, “Is that it? At last, are we done?”

“Almost,” said her brother, slowly stirring his brew.

“But there is just one more small thing I still need you to do.

You must jump! Dance! Leap! And sing out a song!

And when you are done, that beast will be gone.”


Eliza growled and groused, but did as he said,

singing sort-of-a song and barely nodding her head.

She gave one leg a slow shake and the other a jiggle,

she wiggled her backside and then… she started to giggle.



Eliza’s eyes grew round, her mouth opened wide.

“Harry,” she whispered.  “I feel different inside.

I am no longer crabby, or mean, or a beast!

I feel silly, elated and not mad in the least!

All gone are my monsters, my meanies, my pout,

I just feel like singing and dancing about!

I feel crazy and happy! I’m Eliza! I’m me!

Oh, thank you! You did it! You set my fun free!”


“You’re welcome,” said Harry, with a wink and a bow.

“My magic always works and I’ll tell you how.

First you conjure up some sillies, then stir in some fun,

give a hip and a hop and… ABRACADABRA! It’s done!

Because no beast can survive, no grumpies will stay,

if you just let a little Harry-magic into your day.”


Two Years Bigger, Two Years Smaller

My two youngest boys, Harry (10) and Teddy (8) play pretty well together, when they aren’t busy fighting.  I love watching them on the beach collecting crabs, or  building a castle for their plastic army guys, challenging each other on the trampoline in the backyard, or creating a whole universe with Legos. I love hearing them in the backseat of the car, talking and laughing as they discuss which world record they are going to try to beat. I find their imaginations fascinating, their stories endless.  I think even the vilified video games supply a type of creativity, as they insert themselves into another world and battle fierce enemies together.

I often marvel at the connection my two boys have…and I hope they always have it. They are VERY different kids, and I often think that if they weren’t brothers and they just happened to meet in school or camp, they might not choose to hang out with one another.  Harry tends to be more sporty and active, Teddy more scientific and bookish, and together they just shine.  I think they each bring out certain aspects in each other, and that if they didn’t have one another these hidden pieces may not ever be given a chance to grow and develop. I often think how lucky they are to have the chance to be friends with someone who doesn’t necessarily think in the same ways or share all the same interests. What a great gift, siblings…

Harry and Teddy share a room, and for the first time the other night Harry said he was ready for his own room. He said, he didn’t want anymore Star Wars stuff on his walls, just sports stuff.  Teddy still wants Star Wars. Now, we don’t have a spare room so he isn’t going anywhere, and after an argument of some proportion, they went to sleep, all forgotten the next day. But I was left with a touch of sadness.  Time is marching on and the short space of two years between them will seem large for a while.  Harry will be in middle school in another year, and at this young age that difference seems huge.  Sometimes I wish could stop it, freeze them where they are, but then I would never know the great adventures they are going to have together as they grow up, and I am sure there will be many…

So here is my story for them:


Harry and Teddy were brothers.

Harry was two years bigger and Teddy was two years smaller.

But they weren’t just brothers. Oh no, they were really much, much, more…

They were fierce pirates sailing over the stormy seas, always ready with their mighty swords to avenge their lost mates.

They were courageous astronauts with super, fantastic, ultrasonic, laser guns fighting to defend the universe from two –headed, blue skinned aliens.

They were fearless arctic explorers with their trusty dog sled team, racing over the frozen tundra as they battled the lost creatures of the ice.

They spent hours in the backyard together:

studying ant colonies at work, feeding the tiny bugs crumbs from their sandwiches and and marveling at their incredible strength as the ants easily carried huge pieces of pb&j back to their sandy hills.


Trying to catch that one, gigantic bullfrog in the fish pond that always… seemed to… slip away…. right at the last…. SECOND! DARN!


Camping in their homemade tent, but always ending up back in their own comfy house when all the good snacks were gone and it was just too dark and creepy to stay outside any longer.

Brothers, pirates, astronauts, explorers.

Two years bigger, two years smaller.

Until one day when Harry said he had an important announcement to make: he was too old to play these baby games anymore.

After all, he was two years bigger.

Teddy gasped! Teddy cried! Teddy…didn’t know what to do.

“No more stormy seas, or frozen tundra?” he asked.

“No,” said Harry. “I am two years bigger.”

“No more ant watching or slippery frogs?” asked Teddy.

“No!” said Harry, folding his arms across his chest. “I am two years bigger.”

“No more freaky aliens or sort-of camp outs?” asked Teddy.

“NO!” insisted Harry. “I am two years bigger. Too old for all that baby stuff!

So the games just… stopped.

The ships came to shore, the aliens slipped away and the dog sled sat idle in the shed.

One day it began to rain. It rained all day, and the next day and the next.

Harry sat alone in his room with nothing to do.

He looked out his window and tried to count the raindrops as they fell against the glass.

It was hard work, and very boring.

Then…wait… he saw something moving in the backyard.

It was Teddy.

He was running and waving his sword all about and shouting…at no one.

“Humph!” grumbled Harry, turning away, “Baby stuff.”

He looked over his shoulder.

Teddy was rolling around in the mud; his sword raised high, his voice getting louder.

“Two years bigger, two years bigger,” Harry muttered quietly.

He glanced out again.  Nothing. Where was Teddy?

Harry moved closer to the window.  There he was, lying very still on the wet ground, arms out straight, his sword lying by his side.

“Ridiculous!” Harry said, shaking his head.

He looked out again. Teddy hadn’t moved.

He looked closer…and then he saw them, enemy pirates!  A whole crew of them.

They were scattered all around, on the ground, moaning and holding their sides.

Of course, Teddy had beaten the pirates!

“Yes! Go Teddy!” Whispered Harry.

But wait… something was wrong. Teddy still hadn’t moved. He was hurt.

Suddenly, out of the corner of his eye, Harry saw something. What was that? There was a sudden flash of light and then he saw it, a gigantic sea monster!

It rolled silently past the abandoned pirate ship, over the crashing waves and headed straight towards his brother.

Teddy slowly raised his head and looked at the beast.  He tried to crawl away…

“Teddy! Hang on! I’m coming!” yelled Harry, stopping only to grab his sword before running out the door.

He charged straight into the rain, right at the monster and, let out a blood-curdling scream.

“AARRGGHH! Leave my brother alone!”

The ugly creature turned towards Harry.  It reared up, slime falling off his green skin, his mighty tail thrashing all about. His teeth were shiny and sharp, his eyes red and glowing.

This battle was sure to be the fiercest ever. Harry knew had to win, but he couldn’t do it alone.

“Help! Teddy!” he called.

Teddy got up, grabbed his sword and together they fought.

Their swords clashed, the rain fell and the stormy seas swirled around them. The battle raged on and on, until the sea monster, worn out, and realizing he was defeated by the strength of the two brothers gave one last feeble snort, then turned and swam away.

Exhausted the two boys fell to the ground, laughing and cheering.

“We did it!” yelled Harry.

“We did it!” yelled Teddy. “ Who-Hoo!”

The two boys rolled in the mud together in a rather messy victory hug-wrestle.

“Hey,” said Teddy, suddenly sitting up, “I thought you were too big for all these baby games?”

Well,” said Harry, thinking, wiping the dirt off his face, “Someone had to protect you from that monster and after all, I am two years bigger.”

Teddy threw a mud ball at him.

Brothers, pirates, astronauts, explorers.

Two years bigger, two years smaller.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2011.

Five more minutes…..

How many times have you said to your kids, “Five more minutes, then we are going!”  We all give our kids these inane warnings, all the time.  Listen next time you are at the park,or a store, or a party and you can hear parents all around you warning their offspring, “Five more minutes!” Really, I think we are probably warning ourselves, and the other adults around us, with a polite “I am outta here.”  But then we run into an old friend, or start a conversation with new friends, settle down with just one more glass of wine and soon five minutes turns into 6, and then into 60. How are our kids ever going to learn the concept of time ? Here is a short story I wrote about this after I caught myself giving my kids their 100th warning that it was time to leave. Enjoy!

Five More Minutes!

“Kids! Five more minutes! We have to go!” Mom called downstairs.

Five minutes! Awww, what can we do in five minutes?

So… we had a fast, funky dance party,

and a lovely, little tea party ,

and a cool costume party with sparkly hats,

colorful feather boas,

and scary face masks.

“Children, five more minutes!”  Hollered Dad

So… we had silly potato sack races,

and tricky wheelbarrow races,

and a championship three-legged race.

“Hey Cuties, five more minutes!” Yelled Aunt Sue.

So… we watched a whole scary movie with the lights off,

and played crazy charades,

and finished an entire game of Monopoly.

“Yo, guys and gals! FIVE-MORE –MINUTES!” Bellowed Uncle Dave.

So… we played nine innings of baseball,

and nine innings of kickball and…

nine rounds of dodge ball…

“Oh, Sweeties, just five more minutes!” Sang out Grandma.

So… we made delicious cupcakes with pink and chocolate frosting,

and ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles,

and had a very successful, neighborhood lemonade stand.

“Calling all you mad monkeys! Five more minutes!” Said Granddad.

So… we made a time machine from some nails, and sheets and

old wood we found in the back yard,

painted it all red and black,

and went back in time to slay a fierce, fire-breathing dragon.

“Come on! Five minutes are up! Time to go!” said Mom.

“But we aren’t done yet!”

“Okay, okay, five more minutes!”

“Awww, but what can we do in just five minutes?”

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2011.