Still Revising — a conversation

Hello, Friends.

I’m still revising. The good news is that I’m in the final act. Here’s my favorite sentence:

If Scott was right that energy paths ran across the lithosphere of the earth connecting land forms and significant natural monuments, and Emesh was right that the earth was overflowing with antediluvian energy activated by Shamash’s dying body, and The Weatherman was right that energy was the key to understanding the post-firestorm changes, then…Rachel’s mind stopped here. She didn’t know exactly what it meant, except that this LaPorte place was something like a nuclear reactor.

It gets readers all on track for Act 3 when everything both falls apart and pulls together, based on the clues and action in the preceding acts. No pressure.

Here’s my bad news. IT’S HARD. You want everything to SHINE and MAKE SENSE and just because a scene is fun or develops character, it doesn’t get to stay. It has to WORK. And sometimes that’s hard to decide.

I agonized over a chapter (chapter 30) this weekend, used my agent’s feedback, talked to everyone I encountered about it. Then, I send my revision off to my critique group. We meet this Friday to discuss and exchange notes.

This morning I realized that I can cut the scene. Just cut it out. Skip the agony. Boil the scene down to the three things I need to keep and move that to a different chapter. But, I’m scared. I’m over-thinking. WHAT IF THAT WAS THE CHAPTER WITH ALL THE BRILLIANT WRITING THAT READERS WERE GOING TO UNDERLINE ON THEIR KINDLES?

(It isn’t)


(If they haven’t by chapter 30 then you have a problem that revising chapter 30 isn’t going to fix)


(There are many languages used in this world. Many languages that have been used. Many that will be. Are you going to have each one represented in this particular novel? You might want to check both the word count and your readers’ patience if this is your project. Instead, maybe concentrate on the story?)


(Yeah, that’s called revising.)

Next month when I post, I hope to tell you that I’m finished revisions and have sent to my agent….then I get to attack my next novel that is almost there. It just needs some….wait for it…revisions.



Fostering Gabe

So, let me acknowledge that it’s crazy. That my life with four kids and a husband who travels for work is full. Let me add in that I recently, after years of work, signed on with an amazing literary agent for my novels and there is a lot of revision in my future. I volunteer at church and at the elementary school. I’m FULL.

Gabe's glamour shot. He's 11 weeks and 11 pounds.

Gabe’s glamour shot. He’s 11 weeks and 11 pounds.

But, I wanted a puppy. Well, a dog. But we got a puppy and now I can’t imagine not wanting a puppy. For about two years now I’ve had this hankering for a canine companion. Every time I brought it up with my husband he would, in a very rational and analytical way, point out that we’ve just gotten to the point where our kids are all in school, they can all read, swim, bicycle. We still have to watch them…but we don’t have to hover anymore. We can go places on the weekends. Everything he said made sense and I would fold away my dog dream. A few days later it would unfold itself and I would want again. I looked at pictures on the internet and read their stories.

I filled out an application at a local rescue, was approved, and picked out the bundle of sweetness that I wanted. I e-mailed my husband every step of the way…because he was in Singapore for business. By the time he came home, she was adopted. I was heartbroken. I’d already pictured us romping through the fields together. She was beautiful and I wish the little pup well with whatever family adopted her. But, now I was on a mission.

My husband asked if my wanting a dog was code for wanting a baby. No. NO. I want a snuggley pet. I grew up with dogs. I like them walking around the house doing their thing. I like when dogs are happy to see you when you walk in the door. I like when they put their paw on your leg and give you THAT look. I wanted my own dog.

Oldest with Gabe. She waited 8 years for a dog in this house.

Oldest with Gabe. She waited 8 years for a dog in this house.

My kids wanted a dog. The oldest girl has been asking for a dog since she was 5. She’s now 13. The twins race up to strangers and ask if they can pet the dogs at all the soccer practices. My boy dreams of a dog like a Jack London book. Them against the world (and all his sisters).

My husband agreed we could compromise. We’d foster. I filled out an application with Big Fluffy Dogs. I’d come across the organization while looking at pictures of Great Pyrs. In the novel I’m about to revise, one of the characters is a white half-wolf (Dido) and I wanted to see photos.

I got an e-mail Thursday afternoon and the phone call Thursday night — there was an 11-week old puppy who needed a foster home. Of course Mike was in New York. I tried to call him. Got voicemail. Had to make a decision. I said yes. My coordinator is Nan. She’s tricky — she LISTENED during the interview and then picked a pup that EXACTLY matched our family needs. She was the first to mention the term “foster fail.” That’s when you realize your heart is not going to let your puppy go. Then, to discuss transport, I spoke to Cookie. I’ve never met Cookie, but I already like someone who would choose this name. I picture a woman wearing a nurse’s coat with chocolate chip cookies with arms and legs and big smiley faces. In the background of her phone I could hear her dogs (she had a puppy that was very happy she was home) and in the background of my phone my twins girls, wrapped in towels and dripping water, were repeatedly asking, “Is that the dog lady?”

Transport. The dogs are sent out from Tennessee and then stop at certain pre-planned sites. For me, in northeast Maryland, I had two options. Both were 2 hours away. I was worried about how to fit in 4 hours of driving on Saturday. The twins had soccer from 9-10:30, we had a neighborhood party at 2:30, my older daughter’s soccer at 4:30, and my son’s travel football game at 8. I can’t remember if Cookie laughed, but she did tell me that the pick up wasn’t going to interfere…..I was to pick up GABE at 2 AM in the empty parking lot of a Toys’R’us.

An emergency trip to Petsmart on Friday after school. I kinda wish I had a picture. The five of us, 4 kids and me, testing out the squeaky toys, voting on the dog bowl, discussing the merits of any and all puppy accessories. One of the twins tried out the cushion for the crate to make sure it was soft enough. Friday night Mike arrives home and sees the dog food dish, the food, the crate. “Is there something you need to tell me, Sherri?”

A few hours later, at 11:45 PM, my oldest daughter and I head out, armed with blankets and water and a dish, etc. Big Fluffy Dogs gives all the information and tells what to do and I read the instructions like a million times. I drank some tea, but my daughter was supposed to talk to me on the drive, keep me awake. Yeah right. She was asleep, sprawled on the backseat snoring, before we turned out of our development.

The men doing the transport were there, the whole process was only a few minutes. I made sure to drive my minivan up to the transport van in a very clandestine manner so that the drivers windows faces each other. I learned that from THE WIRE. “You Sherri?”  “Yeah. You got GABE?” “Yeah.” “Come around to the back of the van.” “Alright, I will.”

No, that wasn’t how it went, but I was so sleep-fogged that I can’t remember the exact dialogue. I do remember commenting on how awake the men seemed and they advised energy drinks and heavy metal music. My daughter woke up. We cuddled little Gabe, she took him, and we headed home.

In the morning, the other three kids couldn’t believe it was real. WE HAD A PUPPY. Look at my son’s face.

We're really doing this? Does Dad know?

We’re really doing this? Does Dad know?

Gabe is hilarious, and he’s definitely family friendly. He’s been inside, outside, slept in a hammock, gone to the park (not a dog park because he doesn’t have his last shots), watched his first soccer practice from the warmth of the car, and tested out everyone’s bed. He does have a crate that he uses during the night and when I go to work.


But, everyone is still so excited, that we have to use a timer at bedtime. He sleeps with each child for 12 minutes and then I have to move him to the next child for snuggles.

I’m not sure how fostering works out — we’re still getting into the routine — but I can’t STAND the thought that this little guy might have been in a shelter, one among many, kept in a crate because there aren’t enough resources to care for all the animals.


I’ve got to go. Lots to do today.



It’s Not You. It’s Them (Sherri version)

It’s a little awkward, being funny at the end of class when you are supposed to be in savasana, but yesterday I read this to my yoga classes from Glennon’s Momastery rant.

Here’s my version.

Children #3 and #4 were shocked at the bus stop on Tuesday. A little neighbor girl told them, confirmed by the girl’s mother, that when I said they could “skip school” on Monday, it was a joke. Everyone was off for Labor Day. Child #3 gave me big eyes and said she was disappointed in me. Child #4 ran down the driveway and sat down in the backyard, demanding a new day off from school.

I tried to reason with her. Reminding her that on Monday Daddy hadn’t been at work, we’d seen school friends at the pool, and she’d even invited the neighbor girl over to play. I thought she’d figured it out. Child #3 wasn’t budging on the fact that she’d been robbed of a day off school. I thought about suggesting this Monday, when schools are closed again, but wisely refrained. The bus came up the street. Bodily threats were involved. Got her on the bus.

Child #3 stared at me from the bus window and shook her head with disapproval.

The older kids aren’t easier, though.

My daughter, Child #1, got her very first check in the mail for doing a job at our church. She was so excited. Until I took it away. She’d moved chairs — setting up for service and then restacking — and maybe broken a sweat. However, this summer she also lost 2 library books. We searched everywhere. Haven’t seen them in weeks. I had to pay for them yesterday. And the price?  Well, she got back $1 from her first paycheck. She’s angry at me.

Not to be left out, Child #2 felt betrayed when I wouldn’t help him steal a book from Child #1’s room. Here’s the thing. Not only do we go to the library every 3 weeks, not only do each of the children check out books from their school library, but our house has books in every room. We love books. But, Child #1 decided to read the Artemis Fowl series. Each of the books was on her bookshelf. Suddenly, Child #2 wanted to read the series, but he’s read several times before, so he read more quickly. Despite promising that he wouldn’t hound her the day before, by Tuesday he was ready for the second book and she was in the middle. He worked out a complicated scheme of my calling Child #1 out of her room, him sneaking in, taking the book, sticking it inside another book, and retreating to a different part of the house to read it. Then, sneaking it back into her room before he left for football practice.

“No,” I said. But I did check out books 2 and 3 from the library (where I went to pay for the lost books) and brought them home the next day. They were unacceptable because they had different cover art and he wanted me to switch library book 2 for our copy book 2. If I could just call Child #1 out of her room then he would….

IT’S NOT ME, IT’S THEM. They are strange, whirling planets of selfish desire and unreasonable requests. Constant requests. You get through one and there’s another waiting behind it.

Glennon says to wait it out. I’ve got nothing better to advise.




Last Day of School

Today is the last day of school. It was a long year — made longer by the 11 snow days that my county used. I’d like to think that Monday will automatically slow down, that we will ease into summer, but I have a Memorial Service and summer camp for the younger ones and the next session of barbell and yoga starts with a donation class raising money for at-risk youth in Baltimore. So, I’ll keep you posted when my family and I do slow down.

Last month — May — kicks my butt every year. (Picture below) You’ll notice the photo is somewhat blurry. That’s because May ZOOMS. Every day, no hyperbole, has at least three things happening. And that’s just what is scheduled. The lacrosse games and practices, the field trips to zoos and historic cities and estuaries and class picnics at school because the weather is finally cooperating. Planting the garden and the gymnastics so the girls will stop climbing the outside of my stairs…it goes on.

Family bulletin board for scheduled events.

Family bulletin board for scheduled events.

So, please forgive me for not writing.

But, today is the last day of school. For the past week the children have been bringing home artwork and thick science notebooks full of big science-y words and diagrams of ladybugs growing from larvae and pottery that has been glazed and painted and math workbooks with numerical scribbling, and certificates. All kinds of certificates, especially for my 5th grader. And I felt such pride in my children and warmth for their teachers. I wanted to hug everyone and scream, “WE MADE IT.”

And then these things happened to make me question the reality of whether we’d made it or not.

First, my son. He’s ‘graduating’ from 5th grade, this past year having been preparation for middle school. Yet, FAILED at picnicking. I invited him to a picnic. General schedule was followed in that people arrived, set food on one table, dessert on another, drinks in a cooler. All routine. After about 20 minutes of socializing there is a congregation. Sometimes a speech. In this case a prayer. Lines form and go down the table, plates are filled. I helped the two younger children, checked that my son had a plate (he did), asked if he needed anything (he rolled his eyes), I sat with two younger children and some moms.

Two hours later, thunder begins. Adult scuttle around packing up the food and folding the chairs. My son, as I’m carrying our Tupperware in one hand and our chairs in the other, says, “But I didn’t get any dessert.”

So I stop the woman (I didn’t know her name) who’d brought the best dessert. Strawberries with the tops cut off, stuffed with cream and topped with a fresh blueberry.  I stop this woman and ask if, please, my son could have some of her dessert. My two youngest have also run over to the dessert table and fetched the only thing left: oatmeal cookies, to offer to my son. To both, my son mutters, “Never mind” and stalks away.

In the car my son, who is supposed to have been maturing this past year, screams: THE PARTY DIDN’T EVEN FEED ME.

Me: But you had a plate.

Him: Only chips.

Me: Why?

Him: Because I didn’t want to wait in line.

Me: Why didn’t you go back later?

Him: I did. Everyone was cleaning up.

Me: That was 2 hours later.

Him: I don’t know that. I don’t have a watch.

So, there you go. The party is somehow an entity that puts people in high chairs and spoon feeds them, I guess. But, that’s nothing compared to what the laundry basket can do….

My daughter is finishing 7th grade. A young adult now. Handles herself in school, rides horses, responsible. And when she came home from her riding lesson, she joined the younger kids and me in the playroom where we were painting. Not long after, she realizes that she got paint all over the leg of her riding pants.

Me: Hurry, wash them off before it stains.

Her: Okay.

She gets up and disappears. About ten minutes later she comes back wearing different clothes.

Me: Did the paint come out?

Her: (quizzical look) How should I know?

Me: What do you mean?

Her: What do you mean?

Me: Where are the pants?

Her: I quick took them off and put them in the laundry bin, like you said.

Me: What do you think happens after you put them in the bin? That they are automatically clean? That you put them in and they come back out folded?

Her: You don’t have to be mean.

The riding pants were indeed in the laundry bin, spreading paint onto someone else’s white sock. I showed her the stain spray, ran the load. The riding pants were saved. So was the sock

My children have had an important year. They’ve learned many things. There is, apparently, still much to be learned.

I wish you (and your children) the best this summer!



Valley of the Voles

The Valley of the Voles, the soap opera of the garden, if you will. A frivolous post, but next week I will return with an interview by author T. Eric Bakutis.

For Mother’s Day two years ago my husband bought me this lovely arch for our patio. We planted clematis and the plants — white and purple flowers — grew in beauty and stature. It was everything I ever wanted.



Last year, for Mother’s Day, my husband built a planter to the right of the arch. We put in roses of sharon and hyacinth and talked about strawberry plants. In building the planter, my husband made the planter level with the existing patio, joining on the bottom with the mulch in the bed that creeps around the west side. There was a slight gap between the bottom of the planter and the ground. In little beastie language this means “Come on in” or “Open door policy” as translated by my friend Nancy. Against all intention, we’d designed an attractive rodent condominium. The renters came.

I thought we had a mole. Instead, we had voles.

Mole:  A solitary animal that digs tunnels in your yard and eats grubs.

Vole: A rodent cousin to a mouse. 155 different species. They have litter after litter. If you have an outside cat, you might have been gifted a dead one.

They run paths through your grass until they reach bare dirt. From above, it looks like a labyrinth extending through your yard. I caught my first glimpses of dark gray skittering down the trails, the trails that ended/began at one corner of the planter, but I wasn’t ANGRY. Live and let live.

Then they ate my clematis. The green shoots above ground were chomped off. I dug up what was left.

Here is the root ball. You can see there were about 100 individual roots. Three were left.

The eaten clematis

The eaten clematis

After examination, I followed the underground tunnel back the planter and collapsed the tunnel, backfilling with my gloved hands. I replanted the clematis.

By now I’d seen at least two voles. They liked to do their morning labyrinth run at the same time I came down to check my hyacinths after putting kids on the bus. One was gray and slinky and the other was fat and brown like a gerbil. They appeared to be friends. Maybe more than friends, if the gerbil was pregnant.

I read up about voles. How, if you don’t have a dog or cat, you can buy fox, coyote, or dog urine on Ebay and hunting websites. Huh. What’s to stop someone from peeing into a container and selling it as ‘predator urine.’ Seriously. And how was I supposed to spread it around.  No.  This was not a feasible plan.  I was, however, willing to give my neighbor’s dog a lot of water to drink and let her run around my yard. Conclusion: No discernable vole exodus.

But, at least my hyacinths were blooming. Three purple flowers of miniature bells all in a row, strong and fecund in their second year of blooming.

And then this.

They dragged it down into their hidden lair.

They dragged it down into their hidden lair.

Not okay, voles.  This is NOT OKAY. Again, I dug up their tunnel, tracing the litter of hyacinth bells and little bits of green. They’d pulled the whole thing down, leaving only that one green leave behind.

The next day the second hyacinth was pulled down into a hole. Not even a leaf left behind.

My husband stepped in. “This is enough,” he said. He brought home mouse traps, baited them with peanut butter, but the ants ate it all up.

He pulled up the third, and last, hyacinth. The tunnel was evident underneath. They’d been working on it. I imagined the little rodents in prison white and black stripes. Maybe taking turns, one popping up for a smoke break, before tunneling again. We put the hyacinth leaves in a mouse trap and laid it across their labyrinth paths. The trap sprung, but didn’t catch anything.

My husband went shopping again. He came home with two things: mouse poison and CLEMATIS LEAVES.

The voles had misinterpreted my tunnel collapsing behavior. I was saying, “Move on.”  They thought I meant move to the other corner of the planter. New trails appeared in the grass on that end.

My husband and I set the clematis leaves in the traps. We caught a vole. We set out the poison near the gap.  It was nibbled.

We set out another trap with clematis leaves.

Leaves plucked from somone else's clematis plant and kept on ice because that's how our voles like it.

Leaves plucked from somone else’s clematis plant and kept on ice because that’s how our voles like it.

In the morning, I saw a vole wandering in circles.  My husband shoveled it. I did not take a picture. Two gray voles dead, but nothing doing with the fat brown one. I’d started calling him/her Gus.  Worried that Gus couldn’t get to the poison (it was inside a plastic container), my husband removed the top.  More poison nibbled.

Then, in checking the mousetrap, we found it deconstructed all over the lawn.  Our guess is that a vole (Gus?) was caught in trap and a hawk flew down and picked up the whole thing, then dropped it and it flew into pieces across the yard.

Finally the traps sat there with shriveled clematis leaves. No more poison nibbled. We threw away the traps and the poison. Last weekend — Mother’s Day — we dug up the mulch and top layer of soil, dumping it on a tarp. Didn’t see any voles. Didn’t find any lair. We mixed around the soil, took out the end plants, put the end plants back in, put the top layer and then the mulch back on. We planted grape vines on either side of the arch. Voles are not supposed to like grapes vines.

Digging up the vole tunnels, looking for the hidden lair (which we never found).

Digging up the vole tunnels, looking for the hidden lair (which we never found)

Clematis transplanted to front yard, hopefully to climb up the lamp post on the right and cover with flowers.

Clematis transplanted to front yard, hopefully to climb up the lamp post on the right and cover with flowers.

If I had been faster to post this, that would be the end of the saga about voles. But, after Mother’s Day I went down to the patio. Laying at the bottom of the stairs with no visible wounds?  A dead vole.


Author Interview: Amanda Hart Miller

Amanda Hart Miller’s debut children’s book SUPERDYLAN AND THE POWERS OF JUST RIGHT came out in July 2013.  My kids have reviewed the book and it’s HILARIOUS.  She has graciously agreed to be interviewed.

Amanda’s previous credits include short stories and poetry.  You can read more about her publishing experience at:  Find SUPERDYLAN at in both print and kindle editions.

Post a comment in the section below and you’ll automatically be entered in a drawing to win a free copy of SuperDylan and the Powers of Just Right.

coverAmanda Hart Miller

1)      Tell us a little about the book and the intended audience.

Like most children’s books, SuperDylan and the Powers of Just Right has a dual audience. Since early reader chapter books are usually tandem-read by a parent and child, a good book needs to entertain both readers and encourage discussion. SuperDylan is narrated by 5 year old Dylan, and his insight comes straight from my own sons’ interpretations of the world around them. Dylan is trying to find his place as the middle child in his family–he doesn’t know as much as his older sister, and he’s not allowed to get away with as much as his baby brother. When his baby brother shows up with a superhero cape like Dylan’s, Dylan goes on a crusade to prove his brother isn’t a true superhero. After a few mishaps and a rescue mission, Dylan learns what it means to be “just right.”

2)      What made you want to write SuperDylan?

The current market offers a lot of great chapter book series for boys, but most of these books are either for a slightly older audience (like the Wimpy Kid series) or they are based on fantasy (like the Magic Tree House series). I was surprised to find a dearth of early reader chapter books that use humor to explore real family situations.

 3)      What surprised you about the publishing process?

I’ve been very pleased, and perhaps a little surprised, by the ease of the self-publishing process. It takes less than a half hour to “self-publish” a book. However, the most important part of the publishing process, whether you’re self-publishing or going the route of traditional publishing, is the first step: create something good. That’s the step that can take years. Then you just have to believe in your product and do what’s necessary to get it into readers’ hands.

4)      Did you already have a platform in place?  What are you doing to build a readership?

I’m lucky to live in Hagerstown, MD, a community that supports its authors. My local newspaper, the Herald Mail, is running a profile on the book, and several local bookstores have contacted me about selling the book and hosting readings. I’m also lucky to have a strong online network of fellow writers, readers, and parents. I’m thrilled to be here at TasteofSherri and I hope to visit a few other blogs in the next few weeks.

5)      What are your future plans with SuperDylan?

Grant and I are already at work on the second book, SuperDylan and the Night Horse, which we are hoping to release in time for Halloween. As Dylan’s family prepares to move to their new home, Dylan is troubled by nightmares about making new friends. After receiving some unique advice from his big sister, he works to control his nightmare (Night Horse) and use it to his advantage. The first SuperDylan book is a story about sibling rivalry and identity; this second book focuses on self-confidence, positive thinking, and imagination.

6)      Best piece(s) of advice that you’ve received as a writer?

I recently read an article entitled “Madman, Architect, Carpenter, Judge.”

It breaks the writing process into 4 stages, and I can’t stress how much this article rang true to me. So many people either let their amazing ideas be silenced by their inner critic, or they go to the other extreme and feel like whatever they write first should make it into the final draft. By the final draft, I’ve usually cut about 80% of what my “Madman” writes, but if I never let him write it in the first place, I’d never have the fodder I need to create the final product.

Amanda, thank you so much for stopping by!

A hedgehog, a frog, and two chicks walked into a bar…

So, what happens when you put two blonde chicks in with a misanthropic hedgehog?  I had the video camera all ready….


Seriously.  Not a thing.  Hufflepuff walked to the corner of his cage and showed his hiney to the new girls.  They, in return, gave his quills a couple of friendly, exploratory pecks.  Then they pooped.  Checked out his food bowl.  Looked at his water bottle.  Gave it a couple of friendly, exploratory pecks.  Then settled under his heat lamp.  So much for a super-cute video of the chicks imprinting on a hedgehog and following him around.  So much for Hufflepuff puffing up and huffing to defend his territory against the blonde interlopers.  Nope.  Plain old boring.

But, let me back up.  Perhaps you are wondering why the Woosley family currently has 1 pygmy frog, an African hedgehog, and two chickens.    It’s because my husband won’t let us get a dog.  Too much responsibility.  I can also blame Stein.  He’d just gotten baby chicks when we stayed at his house in Virgina last month.  He made them look easy to care for.  Heck, he let us hold them with their downy softy-soft fur and their funny feet.  The way the little blondies fell asleep in the palm of your hand.  The way they drink and throw their little necks back to swallow.  The perfect little nail on the end of each toe.

Back in Maryland, then, Diana’s 11th birthday was approaching.  She asked for a horse and a car.   Chickens suddenly seemed reasonable.  My friend Mrs. Kathy Peter was soooo nice.  She is loaning us two chicks.  The twins and I went to pick them up and Diana was able to have them when they were two days old.

DSC04977 DSC04980

The one on the right has a little dark spot on her head.  Her name is Hot Wings.  The girl on the left is Tenders.

Because we’re a family that needs more chaos, right?  The chicks grow fast.  In fact, while we were camping over Memorial Day, they learned all about flapping their wings and this thing called flying.  Our friend Isabel came in to feed/water them and ended up finding Tenders strolling through our family room and Hot Wings pooping it up in my closet.

Being almost two weeks old, I guess they are in their early teens in human years.  They are sprouting tail feathers and ‘developing.’  I kinda wanted to make a chicken bra with two half coconuts, but I got distracted looking through the Polly Pocket bin trying to find coconuts that small.  They don’t need their incubator anymore and are moving out to the garage until they learn to tidy their cages and use deoderant.  And, also, stop spilling their water.

They also like to roost and feel out their independence.   Here’s the chickies helping Diana with her homework.


So, no viral video of Hufflepuff and the Chicks, but right after I put the camera away our neighbors came over to play.  The girls let the chicks perch on a toy pirate ship and we were trying to figure out to make Hot Wings walk the plank (about three inches off the ground, no animals were harmed during these reenactments!).  Suddenly the door flies open and there is my neighbor’s 3-year-old son with a sword in one hand and sporting a crooked eyepatch with the elastic folding over his right ear.  His face is absolutely filled with horror.  “No chicks on the pirate ship.  No chicks allowed.”

Yeah.  Where was my camera then?