For the record, a new job has not yet magically fallen from the sky.  But thank you for asking.

Today I am thinking of something else altogether.  Goosebumps.  No, not the physiological reaction to cold or terror, but the children’s book series of the same name.  If you too have kids, you may have heard of it.  Maybe you’ve read one (or more) yourself?  As a kid, I adored mysteries.  I read Nancy Drew of course, and the Hardy Boys, Alfred Hitchcock, Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine (before the Goosebumps series).  I even recall the Ellery Queen minute mystery segment which used to air on a local AM radio station.  Any tale that involved the supernatural, a ghostly spectre or skeletal hand, creaking doors, maniacal laughter – you name it, and I was transfixed.  As a teenager I moved onto horror, and for several years let Stephen King scare the crap out of me.  Eventually I grew tired of the genre, mostly b/c I preferred sleeping soundly at night.  I’d also discovered something as I aged.  The terrifying fact that people in real life can be bigger monsters than anything in fiction.

Fast forward twenty years.  I am now mother to two girls, one of whom loves a good mystery.  The shivers creeping up & down her spine, till she’s forced to pull the covers over her head.  Surprisingly it’s my younger (not older) daughter, who has been for most of her life enchanted with all things ghoulish.  We have a running joke about her watching episodes of Scooby Doo as a toddler, reminding us all (in her slurpy slurred speech – due to the pacifier) “mmooonsteersss – pphhaffake.” Her older sister tried Goosebumps a few years ago and was pretty much traumatized by the series.  Couldn’t sleep for days, the poor thing.  I banned the books and videos (though I didn’t need to).  She couldn’t even look at the covers w/out cringing.  But recently our younger daughter has started checking the books out from the library.   She is 6, and frankly, cannot read that well.  The Goosebumps series is geared towards prepubescents.  I find it amusing that she proudly clutches them to her chest at the check-out, displaying her choice for all & sundry, and announcing loudly to her sister than SHE IS GETTING GOOSEBUMPS.  This week it’s The Cuckoo Clock of Doom.

Two nights ago she thrust the book under my nose.  I feigned terror –  Ooooooh Georgia, I can’t even look at it!  And she positively beamed with pleasure.  She tries (or pretends) to be reading the books, though I know she can’t make out more than a few sight words.  I understand half her motive for the selection is to (try to) get one-up on her big sister, whom she knows can’t stand the series.  Her checking out Goosebumps is akin to saying You Wuss and thumbing her nose at her.  I don’t encourage this sort of thing, but it’s not doing any harm.  In terms of real competition or threat, it’s a non-issue, and it might be helping her learn to read.  A little.

But my husband is having none of it.  He sees these Goosebumps books as a completely ineffective distraction from the task at hand.  Her learning to read.  He has no patience w/ her pretending to do so.  So tonight we’re going back to the library to get some more suitable books for our youngest.  My question.  Can anyone recommend some good mysteries for a 6 year old?  Believe me when I saw we’ve exhausted the collection of Scooby Doo soft backs.  Are there any others out there for this age group?

Pudding Butt the Cat

Once upon a time, in the town right next to yours, there lived the fattest cat in the history of the world, and his name was Pudding Butt. Now when I say Pudding Butt was big, I don’t just mean big – I mean BIG. He was so fat that had to sleep in a Rubbermaid plastic tub instead of a cat bed. He weighed nearly 45 lbs.

Pudding Butt was a glutton. But he was a glutton for one thing only. Pudding. Tapioca, to be exact. Pudding Butt just couldn’t get enough of it. Morning, noon & night the cat craved Tapioca. His momma kept it in little plastic pudding cups tucked in every cabinet of the kitchen. But it still wasn’t enough.

One morning, Pudding Butt woke up hungry. He always woke up hungry. And so he yawned and stretched and smacked his little (big) Pudding Butt lips, and waddled into the kitchen for breakfast.

MEOW, he called to his momma. Which meant, “Hey Lady, get me some Pudding. Right NOW.”

His momma looked at Pudding Butt with worried eyes. “Oh, sweetums, I spoke with your doctor this morning. Remember last week when I took you to the vet? Well, your test results came back and [GULP] you have a little bit of a… weight issue.”

MEOW, said Pudding Butt. Which meant, “Really. That’s great, now get me my PUDDING.”

“So, ummmm, anyway poopsie, you’re going to have to go on a diet. Starting today. No more tapioca for you, my furry little man.” And his momma took a carrot out of the crisper bin and dropped into Pudding Butt’s dish.


Pudding Butt just looked at the carrot, and looked at his momma. Back and forth, back and forth. Until, sensing no forthcoming pudding, he turned tail, disgusted, and squeeeeeeeezed himself through his dog-sized cat door.

And so Pudding Butt began to walk, albeit very slowly, dragging his massive blimp-like middle along the ground. Fortunately for Pudding Butt, he’d only gone a block before he picked up the scent. The scent of… PUDDING!

HOLY MOLEY! thought Pudding Butt, and he began to trot a little faster. Sniff-sniff-sniffing the air with eager interest. The trail led him to the rear of a nondescript house, and up to the window ledge of what appeared to be the kitchen. With quite a bit of doing, Pudding Butt heeeeeeaved himself up to the ledge and peered through the dusty window. The room was spacious and filled – and I mean FILLED – with pudding. Big cups, little cups, huge institutional-sized cans of it, stocked floor to ceiling with no room in between. And sandwiched inside this pudding cocoon, there sat a man. The biggest man he’d ever seen. He wore a stained and yellowed t-shirt emblazoned with “PUDDING EATING CHAMPION OF THE WORLD” and was hunched over an open tub of tapioca.

This vast ocean of pudding belonged to none other than Pudding Baxter Jones, the pudding-eating champion of the world. But Pudding Jones had grown disillusioned with the world of competitive eating, which he felt had become too much of a commercial enterprise, and so he had retired to live the quiet life of a once world champion.

Pudding Jones sat eating eagerly, hungrily, totally transfixed, like he’d been trapped on a deserted island for months and just found his way home. He stopped occasionally to breathe and look around the room at all of his unopened pudding. Pudding Butt, being an animal, had the ability to read human emotions with just a glance. And what Pudding Butt sensed was an intense loneliness. Almost palpable, like the big gaping hole of hunger gnawing inside his belly at that very moment. And so Pudding Butt did what came naturally.


Pudding Jones, upon hearing this loud call, looked up and locked eyes with the cat. And never, in all the history of the world, was there ever a truer or more sincere case of love at first sight. Pudding Jones had never beheld such a beautiful creature in his life! He rushed over to the window and threw it open wide, exclaiming, “MY FRIEND!!!” To which Pudding Butt replied, MEOW. Which meant, “Home Sweet Home.”

The Birdhouse Carpenter

Once upon a time, in a village far away, there lived a carpenter. This carpenter made lots of things, but his true passion was crafting beautiful wooden birdhouses.

The carpenter was successful, but lately had become very, very poor. For, you see, all of his neighbors already had birdhouses. Delightfully charming birdhouses. They had birdhouses in their front yards, they had birdhouses in their backyards, they even had birdhouses inside their own houses. They just didn’t need any more! And did I mention that this carpenter had SIXTEEN CHILDREN to feed?? Not easy when birdhouse demand has dwindled.

One day a stranger came to the village, and asked where he might find some birdhouses. WHY, the villagers cried, right down the road! They were thrilled to see someone who might be able to help the carpenter. And they sent him on his way. Shortly, the stranger arrived at the home of the carpenter, and knocked on the door. His slightly disheveled wife answered, surrounded by a mob of screaming children, and pointed the stranger to the shed at the back of the house. The carpenter was thrilled when the stranger explained he was in need of some birdhouses. And how many will you be needing? 1000. The wide-eyed carpenter blinked several times, and then asked, And by when? Tomorrow.

After the carpenter regained consciousness, he set to work, calling all of his children, as well as his wife into the workshop to help. All day they worked, and into the night. But by midnight, they’d only made 580 birdhouses. The carpenter explained they would have to all forgo sleep, in order to fill the stranger’s order. And work, they did. All night long and into the morning they slaved away, sawing and carving, nailing and painting. And even the littlest of the children did their share. Finally, by dawn, they were finished. Not just 1000 birdhouses, but 1004.

The family, exhausted, waited all morning for the stranger to return. When he hadn’t arrived by lunchtime, the carpenter began to worry, but waited still. All through the afternoon and into the evening, he waited patiently, until finally, the stranger reappeared on his doorstep. Looking over the heaping stacks of birdhouses, the stranger marveled at them all. The level of quality was unsurpassed. He counted each of them, and once reaching 1000, he could not believe there were 4 to spare. “Kind sir,” he praised, “You have surely exceeded my every expectation. I have come directly from the King, who created this challenge to find the best carpenter in all the land. You, sir, have won. I hereby offer you the post of Royal Birdhouse Maker, forevermore.”

The carpenter, overjoyed, accepted. And never again did his family know want.