Explaining ISIS To An Eleven Year Old

mapOnce, my oldest daughter Mary, explained something to me.  She claimed all my children could carry on adult conversations because I explained everything to them. If a child asked me a question, I never said, “oh, that’s grown up stuff” or “you’re too young to understand that honey.”

When Mary was seven or eight and asked me what all the fuss was about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky, I did my best to tell her what was going on. Obviously, I didn’t tell her anything about the blue dress or the cigars. I did however tell her the President was married and he shouldn’t have a girl friend.

When six year old Jack asked what meth was and why his friend’s daddy went to jail, I talked for twenty minutes.  I told him how disgusting Meth was, I told him how it was cooked and why his friends father went to jail.  I also told him I knew for a fact that daddy loved his son he just had a real bad problem.

I’ve tried to explain the Jewish faith, republicans, democrats, plagiarism, global warming, perjury, purgatory  and entitlement to very young children. Because they asked.

I often times make my kids watch a little bit of national news with me every week.  Not because I want them to be frightened or bored,  I just want my kids to know what’s going on in this world of theirs. Someday soon they will be in charge of things.

Recently, there have been three pressing issues I’ve had to visit with Sandor.  First there were the event in Ferguson, Missouri and the shooting of Michael Brown. I actually drew that one out for him. First I listed the few facts we actually had in the case. Then I drew circles with peoples reactions. There was the cop circle, the peaceful protesters circle, the looters circle, the National Guard circle, the media circle etc…

Last week I tried to explain Ebola. That was kind of a messy one. But he understood and didn’t freak out. (I kind of want to freak out).

And now he’s asked about ISIS. For the first time in twenty five years…..I can’t find the words. What do I tell him about an enemy so evil and unfathomable?  There’s nothing he can do to fight or change the situation with ISIS. When we’re talking about social issues like  like racism, poverty, bullying and  obesity I always make it clear to him he can change people and the world. But ISIS…I just don’t know.


If you want more Hampoland stuff you can order my book Raising Kids You Actually Like on Amazon. Thanks!



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A Whole Hampoland Book!

Breaking news, you can order an entire book of Hampoland now, from Amazon. and it’s just $2.99





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Ketchup for Dinner

ketchupThis morning, my eleven year old son, asked if he could put some Ramen Noodles in his backpack.

I asked him why?

“Well sometimes there’s food at Hunter’s house and sometimes there’s not. Last time I went over there was just ketchup.”

“What are you talking about?”

Hunter is his good good friend. Skinny, loyal to a fault  and silly. He won’t really talk to you until he’s known you for a while.  He loves playing hide and go seek in the dark and jumping off high stuff into the lake.

Sandor and Hunter generally hang out at  house but sometimes I let Sandor ride the bus to Hunters.

“It’s just that sometimes they have like every thing in the world to eat and sometimes there’s nothing. So I wanted to take the Ramen in case it’s a nothing day.”

That’s when I figured out what was going on. Hunter and his mom and sister get food stamps. She’s single and works (she might make eight dollars an hour)  but it’s not enough. When the food and food stamps run out…that’s it for a while.

Thankfully, Hunter gets free breakfasts and lunches at school every day, during the school year. He’s a good boy. He shouldn’t be hungry.  But I worry about him in the summer, when school is out. He stays at our house more and that’s a good thing.

I’m writing this now because the political season is here.   I hope our politicians understand there are people in their districts just like Hunter and his mom.  Those meals at school are vital. I know hand outs are not the answer but the “working poor” are a reality.  Don’t turn your back on Hunter.


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The Beauty of Breakfast

banannaBreakfast, most of us have habits we are comfortable with.  Mornings are the most predictiable time of our day.  In the radio world the morning drive is a lot more expensive because you’re likley going to reach the same listeners every day. In the mornings most of us are creatures of habit. We do most things in the same order everyday. We wake up, brush our teeth, get some coffee, read, shower, watch the news.  It’s the same thing day after day.

Every morning I do something that makes my husband Alex crazy. I take my first cup of coffee into the bathroom, turn on the shower (hot) close the lid on the toilet then sit and read for twenty minutes in the sound proof, steamy bathroom. That’s what makes me happy.

But Alex makes me crazy in the morning too? He gets up two hours before I do and I know he sits in the living room and smokes his first days’ cigarette in the living room.  He’s not supposed to smoke in the house, but I know he does….before I wake up.

The only thing that changes in our house every morning is the breakfast menu. This morning Sandor and Sam had fish sticks with ketchup and sliced tomatoes, yesterday it was pizza bites, the day before Honey Nut Cheerios. Sometimes we have scrambled eggs and sometimes cheese quesadillas with salsa.

My lack of breakfast loyalty comes, I think, from my father.  He was always experimenting at breakfast.  There were protein milk shakes with raw egg, pizza toast with sauce and melted cheese and one of his favorites…popcorn and grapes.  He thought that combination was just like cereal with fruit. Dad even thought steak tar tar with a raw egg and Tabasco was a fine option.

Mornings are so tough, I kind of think you should get to eat what makes you happy, within reason.   If I wake Sandor up and say, “Hey boy, get ready for some awesome buttered toast,” he’d never get out of bed.  But when I say “come try mybanannas and strawberries with chocolate sauce,” he’s all over it.

Personally, I don’t like sweet stuff in the morning. I’d much rather have a taco and hot sauce for breakfast than a donuts. But it’s all abut what makes you happy in the morning. Do what it takes to get out the door. You’ve got the rest of the day to get your fiber and eat salads.



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Five Things You Have To Teach Your Kids…Or Go To Jail

badA few days ago I asked my daughter had to sew a do-dad shiny thing on my shirt. All she had to do was a few quick loops and it would be done. When I put my shirt something was very very wrong. She actually sewed the front of the shirt to the back. I had to cut my way  out.

There are life skills you have to teach your kids or you should go to jail.

1.I preach the importance of teaching your kid to shake hands like a man all the time. So you know that.  If your child doesn’t know how to make eye contact and say, “nice to meet you” everyone will assume he’s a pathetic loser. Life is tough and judgmental like that.

2. Make sure you teach your children how to sew a button on a shirt. If they can do that, they’ll figure the rest out.

3. Teach your kids, boys and girls, how to throw a ball without looking like a dweeb.

4. You have to teach them to swim and ride a bike because once they get old it’s almost impossible to overcome the fear of drowning and falling. Kids are stupid and brave, they’ll do anything if you tell them they can.  They have faith in you and believe in magic so take care of bike riding and swimming before they are five.

5. And finally teach your kid how to use a knife and fork properly and how to set a table. The other day a 10th grade boy came to our house and we all sat staring,  stunned as he tried, unsuccessfully to cut his meat…and it wasn’t that tough. Finally he managed to cut a strip off then he just nibbled it off the fork. It was painful to watch.

There are some kids I don’t invite to go out to dinner with us because it’s embarrassing and they are too old to help.  They eat like animals because nobody took the time to teach them how to use a knife and fork.  They don’t have bad manners, they simply don’t have any manners at all. It’s sad and bizarre. Be a good parent, take the time, don’t loose your patience and teach your children the stuff they need to know. You can’t expect football coaches to teach them everything.



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The Worst Day Ever

lex7Sandor and I helped Lexie move into her college dorm room today. It was terrible.

We did all the usual stuff, moved the bed, ran back to the store to buy cleaning supplies and a garbage can.  I gave her a hard time for not bringing a picture of me or Sandor.

Then it was time to leave her there on campus, surrounded by smiling frat boys who offered to carry heavy stuff and cute girls who were very helpful and friendly. While we were hugging for a really long time the tears started. Mine and Sandor’s, not Lexies.

I’ve done this three times and all three of my kids have earned full scholarships to college so yes, I’m really proud of them.

But the reality is once they leave for college they are gone.  They come back for weekends and summers but they are gone.

A million years ago a wrote a novel, Invisible Branches. I described waiting for the school bus to bring Mary and Jack home, and when it did and I heard them laughing and running up the driveway I felt like my heart was home.  Now it’s in a dorm room an hour away.

Lexo the cowgirl who wore red cowboy boots for nearly two years is gone.

One of the things gnawing at me, is the thought that I haven’t taught her enough or she wasn’t really listening when I warned her about the dangers of drunken frat parties, the dangers of a real city. All my kids are ridiculously confident and strong. Sometimes caution is a good thing.

She’s good at handling her money, actually cheap, but what if…

She loves to work out and eats pretty well, but what if…

I’m worried she won’t get enough sleep, she’ll meet charming handsome bad guys, she won’t ask for help when she needs it, she’ll forget to lock her car doors when she’d driving at night and will pay too much for college text books.

I’m worried she won’t she won’t be home to hug Sandor after a bad day at school and he won’t have her to snuggle with and watch Adventure Time and I Carley. I’m worried she  won’t be here to make her dad laugh, and she’s one of the very few who can do that. And I’m worried she won’t be her to hold my hand when we sit on the couch, to make fun of me when I try to talk like a cool kid. I’m worried because she won’t be here to side kick me in public and to say things like, “hurry home, I’ve got so much to tell you.” She won’t be here to make us all dance in the kitchen.

Obviously, Lex will be just fine. She listened when I lectured. She knows what she’s in for.

But coming home from work will never be quite the same for me.



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Boys, Books and Bribery….It’s A Good Thing

boys and booksboys and booksboys and books (2)The child experts who preach, “Never bribe your child” obviously don’t have any kids.  Bribery is the bread and butter of parenting. You just have to know how to work the system so you get what you want and your child thinks they are the winners.

This morning I had a whole list of things I needed to get done in the house and two restless little boys sliding across the floor in their underwear.  They desperately wanted to go swimming with their goggles: I desperately wanted my house cleaned up.

The third time they asked  about going to the pool I showed them my list of the things I had to finish. “Sadly guys there are so many things on this list I don’t know if I’ll have it all done in time to take you to the pool. If you help me, I promise we’ll get there in time. If you do two jobs each, I’ll even  take you to Books a Million  and you can each pick out a chapter book.”

Back to school is a week away and I’ve got to get their brains going again. The idea of anything new always always always get’s eleven year old’s excited and they each picked two jobs.

First, Sam pulled the cushions off the couch and vacuumed, Sandor unloaded the dishwasher,  They both put clean sheets on their beds, cleaned all the window sills and took the garbage out.

We were done with everything on the list in an hour. BRIBERY I Win!!!! (I’d high five myself if I could)

Once we were in the book store it took about thirty minutes for them to finally decided what  they wanted. Then we went swimming. On the way home Sam and Sandor asked if they could jump on the trampoline with the sprinkler when we got home.

“Sure you can, after you read the first chapter of your books.”

They knuckle bumped this victory.

Once we got home they were silent, sprawled on the couches reading. BRIBERY I Win!!!!

If  you are going to use the powerful tool of bribery you have to be smart and cunning about it. You should get what you want and it should be good for your kiddo. So, when the experts grill you, it looks like your bribery was a brilliant act of parenting.

But you have to use this took wisely. Don’t say to your children, “If you let me pick the tv show I’ll let you eat this giant bag of Cheetos.”  Don’t tell them “If you’ll get my cigarettes out of the car, I’ll let you have a sip of my beer.” Do not say “If you’ll let me sleep another hour you can play video games all day.”

Bribery is a good thing, don’t make it ugly. And when you get really good at it, your kids won’t even realize how you manipulate and control them. And that’s the ultimate goal, right?



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Burping Boys

burpingWhat is it about boys, big and little, who think burping is outrageously funny, or something to be proud of? It doesn’t take any skill, it’s gross, it’s easy to do, still, when my son and his friends are in the back seat and one of them lets go with a category five burp, they laugh so hard I worry about their sanity and bladder control.

Lately it’s gotten really bad at my house. Most of the time, if I’m close,  Sandor jumps up and says “Oh no I’m about to burp” and he tries to get out of the room. But I hear all the little boys cheerfully burping though the night then laughing and shushing each other.  The burp on the trampoline, the burp in the shower, they burp while climbing trees and playing drums and folding laundry.  There is a never ending cacophony of burping and I’m just about done with this gassy, burpy, boy culture. It was cute when he was a baby and I was patting him on the back, but those days are long gone.

As of last night there are new rules in Hampoland and so far they  seem to be really effective.  While watching Adventure Time I announced that every time he or one of his friends burps in front of me, or within hearing distance….he’s got to give me twenty push-up.  Good push ups.

I’m still working on the punishment for other gross body noises, but I’m sure I’ll figure something out.


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Stop Bashing My State!

ArkansasOutlineRecently my oldest daughter, Mary, went on a trip “Up North” and ran into an Arkansas Basher.  This woman hated everything about my wonderful state, and proceeded to tell Mary all about it.  She actually implied her son was too good to even marry anyone from the state of Arkansas.

First, grown ups are supposed to have better manners than that.

But the real issue is more important. ARKANSAS IS FREAKING AWESOME….but most people don’t realize it.

Because so few people every visit Arkansas, most folks don’t realize how beautiful she is. We’ve got gorgeous wild rivers, sweeping grass lands, swamps and beautiful mountains. If  landscape could be schizophrenic we would be the poster child, and that’s a good thing, we are diverse, extremely divers so we have lots of different natural recourses. We have the oldest National Park and some of the purist waters…and razorbacks!

Lots of brilliant and talented people were born in Arkansas. I’m not just talking about President Clinton and Johnny Cash, how about Sonny Liston, Al Green, Neo, Alan Ladd (movie star) Chet Lauck (Lum and Abner) Fay Jones, Glen Campbell, Billy Bob Thornton, Mike Huckabee, John Gresham and Louis Jordan. And don’t forget the guys from Black Oak Arkansas, my favorite, Jimmy Driftwood and Lefty Frizzle.  and I’m not event gonna start listing athletes!

You want brilliant business men, how about Don Tyson, William Dillard and Sam Walton. I’ll stop with that mighty threesome but I could go on. Military geniuses? We got em.  Douglas MacArthur and Wesley Clark, but there are dozens more.

So, we have a tiny state with extraordinary people and lands. What’s not to love? Some of us are trashy some are classy, the same is true in every state.

It’s true sometimes I make fun of other states. I do a little bashing myself. “Thank god for Mississippi”. But the truth is some of the most wonderful people I know come from that state, and some of the greatest talents in America.  I’m now speaking of William Faulkner and Leigh Lorraine Bondurant. So I should follow my own advice and shut up.

Every state  is important and special and part of this great country. When you bash one state it’s like critizizing part of yourself.  Don’t trash talk your own foot, it’s an important part of your body and you need it to walk forward.




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Never Ever Marry A Chef

alexDo not marry a chef, man or woman. And don’t ever ever consider being a chef.  I say this knowing full well if you are in love with a chef, it’s too late. You’ll follow your stupid heart and marry him. If you have a passion for food and flavor, your life is over because you will follow your heart into the kitchen and then the walk-in.

Still I feel it is my duty to write these words. Do not become a chef because at fifty you will not look like Gordon Ramsey.

Here’s what happens when you become a chef. I know becasue I’ve been married to a brilliant one for twenty years.

You will work 10-14 hours a day, six days a week. Chances are you will miss most major holidays because those are huge food service days. Your children will have to hunt for Easter eggs in the late afternoon, after Sunday Brunch. You will celebrate New Year’s Eve with your honey at 2:00am, after you’ve cleaned up kitchen. And after feeding hundreds of patrons on Thanksgiving you’ll come home (around 4pm) to a smiling family and a table covered with a traditional Thanksgiving feast. But the last thing you’ll want is turkey and dressing because you just finished cooking and serving fifteen twenty pound turkeys, you prepared forty pounds of stuffing, three gallons of gravy, twenty pumpkin pies and thirty five pounds of mashed potatoes.

Still, you will sit down with your family, your feet and back aching, and you will try to choke down dinner  as though it’s the finest meal you’ve ever had when all you want is a beer and a peanut butter sandwich.

If you marry a chef the first question everyone will as is, “Does he cook for you at home”? Hellll no.  The last thing a chef wants to do at night is cook. Maybe he’ll mow, he’ll vacuum, he’ll help with homework but for the most part chefs do not want to cook at night.  If I bring home a really lovely piece of meat, or salmon he’ll take over. And sometimes,  he’ll thrill me with a sauce, a Bordelaise or Wild Mushroom and Sherry Sauce and it’s all worth while. Actually, I don’t think chefs stop cooking at home for the first ten years.  It’s all new and fresh and they really like showing off their mad skills until they hit 35.

Escoffier was the king of chefs and the chef of kings. He was the man who, theoretically, got chefs out of the dungeon like basements of Europe.  but things really haven’t changed much for these impassioned artists.

Most chefs, no matter how extraordinary, don’t have a 401K, they don’t have a retirement plan and they have crappy insurance.

On the rare instances we actually get to go out for dinner, often times Alex ends up in the kitchen and I sit alone at the table for twenty minutes looking for typos on the menu.

If you are already in love with a chef or with being a chef, good luck. Things will work out and there are positive aspects to the chef life. Alex actually wooed me by making apple birds for my daughter Mary’s kindergarten class. Now that’s love and that’s sexy.

On the up side, when we go out waitresses, dishwasher and kitchen staff treat us like royalty and he can always figure the food cost on any meal. And when there’s absolutely nothing to eat, Alex can make dinner with some kind of crazy chef/McGyver skills.

So…buy some new knives, a new cookbook, put on an apron and clogs, but try not to walk into a professional kitchen, you may never get out alive.


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