Wild Baby In the Front Yard

While out watering and picking strawberries (not many) a lizard scampered onto the edge of the garden cage. At first I thought the — bear with me — small, narrow, brown, bumpy, being was a grasshopper. I don’t like grasshoppers. They remind me of cockroaches, which I also detest, so seeing the tiny tail, two tiny front, and two tiny rear legs and less than two-inch body wiz across the wooden boarder was a relief and almost got an out loud audible “Awwwww,” and urge to scurry in and gather my family to rush out to see the baby reptile.

Instead I ran for my camera. Of course the battery was dead, it always is, but the lizard did not leave while I was away.

Settled atop the frame, it pumped its front and hind legs, the way they do. Me, I carried on a silent and sometimes quiet out loud conversation with it,. “Hey there little guy. Yup, picking fruit today. Think I’ll boost this dirt around the neck of the plant. Just lifting this wood a bit here. Not to worry.”

The lizard remained.

Still intent on clicking the camera, I circled the garden plot to find the best angle and also avoid the sun and shadows pressing from above.

Then I settled into my work. It’s good to appreciate life in the (not so) wild front yard.

Any wild life you appreciate lately?




DIY Decision


Leave driveway.


Return to driveway.

Leave family note, “Flat tire. Took grey car.”

Return home. “Don’t worry, we put on spare,” my husband says. “And I found the guarantee. The hole is not in the sidewall, so the tire’s covered!”

It’s Monday morning, I drive to tire store.

Tire salesman pokes, prods, and then tries to ram his finger and pen into the sidewall.

He motions to me, and it’s not to show me my guarantee.

I brace myself and follow him to my car.

“Looks like you need to replace all four.”

“But this one was replaced just two years ago,” I point, defending my nearly new tire. And isn’t the flat one covered by the guarantee?”

“It’s too worn to repair,” he says. “And this one,” he shows the uneven wear of a second tire,” needs to be replaced too.

“Course you could change out just the,” he continues, planting doubt. “But I wouldn’t. By the time the rainy season comes, you’ll need to change those two too.”

“But it’s not going to rain,” I protest, smiling at my joke.

“It’s up to you,” he says.

I hate when they say, “It’s up to you,” like I’m in the hospital and he can make me sign an (Against Tire Advice) “but I’d replace all four.” he repeats.

Anxious, I take the bait. “What’s the cost?”

He tells me.

“Any other options?” I protest.

“Well you could replace three.” He tells me that cost, which is nearly the same. My nerves are fraying.

I leave.

I ponder. I fume. I thought we had a guarantee.

I return.

“Ok,” I say resolved to calmly start over. “What are my options?”

Not missing a beat, he leads me to the tread chart. “Anytime you have 1/16” (1.6mm), you need to replace your tire.

We return to the tires. He re-explains the tread.

I look myself.

I scrutinize the tire opposite the flat one and agree. That tread is worn.

I re-examine the other two. One is good, the other – not too bad. I don’t see the same wear the salesman describes.

While alone, I re-evaluate and return to the counter.

“I’ll take two new at the front.”

“Ok,” he says writing the order.

Relief. He doesn’t try to talk me out of my decision.

A new customer enters the shop. He too has a flat. “Replace all four,” the salesman advises. With in minutes the man is buying $600.00 tires.

The minute I see my two new, I know I made the right decison.

It’s a DIY Tire Decision.

And as for tread, so far so good.

Just curious, did you ever walk into a tire store and hear, “Your tire is covered by the guarantee. Please sit down, it will just take a minute to fix it.

I haven’t.

When I need to buy tires, it’s time for a DIY decision.

Whether it’s about tires or another purchase, have you got a DIY decision to share?


IMG_0593One sunny Sunday, a mom, dad, two teen boys, and a boomerang went to the park. It was hot and shade was small. The middle of the field baked, so, seeking shadows the family pushed their throwing game to the edge of the grass near a tall wide-branched tree. Beneath that tree picnicked a small boy, his dad, and pregnant mom.

Boomerangs are supposed to return to their tosser. But sometimes they don’t.

On that Sunday one sailed out and kept sailing till it landed in that tall tree.

“Oh well. Let’s leave it,” one teen said.

“We can’t get it out,” agreed the other.

“What could we use?” I said, turning to Doug.

“What do we have?” he said, looking at me.

The small boy who had been sitting under the tree began tossing his soccer ball into the air.

The boomerang smiled from above.

Opening my backpack, I pulled out a water bottle.

“Let’s leave it,” the first teen repeated.

“We need rope,” said Doug, walking to the nearby railroad roundhouse tool area to borrow some.

Waiting mom tossed her water bottle into the air.

Doug returned with rope.

Using his knot knowledge, he tied the rope to the water bottle strap,

No longer beneath the tree, the small boy and his family watched my family while the dad kicked the soccer ball to his child who received it and tossed it into the air.

My teen who’d said, “Leave it,” tossed the roped-water bottle into the air too. The bottle missed the tree.

My other teen moved closer. “Throw it straight up.”

“Leave it kid” threw again, this time knocking the boomerang down a branch.

“Throw higher,” my other teen instructed.

Another toss nudged the boomerang lower.

A third scooted it further down.

About five tosses later, the boomerang sailed back and “Leave it kid” caught it.

Me, I philosophized.

What did we learn today? Did we teach something to our kids? What did the small boy learn? What about his parents? What would have happened if my family had left the boomerang stuck in the tree?

Were the responses generational? I wondered why Doug and I turned first to problem solving. It never occurred to me to leave the boomerang in the tree. I wondered why at first our kids wanted only to walk away. I noticed that when we stayed, eventually our kids (and maybe that small boy) caught on.

Sometime ago Doug and I, from our parents perhaps, learned to stick with finding a solution. On Sunday American ingenuity became the mother (and father) of invention.

I think today we showed our kids they could stay,  dig in their backpacks, borrow things from others, try, and not give up.

I don’t think there was a right way to solve that stuck boomerang situation. Leaving was an option and could have taught the kids that sometimes it’s good to cut your losses and walk away.

But I’ll admit I’m happy we stayed, and that because we did, the boomerang (and it doesn’t always) came back.

Any boomerang-stick-to-it-don’t-walk-away-until-you-try-learning happening in your life? Send me a story. I’ll write one back.


The Kid’s Novel You’ve Been Waiting For!

I am thrilled to announce release of children’s author Alina Sayre’s third novel, The Iluminator Rising, Book 3 of The Voyages of the Legend on June 10. To celebrate, Alina begins today a book tour with the first stop at jenncastro.com   Along the tour Alina will provide reviews, interviews, guest posts, and commentary on other notable authors. There’s also a radio interview! At the end of the tour there will be e-book giveaways of The Illuminator Rising Book 3 (See Rules at Bottom).

Come join Alina and her author circle. You won’t want to miss a single day!

Book 3 ebook cover, BN, smallest

Advance praise for The Illuminator Rising, Book 3 of The Voyages of the Legend:  “…a thrilling read…[Sayre] has a flair for being able to capture the interest of a reader and hold onto it.”

-Readers’ Favorite, 5-star review

Synopsis:  Driven from their home island of Rhynlyr, Ellie and her friends must solve a riddle to find the survivors of the Vestigia Roi. But instead of a safe haven, they discover a hopeless band of refugees paralyzed by fear. Strengthened by new allies and new gifts, the crew of the Legend faces dangers like never before. Can they escape being shot out of the sky, falling over the Edge of the world, or being engulfed by urken armies long enough to rally the Vestigia Roi? And can they rekindle a fire from the ashes of the One Kingdom before Draaken takes over the world?

IMG_0189Author bio:  Alina Sayre began her literary career chewing on board books and has been in love with words ever since. Now she gets to work with them every day as an author, educator, editor, and speaker. Her first novel,

The Illuminator’s Gift, won a silver medal in the Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards, and all three books in The Voyages of the Legend series have received 5-star reviews from Readers’ Favorite. When she’s not writing, Alina enjoys hiking, crazy socks, and reading under blankets. She does not enjoy algebra or wasabi. When she grows up, she would like to live in a castle with a large library.


Blog Tour Schedule:

June 8: Jenn Castro (jenncastro.com)- Book 3 announcement with synopsis and cover, e-book giveaway

June 9: Margaret Bloom (webloomhere.blogspot.com)-Book 1 review, Book 3 announcement with synopsis and cover, giveaway

June 10: Publication day!!! Announcement on alinasayre.com

June 11: Angela Wallace (angelawallace.wordpress.com)-guest post

June 12: W.R. Gingell (wrgingell.com)-guest post

June 13: Rabia Gale (rabiagale.com/blog)-Book 1 review, Book 3 announcement with synopsis and cover

June 14: A.R. Silverberry (arsilverberry.com/blog)-guest post

June 15: D.M. Stoddard (kingdomoftorrence.com/my-blog) – guest post and giveaway– requested e-book give away

June 16: Intisar Khanani (booksbyintisar.com/blog)-interview

June 18: Caleb Fong (geekosupremo.wordpress.com)-radio interview

RULES for e-book giveaway: 1) Subscribe to the jenncastro.com webpage (including email) and 2) add the following on the jenncastro.com website: your name and a comment on a post on the jenncastro.com website.  If you have read one of Alina’s books, a comment about that book at alinasayre.com would be appreciated. The winner will be randomly selected and checked against the jenncastro.com subscribers list. Good luck.

Toddlers Act Out (Airplanes)

At 2016 Children’s Book Week, toddlers and moms join me in acting out MOM ME movements during a MOM ME book reading at Village House of Books, Los Gatos, CA. Shown here moms and children stretch their arms to perform, “Sometimes my mommy can be an airplane!” I chose to act out the second half of the book because I didn’t think parents would appreciate their kids miming, “My Mommy is not a tissue!” village

Things I Wish We Could Talk About

table-2The oddity I feel when a transgender friend shows up at our house dressed to the nines including earrings, stockings, breasts, and perfume. We exchange hellos while I, crouched under a desk, vacuum cobwebs housed for years under a former craft table.

Splotched with paint at the front of the desk, I aim to flip it so the paint spats are at the back and the new owner will have a clean space to work. But it’s not easy, because the desk has only a small square space to turn in. So, dressed in a black skirt and pretty blouse, our transgender friend, skirts female self for a moment and steps into manhood to help me lift the desk up over the other desk so the craft table can spin in a circle.

As we turn the table together, I, dressed in the same blue jeans and crumpled t-shirt left last night un-hangered on the floor, transform into my female self. Without missing a beat, I let my friend direct the furniture move. My friend lifts the work table, spins it, while describing the physics. Me? I lift a little, but mostly caution against not knocking a protruding Egyptian sculpture and a shadow box full of painted metal figures off the wall.

Strange how we fluidly we can change roles.

Exercise is Not Optional – the first in a series

brainDo you ever wake up and want to exercise? It’s a rare day I do. Out of eight mornings in a new regimen, yesterday was the only rooster time I awoke rested and ready to run. And yet, on most days, after one lap —  sometimes — it takes just half way around the track when I realize, I’m happy I started.

The problem, or rather the challenge, is that the relaxed post exercise state that steeps in the bloodstream, lasts a scant 24 hours. Exercise endorphins are like drugs, and the dosage is one small injection per day. runner

While in the endorphin-induced euphoric exercise moment, I commit, completely confident that next morning, theIMG_5177re will be no internal discussion about whether to jog my mile. But every morning, like, well, clockwork, 6:30 a.m. arrives, and it’s a Monty Python argument (“Yes you will, no you won’t.)

I create combative conflict about whether to go out and run.

Here’s the script:

  • Resistant me: “Not today’s, it’s my day off.”
  • Resilient me: “Get out of bed now!”
  • Resistant me: “Exercised every day this week (It’s Tuesday).
  • Resilient Me: “You’ll feel better if you go.”
  • Resistant Me: “Time to rest.”
  • Resilient Me: “Get Dressed.”
  • Resistant Me: It’s warm inside; cold out there.”
  • Resilient me: “Just walk today, you don’t have to run.”

On the days resilient self agrees, resistant self grudgingly follows.

At the park, my resilient self remembers why I returned to the track. I always feel better.

Each day I commit builds on the day before.

What motivates you outside to run or walk or exercise when you don’t want to?  Got any tricks or internal dialogue to share?

Step-By-Step French Toast

Do your kids (or anyone you know) need a new idea about what to cook themselves for breakfast? Here’s a step-by-step recipe for making French Toast.  If they are not used to using the stove on their own, stand next to them while they follow these steps.

French Toast on an Electric Stove

Part 1

  1. Crack one egg into a bowl. Add pinch cinnamon, one small shake vanilla. Mix with fork.
  2. Cut with butter knife or fold in half one slice of bread.
  3. Soak bread in egg mixture until egg is gone from bowl.







Part 2

  1. Put frying pan on burner, turn stove on high, set timer for one minute.
  2. Put small slice of butter in pan.
  3. Turn down heat to four.













Part 3

  1. Put egg-soaked bread slices in frying pan.
  2. Turn timer on for two minutes. Watch carefully. Using a spatula, lift slice.
  3. If it’s golden brown, flip. If not, leave for one or two more minutes.
  4. Repeat #2, #3.
  5. When toast is done, turn off burner, put French Toast on plate.
  6. Eat. Yum!



To Move or Not To Move; That is the Question

durvishPracticing the art of not moving things is a challenge. Out for the morning one Saturday, I come home to a piled pair of people on the sofa. Noon, it is, and one is reading, the other researching.

Walking in, I notice, birdseed, dust, and wood chips, on the floor. Couches are covered in games, books, and pillows; no place to sit.

Resorting to the kitchen to cook lunch. I vow not to move or wipe anything. My vow is impossible. All the stove burners are piled with pots.

Exiting the kitchen, a yellow clump catches my eye. Stooping to investigate, I learn it’s butter. Committed to my rule, even if it gets mashed onto the bottom of someone’s shoe, I leave it.

Daily I wonder what would happen if I stopped picking up, cleaning, clearing, wiping, replacing, and reminding about all of the above. Would someone else do it? And if I find out it doesn’t get done, then what?

But here’s a better question. Does it need to?

Sadly, or perhaps happily, all of this mess has always been here, and until recently, I’ve been spinning myself into a frenzy trying to keep up with it. All of the swirling to see how many plates I can throw and keep in the air, tossing them higher and collecting more with each trick, so that I’m juggling first three, then eight, then 10, then 20, or more — is me, a dervish, twirling.

But not in a pretty, sequined colorful Turkish skirt. Instead, and unfortunately, it’s a “Watch me. I’ll do it all. I’ll make the house orderly and then we will feel settled and happy, and we will live this way.”

But we won’t. Because all of the mess is activity. It’s life, and it’s here to stay.

The real work is for me to stop cleaning and clearing. Make and leave more messiness.

The cleaning and clearing of other’s things, and the self-assigned task of reminding them to, are avoiding life. I’ve got things to do, and need to step to.

Got a cleaning or clearing task you don’t need (or want) to do? Got something more meaningful and important to create?