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  • Sit down, Ben. I’ve got some bad news for you.

    I just looked at the Amazon page for The Last Policeman, and --

    What? No no no. The bad news isn’t a one-star review. Are you kidding? A book by you? With that premise? What’s not to love? It’s just that --

  • I’m obsessed with my North American Green Tree Frog. His name is Abelard (as in Heloise and Abelard). I rescued him in Salt Lake City from a shipment of trees that came into a Lowe’s Home Improvement all the way from Oklahoma.

    I didn’t bring him with me to Philadelphia when I moved here last fall, and I’ve been driving my family crazy asking them almost daily if they’ve remembered to check on him, water him, give him crickets. “Did you spray the frog?” I always ask. Which really means, “Did you use the reptile spray bottle filled with room temperature water and pump it 40 to 50 times into his terrarium to mist the air since he is from a humid climate and Utah is a desert?”

    He’s a tough little guy. The people at the pet store said he’s never make it that first day when I bought the terrarium, a soaking pool, and a container of crickets. “He probably won’t last more than four or five days. Frogs just don’t do well transferring from the wild into captivity. Keep the receipt.” Keep the receipt? So I can return the terrarium when he croaks? Abelard has done just fine, going on three years now. Who would think you could be that attached to a frog? Go figure.

    So for me, it’s in honor of Abelard, and not Mark Twain, that I’m celebrating National Frog Jumping Day. The roots of this holiday come from Mark Twain’s first short story, the famous “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” It was first published in 1865 as “Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog” and has also been called “The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County.” In honor of the holiday, you should read the short story.

    It’ll take you five minutes flat and you’ll feel very literary. Barring that, I’d say go to your local pet shop and buy yourself a green tree frog. Call her Heloise.

  • You've got children. We've got answers. Or at least a good place to hide from your kids.

    Raising Quirk knows that your kids didn't come with an owner's manual. We also know that you may still feel like a kid, too. You're not alone.

    Our community is filled with advice, activities, entertainment, and, most important, parents just like you. It's a lifelong adventure and we're in it together. Consider us your online playgroup!

    Follow us on Twitter and Facebook as we build our fun new community!

  • Contents of a Toddler's Backpack, Photo by Cathy Stanley-Erickson

    Memorial Day is coming up soon, so the ceremonial beginning to summer is upon us. More importantly, for anyone under 18, it means that school is almost over!

    If I remember correctly, that also means that the shiny new backpack you got last fall, and the promise you made to yourself not to be disorganized this year, are both destroyed. In these last few weeks of school, we deal with a very prevalent issue from The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Parenting.


    Oh how I adore when I see those little asparaguses (asparagi?) poking their pointy heads through the soil in my garden. Who doesn’t love this tasty little tree of spearrific deliciousness? No one, that’s who!

    And the best part about this happy-looking and scrumptious-tasting vegetable? Well, for many people it grows as a perennial. That’s right—no need to replant year after year, it just keeps on comin’ back. To that I say: sign me up.

    Many gardening websites and experts note that asparagus is picky about where it sets its roots—it needs a deep bed and hates weed competition especially. That’s probably true, though I haven’t had too much trouble with my pair of plants, now about 5 years old, and I pretty much neglect them completely (though I did take the time to dig kinda deep and amend with compost when I first planted them). The only trick to remember is that, after planting a seedling (known as a “crown”), you shouldn’t harvest any spears for the first couple/few years.

    Practice patience, I know it’s hard. But after that, snap away, though try to limit yourself to only those spears that are thicker than, say, a no. 2 pencil. You can harvest for a few weeks—do it daily—and then stop and let the spears grow up nice and tall (they can reach 5 to 6 inches). Watch them burst out into pretty airy fronds, which are especially pretty in rain and snow and ice (when they become one of my favorite photographic subjects.) I cut mine to the ground in very early spring (around March in these parts) because I like the frondiness for winter interest and garden structure.

    Being a husband and a father, my attention immediately turns to my family. And, in a pre-apocalyptic world, I'd definitely focus on spending as much time with them as possible. I imagine that we'd pack up and find happiness in a warm, sunny location near the beach--a place we all love. Maybe a stop at Disney World--assuming it's still in operation. (Surely nothing would be sadder than an abandoned Disney World--well, maybe the end of the world. But, I digress.)


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