Wendy Knuth Author of Moore Zombies, blogging about the human experience.

Tag Archives: #folklore

American Folklore – Songs From the Past

For some reason tonight, I had a song running through my head – Charlie and the MTA. I have old memories of my parents and us kids singing the song together while my mother played the guitar. Said mother had a very old songbook of tunes. She played, we sang. I would very much love to have that old book of songs, but along with the rest of what is now known as folklore American song history, it is long gone. It only survives by word of mouth, and unfortunately (or not), in this day and age of me and mine and now, this type of thing did not get passed down to my children, and probably didn’t get passed down to yours.

This particular funny old folk song running through my head is about the Boston subway raising their rates so that poor, old Charlie didn’t have enough money to afford the increased price, and for some strange reason he couldn’t afford to get off the subway – he had to ride it forever. I youtubed the song and could only find The Kingston Trio.

Another oldie but goodie was Boil Them Cabbage Down Down. After googling this song, I could only find a very hickish, twangish, fast bango picking version with slightly different lyrics on the Andy Griffith show of all places. My family sang it much slower and with harmony, making it a much “prettier” song than what I can offer to you:

One song that should be well known by all and is truer to the way we sang it: Sixteen Tons. A song against “The Man.” An intensely wonderful song where you can sing high, or low, or in between, that has a common, bummer theme that we all can relate to. How can you go wrong?

I will leave you with two images. Image number one is two young children on a mattress in their mother’s room as she strums the guitar and we all sing. Image number two is a bunch of hippies with their children on a beach in front of a firepit, singing together. Take your pick, they both happened.

These are only a few of the songs we used to sing. Please enjoy the songs and pass them along to the next generation!

Wendy Knuth

The 20 Year Old Cake, Part II – China/Platinum Anniversary


Let me tell you how things finally went down.  The old, bald guy had a bad day at work and was kind of grumpy.  He actually went grocery shopping.  While he was away, our boys & I ordered pizza.  I removed the cake which I had hidden in the refrigerator, unwrapped the aluminum foil and left it in a pile on the counter.  It was a big clue in plain sight.  It turns out the boys did know about the cake in the freezer.  I must have told them the story long ago.

So yes, there was a small slice missing.  One red candle went in the center.  I put out two presents.  Traditional rules for the 20 year anniversary say I should buy china.  More contemporary guidelines say one should buy platinum.  So I bought both.


After my initial cake blog, a friend on Facebook sent a “Happy Anniversary” Flintstones clip.  It has proven to be problematic in that I can’t get the song out of my head, even days later.

When hubby came home, the boys and I quickly helped out with the groceries, not letting him into the kitchen.  Then I waited at the computer until one of my boys said, “Now.”  He lit the candle and I pressed play on the music clip where Fred Flintstone and his buddies are singing and Barney is playing a Stoneway piano.

The Flintstones – Happy Anniversary clip

The old, bald guy walked into the kitchen and immediately lit up.  He laughed and then said “Where did you get the cake?”  I was kind of surprised.  Then he said “There’s a slice missing.”  He looked a little confused.  He was just not getting it.  I gave him a weird look, looked at the cake and then at the pile of aluminum foil, and looked back at him without saying a word.  He circled around and I saw a sudden look of recognition come over his face.

“Is that what I think it is?!”  Yes, I told him.  He laughed, and I mean hard, and then he said, “Thank God!  We can finally get rid of that thing!”  How romantic.


We both thought the cake was in remarkably good form.  The icing smelled like icing but when we touched the inside where the slice was missing, it felt really dry, like sand.  No, we didn’t eat any.

Hubby enjoyed his presents, the pizza came, and we watched our wedding video.  Our teenage boys had never seen it before.  Pretty weird to see how young everyone looked, including ourselves, and a lot of people have since passed away.  I was feeling sentimental and teary eyed here and there, but that quickly dissipated because boys will be boys and my 3 guys cracked a lot of weird jokes throughout.  Again, very romantic.

What happened to the cake?  Well, this cake is famous now.  I gave it a fresh wrapping of aluminum foil and back into the freezer it went.

Wendy Knuth, author of Moore Zombies books

The 20 Year Old Wedding Cake


The old, bald guy and I are about to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary!!!  The picture of the old ripped and torn aluminum foil wrapped thingy-a-bobby?  It is the top tier of our wedding cake, and it has been in our freezer for literally 20 years.  Read it again.

We have all heard about how you are supposed to put some of your wedding cake in the freezer and then defrost it for your one year anniversary and actually eat a bite.  Yuck.  For some reason we reluctantly participated in this tradition.  Even if it tastes great, it is very difficult mentally to cope with the one year old part.  Who came up with this silly tradition?  Perhaps it is an early test of the “in sickness or in health” part of your marriage vows with regards to food poisoning.

Let’s move on to mental health.  Where or how is mine?  For some odd reason, the cake went back into the freezer and became a point of nostalgia for me.  Years passed and my hubby would occasionally ask me when can we get rid of this cake?  We’re never going to it eat.  Well, true.  But it would be like throwing away a piece of our history.  I can’t say that we argued about it but I think he saw that it would make me sad.  He gave up asking quite some time ago.  I think he came to terms with the fact that as long as I am alive, this cake will be in the freezer.  Honestly, if he had thrown it away without my knowledge for the greater part of the last decade, I probably wouldn’t have noticed.  But, don’t tell him that.

So there I am, trying to think of some unique gift for our 20 year anniversary and I suddenly remember – the cake!!!!  I’m going to defrost and put it on the table next to his real presents.  I think he and our kids will get a kick out of it.  I’m pretty sure our boys don’t even know what that ragged aluminum foil wrapped thing is that has been in the freezer for their entire lives.  I’m not sure if they have ever heard the story behind it.  Don’t worry – the old, bald guy is not into social media so he won’t see this post until post anniversary.

There is only one problem.  I will be setting myself up for disaster.  I imagine that after a fun evening and some giggling about the ridiculousness of it all, my hubby will probably ask if we can finally throw the cake away.  It’s a dilemma.  We’ll just see how things go. . .

Wendy Knuth


Thanksgiving – My Family’s Tradition of “Boo”

I blogged a pinch about this last year, but this is a much more in depth blog about the boo subject.  Here goes:

Every time I see a contest for a Thanksgiving story, I think of my grandmother who has long since passed away.  My family has an interesting tradition that stems from a Thanksgiving dinner many, many years ago.  We say “boo” after a good meal.  A good meal means that someone actually put some effort into cooking.  One might say “boo” after a meal they did not enjoy in a show of respect for the chef, however, one would certainly not say “boo” after a fast food meal.  Back in the day, there was no such thing as fast food as far as today’s meaning of the phrase.

The tradition started before I was born.  I have heard the origination story so many times that I feel as if I were there.  I was not.  Now that I think about, I have only ever heard the story from my mother’s perspective.  Yet, I was there for meals with my grandmother and family when we all said “boo” afterwards.  Only now do I wish I had heard perhaps a truer, closer to the source version from my grandmother’s own mouth.

I wrote a wonderful piece on the subject from my grandmother’s point of view.  Envision the daily life of a young mother in the 1950’s and all the differences between then and now, and all the similarities between then and now.  I can picture my mother as a young child at the time, who could not even fathom her own grandchildren as she knows them today who live to carry on this tradition, much in the same way that my children can’t hardly imagine their own children yet to come, let alone grandchildren who perhaps will say “boo” one day after a home cooked meal, maybe a Thanksgiving meal.

As I introduce you to the slightly more dramatic version of this tale, I hope you think of your family’s past, present, and future, and revel in your own family traditions!  Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy. . .


Listen To What I Hear

Pay attention.  Listen to what I hear.  I took pride in my craft.  I slaved all day with no help, no offers of help.  I expressed my affection through my work.  My loved ones gathered around, and took part in this, the most intimate of family traditions, a holiday known most for family gatherings and for a day of thanks.  No compliments were heard, no thanks, no giving on anyone’s part but mine.  I was waiting, just waiting for even the smallest something.

As the last family member left the table, save for myself, I knew it wasn’t going to happen. I was ired by their rudeness.  I heard a voice coming from myself expressing in a disappointed and loud voice the same words I was feeling: “I worked hard all day for this fine meal before you and no one even said boo!”

My family was just as shocked by my reaction as I was by their non-reaction.  The children eyed each other, eyed me, and then eyed their father nervously.  My husband, at first, looked surprised.  His perplexed expression relaxed, and slowly turned to adorement.  A faint smile slowly crept upon his face.  He then said “boo” in the nicest, most loving way.  My children giggled in the moment and also said “boo”, each in turn.

It was the smallest something.  But really it was greater than that.  From resentment and compassion was born this family tradition:  A gift of folklore to the family, from the family, for the family.  My legacy?  Perhaps.  I am no longer here, and yet, this old soul lives on. Boo. It is what you would expect this old ghost to say, but it is what I hear.

Wendy Knuth, author of Moore Zombies picture books and chapter books.  MooreZombies.com

Moore Zombies Picture Books Are For All Ages!!

Moore Zombies CoverGimme Noodle Front Cover

Why Placing An Age Range On Picture Books Doesn’t Quite Make Sense

Hello all.  And I mean all!  I don’t care what your age is in the human spectrum of life.  If you are reading to and with children, then a specified age range for a book implies limitations that just shouldn’t be.  This is why I HATE placing an age range on my Moore Zombies books.  Plug, plug.

I am a strong believer in early reading.  When my children were young, I read to them early and often.  Yes, you may enjoy the words and the pictures, but don’t forget about cuddling, bonding, learning, teaching, feeling proud, giggling, etc.  This can be between adult and child, between older child and younger child, or even between children of the same age.  Everyone has fun.

You can’t tell me that a toddler doesn’t read.  Maybe they can’t interpret the letters, but they are certainly taking it all in.  In a way, isn’t that reading?  Don’t we read situations?  Don’t we read people’s emotions?  There is no lettering involved there.

My mom has a story about how proud my brother’s babysitter was about teaching him to read a Dr. Seuss book.  After she left, my brother read the whole book out loud, over and over, without the book.  My mom didn’t have the heart to tell the babysitter.  Somewhere, I have footage of my young son reading a book that was upside down.  However, he had all of the words memorized, and I mean correctly for each page.  I’ve seen online footage of other young kids reading an upside down book.  How cute!!  This is definitely a form of early reading.

As an author, I enjoy placing things in my picture books (meaning wording and pictures) for adults and children, because I know they will be read by both.  So how can I classify my picture books as being intended for ages 3-5 or 4-8 when in reality they are for ages baby to senior.  The years pass quickly, so grab a picture book and read to, or with your kids.  I highly recommend Moore Zombies!

Wendy Knuth, Author of Moore Zombies Picture Books & Chapter Books

What Did You Do With Your Christmas Tree and Did It Involve The Fire Department?

So there we were.  Post Christmas and what to do with the Christmas Tree.  I have to tell you that when we first get the tree I am really good with watering it.  I am always amazed at how much water a Christmas tree can drink in the first few days, but as time goes by, it drinks less and less, until there is no loss in water in base at all.  The needles go from soft and pliable to bone dry and brittle.

My husband has numerous stories of burning a Christmas tree and convinces me that it goes quickly and that is an amazing sight.  For some reason, after numerous year of marriage, he decides we will burn the Christmas tree in the yard this year.  Yes, we have a big yard.  No, I have never seen a Christmas tree burn before.

So we happen to have this weird, old, wood burning stove thing with a vent in the top that has been outside since we bought our house.  My husband places the Christmas tree into the vent hole, so now the base of the tree is about four feet off the ground.  Please add 6 feet for the Christmas tree just to adjust your visual picture of this situation.

The old, bald guy takes a match to tree.  Oh my, wow, holy moly.  I watch as the fire catches quickly and burns up one side of the tree, crackling and popping as it goes.  Once the flame reached the top of tree, a HUGE fireball rolled off and went up, up, up, I swear maybe twenty to thirty feet.  Small cinders and ashes are raining down on our immediate neighbor’s home to the north, where the wind took it.  My husband had the forethought of having a hose ready and starts spraying the tree with water.  I’m thinking this is not good, this is dangerous, I’m sure that neighbor would not appreciate this.  Did I mention that we were new to the neighborhood?

So my hubby is putting out the fire, and doing a good job, except I’m still concerned about all the little cinders possibly igniting a fire in the aforesaid neighbor’s yard.  Hubby assures me he is looking around at the neighbor’s yard and making sure that nothing will happen, with hose in hand.  A little time passes, and he is sure all is well, so now it is time to continue with burning the other side of the tree.  Yes, one side of the tree actually did not burn and it is time to finish the job.

Next thing we know, we hear a siren.  I am sure it is for us.  I tell my husband I hope you know that siren is for us.  He blows me off like I am an idiot, a complete idiot.   It is a coincidence.  The neighbors to the west pop up in their upstairs window and yell to us – you scared the heck out of us, we saw the huge fireball and thought your house was on fire.  So then, of course, another siren is heard.  My husband starts to put two and two together while the neighbors do the same and yell with amusement at our expense “here comes the Fire Department!”  And even then, we hear a third siren.

My husband goes into defense mode and says “let’s go inside.  Turn off the lights!!!”  We see a fire engine going down the next street, slowly as if looking for something.  I explain to him that they are most definitely looking for us and we should come clean because every single neighbor will point to our house and then we look really bad.

So at this point there is a fire engine coming slowly down our street and hubby realizes he needs to fess up and goes out to greet them.  He tells them he lit the Christmas tree on fire.  Their first question is did we have a permit?  This question is actually a rouse, because where we live there is no such thing as an after dark fire permit.  (We learned this afterwards.)  My husband apologizes and asks if he is going to be the idiot in tomorrow’s newspaper.  They assure him that he will not, as long as he does not continue with the stupidity.  Now, we live in a small town, or at least it was at the time, so I am kind of surprised that a 3 engine response did not gain the press that it should have.

I have fond memories of the half burned Christmas tree that sat in our yard for months.  Our town now has a wonderful recycling program for Christmas trees which we take advantage of every year, perhaps brought on by pyromaniacs like us.  It was an interesting way to meet some of our new neighbors.  And I hate to say, I would like to see, some day,  what it would have looked like if the whole tree had gone up!!!

Enjoy Old Holiday Traditions and Start New Ones

My side of the family has a wonderful story we have passed on through the generations.  It began when my grandmother cooked a fine meal for Turkey day way back when.  She cooked an amazing meal, everyone sat down to eat, then everyone excused themselves from the table and left her to do the cleaning.  She was very upset and (as the story goes) exclaimed “I worked hard all day for this wonderful meal and no one even said boo”.  So of course, everyone showed their appreciation by saying “boo”.  From then on after every meal, everyone in the family would say “boo”.

Recently, just within the last 5 or so years, on my husband’s side of the family, we started a new tradition.  It was not planned. It just sort of happened.  I’m not even sure whose idea it was.  We were all about to sit down for a Thanksgiving dinner and it was decided we should all hold hands and each person would say what they are thankful for.  It can be serious or silly.  The idea may have even been from one of the young children.  It’s fun to see what everyone has to say, kind of like a penny for your thoughts.  To this day, we still practice this tradition.

I either read or heard somewhere that a person can only recall one of their great grandparents.  This rings true for me.  I think Holiday traditions are a great way of sharing family folklore.  It’s wonderful to watch children grow up and pass it on to their children.  And, you can always retell old stories.  What a beautiful gift for the family from the family.

So, what’s your holiday tradition?  If you don’t have one, start one!