Thursday, March 31, 2016

31: Taking risks...

Yesterday, I wrote about the day trip I took with my dad to one of our favorite antique auction destinations.  You can read about it here.

Since I'm on Spring Break, and have some spare time, and have a little who likes to watch "Fixer-Upper" with me, and have an upstairs bedroom to turn into a big-boy bedroom for the smaller little, it seemed appropriate to purchase a 'project' piece or two at the auction yesterday.  So, when this metal patio chair came up for bids, I could almost see it in one of Joanna Gaines' bedrooms.  

I bought it, post-haste, for $17.  I could just see it, a better version of its current self, inside the new big-boy bedroom.

So, I brought it home and placed it in the left corner at the end of the bed.  I'm not used to decorating in greys, and together, the light walls with the light chair were a bit too much.  Or, too little, depending on your perspective.  I'd label it "under-whelming."

"Just use the spray paint," my brother-in-law said, "it's so much easier than using a brush." That may be true; he's a painter.  I, on the other hand, have no experience with resurrecting metal patio furniture and little experience with spray paint.  In search of more color and maybe even a titch more depth, I found this product at the local hardware store...

This afternoon, I researched the steps I should take to transform the chair.  I spread a tattered white sheet across the driveway and anchored it with paint cans from past projects.  I sanded the metal chair with high-grit paper and wiped away the residue with tack cloth.  I shook the paint can for over a minute, just to be sure it was well-mixed, and sprayed with patient, fluid strokes as directed. I let the first coat dry between naptime and dinnertime and then added the second coat.

As the sun set, I stepped back to admire the slight shimmer of the {almost} finished product before moving it into the garage for the night.  I felt proud.

Proud that I had a vision for the milquetoast metal chair.
Proud that I honored that vision and bought the chair.
Proud that I did the research and the work to bring the vision to fruition.
Proud that I took a risk to try something new.

And then, I started to connect my garage work to my writing work this month. Because, as hard as it is to believe, it's Day 31.  Day 31 offers the opportunity to reflect.  And grow.

I'm not sure I started many pieces with vision of particular craft moves I'd like to try or mentor texts I'd like to emulate.  On Day 31, I wish I would've been more intentional.

I'm not sure I honored the letter and spirit of the challenge by harnessing the power of other writers in the community as a source of inspiration.  On Day 31, I wish I would've been more of a collector.

I'm not sure I put the time into writing this month that I would've liked.  I wrote mainly to preserve family stories and growing up stories.  I wrote late at night.  On Day 31, I wish I would've been more of a perfectionist.

I'm not sure I tried anything new.  I wrote a lot of poetry, which is how most of my writing just seems to shape itself right now.  On Day 31, I wish I would've been more of a risk-taker.

So, on Day 31, I feel a little like the light grey chair against the light grey walls...

Albeit, I hold this challenge -- and the chair -- in my heart, both as learning experiences, both as 'before and after' experiences, both as 'what is' and 'what could be' experiences.

I should take the risk next time...


Congratulations, Slicers, on a well-written March challenge!

Write on,

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

30: Auction day...

We walk in through the far-right door for guests; my anticipation is palpable.  


While Dad checks in and picks up our bidder numbers, I case out the nearest booths. See the distressed teal trunk?  Yep.  I did, too.  It goes on my mental watch list as the crowds meander through the rows of furniture, antiques, and collectibles.  

At 9:00, the opening bell (hanging from the building's center) rings and before it even stops, a gaggle of auctioneers (each working a section) begin brokering deals. We stop at the booth below to preview the salvaged windows that will come up for sale.  I notice the retired road signs behind the auctioneer -- they also join my watch list.  For a couple of littles I know....

I also notice a wooden bell-shaped object at the booth next door.

My adrenaline rushes because the auctioneer and clerk are almost ready to sell it. The current owner shows it off, adds a disclaimer to honor the sizeable crack on the reverse.  The auctioneer throws out a price.  I wait for it to dip lower.  No one bites. It dips lower still.  $10.  I raise my hand half-way, even though inside, my stomach jumps into my heart.  "10. 10.  Who'll give me 12-and-a-half?"  

No one else counters.  She points to me after what felt like more-than-sufficient wait time.  "Sold.  $10."

I smile.  "Thank you."  

I always wonder what I am missing if I'm the only bidder...  This time, however, I cradle the roughed-up item in my arms and celebrate the uncontested deal.  After all, that is the land and milk and honey for an auction-goer.

Minutes pass and it is almost as if the steady cadence of the auctioneers' din takes a backseat to the mental balancing of my wish list.  I make it back in time to bid on the swivel old-school desk chair that reminds me of its Pottery Barn replica.  It's built like a brick house.  I jump in, place a couple bids.  "27.50.  27.50.  Who'll give me $30?"

No once else counters.  She points to me with more speed this time.  "Sold.  $27.50."

I smile again.  "Thank you."

Once overflowing booths empty. Winnings move toward the building's perimeter as bidders prepare to check out and pack up.

We end up on top for a few other items -- like a grey chair to paint for the smaller little's new big boy room, a repurposed book 'tool box', a crate for my friend, and a rectangular side table (still with the original tags) made in my hometown by furniture manufacturer Dunbar many years ago.

We walk back out through the far-right door for guests.  Dad backs up the truck. With satisfaction, we wrap, bundle, load, and bungee the pieces into the back before jumping into the front to recount the day's details on the way home.  

We talk about the next trip and what we might find then...

Write on,

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

29: Brother, sister...

Before it was across the dinner table
and across the hall
at home...growing up
and then it was across states
and across phases
at college...first job
and now it is across spare moments without littles
and across seconds where it feels like
it is just us
He listens, I think aloud, wonder, ask
I listen, he explains, theorizes, estimates
I see his process, heart, dreams
He sees my process, heart, dreams
Time passes, kids grow
Change stirs
We stay

Talking and listening
Brother and sister

Write on,

Monday, March 28, 2016

28: Tomorrow...

His tiny white toddler bed
is tucked in next to our dresser tonight
He sleeps
inside his cocoon
for the last time
Tomorrow there will be a
big boy bed
inside a newly painted
just down the hall
from where 

Write on,

Sunday, March 27, 2016

27: To pick a topic...

I sit in the same place I always do
to write tonight
the five-arm chandelier lights the way
as I scroll through my writer's notebook idea page
my phone's photo album
to pick a topic I can knead and share

There is the picture of a notebook
with the elder little's name on the back
yesterday the smaller little picked it up
flipped it over and handed it back to him
"Reid!  Here is your notebook!"
I marveled...
When did he learn to read?

There is the picture of a diminutive blue Jeep
with the smaller little in the driver's seat
my husband bent over to rescue the triangle
stuck beneath the front all-terrain wheels
I guessed...
That's not what the company meant by all-terrain.  Not tricycles.  
He'll learn to drive safely; first time out season.

Or maybe...

There is the picture of two little guys
roaming around the south side of the house
the elder coached the smaller little 
at his self-sponsored Easter egg hunt
"You're getting clooooooose.  Just look up."
I beamed...
They're getting it.  They are.
Someday they will be friends.

I sit in the same place I always do
to write tonight
the five-arm chandelier lights the way
as I scroll through my writer's notebook idea page -- 
my photo album -- 
to pick a topic I can knead and share

"I write to hold what I find in my life in my hands and declare it a treasure..."
Lucy Calkins

Write on,

Saturday, March 26, 2016

26: He's growing...

He sits by my left elbow at the dinner table
piles of food come and go
stories do
teeth do, too
He smiles, it stays
longer with each passing time
as if to threaten the fits into
He sits by my left elbow at the dinner table

I saved the last bite for you.  
Want it, Mommy?  It's a good one...
Or, maybe, Grant wants it.
Want it, Grant?  It's a good bite.  The best onnnnnnne.

Thank you for making dinner tonight, Mommy...

Write on,

Friday, March 25, 2016

25: Friday night...

I'm sitting on the living room floor
legs criss-cross-applesauce in grey flannel drawstring pants
laptop open
ideas spinning
I'm a traitor to my state and its storied sports history
as I hear the din of a certain sweet-sixteen
basketball game in the background
One thought keeps pushing its way to the front


Write on,

Thursday, March 24, 2016

24: Timely cinquain...

Spring Break
Starts tomorrow
Radiant potential
Playing laughing resting building
It's here!

Write on,

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

23: Wisdom...

Tonight Grant asked if there were bees inside the family room lamp.
My head tilted toward his.
He said, "The light is on, Mommy."
I said, "Yes.  It is."
He said, "Then there have to be bees in there."
I asked, "Why?"
He said, "Because you said there are bees in the plug-ins."
My head tilted again.
He said,"If the bees are in the walls they have to be in the lamps, Mommy."
I said, "Riiiiiiight.  We shouldn't touch either the plug-ins or the lamps."
He said, "Buuuuuuzzzzzzzzzzzzz."

Write on,

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

22: The micro-vacation...

I could feel my toes under the waterfall of sand
it started off fast and then trickled off
so I'd dig...deeper, farther this time
and I'd watch it all happen again

Around me an expanse of blue
skies of the cornflower persuasion
seas in some spots bordering on turquoise
and in others cerulean
as if an invitation to wonder
what mysteries lie beneath

The sun kissed my cheeks and then my shoulders
as it fell down like the most comfortable blanket
the one you want to grab on a cold winter's night
which is, perhaps, why the unseasonable warmth
delighted me so

Palms swayed in the gentle breeze
bikers, runners, seashell diggers
moved from one end of the beach to the other
I'd catch them both 

My book progressed a page here
and one there
what separated them from me
were two eyes that would
blink slower and slower
until the sun, the sea, the seashells
mattered not


From my quiet kitchen 
I saw it all while
looking past the emerald swath
of young grass
and the stately border 
of backyard pines
washing the flatware, cookware, dishware
drying the flatware, cookware, dishware
listening to the soap swirl down the drain

Until next time...

Write on,

Monday, March 21, 2016

21: The collision...

This is our little fish.
I keep myself busy around the bathroom, bedroom, and closet 
every night
so he can have his space
but I can keep tabs on his aquatic activity.  
"Can you hear me?" he asks more than once.
I can.  
He says, "What you say?"
I didn't...because you can't.
I smile.

He's also our little book devourer.
And 'Pete the Cat' aficionado.
He adores the little song Pete sings in
"Rockin' in My School Shoes."

We all have this in common -- it is, after all, how we spend our days, yes?

If you're unfamiliar, click on the link below and start listening just past 1:00.

Tonight the text and the tub collide.

I organize my clothes for tomorrow, he floats.
I sort laundry into stacks, he sings.
"I'm floating in my bathtub,
I'm floating in my bathtub,
I'm floating in my bathtub."
Perfectly synchopated, perfectly in tune.

A mentor
transfers its craft
transforms our vision
and morphs ideas
into something more meaningful.

More like the soundtrack to our big, important thoughts.

And loves.

Like swimming in the tub or devouring books.

Write on,

Sunday, March 20, 2016

20: The egg and the hair dryer...

The egg-decorating project reached a standstill late yesterday afternoon.
Little Emmie clarified, "The plastic doesn't fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit, Aunt Brenna."

Her mommy added, "Well, when I was little we always used to put the eggs in really hot water 
to shrink the too-big plastic bands, but that may take away the eggs' coloring."

I extended, "When I used to work part-time at Pottery Barn, 
during Christmas we'd always use cellophane bags.  
They came in one size -- big and square -- and then we would add 
whatever gift the store wanted to feature.  
You know what the trick is for shrinking a cellophane bag?"

"Sure!" everyone replied without pause.

"A hair dryer!" I whispered.

So the eggs skittered around on the plastic blue plate all the way down the L-shaped hallway 
and then rested on the bathroom countertop while I plugged in the hair dryer.

I wondered, "Could I just do them all at once?" 

So, I tried.
To save you the suspense, it didn't work.  Not even a little bit. 

The eggs would need to be done one-by-one.
So I held each one between my thumb and first finger,
rotating it every time the heat became too much.


"Emmie!!!!  Look!  The hair dryer worked!"  I called.
And two little sets of little girl hands filled the blue plate 
to merge egg displays into one... the center of the kitchen island.

"Can we eat them know?" a little voice chirped.

Write on,

Saturday, March 19, 2016

18: Hallowed ground...

This slice is a follow-up to 16: Around the Table...Again:

We stood outside this morning
on a tiny postage stamp patch of wintry grass
underneath a tiny canopy
made vibrantly blue by the colorless sky
black overcoats, suits, dresses, tights, boots
packed in by family
behind the two rows of felt-covered folding chairs
that lined his golden oak casket

I caught my eyes darting between headstones
close enough to read
Harry and Elmira
were just beyond
Robert and Marilyn

To the left there was one darker stone
almost covered by the throng of mourners
I could only make out the last three letters 
yet the tears welled up
and rolled down, down
my fingertips straightened
and pushed my pockets' seams
to stifle the smallish gasp 
because I knew
just like that
where we were standing

Gorman and Lorraine

the hallowed ground 
where my grandparents

I remembered them, too

Write on,

Friday, March 18, 2016

18: I sit down now...

I sit down now
to write
It's 10:55
For the past two hours
I've laid on the cold, carpeted floor
of the smaller little's room
while he tosses
"My ears hurt," he cries
waiting for sleep
I'm convinced
for me
it would come
like lights
at the flip of a switch
I think about
packing four people for a weekend away
walking out the door in the morning by 7:30
finishing the laundry until it's stacked like sorted coins
not writing
not sleeping
Easter clothes
coaching teachers
I sit down now
to write

Write on,

Thursday, March 17, 2016

17: 'Old-fashioned' and 'new-fashioned'...

We waited for an opening in the steady stream of northbound traffic to turn left out of the neighborhood toward Target.  It was Wednesday after school.  Our coffee-date day.  So we began the five-minute drive by discussing our snack options.

R: Hey, Mom, when we go to Starbucks can I get an old-fashioned donut?

B: Sure, I think so.  Hey, what’s 'old-fashioned' mean?

R: Um, I don’t know.

B: Sure you do; think about it a sec.  What could be old-fashioned?


R: I know — buggies and horses.

B: Oh yeah?

R: Cars are 'new-fashioned.'  Buggies are old-fashioned because they came before cars.

B: What else could be old-fashioned?

R: Amish.  Amish are old-fashioned.

B: Why do you say that?

R: Because they don’t have power in their houses.  That’s old-fashioned.  

B: Sounds like it might be.    

R: A fire.  Cooking food on a fire is old-fashioned.  A stove is how we cook today.  A stove is new-fashioned.

B: What else?

R: Feathers.

B: Oh yeah?  What do you mean by 'feathers'?

R: Writing with feathers and dipping them in ink.  That’s the way people wrote before pens were invented.  That's old-fashioned.

B: Yes.  That IS old-fashioned.  

Good one.

R: Yeah, but then what would you do if you made a mistake?  Cross it out?

B: Maybe.  

R: You know what would be new-fashioned?

B: What?

R: Erasers.

B: Oh yeah?  How is that?

R: Because now that erasers are invented we can get rid of what we don't want on the paper anymore. We don't have to cross it out.  That's a big deal when you write letters.

B: So what do you know about writing letters?

R: Well, people used to write letters to communicate.

B: That's true.  Then they'd have to write them, send them in the mail, and wait for someone else to write them one back to find out new information.  Now how do people communicate?

R: They use their cell phones.  

B: Yep. That IS new-fashioned.

R: It is? 

B: Sure, it is.  When I was a little girl, we had a phone hanging from our wall in the kitchen.



B: It stayed in one place and if it rang, you had to run to answer it before it stopped. And then you had to stand in that spot by the phone while you talked because the handpiece was hooked to the phone with a cord that wasn’t very long and it wouldn’t stretch very far.  

R: REALLY?  THAT’S CRAZY!  That IS old-fashioned.

Fires for cooking; feathers for ink...phones on walls?  

Boy-mama tip: Just stick to the 'old-fashioned' donut...

Write on,

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

16: Around the table...again

Years ago in the house on West Dearborn
the living room lights would twinkle on a Friday night
there would be four cars in the driveway after dinner and
four couples
laughing about diets and desserts
remembering farms and furniture factories
telling stories and
playing games like Bones and Skipbo
around the dark formica table in the avocado kitchen

But then it was my grandpa twenty years ago
and my grandma's sister's husband one month later
which was a blessing
they had each other here
and they had each other there
so they removed a leaf from the table
and then it was my grandma's brother on April 7
and my grandma's younger sister on April 7 the next year
so they removed another leaf from the table here and added one there
and then it was my grandma's brother's wife a few years later
and then it was my grandma a few years after that
so they removed another leaf from the table here and added another one there
and then it was my grandma's older sister a few months later
and yesterday it was my grandma's younger sister's husband

When I heard the news I heard them
laughing again
like they did years ago in the house on West Dearborn
the living room lights would twinkle on a Friday night
there would be four cars in the driveway after dinner and
Earl and Corrine
Harry and Elmira
Gorm and Lorraine
Bob and Marilyn
would play games likes Bones and Skipbo
around the dark formica table in the avocado kitchen

Write on,

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

15: It's dark...

It's dark
my mind is
It's 11:11
that should be
like winning the
prize in a
raffle drawing
or a
writing topic
at the laptop
in March
It's dark
two boys
made it over the hill
I stand at the bottom
listening to their metronome breaths
It's dark

Write on,

Monday, March 14, 2016

14: Casserole comfort...

I transfer the rock-hard pound of ground beef from the deep freeze to the microwave already dreaming about what it would help us whip up for dinner tonight.  Defrost 6 minutes.  Next up on my mental recipe -- secure the two other frozen ingredients, green peas and tater tots.

Truthfully, I bank on cinched bags of next-to-nothing, and one quick foray into the bottom of the deep freeze confirms my predictions.  But, alas...who measures when making a casserole?  So I begin to brown the thawing meat with some minced onion and salt.  Turning the flame to medium and covering the pan to avoid splatters allows for some quick tent-building in the adjacent family room. At seven minutes, the timer reminds me to head back into the kitchen and a quick 'zhuj' to crumble the meat invites me to cut the flame, tip the pan to gather grease, and incorporate the cream of chicken soup.

Which by anyone's standards of home-cooking announces the arrival of comfort.  The gooey comfort that only accompanies condensed soup.

And maybe a homemade, partially baked cookie, too.


So, all casserole recipes call for 'a greased casserole' which means the dish -- not the dinner.  We spray up the stoneware, glop the hamburger mixture inside, pat it into place with a wooden spoon back, and uncinch the peas.

Ooooh.  Not as many as I had imagined; which, I suppose is a blessing.  While I'm a pea-lover, my boys are on the fence...and my husband is decidedly against.  We'll approximate because for this team, less is more.  I lovingly lob more into the far left corner -- I'll be responsible for that portion.

Unselfishly, of course.

A quick shake a salt balances what could become the milquetoast middle -- that vegetable layer -- and then it is onto the casserole's crown -- the tator tots.  Which, my mom always told me, "I arrange mine across the top; they always look better that way."  So I do, too, because I like a pretty dish.  All the tater tots line up like little soldiers. Or squares on a hundreds chart.  I am by myself at this step, so I don't count.

Had I not been, I could provide you the exact number.  I'm guessing it to be over 150; so we will all have to be alright with my humble estimation tonight.  I use some clues from the related episode of "Curious George" to come to that conclusion.  I would be remiss if I skipped over one smallish detail: I am three tater tots short. I do what anyone would do to save a dish -- I add the next best thing.

Crinkle-cut french fries.  Three of them.  With seasoning, which gives me pause, but the pretty dish theory encourages me to proceed.

Oven ready, the 'casserole of casseroles' begins its hour-trip toward browned and bubbly.  We transition the orange and blue robot tent from the basement into the family room and rebuild it in the northwest corner beside the pair of leather club chairs.

With five minutes remaining, I pull the applesauce from the fridge and prepare two ramekins' full for two boys.  I dance around adding cinnamon because they do really love that, but the purist in me wins out and I serve it plain-jane.

Because that's how it best goes with tater tot casserole.  Traditionally speaking.

OK, my bias.

With one minute remaining, I fill four glasses -- assembly line-style -- with ice cubes and then cold water from the fridge dispenser.

Beep.  Beep.  Beep.


"Hey, gentlemen, the casserole's ready and the table is set.  LET'S EAT!"

Write on,

Sunday, March 13, 2016

13: Faith...

Sleepy fields
and parks
and shops
all absent
on the drive
this morning
even the church
from the stoplight's perspective
atop the interstate overpass

There was nothing

Like the Grand Canyon
so many years ago
I stepped
out of the car
in anticipation
the beauty, scale, shading
vivid as a postcard
in my mind

There was nothing

A grey pillow
smothered the vista
I reconciled
the postcard and its
beauty, scale, shading
with reality
My mittened hand on
the frozen railing
led me to know
it was out there
down there
across there

There was nothing
but even still
there was something

in what
should be
could be
will be

Write on,

Saturday, March 12, 2016

12: Going up...a Friday night adventure

All while the elder little picked out new soccer shoes with Daddy...

"YES!  Dick's has an 'excalator'.  
Look, Mommy!  We can go up!  Here, watch me..."


"Do you think we should hold on 
while we go up to the second floor?"

Look, you just go over here..."


They're going UP.  We're going DOWN."

I'm going down.  
Hey, Mommy, look at that boat.  
Can I get that for my birthday?  
That one is perfect for me."

"Do you need a boat?"

"Hey, Daddy; are you ready to pay?"

It's SUPER tall!"
Next time we come here I will ride more!

Thus endeth the Friday night adventure...

Write on,

Friday, March 11, 2016

11: By the numbers...

I slid across the bed and melted into it during bathtime
The slice didn't get written
The ideas flowed again after both boys were in bed
The slice didn't get written
The elder needed some encouragement to sleep
The slice didn't get written
I sat up in bed and opened my laptop
The slice materialized

One slice
Three beds
Eight lines
Two heavy lids
One white flag

Write on,

Thursday, March 10, 2016

10: His...

Before I even finished
my sentence
flipping on the light
at the bottom

That's where the wrapping paper is
You know, in the closet right below us

You'd have thought he
descended those stairs
like me with a laundry basket
at other requests:
train pieces
holiday decorations
art supplies
Mom, you do it
I'm scared...the basement's dark

He shuffled
the perfect paper and
bounded back upstairs
to wrap his art project
for Daddy
he did because
he could see
the finished product
in his mind's eye

"Ta-da!  I did it all myself, Daddy!"

And I couldn't escape the
connection to writing workshop
how choice, identity, and purpose matter
how engagement marries meaning
how audience shapes creation
how timely tips nurture independence
how celebration encourages agency
again and again
forever and amen

Write on,

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

9: With a smile...

The Target worker with jet-black hair organized the tangle of signature red shopping carts spread left and right of us.  Just inside the humongous double entrance at SuperTarget after school, we stood, as if on display for the crush of shoppers.  The elder, beet-faced, clenched his teeth while the tears plummeted down his supple cheeks.  She smiled as if to say, I know that's no fun, while creating the neat cart trains that framed our stage.

We had stopped -- just like we do each Wednesday -- for a coffee break.  And, because SuperTarget knows how people like me operate, they tucked a Starbucks just inside the grocery side doorway. You know, so we could have our coffee break AND get the essentials for dinner and beyond.

I digress...

So, we walked in with a clear mission -- an old-fashioned donut from Starbucks for the elder; an Icee from the store snack shop for the smaller little; a few groceries. My natural inclination: Starbucks first.

"Oh, I'm sorry.  We are out of those donuts today.  Can I get you something else?"

Tears.  No; wails.

No; near panic.  

From him; from me.  At this point in the fit, I questioned our continued presence. We hadn't done our shopping yet...and tonight's dinner of french toast would be no good without the synthetic syrup we stopped to buy.

She smiled again while transferring two more carts to growing train.

"Do you think we could share some popcorn at the snack shop over here?  It is supposed to be really good..."


Yes.  Good.  Perfect.  Resilience.

We took the twenty steps to the register and practiced our order en route, "One small slushie; one bag of popcorn."  The friendly smile from the doorway returned to her post and stepped past the red slide and swing half-door that separated the food items from customers like us.

"Ohhh.  Thanks for being so patient.  Can I help you?"

Two little voices chimed in, one blue debit card came out, and I smiled back connecting with her brown eyes, warm and velvety.  It was then, she turned to bag our popcorn; it was then I saw what I would've spent minutes, hours, and days, avoiding...covering up...making name it...had I been in the red shirt, in the snack bar, serving sugary, salty treats to kids with undeveloped filters and adults with racing minds.

And she did it all with a smile.

With a smile.

And with a pond of blue and green that drowned her left eye, temple, cheek bone.  

The scene from "Pretty Woman" revealed itself across my mind's movie screen: "Why do guys always know how to hit a woman right across the cheek?  Wham!  And it feels like your eye is gonna explode.  What do they do?  Do they pull you aside in high school and show you how to do this?"  

"Thank you for coming to Target.  Have a good afternoon."

With a smile.

Our eyes locked, I smiled back.  "Thank you.  Take good care..."

What I should've asked you is how I can help.  

I'm sorry I didn't ask you how I can help.

I know that's no fun...  You, my dear, are the resilient one.

Write on,

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

8: Question du jour...

my phone buzzed and skidded
across the glass top desk
this afternoon
a new message
in stark white letters
on the lock screen
"Do u guys want a free trampoline?"
a belly laugh

Write on,

Monday, March 7, 2016

7: Team colors...

We stumbled into Kohl's, between Target and a date at Starbucks, with merchandise credit worth $21.85.  I had no agenda -- other than to spend every red cent -- however Reid may have disagreed.

With each step further into the boys department, I marveled at our good fortune.

Free money.
(Well, kind of.)

Yellow and red clearance stickers dotted stacks of fitness tops and pants.
(And more stacks.)

We started in the big boys section, with the orange long-sleeve shirts.  Orange has unofficially become our team color -- it seems like this section of my laundry sort paint pallet grows wider and wider -- so the elder little asks to have the one with a soccer ball, baseball, football, and basketball arranged in a neat square on the front.  I say, "Perfect," because at home we have the matching track pants.

Next, he went for the stack of lime green long-sleeve shirts.  It fits his favorite genre of clothing -- athleticwear -- and they still have it in L(7).  He's an L(7) now.  Big stuff.  This one shows a big soccer ball, front and center.  Playing soccer, namely practicing his moves as a goalie positioned in the center of our eating area/family room arched doorway, is how he's spent his winter months.  I say, "Perfect," because at home we have the matching track pants.

Then, we cross the ivory linoleum aisle into the little boys section.  At his advice.  "Mommy, you know what would be really cool?"  I stop.

Full stop.

"What?  What would be really cool?"

"Well, I was just thinking, it would be really cool if we could find the same clothes in Grant's size."

I found myself instantly back in the yellow hallway bathroom, just months earlier, listening to a crying little brushing teeth before bedtime.  Things like, "Can we just take him back to the hospital, Mommy?" and "It was so much easier before he came to our team" were said for the millionth time. This time, I had something to say back: "Do you ever think it might be your problem...?  I mean, sometimes I think you try really hard not to like your brother, and sometimes it seems like you might give him a hard time just for something to do."  He stopped.

Full stop.

Big, brown eyes betrayed the coping mechanism he labored daily to maintain.  He collapsed into my arms.

"You know, there is room for both of you on our team.  The four of us go together because God put us together.  He knew we needed each other to have fun, to live, and to grow.  So can we do that together?  All of us?  I promise...we will do great things if we work together.  It all starts with the decision to try.  Will you try?"

"Look!  Mommy!  Here is the orange shirt we found in my size.  They DO have it in Grant's size!  Let's get this, too!"  I say, "Perfect," and on the shelf below the shirt, the matching track pants are available in 2T.  We add them to our stack.

"Hey!  They have the green long-sleeve shirt, too.  Look!  2T!  That's Grant's size!"  I say, "Perfect," again because we have matching pants at home.

"This is so cool.  I know Grant will think it's neat to have clothes like my big boy clothes."

"I agree.  I think he will.  I think you may even like having clothes that match. You know, it was a generous suggestion to spend part of our money on some new clothes for him."

We find our way back onto the linoleum path towards the cash registers up front.  He arranges our items just-so on the checkout counter.  The saleslady makes eyes at Reid and she cooes, "Do you have a little brother?  You're going to match, Handsome..."

"We will.  They're team clothes!"

Here they are representing today...

Write on,

Sunday, March 6, 2016

6: A big hill and one tiny second...

There was that second...
the one
right before the one
where you knew they'd
see what was possible
then they'd
have to choose
for themselves

That second
where they'd
reach the top of the park's hill
made famous each winter with sledders
today shedding
blonde wisps of dormant grass
and jostling
itty-bitty people
around like
Jeep tires in
off-road descent

That second
where they'd
rolling down
until control
felt just out of reach

That second
where they'd
turn back
just once
to see if
my eyes
caught theirs
if they didn't...

That second
where they'd
just how high
the hill
just how far

That second
where they'd
take the risk

That second
where I'd
as I

That second
where I'd

Write on,

Saturday, March 5, 2016

5: Cookies? Chickens?

They'd been asking for the past few nights after school, "When are we going to make more chocolate chip cookies, Mom?  The freezer's empty!"  And, I'd say, "Soon, guys, soon.  Maybe tonight...let's see how it all goes."

They're sharp, those boys.

I think it began Wednesday because we always get home a little earlier on Wednesdays.  But there was dinner to start, and laundry to start, and rambunctious boys to settle, and the idea of being cramped into the small crook of our L-shaped kitchen beside said boys jockeying for ingredients, measuring spoons, handfuls of chocolate chips, and turns to add small whisps of dried goods, was just too much.

Too much.

So we made the dinner.
We started the laundry.
We made couch cushion tents in the family room.

And the fun started again the next day after school.  "Are we going to make the cookies tonight, Mom?  The freezer's empty!"

"Like a steel trap," I whispered.

Louder, I said, "We'll see."

(Which, incidentally, they have not yet associated that phrase with "No." in parent speak.)

So we did our due.  We routed around for remaindered chocolate chips in the Costco-sized bag.  We checked our stocks of sugars inside the cream canisters by the glinting onyx mixer.  We opened the cabinet above the cookbook holder to make sure the stick of butter was, indeed, room temperature because this detail is nonnegotiable.  We unclasped the chilled crisp styrofoam egg carton for a quick count.  "Yes, there are enough."  And, then, we investigated the final detail -- the Crisco -- which, I have found through trial and error, makes the perfect half-and-half accompaniment to the butter. (The recipe on the back of the Toll House bag will not share this important tidbit...)

"Ohhhhhhhh, guys.  We're all out of Crisco."  I measured my words, unsure how they'd land for the littles.

"Can you get some tomorrow?" the elder responded with resilience.

"ABSOLUTELY."  Not bad; not bad.  "Let's keep going with our couch cushion tent..."

Friday afternoon came, the Crisco purchased, and the familiar walk into the kitchen through the laundry room beckoned the question du jour.

"Yes.  We have everything we need.  LET'S MAKE THE COOKIES!"

Two counter-height barstools on felt pads slid into the L's little crook for two observers; one mixer emerged from the corner's shadow and into the afternoon light; flours, sugars, vanilla, soda, salt, and the butter plus Crisco speckled the countertop; the smaller little watched each detail.

"Eggs, Mommy!  We need the eggs."

The chilled crisp styrofoam egg carton fit into a rectangular opening just in front of him.  I didn't catch this smallish important detail, as I turned to measure and aerate the dry ingredients on deck.  

"MOMMY!  CHICKENS!"  He shakes two eggs like maracas.  Inside, I giggle.

"Perfect timing, little guy!  We're ready to add the eggs in the mixer!"


Crack.  Mix.  Ping.  The shell lands inside the well of our aluminum sink.
Crack.  Mix.  Ping.  The second shell lands inside the well of our aluminum sink.

I concentrate; another secret of baking chocolate chip cookies is to avoid overmixing.  We tip the red ribbed batter bowl over the mixer; dry ingredients rain into the dough.  We dump in the last of the chocolate chips; they skip and plunk before the mixer paddle finishes the first step of our project.

The smaller little is also busy, I find out, as sink contents shift and clang.

"MOMMY!!!!!  THE CHICKENS ARE GONE!!!!  GET THEM BACK!!!!" he waves an egg shell like a yellow caution flag at the Indianapolis 500.

These cookies could be the driest, most over- or underdone, crispiest, crunchiest, greasiest, flattest, or fluffiest.  I'll cling to this second -- this experience -- much longer, always seeing the mixer, the L, the egg carton, the egg shells, and then hearing his inquisitive little three-year-old voice...

Write on,

Friday, March 4, 2016

4: I thought...

I sat 
to get down 
my thoughts
all that came out
so then
I thought
I'll come back later
to bed
I thought
I'll just lie down
for a minute
that minute

Write on,

Thursday, March 3, 2016

3: Close, yet far away...

I was in the shadows
fluffing the pillows 
organizing papers inside manila folders
dusting the antique buffet
whatever I could do to stay close

Yet far away

You see
I like the shadows
I like to know they 
can do it
while I’m not part of the mix
I like to know they
my teachings
our teachings
His teachings

I want some apple juice, the smaller little requests
I can get that for you

Refrigerator doors swing wide
as do the cabinet doors 
He chooses the royal blue water bottle 
because of its flip top
because he knows the little likes to
remove lids and
make messes 
He fills it just-so
fastens the flip top and
hands it to the smaller little

Thank you

He’s learning
to be
They’re learning
to be
We’re learning
to be
(and sometimes)

I was in the shadows
fluffing the pillows 
organizing papers inside manila folders
dusting the antique buffet
whatever I could do to stay close

Yet far away…

Write on,