Thursday, January 31, 2013

Be Big

Tip, Tap
Tip, Tap
Tip, Tap
Tip, Tap...

Sitting at our desks, we can hear Ms. Skoumal walking briskly down the hall to our classroom.  A few squirrelly students scramble for their seats, sliding in just as she breezes through the door.  She smiles broadly; big, bright blue eyes twinkle, happy to see us and her huge and wild head of red hair bounces with each step.

"Good morning!"

She turns to the chalkboard, her skirt swirling about her, and in her flowery script writes today's date, a little flourish at the end and her trademark happy face with the loopy-dee-doo on top.  She twirls to face us and claps her hands.  Smiling again, there is a smudge of bright red lipstick on one of her top teeth.  She has big teeth - not unattractive, but it might be that they are trying to keep up with her enormous smiles.

"To the rug, Class!"

She sashays to the back of the class and gracefully folds her tall and curvy frame into her rocking chair, tucking her long dancers legs to the right.  Knees together and ankles crossed, her high-heeled shoes peek out from her flowing skirt.

Sitting at her feet we listen as she reads to us and when the pesky rabbit gets into trouble again, she laughs.  A big and loud laugh, with her head thrown back and her eyes closed.

Everything about Mrs. Skoumal is big.  And she makes us feel a little bit big, too.  Even if we're only 2nd graders.  In fact, she makes us feel so big, like we could be anything and do anything, that even after we graduate from her class, we happily sign up for her after-school tap dancing classes ... just to be big with her some more.

Tappity - Tap
Tappity - Tap
Tappity - Tappity - Tappity - Tap!

Prompt #5 - 2nd Grade Teacher - whom I still look for every 4th of July ... to see her big eyes, her big smile and her big head of crazy red hair.

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oh, My Heart

Ella sits with her back to the window, nestled in the overstuffed cushions.  Sunlight casts her shadow over the paper in her lap, she scribbles frantically, pouring out her heart.  A tear drops, momentarily magnifying a word - Love - before soaking into the parchment, leaving a bleary stain.  Ella sniffs loudly, looks at the ceiling and blinks back tears before returning to her literary lament.

A light tap at the door startles her.  Scrambling, she stuffs the paper under an opulent pillow, dabs at her eyes and calls, "Come in."  She stiffens, watching her mother sweep into the room.  Ella looks to where she hid the missive, careful to keep her eyes averted.

"Have you been crying again?"  her mother demands.  "Surely not."

"Mother, you know how my heart breaks.  You have been cruel, too cruel in this declaration.  Do you not care that my heart is rent?"

"Of course, I care.  But, what's done is done.  You'll live."

"O my heart, Mother, my heart.  La Douleur Exquise," Ella sobs.  "I'll never forget him.  You may believe that you have managed to blot him out, to erase him, but true love endures, Mother!  We will be together ... someday."

"Please don't be so dramatic, Ella.  You're only fourteen and there will be other dances," her mother sighs, rubbing her brow.  "The pizza will be ready in five minutes."  She treads to the door, pausing by the poster of One Direction.  "You have your whole life to fall in love, you know."

Overcome with grief, Ella snatches a pillow and flings it at the door as it closes.  "How, Mother?  How will I ever find true love, when you have me held captive, like Rapunzel, imprisoned and walled in?  How?" she wails.

The first notes of "What Makes You Beautiful" chirp from Ella's back pocket.  She snatches her phone, glances at the screen and answers it.  "No way!  You, too?  Ugh, we're prisoners of our parents."  She sighs and slips back into the cushions.  "Wanna watch a movie?"

Bancroft Tower, Worcester, MA,
courtesy of Hillarie Jason via Esty.

Linking up with Write at the Merge this week - inspired by the picture above and the word:  La Douleur Exquise (French): The heart-wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have.  Word limit: 500.

Monday, January 28, 2013


I wrote this last Friday when we were still frozen and white.  Now we have rain (?) and puddles with the sound of gurgling rain gutters at night.  But, winter isn't over yet ... 

We've reached that moment of winter when we lose the magic of a snowflake.

The days barely creep above 20 degrees and the street out front has only just been cleared of the snow from before Christmas.  (Look!  We can see the asphalt!)

The yard is hibernating beneath several inches of brittle snow - crunchy with sharp edges.

The sky is cloudy, but no promise of fresh snow, fluffy flakes, or powdered sugar falling from the sky.

It's the blah of winter ... cold, colorless and crisp.

So to help us appreciate that white arctic blanket that still covers us, a little tale about a snowflake ...

I shiver, feeling an arctic blast billowing through the frozen cloud, twisting my sister ice crystals and me sideways.  We six link arms (and toes and elbows and knees) in a peculiar game of Snowflake-Twister, spinning and spiraling out of our cloud home toward the snow-covered earth below.  Laughing and giggling, we float past a tussle of boys, our brothers, engaged in a six-armed thumb wrestling match and soon we spy the frosted branches of the evergreen trees.  A surprising gust of air tosses us in a loop; we squeal and cling to one another, watching the winter wonderland spin around us.  And then we stop, perched on the tippy-top of a blue spruce and I hear my mother exclaim, "My Girls, how you sparkle!"

image site

This was written along with my mini-writing group of elementary school girls in response to what we learned last week about snowflakes.  We discovered that snowflakes are always six-sided, formed by ice crystals bonking together and that they form in different patterns depending upon the temperature.  We had just five sentences to describe the life of a snowflake, from the sky to the ground.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Again ...

Trying out a new prompt:  5 Minute Friday ... one word, five minutes, no editing.  hmmmm....

Five Minute Friday


It's her favorite shirt, the first one she puts on as soon as the laundry is finished.  Sometimes, she doesn't even wait for me to fold it before it's slipped over her brunette bangs and worn proudly.  The cuffs are grey, in spite of my efforts and the promises of Oxyclean.  There is a definitely frayed look about the neck and it appears that she has taken to the habit of sucking on the front of her shirt.  A stain on one elbow tells me that she wore it once when we were painting or markering or play-doh-ing or chalking.  Some pinky-orange mark that has survived the repeated washings and dryings.  Her shirt that she wears even today with her turquoise glittery pants and her pink princess moon boots.  This shirt makes its appearance once (maybe twice) a week - rain or shine, home days and errand days, weekends and weekdays, spring or summer or winter or fall.  And it doesn't even matter that it's a Halloween shirt; complete with bats in flight.

It's her favorite shirt and she will wear it again and again and again until the seams let go and the fabric withers.  And even then ... she might still try.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

What Made Me Laugh?

What made me laugh this week?  In a word ...


Three snapshots of the sweet silliness of this girl who is growing up too fast and yet still has a way to go!  I love you Weeda Mae!


In the cuckoo-head moments before Brett got home on Monday evening, Ashley was practicing her reading by perusing the many magnets and spelling tests adorning the refrigerator door.  She prided herself on using a variety of accents to read the Princess Bride quotes posted there.

"Hallo!  My name is Inigo Montoya!" 
"As you wish..."

As Brett slipped in (leaving the arctic gusts outside), Lydia greeted her father with, "Anybody wanna peanut?!?" in a rather authentic Fezzik accent.


Riding home from the grocery, Lydia was carrying on a rather intense conversation with her baby doll. At my inquiry about a particularly curious phrase, Lydia proudly informed me, "We are speaking Spanish."  

"Aahhh ... Can you say something in Spanish for me?"

... silence for a few moments and then ...

"Cinco.  Twento."

Bien dicho, hija.


Finally, while waiting in the van at the crosswalk for the kids, Lydia pointed to an activity book filled with mazes.  "Can I do these?" she asked.

"Uh, let me see." I flipped through the first several pages of the easiest mazes and found them all completed.  "These look pretty tough.  I don't know."

"I can do it.  I can," she declared, kicking her feet impatiently.

"Okey-dokey, here ya go."  I handed the book back to her and found her a pencil.

A few minutes passed in blissful silence as she worked on her maze.  At last she declared, "I did it!"

You nailed it, Sis.  Well done.

Prompt #5 - What made you laugh this week?

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Home is ...

Maggie let the screen door slap shut behind her, eyes burning and throat tight with angry tears.  She heard Wilson call for her, but she strode forward, raising her right hand in a silent plea for him not to follow.  A tear slipped down her cheek and she brushed it away.  Stomping down the back steps, she made her way to the overgrown patio, stepping through the voracious vines in hopes of finding solitude.

Plopping down in a derelict chair, she forced herself to breath deeply, taking in the sweet smell of the hibiscus blossoms erupting around her.  Sighing, her bleary eyes wandered over the garden.   The previous owners had been gardeners, according to the realtor, but with the house sitting empty, the yard had grown wild.  Possessive tendrils from some mysterious vine creeped out, wrapping around the rusted table and chairs and the canopy overhead blotted out most of the sun, creating a cool and refreshing oasis - a refuge in the midst of this hot day and the heated discussions in the kitchen.

Maggie heard the chorus again, the same words spoken over and over like a broken record.

"I was happy in Corvis.  We were happy in Corvis."

"I'm sorry, Baby.  It was the company's decision.  Not mine."

"I am home all day with the baby.  Alone.  Nobody talks to anybody in this neighborhood.  Nobody."

"It'll come.  It just takes time.  You'll meet people.  Just like you did last time."

"I don't want to 'meet people'.  I don't want to start over.  I want my friends - I hate this."

"Hopefully this will be the last time, Babe.  We'll put down roots again.  We're in this together."

In frustration, Maggie kicked at the dirt with the toe of her worn sneaker and was surprised to spy something.  Rubbing her foot back and forth, she could make out the edge of a stone butted up against another.  She leaned forward in her seat and brushed at it with her fingers.  They were bricks.

Glancing over her shoulder she saw an old broom against the side of the porch.  She set work, sweeping the space in front of her chair, clearing an arc.  A cloud of dust billowed as she swept, more bricks unveiled in shades of rust and sepia.  She worked her way toward the edges, grasping encroaching vines and dragging them back to the undergrowth.  Soon she had cleared most of the bricks and she returned to the center, clearing away the last the detritus.

Staring at her feet, she froze.  The pattern of bricks were intricately laid out in the shape of a heart.  A fresh wave of tears washed over her.  Turning, she found Wilson standing on the back step with Addy in his arms.  He smiled, love and concern etched in his face.  Brushing the grime from her hands she smiled back, "Home is where the heart is, right?"

Wilson held out his hand to her and she grasped it tightly.

image courtesy of lynnsta (via Flickr Creative Commons)


Linking up with Write at the Merge this week - inspired by the picture above.  Word limit: 500.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


Duplicate Mommy

Seeking woman to step-in to fill tired mother's shoes.

Roles include:  washing dishes; sorting, loading, folding laundry; housework (dusting, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms); locating lost shoes, gloves, iPods, library books, hair clips, watches, PlayMobile people, Play-doh extruders, Barbie shoes, Lego pieces, doll hairbrushes, etc.; shopping for groceries; sorting mail and school papers; scanning mementos; organizing precious memories on the computer; and other responsibilities as needed.

Required skills:  ability to multi-task; passion for re-tidying rooms multiple times a day; sense of humor (see previous skill); an affinity for Hannah Montana, Tobymac and Gypsy Kings (sometimes playing simultaneously); computer literacy and desire to categorize mountains of mementos, photos, videos; a penchant for organizing closets, pantries, junk drawers, Lego bins, dressers, toy bins, bookshelves, etc.; and tolerance of unending, mundane conversations regarding video games and/or football games.

Salary:  while the pay for this position is non-existent (with possibility of securing room and board in exchange for services rendered), you will enjoy the satisfaction of knowing that your labors allow the actual mother to rejuvenate and enjoy her role as "Mommy".  Imagine the pleasure you will experience walking into the living room (lugging vacuum and broom behind you) to find "Mom" laughing with her youngest as they read Hop on Pop for the fourth time that morning, or catching a glimpse of "Mom" beating her oldest daughter in another game of Cribbage.  Visualize the joy of the middle daughter reveling in her mother's attention, instead of competing with multiple bags of groceries.  No salary could compare with the gratification of knowing that your seemingly futile efforts to keep the kitchen floor clean allows a young mother a knock-out punch in a Wii boxing match with her son.

Must be petite with long, wavy, blonde hair and glasses.  Please send photo to verify similarities in appearance.   Employer will provide uniform:  jeans, typical mommy-blouse (complete with questionable stains) and comfortable running shoes.

Idle applicants need not apply.


Linking up with Trifecta: 33-333 words inspired by the single word idle (shiftless, lazy).

What We're Left With

As with any loss, there is a void left behind.  The gap that yawns in the wee mouth of my baby after the first tooth came loose.  The missing bowl that used to nest with its sisters in the cupboard, lost at a church potluck, perhaps.  The trinket snatched from the shelf of the hutch, a dust outline reminding us of its shape.

And white cotton-candy fluff woven into the carpet, illuminated by the brittle winter sunshine creeping across the living room floor.  The last tufts of our Gimli, reminding us of the way that he filled each and every corner of our home, and left his fur balls everywhere, too.  These knots of fluff (enough to stuff a pillow) are at once unnerving, causing excessive eye-rolling and bittersweet, too, leading to eyes filled with sentimental tears.

That silly old fellow with his handle bar mustache and affinity for eating twigs, was both exasperating and endearing.  How many times did I scold him for barking at the front door, protecting us from the nefarious leaves that dared to skitter across the driveway?  And yet those round brown eyes could still melt my resolve, which would result in a joy ride to school with him riding shotgun, tongue lolling out and tail wagging.

We'll miss you, Buddy.  Your tap dancing in the laundry room as you waited impatiently for your breakfast.  Your penchant for the mozzarella cheese that inevitably fell to the floor while Brett made pizza on Saturday nights.  Your hoover-like attempts to keep the floor under the kitchen table crumb-free.  Your furry mohawk that stood straight up, refusing to be tamed or trimmed.  And your tentative scratches at the front door when you ended up on the wrong side fence.

Slowly we pack up what you left behind ... your tattered rope, your half-filled box of treats, your fur-covered bed and your worn green leash.  And what are we left with?  A large, four-legged void; sweet, sweet memories ...

And a lot of gossamer fur.


Linking up with Write at the Merge this week - inspired by the words gossamer and affinity.  And by our dear boy, Gim.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Snapshots of a Wedding, part 3

To me, weddings are synonymous with tears, or what our family calls, "happy crying".  We happy cry a lot around here - through the finale of "Beauty and the Beast", every time Sara Groves sings "Small Piece of You" and throughout the "Amazing Race" as contestants overcome trials.  

I've known for a while that Norah is a happy crier, but another one joined the club this weekend.

There were the expected teary eyes during the wedding:

... as the organ began the triumphant fanfare and all heads swiveled to catch a glimpse of the Bride,

(first tears escaped)

... in response to the Father of the Bride escorting his little girl down the aisle and when he handed her off to the Groom,

(sniffle, sniffle)

... when the congregation sang together, "Brother, Let Me Be Your Servant",

(gulp, snuffle)

... as the Bride and Groom exchanged vows,

(sniff and dab the eyes)

... and as the recently hitched couple walked arm-in-arm up the aisle.

(dabbing and smiling, simultaneously)

As the wedding party arrived back in the parlor, doors swinging closed behind us and bridesmaids casting off their pointy-toed shoes, cheerful hugs were exchanged.  Relief and happiness flooded the faces of the Bride and Groom and the rest of us relaxed, knowing that the "work" was over.  

It was then that I felt little hands desperately clutching my dress.  Turning my head, I found my Ashley with her face buried in the folds of my skirt, sobbing.  Bending down, I ran my head over her hair and asked, "Is this happy crying?"  Still nestled in my dress, she nodded and sniffled, in response.

Being a happy crier myself, I knew that the only thing to do was to let her go ahead and have a good cry, even if my dress suffered the consequences.  A few minutes passed and she peeked out from the purple fabric.  We dried her tears, she managed a chin-trembling smile and then she was off, laughing and giggling with her cousins again.

Happy tears ... the way our tender hearts stay tender.  And why we always have a tissue in our pocket.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Snapshots of a Wedding, part 2

Another memorable aspect of the wedding weekend was the diversity of people involved in the celebration, all with ties to the happy couple.  We joked throughout the weekend about the intimacy of having dinner with 40 of your closest friends and family!

The melting pot of friends and family was an astonishing mix ...

guests from back east and guests from the northwest,

guests living in town and guests flying across the Atlantic,

friends with Boston accents and friends speaking only Spanish,

close-knit childhood friends and friends not seen since childhood, and

old family friends and new-found friends.

With this hodge-podge of friends and families comes a treasure trove of stories to tell.   And backstories to share.  And explanations to those stories.  And footnotes to their anecdotes.  And laughter.  Lots of laughter.

It was marvel the way that, in spite of the age differences, the differing family histories, the extent of familiarity among guests and even language barriers, that stories could be told, appreciated and enjoyed by everyone present.

And we made even more stories this weekend.  Stories that will be told, appreciated and enjoyed again and again.  That is the beautiful way that God weaves families and friends together so that when we return back east or to the northwest or across the Atlantic or just back across the state, we're still knit together.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Snapshots of a Wedding

This past weekend, we had the joy of participating in the wedding of my husband's sister and her new groom.  Five days of family, friends and festivities!

Congratulations, again and again, Stephanie & Ned!

Last evening, as the dust settled following our feverish unpacking of our slush-covered van, we sat around the dinner table, munched on post-wedding pizza and tried to capture a few of the snapshots of the celebration, hoping to keep these precious and sacred moments from escaping away into the ordinariness of our school night.  Or the seven loads of laundry waiting to be loaded.

A few images floated to the surface of our reminiscing ...

In the few quiet moments before company arrives, there is a busy-ness.  Last minute preparations before the fun.  Straightening renegade pillows on sofas, stowing away migrating tennis shoes, freshening up and taming cowlicks and quick checks to make sure dinner is in order.

And then there's a knock at the door.

Suddenly the house erupts in excitement.  A dozen voices speaking at once and arms stretched for hugs with cheeks turned for kisses.  A traffic jam on the front steps while cold air sneaks in.  The gusts blow scarves from guests and cause young hostesses to scurry back to their toys on the living room floor.  Greetings to cousins, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles.  Introductions of new friends; names spoken, forgotten, repeated and remembered.  A chorus of hello, you've grown, welcome and come in fill the previously quiet and waiting home.

I love the cacophony at the front door.  The clamor to greet and be greeted.  The cries of joy at being reunited under one roof for a spell.  I love the commotion that comes when the door bell rings ... and the guests arrive.

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Pending

A silver mesh tray holds half-a-tree worth of school pages.  Spelling tests with stars above the bonus words.  Math sheets pondering the universal question, "How many apples will Max have all together?" Homework packets stapled together with happy faces and proud percentages.  

What to keep and what to toss?

A green enamel bucket filled with mementos of moments passed.  Thank you cards for thoughtfulness lived out in tangible actions.  Olympic rings, wired and super-glued together, plucked from a birthday cake.  An original watercolor, complete with pink globs, silver blobs and mysterious lime green smudges.

What to toss and what to keep?

One level up, nestled behind a sliding closet door, a plastic tub sits, filled to overflowing with memories.  The lid lays propped against the wall, no match for the trove of treasures.  Old calendars filled with unforgettable dates.  Baby blankets rubbed to smithereens.  T-shirts from their first days of kindergarten, well-worn and well-faded.  Snippets and snapshots, captured and secreted away to protect against the relentless passage of time.

Time that marches with both alacrity and sluggishness.  Some stages and seasons are over in the blink of an eye leaving me to reel and marvel, holding my head and wondering how my baby boy came to look me straight in the eye.  While at other times, I find myself entrenched in days that drag by with painful slowness, each tick of the clock one step closer to the bliss of bedtime.  

My mother's words resonate within my mothering heart, "The fastest, slowest days of your life."

Each essay written in hesitant cursive, each book report complete with crayon renderings of climactic scenes, each handmade card covered with crooked hearts and shimmering stickers is proof that my children are growing from little people into big people.  (Or at least bigger than they were.)  And each fragment packed away in plastic bags and manila envelopes is my mommy-attempt to hold on to them, just as they are at this exact moment - ages 4, 6, 9 and 10.

Those remnants, however, are only shadows.  And life is not lived in the shadows.  As much as I wish I could hold on to my babies, capture their smallness and remember their littleness, I wish even more to celebrate their shining lives!  Revel in the gloriousness of young lives overflowing with sparkling hopes, extraordinary promises and dazzling dreams!

And so stumbling and bumbling, I learn unfamiliar steps to a new and challenging dance, holding to the past, while being freshly aware of the pending.  Of the undiscovered.  Of the yet to be experienced.  Of the unknown.

And I make room in my closet for another bin ... for all their trophies and triumphs and trinkets.  

Or perhaps wish for a magic wand to reducio these treasures, shrinking them small enough to keep them all in a locket, close to my heart.


Linking up with Red Writing Hood this week - 500 word-limit with the inspiration of the word Wish and this song, Past and Pending.  One line in particular stood out to me, "Held to the past too aware of the pending".

Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 ~ the year of ...


A quick click over to Merriam-Webster, and you must scroll down in order to see all the many ways to define grace.

Unmerited divine assistance given to humans for their regeneration or sanctification.

A virtue coming from God.

Ease and suppleness of movement or bearing.

A short prayer at a meal, asking thanks.

The list goes on ...

While I'm grateful for God's grace, and while I acknowledge that without God I am graceless, and while I hopelessly strive for elegance and poise (with clumsy hands and feet) and while I have trained up my kids to thank God for each meal ... that isn't the grace I'm pondering today.

The grace that I want more of in my life will be played out in the face-to-face and heart-to-heart interactions of my everyday moments that fill this coming year.

The courtesy shown to the unsmiling check-out lady who has been on her feet all day.

The good manners shared with the waiter who needs to be reminded.  Repeatedly.

The respect shown to the staff at school, those in authority over my kids.  And those who clean up after them.

The kindness for the grumpy lady mumbling behind us in the line at the deli.

The laughter for my kids when they are acting like kids.  Boisterous, bouncy, burping kids.

The consideration for my husband after a rough day and his need for "down time".

The acceptance of what my children have to offer as their best and remembering that they are still learning, still training, still growing.

The forgiveness offered when my feelings are hurt or my heart is wounded.

The generosity toward myself to make mistakes and try again.

The grace given to those in my life ... to miss the mark and still be loved.

That's the grace I want to cultivate in the next 365 days.  Gratefully, God's grace is new every morning  and with His grace, there is promise that in the coming days, I just might have the hope of being more courteous, mannerly, respectful, kind, considerate, accepting, forgiving, generous ... and grace-filled.

As for the nimbleness and finesse ... I'm not going to hold my breath.

Prompt #1 - Choose a word to live by this year.

Mama’s Losin’ It