Happy Birthday Jeffrey


Dearest Jeffrey,

Eight years ago today, you entered the world. Your family gathered in a circle around the bed, while you lay on my tummy, and I gingerly traced your coppery eyebrows. Tiny newborn perfection. Not only did you split my heart wide open, you brought faith raining down on my parched soul. You may never understand what that meant, but you changed my life.

From the first day, you were robust and had a lust for life that has moved you forward. Once, when you were learning to walk, a friend called you a “Mack truck in tennis shoes”- and it was perfect. You’ve always had your eye on the prize- whether it was jumping from your crib to get to mama’s room, or leaping from the top bunk with your Tinker-Toy wings, trying to fly.  Creative people seldom think things all the way through, and while that invites some insanity as your mama, it also makes me proud of your fearlessness.

Today, we are making a Lego cake, per your request. Grandma bought you a new bike yesterday, and you are out riding up and around the court right now, nevermind that’s it’s drizzling. For breakfast you sat at the head of the table, the first to eat from the new “Oh Happy Birthday!” plate.

We’re about to go pick up your buddy Zeke, then we’re heading the Chuck E.Cheese to get 100 tokens for $10- that ought to be enough for any kid to be happy…Happy Birthday, Sweet’ums. Mama loves you.

(I said it better here– and it’s all still apropos. Although, the shoes are now 5’s and pants are 10’s.)

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Achtung Kinder!

HEY! Here’s a thought: How about if the things thrown in the laundry, (laundry that I am constantly, forever, unendingly doing? yeah that laundry…) those shirts and shorts and t-shirts, were ACTUALLY DIRTY before you threw them in the basket? That would go a long way towards Mama being a little happier. Because just in case you didn’t get the memo; Mama doesn’t like spending half her time doing laundry, and Mama HATES seeing the same clothes come through on sequential days, WHEN THEY HAVEN”T EVEN BEEN WORN. Am I making myself clear? AM I?

Because also, in case you missed that memo too, if I’m not happy, NO ONE IS HAPPY. Clear now? GOOD.

Overheard at the M’s

Scene: The kids are lounging in my bedroom, a tangle of tan and freckled arms and legs, and I’ve put on a disk of old Bugs Bunny cartoons. In one cartoon, a log is in danger of going over a waterfall, and the characters paddle like mad to push the log UP the waterfall and back to the safety of the river. I am sitting in my wing chair, working on some embroidery.

Beanie, guffawing at the scene, “That’s so funny!”

Jeffrey, rolling his eyes, “Bean, that goes against all the known laws of physics. The people who made this cartoon must have been dumb.”

I look up from the flour-sack towel I’m embroidering and roll my eyes.

Happy 4th Blogiversary


Actually, it was Saturday. Four years. And I’ve only tried to kill it once- that didn’t go over so well. Through writing I have found my voice. Some who know me would say “finding my voice” was never my problem- but being frank and literary is not the same as knowing your voice. Through writing I have been allowed to clear my mind, hone my words, and figure out exactly what I want to say. Sometimes I do it with panache, sometimes with a sledgehammer. Through writing I have found other writers, people and friends who carefully craft with words their intangibles, and who create something meaningful from that ether.

(…and I just had to stop writing to break up a fight, and  ice Abby’s split lip- a gift from Beanie in his rambunctiousness. Such is the life of woman writer who also happens to be a mother…)

There is no Clean Well Lighted Place for me. There is no Room of Ones Own. There is a computer on a desk in what should be our dining room, but which doubles as an office/library/pass through. There is not even a laptop for convenient wandering. There are children interrupting every string of thoughts, and more ideas get lost in the chaos than ever make it out my fingers and onto the screen.

I would treasure a record of my grandmother’s thoughts and dreams- it would be a pearl of great price. When I started this blog, I didn’t know I was a writer. It has been a pleasant surprise to uncover a hidden talent. It has also broadened my world beyond the confines of my home full of small children, and fulfilled the needs of my creative mind- in the days when nothing else could.

Thank  you to those of you who’ve become my friends in real life. Thank you to the people who drop by to say hello, and who leave an occasional supportive or kind word.  And thank you to the lurkers- I know you’re there. So while blogging can be narcissistic, and it’s sometimes hard to resist veering off into the image in the pond- it has been a collective good in my life. Thank you for being a part of it.

(…and the timer just buzzed to pull the pizza out of the oven, and the thundering heard of children are rumbling up the stairs, following their noses- it’s family night, after all…)

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Apropos of Everything

Yesterday, a friend of mine came by to hang out. Sitting at the kitchen table, she was describing how her children are driven,  focused people, and how foreign that is to her working mind. I’m nodding in agreement. (People who are focused make me envious; no matter how hard I try, I’m about as laser-like as a cotton ball.)

Then, she says  “I’m like a dandelion puff, and my kids are like jet planes. They roar by me, and my puff goes flying in a million directions.”

I’ve never, in my whole life, felt my own mind described so succinctly. There it is.

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

Music wasn’t a big deal in the house of my childhood. But when I found a vinyl copy of Simon and Garfunkel mixed in with the Emmylou Harris and CCR, it became a very big deal to me. Using my parents old turntable lying on my bedroom floor, I perched the brittle magical disk on the little pole, and waited for it to drop, aways entranced by the process, as the needle slowly made it’s way over and found the grove. Static and crackle, the needle picking up bits of dust as is scrolled along the near invisible acoustic track- yes, I remember those days.

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

Paul Simon says the song is about people being unable to love. I played it over and over. Long ago, my mother leaned against the door of my room with a dishtowel flung over her shoulder and told me that Simon and Garfunkel, and this song in particular, always made her think of me. Even before I discovered it. It still matters to me that she shared her wistful observation- and it helps me understand her better. It must have been confusing for a headstrong, matter-of-fact woman to have a daydreaming, emotional artist for a child. I love her for giving me those small touchstones.

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed
In the wells of silence

Darkness is my old friend. It’s thick, familiar hands are comfortable and ease my aches. Daylight is harsh and severe, throwing contrast into stark relief, and my eyes sear and shy away. I inhabit the nether-lands, time between day and night, when the sun lowes in the heavy sky and darkness is gently pushing with velvety hands. Make haste, be gone, it’s my turn. Healing happens in the dark. Seeds sprout in the dark. Babies grow in the dark- safe, before they are prepared to meet the light.

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls
And tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence

Now I softly pad around my house while my babies sleep upstairs. This is the darkest period of my life- and despite the occasional scary things in the dark, the darkness is still my friend. Only this time, I’m looking for the pale streaks of dawn, pushing back just as gently on the velvety night, that I know surly will come.

The Swing


If you wade across the little gully creek behind the old iron cook-stove (the one used once a year to boil a hog? yes, that one...) and climb up the vine covered hill (with purple flowers, right? yes, child…), there is a tall oak tree at the top. It’s crooked and leans a little to the left, but hanging from a high bough is an old wooden swing. The ropes are long, and the seat is rough, and if you don’t sit carefully, it might tip you onto your butt in the dirt. When you sit down and start to pump and swing, you’ll see how what looks like an ordinary old tree-swing becomes so much more. Perched at the top of the hill, when you swing out over the creek, you are about a mile high. If you’re lucky, your uncle will meet you on the hill, and be waiting to grab the swing, jumping high with the arc of your ascent, and heave you with all his might back out over the ravine. Your breath will catch in your throat, your heart will pound, your knuckles will be white on the old ropes, and your laughter will explode from your tight, swirling stomach as you swoop backward past the soft worn earth beneath the tree and arch high over your uncle’s head. Your mother will watch, pale-faced from the porch, whispering to the other women as they set out baskets of chips and shoo flies. She knows, even though you do not, that if you fell while soaring high over the creek, you would probably die. It doesn’t matter. You don’t fall, and you don’t die. But you do know what it feels like to fly.

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From Where I Stand

2005-07-15-two-treesSaturday. Fall is coming, and it’s more than a hint on the edge of the wind. Wisps of gold curl around the lacy edges of the topmost leaves on our swinging tree out front. The breeze never really quiets completely, slowing to a gentle tickle but never still. Rain has soaked our valley, only to create a sauna when the sun later peeked out and dried the puddles into the heavy air. Woodsmoke floated over the cooling breeze last night, and that was the humdinger- that’s when I knew Fall had moved from sensory peripheral glimpses, forward to dancing a jig right beside the thorny, daring, late summer roses.

Next comes the harvest. Apples and pears and pumpkins, heavy and solid in their bushel baskets as we pull our wagons through the orchards. Combines will be threshing the golden rolling prairies of wheat as we wind our way home from the u-pick farms on the bluff north of town. I will have to shield my eyes from the low, lazy topaz sun as I once again explain the process of wheat becoming bread. When we get home, Bean will be bursting with excitement to get out the grinder and make some of his own flour, to stir into bread- nothing short of the master alchemist, to a five-year old. He will chew on the raw, yeasty dough with delight, while Jeffrey and Abby wash the tools for making applesauce.

School will start, and I will have begged my mother to help with buying the kids some shoes and things for their classrooms. Beanie will begin his days at the AIM Kindergarten School, joyfully riding the short bus as part of his therapy. Jeffrey will have a new teacher and all the adventure awaiting the perfection of boyhood that is the age of third-grade. Abby will be at home with me every day, probably feeling a little lost at first without her brothers to constantly lead her astray and into mischief.  Perhaps we’ll work on knitting, or simple sewing skills. I know she’s only three, but her curiosity is insatiable. Then again, maybe she’ll finally have the courage to become master of her own bladder. The girl does things on her own timetable.

David will be at home, too. Twenty months. How much longer? Can I survive? Can I hold myself together more unknown months ahead? Am I ready for a second set of holidays with no job, no income, no prospects and very little hope left? Today? I cannot answer. I don’t know. I’m tired. My shoulders are weary and ache, and I want to set the whole load down and walk away. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be- husband and wife. Man and woman. We’re not meant to be together all day, every day, forever and forever. There must be space in our togetherness, lest our roots tangle, our shade harm the other.

What of me? I don’t know. I want to run. I don’t know. I stand still, and I don’t know.

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Sewing: Oliver + S Bubble Dress

bubbledress300With the cash Mo slipped me in my dinner bag (sneaky wench!) when she picked up her wedding dress (wish I could show you how LOVELY Heathen looked on her big day- Oh wow.) I went out and splurged on a pattern. Often I skip patterns entirely and wing it- once you know the basics of fit and seams, it’s not hard. But… a well-written pattern can teach a seamstress new tricks- and the Oliver + S Bubble Dress did not disappoint.

Aside from the design being darling and the package scrumptious, the pattern is very well written. As a pattern writer myself, I appreciate when an artists takes the time to be both accurate and concise. This pattern is both. The illustrations are clear and easy to follow- anything beyond basic sewing skills, you could follow along fine.

The pattern itself is printed on highter quality, thicker paper than mass-market patterns, making it both easier to cut and handle, and strong enough for many uses. The notations are clear, and the graphics are simply accurate.


I loved this fabric on the bolt, but transformed into the dress, I’m not so in love. Abby likes it though, and I know to chose something simpler next time. It’s fully lined, and done so in a way that is easy, clean and beautiful. Like I said, I learned a few tricks- tricks I can parlay easily into making other patterns work better. Also, I learned how to do this:


I knew making it a Bubble Dress would involve elastic, but this was just brilliant. No tubing, no pulling elastic through with a safety pin, just perfect stretch, completely concealed in the lining. Fantastic.

IMG_0242Abby is delighted with it- and wore it both yesterday and pulled it on again today. She loves the little wing-things in the side of the bubble, and pretends to fly around the house. I’m definitely making another one of these.

Sometimes when I purchase something because I love the package, or the vintage-y illustrations, I am disappointed in the product. Not so here. Oliver + S, while priced compatibly with mass market patterns, is so much better that I will actively seek out their work next time I want both a cute dress, a good design, and  maybe even to learn a new trick or two.

I give it Five Stars.

Recipe: Bean’s Breakfast Muffins

1_Picture 009These are Beanie’s favorite thing to eat at the moment. What’s not to love about a cinnamon topped egg-y muffin? I mean really? I made a batch of them Saturday morning and they were gone by lunch. Usually I double this recipe, so feel free- as is, it make 12 muffins.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and get out your muffin tins. Line tins with cute cupcake papers- Bean and Abby fight over this job, and what good is fun in the kitchen with mom without siblings kicking and biting each other? If you don’t have cute cupcake liners, fine, use your ugly white ones you got at Safeway. I suppose they’ll work. You can also skip the liners and go with nekkid muffins- if you go this route, spray your tins with vegetable spray.

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon fresh nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup milk.

Sift dry ingredients together, pour wet ingredients together. Stir. Not rocket science. It will be lumpy, it also does not matter that it is lumpy. Fill prepped muffin tins and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes. Less, if you are using mini muffin tins.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…

  • Melt 1/4 cup butter, set aside
  • In a bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon.

When you pull your hot toasty muffins from the oven, while they are still hot and toasty, de-pan them and dip tops into butter, then sugar mixure. As they then cool, this makes the awesomest awesome crust on the tops. Ta-Da! The End. Now go cook. Return and report.