Today I…Musings on dreams vs. reality

Today I…dreamt of a quiet morning, a cup of tea, some time to read.

Today I…was woken abruptly by someone poking me in the head and announcing “I did my chores this week; can I have my screen time now?”

Today I…planned for a sunny walk to the library and some much needed pre-spring work on the garden.

Today I…made sure that my 7 year old son completed his task of “look at the floor, pick it up, put it away”- by following him around, enduring dramatic fits, and insisting that he keep working until he actually finished. For six hours.

Today I…planned for time on the exercise bike, maybe while reading a book.

Today I…ran up and down the stairs a thousand times and walked continuously around the house, cleaning and hectoring, until my feet throbbed and my legs ached. 

Today I…finally got a chance to sit down, put up my feet and pick up a book.

Today I…was turned into a car racing ramp with an adjustable end (my feet).

Today I…have a clean floor.

          Today I…have a happy child.

               Today I…have a wonderful husband cooking fresh sea bass for dinner.

                    Today I…have a warm house, a safe life, and full cupboards. 

Today I will…make that cup of tea.

          Today I will…make homemade ice cream with my son.

     Today I will…play a board game.

Today I will…appreciate.


Friday traditions

Fill in the blanks: It’s Friday night, and time to _____________ and _______________. If you filled in “par” and “tay” or “Netflix” and “chill,” you are obviously single and have a life, and should move along to another post. For most families with kids of a certain age (younger than that mysterious age when they suddenly decide you are too embarrassing to be in the same room with and avoid you on Friday nights), it usually means “pizza” and “a movie.” In our house, it is different. We have pizza on whatever night there are no other food options, which is usually Thursday, because by that far into the week we have abandoned all pretense of menu planning and have forgotten to thaw anything out anyway. Nor do we watch movies, because our son only likes Buster Keaton movies, and the repertoire of 90 year old silent flicks is a bit sparse. (Buster Keaton, for those of you who did not google fast enough, was a famous silent comedian in the top of the movie echelon in the early days of film, renowned for gifted physical comedy, long stunt shots, and being such a hard drinker that Lionel Barrymore, of all people, thought he was too damaging for the United Artists studio. But I digress.) Movies being off the table, our Fridays involve Mexican food downtown and a trip to Powell’s bookstore- the biggest independent bookstore in the country, with a flagship store that is six stories tall across an entire city block. We make the trek downtown, accompanied by a piping voice from the backseat imparting important facts (I am a big finder. I could just stay at home and do experiments. I don’t need school. I dug up that big rock all by myself. OH MY GOSH, LOOK AT THAT LAMPPOST!) We order the same ordinary food that we pick every time, while the kindly staff pretend that they are not amused by us returning yet again on Friday night. Children take three hours to eat dinner at home and thirteen seconds to wolf down a restaurant meal, so after 14 seconds, someone is ready to go. Eventually, my husband and I manage to eat a few bites and then are dragged away. We walk the few blocks between the restaurant and Powell’s. My son kindly takes my hand and narrates the trip for me. This evening, he explains what each shop is, alternately dragging me ahead and slamming to a halt to look into random windows. Showing off his blossoming reading skills while “helping” his directionally challenged mom makes walking adventurous, but he is very excited to find landmarks for me. I don’t tell him that the only places that I can reliably find are bookstores. We briefly catch sight of the glowing bookstore and then are shanghaied by a group of black clad, V for Vendetta masked and silent protestors holding up signs that read TRUTH and laptops scrolling pictures of chicken farms. I think we were supposed to immediately turn vegan, but Miles alternately enjoyed looking at pictures of chicks and edging closer to me in case the unmoving and masked grown-ups were secretly robbers.

Once we finally made it inside, my noble husband valiantly threw himself on his sword and took the now alternately tap-dancing, moonwalking, and skipping boy off to explore the books while I ensconced myself in a corner to write this slice. I’m surrounded by books and listening to snatches of conversation as people drift through, and it is quite pleasant. It may not be as exciting as the Good Ol’ Days when the area was quaintly described as “sketchy” and you could hang out in the bookstore after midnight on a Friday and watch tall pale men in red velvet dresses and people in capes (looking suspiciously befanged) blinkingly emerge into the stacks from wherever people who think they are vampires hang out before midnight, but it is still the place in my city where I feel most at home. Book world, in all its permutations, is always where I want to be.

And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is time to hit the stacks.

Take two cats and call me in the morning

Driving rain.

Howling wind –

the storm mirroring my unsettled mind.

Swirling questions…

Half-formed anxieties…

Tough day at work…

Tough choices…

Tough parenting…

Tough news…

Too much to absorb, to process, to fix, to do.

Time for the application of

one set of cozy flannel sheets,

one cup of tea,

one trashy novel,

and one evening of pet therapy.



Purring acceptance.

Take two cats and call me in the morning.


Spring-ish sunshine and a phone number poem

Today dawned cold with fog and frost, but it all burned off and turned into a beautiful preview of the forthcoming spring. Glitteringly clear blue sky, brave daffodils blooming, and the low afternoon sun glowing on the snow-capped mountain on the horizon. There was after school outside play today, and time to write a phone number poem.

(bjdonaldson wrote about these poems in her March 4 slice on her One Writer’s Journey blog. Pick a phone number. Write a poem where you use the number of words per line in each digit of the number. It’s fun!)

5     Late winter sunshine, after school – 


3     Time to build.

2     Little fingers

8     and a big imagination sculpting playground fairy houses.

2     Laser focus.

8     All around, joyful shrieks. Running, climbing, playing tag.

9    Miles drags sticks, pounds rocks, transforms pine needles. Nature

5     slowly transforms into tiny shelters.

5     Sanctuaries for ineffable childhood belief.

Miles fairy house 1
My bomber jacketed Miles and his friend admire their handiwork
Miles fairy house 2
Adding some bridges and details.
Miles fairy house 3
A close up of one of the entrances.

Zen and the Art of Teacher Maintenance

One of the parts of my online teaching job is to create and present lessons for our students across the entire nation. However, students may or may not choose to attend live, as all the sessions are recorded. This frequently leaves me waxing poetic to my cats, the neighbors, and a random assortment of my son’s stuffed animals. Here is a poem I wrote at 4:30 this morning, looking ahead to five full hours of lonely teaching.

Five hours


live classes

in an





a teacher



no one


does it




Sunday night is writing time

So last night, I told my son that I was writing a story every day for this challenge, and he asked if he could help me. He felt that we should write a story about cats, because he is obsessed with cats. I told him that I would sit down and write with him when he wrote in his journal for school. However, while I was busy trying to think of something profound to write about, I was constantly distracted by his thought process. After a day in the woods with friends, he was ravenous, so he was allowed to eat some cheddar bunnies before dinner, as long as he wrote at the same time. He decided that writing about bunnies would be a good idea. Or maybe fish (because they also come in cheddar cracker form, obviously). After munching thoughtfully for a few moments, he decided that he had better make some pictures to help him get ideas. So he drew some bunnies and fish, and because he is a 7 year old boy, the fact that he drew them side by side clearly indicated that they were in a war. So then the fish got a hanglider. Then the bunnies, not to be outdone, acquired a catapult. The fish apparently did not care to be pelted with catapulted bunnies, so they retaliated with a tank. Nothing in my son’s imagination is worse than a tank, so the fish won the war. He drew in word balloons and many question marks and exclamation points of surprise and shocked bunny/fish language. Comic strip completed, he added the years of each attack (2021, 6018, and 8021 – progress is slow and grudges are long-lasting in bunny and fish world) and decided that drawing had given him enough ideas and he was ready to write. He carefully sounded out each word as he wrote it, not asking for any help. He has given me permission to share the story with you here, complete with his enthusiastic and exotic spelling. (If you teacher older students, you may need to borrow an elementary grade teacher for a translation.)

Wans apon a time the bunes and the fish got in a wor uv sprising atacs. The frst won the fish sprisest the bunes. Secintle the bunes sprist the fish. Last the fish sprist the bunes wit a tanc. The fish wun.

Sid store. The fish mad a hanglidr.

I love that his school lets kids be authentic and real and celebrates their creativity. The teachers write back each week and ask questions about the stories, encourage the kids, and include details from their families, lives, and weekends too. Drawing in his writing journal is completely allowed, and parents are strictly instructed to let their children write what they want and how they want it. This is not the place that they work on spelling and punctuation and the correct placement of commas and capital letters. This is the place where they write for joy. Every kid, every grade, every class, every weekend is allowed to write for joy. Now that is something to celebrate.

It’s Girl Scout Cookie Season

Nowadays, you don’t need to know a Girl Scout to get those delicious cookies, but you DO need to know roughly when to start looking for them. Everyone knows that the Cookie Fairies deliver to the Scouts in late winter, but actually finding them takes a bit of patience, skill, and luck. Now, before you tell me that I can look online and see which troops will be selling cookies on which days at which convenient nearby locations in my area, I know. But where’s the fun in that? I much prefer the challenge of stalking the likely Girl Scout hangouts (local restaurants and grocery stores are the Scout equivalent of Serengeti watering holes) and waiting, stealthily, until they tentatively emerge from the minivan underbrush, darting their eyes nervously for predators- er, customers- and then pouncing them before some other stealthy explorer gets there ahead of me and buys all the Thin Mints. Serendipitous snacks are indubitably the tastiest.

Today’s safari trail (otherwise known as running the routine Saturday errands) was particularly productive, and I stumbled upon two herds of entrepreneurial Girl Scouts. The first energetically built a rainbow wall of boxes- red, orange, yellow, green, light blue, dark blue, and purple. It was a beautiful sight. Then, a woman needed a green box and a light blue box, and the girl in charge of customer management carefully, c-a-r-e-f-u-l-l-y slid out the boxes, Jenga style. The rainbow collapsed. The girl in charge of rainbow building and customer cookie choice record-keeping giggled. The second group had a sign, full of multicolored and multi patterned bubble letters and the requisite amount of glitter that must be used by any girls of a certain age, asking if we stealthy hunters had ever been Scouts, and if so, to share our stories.

I was a Brownie and a Girl Scout, and my cookie years were not so exciting. We did not have cookie tables and Scout watering hole hangouts, and we were still expected to go door-to-door. I, however, was not allowed to go around knocking on stranger’s doors (after all, a STRANGER could open it!), so my selling was limited to family members, neighbors, and my parents’ hapless co-workers. On one particularly memorable occasion, my stepfather, who was a regular bowler, took me to the alley with him on league night. I was allowed to talk to the bowlers (as long as I diligently blocked out any of what my mother called “bowling words” and never, EVER repeated them) because they were not exactly strangers. I took cookie orders hand over fist, convinced that I was making a Thin Mint of cookie scented dollars. I was briefly a hero to my troop, although we never came close to winning the regional contest for the most cookies sold. (How many hapless co-workers did those girls’ parents have anyway?)

One year, when my mom was troop leader for my little sister’s Brownie troop, she was the designated cookie collector from the cookie distribution point. (Childless people may not know this, but this is what moms do with their three minutes a day of extra time, muttering bowling words under their breath the entire time because it takes 45 minutes.) This was like kid heaven. We took the trusty Ford Pinto to a huge house near my grandma’s condo. I had always loved this mysterious gated house, because it had both a porte-cochere and a real thatch roof. Believe me, you just don’t get thatch in Southern California. I used to walk down the street from Grandma’s and stare in awe at this house through the bars in the gate. In fact, I think that may be why Mom took me along. After all, what sane woman takes a child to giant house filled with thirty million Girl Scout cookies? Anyway, Mom, the trusty Pinto, and I got to cross the gated threshold, drive through the porte-cochere, and enter the fairy tale thatched roof house to fulfill our quest for something like 50 cases of cookies. We entered what I took to be a ballroom which was wall to wall and floor to ceiling cookies, with a lot of harried looking grown-up women milling around. I got to hold a clipboard, and check cookies off a list! (As a child, I thought filling out forms was possibly the most exciting and grown-up thing imaginable.) We filled the station wagon with cookies. There were cookies in the back, and in the front seat, and in the glove compartment, and in all the footwells. As we drove away from the fairy tale house, I was a waving cookie princess, seated on her cardboard cookie case throne.

Now, if you will excuse me, I need to don my imaginary crown and settle down with a cup of tea and a Thin Mint with my name on it. If you look carefully, you might even see me wave.

(Many thanks to bevbaird for sharing, on Monday, her link to the March photo challenge list that she’s using in conjunction with her writing for the SOLC18. Today’s topic is food!)

Why doesn’t it feel like Friday yet?

It’s Friday night, and I am pushing hard against the dual deadlines of midnight EST for my daily slice and my son getting out of the bathtub and needing me to put him to bed. Wait, backtrack. My 7 year old is not hanging out in the bathtub near midnight! I am on the West Coast and it is only 8pm here! No need to call the parent police.

But, facing these dueling duel deadlines is daunting. I have no idea what to write for a slice today, since somehow day 2 sneaked up on me. You’d think I’d remember doing this yesterday and kind of expect to do it again, but no. That did not happen. Today was a weird mess of adult code switching- up long before dawn, working, get child up, fight with child about wearing his Read Across America shirt (I’ll look ridiculous!), miraculously finally get child to a) eat, b) brush teeth, c) put on shoes, and d) go out the door and into the car to go school,  dash home again, do more work, work, work, a meeting- wait, wasn’t that my lunchtime?- get child, play on playground because it is Friday and school gets out early, fight traffic across town for a 45 minute/8 mile trip to go to the doctor’s office for 15 minutes, back home, work still more, but at my wonderful bike desk (Yes! Multitasking!), thank God I have a husband who cooks or we would all starve tonight, and then work some more. Being an online teacher comes with stricter and stranger deadlines than classroom teaching, and just because my boss says that I should not work extra hours does not mean that I can get everything done in six hours a day. Teaching is teaching after all, and it is never really finished.

I teach five hours worth of live online English classes every Monday, and I still need to finish the presentations for two of them. (The company mysteriously decides to change templates randomly so we have to keep rearranging things. Education bureaucracy is alive and well in the private sector too.) I would dearly love to wash my hands of the whole thing, put my feet up, snuggle with the kiddo and read Dr. Seuss (even if Miles won’t wear his “I will read it on a boat, I will read it with a goat. I will read it in a box, I will read it with a fox…” shirt!), and then have a piña colada with my husband and unwind. But we are out of rum. And pineapple juice. And tropical settings. And, frankly, LEGO piece free places to put up our feet. So I guess I’ll just go back to work. After reading Dr. Seuss though. Maybe a rousing rendition of Green Eggs and Ham will get this party started?

For those of you who are interested in what exactly an online high school English teacher does, I welcome you to scroll back through my blog. I wrote a post about it last March, and the job (unlike my templates) does not change that much.

Teaser for coming attractions: I just found an unfinished blog post from last spring called “Zombie Mommy and the Egg Hunt.” I don’t know where I was originally going with it, but with a title like that, it is just begging to be written!

March (Writing) Madness Returns

I am thrilled to be back doing the Slice of Life Challenge for a second time. I loved my newbie experience last March, and am looking forward to doing it again. Also, I am terrified at the time commitment of daily writing and the even bigger commitment of trying to find something interesting to say! Every day! About myself! So, to kick things off, here are a few random facts about me.

  1. I teach, like many of you, but six years ago I chose to leave the classroom and work as an online teacher from home instead, when I realized that I spent too much time commuting and not enough with my then 1 1/2 year old.
  2. Working from home has a lot of interesting side benefits (Oh my gosh! My head is hurting so much that I cannot focus my eyes on my email! I think I’d better take a nap!) and interesting side drawbacks (Oh my gosh! I took a nap! Now everyone is home and I have to finish working!)
  3. I live with one husband (an architect), one 7 year old son (a typhoon of noise and clutter all wrapped up in a 50 lb. package), two cats (alternately sitting on my feet, head, neck or keyboard, escaping outside, yowling to be let outside, or chasing the exciting toys all over the floor), six fish (mellow, and alive, which is all you can ask of fish), and an ever changing floor covering of LEGOS, library books, drawings, lost socks, random pencils, and Hot Wheels cars. Seriously. My house looks like a test site for new varieties of toy bombs.
  4. When I am not taking 18 hours to get my 6 hour work day done, playing Mom Chauffeur, taking care of the pets, doing laundry, picking up books, LEGOS, socks, drawings, pencils, library books, and paper airplanes, yelling at someone small to pick up these things, or answering calls of “MOM! I CANNOT FIND MY BOOKS, LEGOS, SOCKS, DRAWINGS…!” I have hobbies. Based on the wobbly tower of books on my nightstand and the bags of yarn, needles, and unfinished things in my bedroom, I have to assume that these hobbies are reading and knitting.

Tune in this month for many silly anecdotes, occasional profound observations, and a lot of my slightly off-beat humor.

Okay, everybody, pick up those pencils and WRITE!