Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I want those 6 minutes of my life back!

6 tiny little minutes! If I hadn't run to Home Depot that morning or seeded the lawn or planted those flowers before the rains came ......If I'd taken a shorter shower or skipped making the kids blackberry waffles that morning....

I had a great idea for
Angela Hoy's 24 hour Spring short story contest and missed the hard and fast deadline of noon by 6 measly, stinkin' little minutes. Sigh. Sure, the $5 entry fee and the $300 first place prize aren't worth agonizing over, but it's the principle of the thing.

I'm great about making deadlines and ruthlessly trimming word counts,
as a freelance writer. When it comes to creative writing and editing my two novels in progress, it's hard to put aside the Mama mantel and claim that time for myself. I've subscribed to Writers Weekly forever, but haven't entered one of their contests in years, and I was looking forward to it. It was going to be a weekend of decadent creative writing. Just for me. Just for fun. Then life intruded.

We were given the topic and word count at noon on Saturday. But we had a busy weekend, so I started my story late on Sunday morning and frantically wrote as noon approached too rapidly. I finished at 5 till, but had to scare up the posting directions, add contact info and then trim the dreaded word count to under 900. That's not an easy feat and ended up taking 11 minutes......6 more than I had.

I slammed my finger on the send button and held on to the tiny glimmer of hope that Angela's computer was in a slower time warp where noon central time happened around quarter after
or that she'd have a little compassionate grace time.. My kids' school has a policy that the bell rings at 9:00am, but tardy slips start at 9:10. That 10 minute window has saved our skins many times. That tiny glimmer was squelched with the following e-mail:

I'm sorry but your story was sent and received 6 minutes after the
deadline. :(

I'm going to post the topic and my story here, so it doesn't completely go to waste. Maybe I'll expand it into a children's book. My husband's words to the kids ring in my disappointed ears, "All that writing is not a waste of time, even though Mama missed the deadline. That's what you call honing your skills." Oh yeah. That's why I married the guy.

There's always the 24 hour Summer short story contest.
I've learned my lesson about being queen of the Procasta Nation and I've already entered for July.

"The contests usually fill up, so don't delay in entering. http://www.writersweekly.com/misc/contest.php"


"Silly Scilla, silly Scilla," the young girl sang, as she
pushed another tiny blue flower into her hair. She knew she
would have to remove these adornments before they returned to
the house. When Mamm gently cleared her throat, the girl
remembered the tiny celery seeds that had been spilling out
of her apron all morning.
She sighed and settled down in an empty row, digging her bare
toes into the cool soil. She froze when her foot bumped
something hard. Scooping the dirt aside with her fingers, she
found a tiny, tattered purse. Glancing at her mother to
ensure her secret treasure was still a secret, she opened the
WORD COUNT: Stories for today's topic must not exceed 900

Your story must touch on this topic in some way to qualify.
During each contest, several writers ask if they must quote
from the topic directly. No, you don't. You are even
permitted to change the gender and age of the character(s).
But, it must be obvious to us that the story was written
specifically for this assigned topic.

Cyan Blue and The Scilla Scylla Adventure

The first cold drops of spring rain were beginning to fall and cling like tiny bubbles from branches of the willow tree. Vibrant green buds of leaves were visible, and as the young girl looked up at them, a raindrop hit her cheek and ran down from her huge, blue eyes.

"Silly Scilla, silly Scilla," the young girl sang, as she pushed another tiny blue flower into her hair. She knew she would have to remove them before she entered the house. At age 6, she was fond of telling everyone that she had a blue name, blue eyes, and that her favorite color in the world was cobalt blue. She gravitated toward blue in general, but she especially adored the vibrant blue Scilla flowers that peppered her city yard.

Mama gently cleared her throat from the back porch of their Chicago frame two story, and said, “Cyan Blue, you’re going to get soaked, girl. You’d better come in and finish planting the veggies when the rain lets up. And please leave your shoes and all those Scilla flowers in the mudroom. I just finished dumping out four of your magic flower potions and don‘t want to see you making any more indoors. All those stems and seeds and milkweed fluff and shampoos and lotions clog the drain and make such a mess, when they inevitably get spilled.”

“But, Mama. The fairies tell me how to mix those potions. They’re special to me. Don’t dump them out! I’m a witch.”

The girl remembered the tiny celery seeds that had been spilling from the pocket of her patchwork apron, part of her Pippi Longstocking Halloween costume. She sighed and settled down in an empty row, digging her bare toes into the cool soil. She froze when her foot bumped something hard. Scooping the dirt aside with her fingers, she found a tiny, tattered purse.

Glancing at her mother to ensure her secret treasure was still a secret, she opened the clasp.
The purse contained one ancient looking coin, bronze and green and about the size of a half dollar. She glanced at the porch again, and saw her Mother’s back receding through the open doorway. Cyan scrutinized the coin as she carefully flipped it over in her tiny palms.

She was just finishing kindergarten and learning to read, but she laboriously sounded out the words embossed on the coin, Sssss…ill…aaaaa. Scylla? She dropped the coin in surprise and it fell on the deep black, organic soil in a clump of blue flowers. “Silly Scylla….silly Scylla…..silly Scylla?” Cyan whispered in awe, glancing from the crusted coin to the tiny blue flowers.

This side bore a sea monster; a mermaid with a graceful fish tail and four dog heads ringing her waist.
She gently picked up the coin and noticed the mermaid had turned her head and the dogs were barking and snarling! As Cyan stared in fascination, the maiden spoke.

“Your words have woken me from my slumber. You, a pure and innocent child, chanted my name 3 times and have broken the spell I was sealed in all these long years. I am Scylla and you have nothing to fear from us, child. The dogs relaxed and began to lick her hands.”

“Are you a mythical creature?”
Cyan fearlessly retorted.

The mermaid nodded and a single tear glittered in her bronze eye. “I was once a beautiful child with long, tangled brown curls and big eyes, like you. I grew into an irresistibly gorgeous nymph and charmed all I saw. But Poseidon loved me and his Mother, Amphitrite, Queen of the sea, grew so jealous, she transformed me into a sea creature.”

Cyan nodded solemnly as the rain drops dripped from the long tendrils of her hair and splashed upon Sylla and her sea dogs. “I can gift you a protection spell from jealous Mothers and others, for I can see already, that you will grow to be quite beautiful.” Sylla smiled at Cyan and closed her eyes. The coin flared bright and Cyan dropped it in shock as a jolt of heat infused her palm.
Gingerly, she retrieved the coin, only to see a blank surface where the mermaid had just been.

Cyan quickly flipped the coin over and saw with relief that the flip side was still embossed. The picture was a disturbing sea monster with flippers for arms and legs and a giant mouth that took up her whole face. Curving around the edges, was a long, complicated name. “Ch…Arrrr…YIIB Dis……….Char….ryb…dis….Charybdis?” Cyan gamely whispered.

Just like before, the image on the coin wavered and shimmered in the falling rain, and this sea creature, too, began to speak. “You have woken me from my slumber, sweet innocent. I am Charybdis, and though I have destroyed cities great and sailors many, you have nothing to fear from me. 3 times you spoke my name, to break my ancient chains.”

Cyan’s curious eyes devoured every detail of the ancient coin and it’s hideous figure. “Were you a beautiful nymph, too, like Sylla?” she finally asked.

“Something like that. I was a breathtakingly beautiful Niad, the daughter of Poseidon and Gaia. But I loved my father and got carried away with my own power and strength. I flooded so much land for my Father, that Zeus got angry and turned me into a hideous sea beast. I‘m eternally grateful you freed me. So I can gift you a protective spell, in thanks. I can already tell, you will grow up strong, but this spell will temper your strength with wisdom so you will only use your power for the good of humankind."

Again, Cyan felt a searing heat and dropped the coin. The rain droplets turned to a deluge, and the coin sank from view. With a smile on her face, Cyan rose and ran into her home.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Cloudgate-Chi IL Mama and daughter--I ♥ Faces-Reflection

This shot reflects my daughter and me on her 4th birthday. It's been fun to reflect back on that time nearly two years ago, as I searched out an unusual picture. We have a public sculpture in Millennium Park that's a giant, metal dome and fun reflective surface for creative shots. It's official name is Cloudgate by British artist Anish Kapoor, but Chicagoans mostly call it "The Bean".

Kaleidoscope Celia--I ♥ Faces--Reflection

This week, the theme at I ♥ Faces is reflection. When I heard the topic, I reflected fondly on this multi-reflection kaleidoscope shot of our friend, Celia, at the children's museum.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earthday To You

Love the earth.

The fate of
the planet is
your fate.

Visualize Whirled Peas.

"You can't destroy earth. It' s where I keep all my stuff!" The Tick

For Earthday, Sagezilla ate chocolate pudding with Oreo earth and gummy worms in school and got to break dress code and wear green.

She chose her favorite grass cuff pants and a fun stitched tee with a circle of people around the earth. But back at home, she donned gettin' grubby clothes and dug into real dirt.

For Earthday, Du wore a green striped shirt to school and after his swim class, both kids helped to plant a bunch of new flowers in our front and back yards. Friday, Du-Jay'll walk to a local park and pick up garbage with his class, to help the earth.

Yay for that intense, bright green of new leaves, ditching winter coats, and blooming things popping up from the ground that don't have to be planted again :). And yay for those that do.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

I ♥ Faces--Many Hats Self Portrait

I ♥ Faces--Many Hats Self Portrait

General Creatrix
Mud Spinner
Chauffeur and Event Planner
Doctor, Nurse and Referee
Teacher, Tutor
Book Reader
Laundry Washer
Concert promoter
Lunch Maker (arty napkins included)
Ebay seller
Wild Animal Wrangler
Story Teller
Thrift Store Treasure Hunter
Director of Cultural Affairs
Magic Maker

Monday, April 20, 2009

I ♥ Faces--Self Portrait With Kids

Family Sock Monkey Snuggle Time--Self Portrait With Kids in bed on a rainy day

The Iheartfaces challenge this week is a fun one. All contest entries have to be a self portrait taken with camera in hand--no tripod or other object holding the camera. The photographer needs to be alone for the adult category and with kid or kids for the kids category. I'm looking forward to seeing the faces behind the lens.

It's always a challenge to find photos of me among the thousands I take of the children. After I complained that the kids would end up without any pix of me from their childhood, my husband is making a concerted effort to wrest the camera from my hands, so I end up in a few at each major holiday, event and occasion.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Joy of the Hunt

The Easter Bunny came to Central Park early in the morning and was multiplying, as rabbits do...multiplying the number of plastic eggs and sweet treats, that is.

22 plastic eggs
18 real dyed eggs
3 baskets full of goodies
3 stuffed rabbits
2 large, vintage paper eggs
1 large metal egg

We recycle the baskets and eggs from year to year, and leave them out for the bunny to fill, kind of like leaving Santa empty stockings to restock. And we always leave him green shredded paper grass to reuse instead of the plastic type. He's an eco-friendly rabbit.
In pottery last Saturday, we were talking with a couple of kid friends who filled their baskets with dirt and planted real grass seed, which has been growing for a while in anticipation of Easter. We've been out-ecoed! Maybe next year........

After the morning hunt, we drove out to Grandma Peggy and Grandpa Leo's for brunch and another egg hunt.

Their bunny leaves multiple eggs, toys and candy in little grass nests inside and out. It was a bit chilly, but sunny, and we were unable to talk the kids into keeping their winter coats on, while the adults ran after them with video cameras and

chattering teeth.

We all shared a brunch feast of ham, bacon, souffle, monkey bread, French toast, crescent rolls, turkey sausage/potato/egg casserole, and a magnificent fruit salad.

Mimosas were plentiful and made it much more pleasant to deal with the flying Nerf darts and water balloons the bunny left :). We stayed through the Blackhawks game where we soundly defeated Detroit.

Then, despite the chocolate bunny buzz, the kids were fast asleep shortly after we got home.

Monday, April 13, 2009

I ♥ Faces--Easter

What says spring joy like biting the head off a chocolate bunny? Even with two missing front teeth, Sagezilla finds a way to devour the tasty treat.

I ♥ Faces--Easter

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bunny Fun

It's egg time again.   We've been dying, hunting, eating and hiding eggs all week.   Last Saturday, we went to Athletic Field Park for our first official egg hunt.

In years past, all the park district hunts were free and not too crowded.   At two of them with minimal charges, we even got nice Easter baskets.   Those days are over.

Athletic Field charged $3 
and was completely mobbed 
and even sold out in the younger 
age groups.   They capped each group 
at 50 kids/500 eggs and set a limit 
of 10 eggs per child.   Still, it was a fun event  
There was free face painting, an excellent magician complete with live doves, and 
bonus eggs with tickets 
that could be exchanged for larger 
prizes.  Du chose a throwing star like 
frisbee and Sagezilla picked a
large, pool squirt toy.

The weather was nippy, but gorgeous.

Our friend and pottery teacher, Andy, more than earned his pay check in an endless face painting line.   We swung by to say hey and asked him if he had painter's cramp yet.   He gamely grinned and kept right on reproducing rabbits.

Then we caught about 
a half hour of Mr. D's magic show.
I loved his old time, 
traveling carney truck 
with skulls and oddities 
as much as his slight of hand 
and silly way of humiliating 
his volunteers.

Then it was our turn for the egg hunts in the 6-7 and 8-9 groups.   What a difference from the photos of the egg hunts of my early childhood, where the little girls wore white gloves and everyone was decked out in their Easter finery.   Sure it was the suburbs of Cincinnati, but it was still the Midwest.

The kid gloves are off now!   I guess the egg frenzy is good practice for later mosh pit skills.   

The kids are making the most of their 16-- dress code free-- vacation days.    Sage has learned to tie her own Doc Martin's with the skull laces.   She's making a fashion statement here with her Oilily grass cuffed pants, fire fleece, Spyder coat, OOAK sparkling egg dress made by our friend, Theresa, and multiple headbands.   It's a creative look all her own.  

Our later efforts at egg hunts weren't as successful.   Mayfield Park sold out on line days before, the kids were sick for Bunny brunch at Kilbourn, and we made it to Koscuisco Park, but so did a zillion other people.   The lines were long and the kids only found three and two eggs respectively.   It was an unpleasantly crazy stampede and the eggs they dyed there turned out to be runny and soft boiled.   The bunny was so mobbed, we didn't even attempt a photo.   

The kids decided not to egg hunt at 
Brands Park at 10 am today, and instead, opted to take turns
hiding eggs for each other in the back yard as a dry run for the big dual Easter bunny hunts at home and Grandma and Grandpa's on Sunday.  

There was much less trampling and much more laughing goin on.   Happy Easter to all.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I ♥ Faces My Friend And I--adult category

I ♥ Faces My Friend And I--adult category

Cliff, U.S. Marine vet who served in WWII, and Kazuio, piano protege from Japan.


I ♥ Faces My Friend And I

 Faces My Friend And I

Best friends, decking out their husky pup, for her debut in the band, Lemon Booska Boogie. 

Check out all the fun entries and even post your own.   There are two contests weekly, for photos featuring children and adults.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Plague Group

Yes, the little petri dishes of virulent viruses, I call my children, are sick again. I've read that on average, kids get sick 10-12 times a year, and all of our viruses seem to fall between November and April. And despite Echinacea gummy bears, vitamin C, Airborne and homeopathic and traditional preventatives, we seem to be right up there with the average.

Du-Jay spent a normal day at school and gymnastics yesterday, without symptoms or complaints. Though after his gymnastics class he came out exhausted and flopped on the park district floor. Later, he spiked a 103 fever and was miserable all night and obviously home today.

Every time I think we've all kicked all the crudly yuck that's going around, the kids get slammed with the next round. Sagezilla's pre-K/Kindergarten has been particularly ill this year. Her classmates have had Scarlett Fever, Mono, 4 cases of Strep Throat, and Pinkeye, along with four unrelenting months of coughs, colds, diarrhea and flu.

I'm thankful we have avoided all the 4 star viral and bacterial predators out there, and have only suffered the garden variety colds and stomach bugs. No sooner would one of us get well, than another would be laid out. It's been especially fun negotiating my taxi driver duties, with the kids tag teaming the illnesses.

I've been chowing down the preventative Echinacea capsules and hoping to dodge this one. We're extremely fortunate that it's all been minor health stuff. Still, I can't help hoping this is the end of the sick and icky season.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Super Frogie

Window clings have become one of our new favorite things. We've had the plastic ones for years-- the ones you have to hit up with a soapy sponge to get them to stick. But we've recently discovered some new uber sticky ones that look like stiff Jello and adhere on their own, even after repeated removal and re-flinging. Our living room picture window has become a new canvas and target all in one. Fun fun.

I first got some of the sticky gel clings at Christmas time and the kids had a blast mixing and matching pieces of the moose and bear in scarves, the snowflakes and the cupcakes. Why be normal? The hybrid mear and boose critters got crowned with the cupcake cups to become royalty. In January, those went into a baggie for next year, and I found two sets of Valentine clings.

Then February came and went and we bagged up the pink and red heart bonanza. I went back to Strack and Van Til and found two sets of St. Patrick's Day clings. The kids rearranged all the sticky letters in Irish into abstract designs and were elated to find all the shamrocks were made up of 4 green hearts. Then March marched onward and we bagged up the green clings.

Back to the grocery I went, and discovered two sets of spring themed gel clings. One had an abundance of flowers and the other spelled out Spring Fever and had a bunch of smaller posies. This has been my favorite "installation" by far. I left the room to run some loads of laundry while the kids were happily flowering the window.

When I came back, fully expecting to see Spring Fever, I was instead greeted by the infinitely cooler, SUPER FROGIE. The kids had rearranged all the letters and improvised a flower for the "o" and a stem and flower center for the "i". Another stem and the "v" from fever became a large, green arrow pointing to the royal amphibian, who was wearing a red, tulip crown. What says spring like the frog prince?