FYI: Mom is a Bird-Hater

Our oldest son is the perfect candidate for independent study. Writing assignments from school require pulling teeth and tears, but apparently, if he chooses the topic and has a goal, he takes it on with relish. Yesterday, he handed my husband and I a stamped envelop addressed to us. Inside was this letter:

Dear Mom and Dad,

I am writing to you to tell you that I really wanted a pet recently, and I found out facts about the pet I want – a parakeet.

  • The name comes from the French word “paroquet” which translates to parrot.
  • It is called “bugie” in other countries, such as the UK and Australia.
  • When tamed, parakeets can talk, whistle, and fly to your shoulder when you call.
  • Parakeets are loyal and friendly birds who are very social.

I found out all this from

I would love a parakeet to have a loyal companion, play with it, and train it. It would make my stressful life easier. If I get one, I will clean out its cage every week and feed it every day.

From your son.

A parakeet?!

Dear son, Love you, great effort, but no way. Mom and Dad.

For the Tooth Fairy

When my kids lose a tooth, they always want to keep it. And since they lose a bunch as they are learning to write, we have a tradition of writing a note to the tooth fairy, as practice, asking to keep it as a treasure.

My youngest wrote his last night with an elaborately illustrated, colorful scene – his zzz’s rising to the ceiling from a red pillow with a giant winged tooth fairy decked in blue. His note read:

Deere, tuth faree
I lost mi tuth
Pev dote tak mi tuth.

Majek Speling

In the first days of summer, as my son transitioned from kindergarten to first grade, he lost his first tooth. In fact, he yanked it out of his mouth after we claimed it still needed a few more days of wiggle time. No fuss.

“Only a little blood, mom.”

And in the time-honored tradition of our family, he wanted to keep his tooth.

So his first summer homework was to write the tooth fairy a letter, which captured this brief moment in time when losing teeth and learning to read and write are things to celebrate.

Der toothsfary

Plese don’t take

Mi tooths.

Thak you

What I Just Read: Draft One

The hardest thing for any writer to learn is that Draft One is very rarely final. My fourth grader is suffering from that lesson today.

I told him to write down what he wanted to say for an oral book presentation he is supposed to give tomorrow. He is an avid reader, and when inspired, he can convince an entire class to read his latest top pick. Apparently, the book he must present tomorrow did not grab his attention.

This is what he wrote:

The book I read was Flora and Ulysses. Ulysses is a squirrel and Flora is a girl. Flora’s mother wants to kill Ulysses because she wants Flora to be normal. Her mother is a romantic novelist. I think killing isn’t romantic. Any questions?

When I told him to think about what he wanted to add for Draft Two, he claimed that no one else ever says more than that for their book reports, like they are the kings of queens of book reports.

“It’s not fair! I am not saying all that stupid stuff you want me to say about if I liked the book or how it compares to her other books or my favorite character, or…”

See, I smiled, he knows all about Draft Two.

Summer Writer’s Block

This summer, I have struggled to come up with topics to write about. I carry my notebook everywhere. I put pen to paper and either stare off into space or cross out whatever it is I manage to put down there.

I wait for my boys to say something funny.

I hit my head against the desk.


Then last week, we were on a four-hour drive during which the boys played Minecraft in the backseat between snacks, while my husband played seven episodes of a more than 150-episode podcast on the history of Rome. He was still pre-Caesar, but I know what you’re thinking…it’s the podcasts.


I looked back at the kids, and my nine year old glanced at me and smiled. His blue eyes sparkled and his grin stretched across his freckled face. Then he looked back down at his game.

That’s when it hit me.

I have been spending too much time with my guys. While our days are fun and relatively care-free all summer, I have not had a date night, an appointment, a haircut, a few hours alone or time with my friends. The boys’ cuteness – that thing that often inspires me to write – doesn’t always seem so cute, creative, amazing after the millionth time in a given day when your hair looks like Medusa’s.

I am tired of saying “stop annoying your brother,” “stop touching your brother,” “turn off the iPad,” “stop with the attitude,” “did anyone just hear what I said?!”

When they are at school, they are happy to see me when I pull up in carpool line. They tell me stories about their day (sometimes). Their translations of life are hysterical. I get hugs after an especially long day.

Then my nine year old flashed that grin on our four-hour car ride like a slice of another season.

All those moments that I cherish during the school year are happening. All the things that I typical write about are there.

I just need time off…

…because my boys are great kids. They tell me funny stories. They play nicely most of the time. They tell me jokes. They want me to swim with them, play basketball with them, snuggle, hug, listen, laugh with them. And we are having a great summer. There is so much to write about.

And all it takes is one smile and an overdue date night to bring me back. Inspired.

The New J-O-B: Moms Getting Innovative about Work

With my youngest going to kindergarten in the fall, I have been struggling between going back to work full-time or continuing to build up my small list of freelance clients. The money with freelancing is inconsistent, but the flexibility is important to me. I went on interviews. I stressed. And of course, I wrote about the experience. The result of that, (at least the first night of writing as a means of processing all this), was just published on Yahoo. There is probably more to come….

Big Picture People

I recently met with someone who runs a PR firm, and he advised me that when I market myself as “just a writer’, potential clients pigeon-hole me as “merely” a developer of content. What they want is a big picture person who can make something extraordinary happen for their organization.

As a writer, that advice was not good for the ego.

Just a writer.

Then something else happened. I have been creating content for a small non-profit working in South Africa. I drafted the original content for their website. I write most of the articles for their quarterly newsletter. I helped develop an educational tour brochure. Then almost by accident, I introduced the organization’s founder to a few women who immediately saw the big picture, and could make a big impact.

In only two meetings, they came up with a list of to-dos that have the potential – if successful – to take this small non-profit to the next level. Even the level after that.

Just a writer.

I have always wanted to be a writer. And it’s not that as a writer, words are all I have to offer. It is that I get caught up in the details of what I am writing – finding the perfect phrase, pulling on heartstrings, making readers laugh. And while not everyone can do that well, most people can do it well enough as long as the big picture people get it right.

As long as I think of myself as someone who merely develops the content, I do not require myself to think strategically, take the lead, embrace the responsibility for success or failure. I find myself waiting for someone else to make something happen – or not – so I have something to write.

If I market myself as “just a writer”, (and that is all I have ever wanted to be), people won’t expect anything else from me. Just words on paper. And eventually, I will start to doubt my own ability to envision the big picture. I will cease to believe that I can make an impact.

The PR guy with the advice, followed by two conversations with people who think big, sent this aspiring writer a message. Raise the bar. Stretch. Deliver more than words. Think big. Make an impact.

As the big picture person, writing about my own big ideas, I might write a better story… which might still be the goal of the newly minted big impact strategist who secretly wants to be “just a writer”.