Haibun and Haiku

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I spread my yellow cotton sheet out onto our lawn’s lush green grass and lay down alone with my laptop. The warm air still smells of last night’s campfire tainted with a faint hint of chlorine. Birds are chirping. Bees are buzzing. This is the perfect spot to write a poem about nature, I think. I look across the street at the young cornfield and wait for my inspiration to come to me.

I feel the sun’s warmth
as deer play in the distance,
zero distractions.

But then braided blond hair bounces by. It belongs to a giggling girl. I look up and watch as she skips through a sea of bubbles, laughing, playing fairy, granting wishes. She spies a butterfly, chases it for a moment but becomes distracted, as easily as me, by a dandelion that has gone to seed and so she pauses to make a wish of her own. I lean in and listen.

She wishes for cake
with candles. Ah, more wishes.
Mother like daughter.

She spins off and I smile and look away. I try again to write this poem. “Watch me, Mommy,” she shouts and I turn back again just as she scoots her bottom onto the swing. Then she watches me to make sure I’m watching her. I smile to reassure her. She holds on tight and launches.

Swinging on a swing,
higher and higher she goes,
toes tickling clouds.

As she looks up, I do too. I see the cotton candy blue sky above us with its big puffy white billowing clouds. They pass ethereally. Maybe they’re my inspiration. They glide by and by and as I relax into the moment my mind decides to go with them.

Floating on a cloud,
looking down, the world drifts by,
but only a dream.

The sound of sneakers on gravel brings me back to my blanket. I rub my eyes and then stare back down at the glare on the blank screen. This assignment is due soon and I feel I must focus on being inspired. I need to force this poem out of me. Just then the reflection of the sun’s rays barely stings my eyes, just enough to inspire me in a different direction.

I look away again and see Lyla at the top of the slide.

“Arr, I’m a pirate!”
Sharks are surrounding the ship.
This haiku can wait.

Hangover Mimosa (a sonnet)

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Hangover Mimosa
We laughed till the sun rose
Memories and wine were to blame
You couldn’t feel your nose
I might have forgotten my name

Ceiling spins and it rushes back to me
Stomach erupts as cartoons pierce my brain
Reminds me of responsibility
Oh how we now need to breathe through the pain

This time the hair of the dog won’t fix it
When the new puppy pees on the floor
Unsupervised minions run rampant
We must be Mommy and Daddy once more.

Plop plop fizz fizz in our OJ sure hits the spot.
A relief it is… though a mimosa it’s not.

Go Ask Alice (a personal PS)

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I first read Go Ask Alice at age 12 and it was so powerful that it’s stayed with me. It was one of my favorite books back then and reading it again at 37, it was still powerful but it was also nostalgic. I remember once I read it back then wanting all of my friends to read it, too. It felt important. And honestly I still believe every teen girl should read it. What an awesome book.

I love to write in the margins as I read. I fully intend to share this book someday with my daughter so this time I wrote notes to her in the margins. Every time “Alice” wished she had someone to talk to, I wrote a little note reminding my daughter that she can always talk to me. And each time “Alice” failed and felt badly about herself, I wrote a note telling my daughter that I will always love her no matter what.

Happily Ever After

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This exercise came from the book 4AM Breakthrough by Brian Kitely. The instructions say to write a 250 word story without repeating a single word. Each word must be different, even the title.

Whoa… this was hard! Not being able to repeat words like “the” or “a” and “an” proved pretty challenging! But to make it easier I chose to write it about my favorite muse: my daughter, Lyla. Awwww!

(Let me know if you spot any repeats!)

Happily Ever After:

Once upon a time (this one right now), there was an incredibly sweet, sassy, beautiful, bright, happy, healthy (thank God) 3-year-old little girl named Lyla Rain Henderson.

With passionate adoration for some pretty random if not wildly ordinary things, including but not limited to: vanilla ice cream, hugs, kisses, apple juice, family, friends, preschool, stars, triangles, octagons, shapes in general really, princesses, puppies, pirates, picnics, fairies, racecars, road trips, running, singing, dancing, ballet class, bologna, butterflies, baseball, the moon, stars, Looney Tunes, rainbows, horses, squirrels, cupcakes, castles, spaghetti, school busses, clouds, laughing, fruit (specifically bananas, strawberries, apples, pears, blueberries, cantaloupe…), vacation, movies, milk, McDonald’s, muddy puddles, playing games, reading, coloring, flowers, snacks, snow, knock-knock jokes, make believe, glitter, buttered toast, Twizzlers, Tootsie Rolls, toys, her hair, airplanes, fairy tales, scaring people, dresses, candy sprinkles, yogurt smoothies, green grass, taking baths, going fast, flying over railroad tracks, big trucks, hay bales, helping, holding hands, cornfields, carrots, crocodiles, edamame, using chopsticks (well, trying), magic, cardboard boxes, pancakes, presents, unicorns, Dora, being best friends, talking your ear off, telling stories, learning math (not me!), eating graham crackers (AKA: yummy rectangles), giving mosquito bites (you might say “pinching”), food shopping, swimming, smiling, stirring liquids (yeah!), swinging on swings, spinning herself dizzy and, finally, all things pink, she makes our world so much better just by being part of it.

Run-on? Maybe. Long list? Definitely. But it’s okay.

Another fortunate mommy, I love my daughter more than anything. Oops. Check that. Everything.

Word Count=250

Reading Out Loud

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I often read out loud.

In fact, I feel the need to read everything I write out loud, not just because I like to hear my own words (though I’m sure that’s part of it) but more so because I have to hear the words in order to know for sure whether or not they’re right—contextually, rhythmically and, if it’s dialogue, right for the character speaking. No matter what I write, I need to hear the words.

For similar reasons, I recently started purchasing audio books and listening to the narrator read out loud while I visually read along.

I like to read others’ works out loud, too. In workshops, I often read the submissions of other writers, those I’m meant to critique, out loud. Doing so helps me focus entirely on the words and phrases as if my own voice cancels out distracting noises. Just the act of reading aloud helps me better absorb the information and it keeps me connected to it instead of spiraling off into my own head to add bullet points to any number of mental ‘to do’ lists.

I once lost my voice (literally) reading a 300 page manuscript out loud before submitting it for consideration to an agency.

For the past few weeks I’ve been reading Kindred by Octavia Butler to my three-year-old. I’m reading and analyzing it for a class and since I read to my daughter everyday anyway, I guess you could say I’m killing two birds with one stone (you’d probably only say that if you love clichés as much as I do).

Anyway, it’s not your typical toddler story but Lyla doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, she seems to enjoy hearing me read it to her. Maybe she somehow knows how much it’s helping me.

“L” is for Lyla

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Every time we pass a big yellow school bus on the street, my 2-yr-old daughter, Lyla, gets thrilled and says, “Mommy, look a schoo bus!” Sometimes she even waves to it and says “hi, schoo bus!” or “bye, schoo bus!” She leaves off the “L” at the end and, to me, that makes it even cuter.

Lyla is my inspiration for going back to school to get my MFA in Creative Writing.

I want her to believe me when I tell her again and again that she can do whatever she sets her mind to and she can become anything she wants to be. That’s what my mom used to tell me. In fact, she still tells me that and I still have no reason to doubt her. So I will teach Lyla the same. I want her to be confident and proud of herself and of her talents, skills and achievements. I want her to understand that no challenge is too big when commitment and hard work are involved. I will tell her that when all else fails, it’s OK to try harder or to try something else. But never stop trying! And most importantly, never stop believing in yourself. We are only limited by our desire to dream and our willingness to believe in ourselves.

She is looking forward to someday being big enough to ride together with the other kids on the schoo bus to the big kids’ schoo where I’m sure she’ll probably learn all about that missing “L.” I’ve been warned that I might cry when that day comes. Maybe so but for now, I plan to simply cherish my time with her as I try my best to teach her whatever I can and help her learn and grow and believe in herself.

To do that effectively, I must continue to learn and grow and believe in myself, too.

So I’m back in schoo.

And even though I don’t get to ride the wondrous yellow bus, I couldn’t be more excited about the journey. So far I’m absolutely loving every second of it.

From time to time, I plan to post some of my projects here on the blog. That way we can share the experience and you can let me know your thoughts on how I’m doing! You can even grade me if you like. Now doesn’t that sound fun?

xoxo

Mommy Confession: Clipping Toenails

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I enjoy clipping my daughter’s toenails.

There I said it. It’s weird, I know.

But when she was an infant, she and I were both afraid of the activity. And by afraid, I mean totally freaked out beyond belief to the point of paralysis. I absolutely dreaded having to clip her fingernails and toenails. I was convinced I’d accidentally clip off an imperative appendage or at the very least make her bleed. I pictured a slasher film with blood spurting and spewing everywhere. I got lightheaded at the thought of it. Come to think of it, I’m feeling a bit queasy now. She didn’t seem thrilled either… maybe she was reading my mind.

Back then, to get through it, I’d do all necessary clipping during nap time. She was relaxed. I was (almost) relaxed. We got through it together. At times, I’d skip the clipping altogether and use an emery board to file her nails instead. Once in a while, my husband would offer to do it for me but the thought of him doing it scared me even more. I’m a weirdo… I totally get that.

But even weirder? When Lyla turned 2, she started asking me to clip her nails. I was like, “Huh? You want me to do it?” She’d reply, “Please, Mommy, please!”

How could I turn her down?

There was a time in my life, a long time ago, when even the thought of someone else’s feet grossed me out. I certainly didn’t want to touch them. Ew. In fact, it took me an even longer time to let anyone touch mine. I did eventually develop a taste (for lack of a better word) for pedicures… most women eventually do, I imagine. There’s just something about being primped and pampered without having to move a muscle. It’s wonderful.

But one day, when I was pregnant and unable to reach my own toes, a spa technician cut me during a pedicure and that completely killed the relaxation… possibly forever. I still shutter and flinch at the thought of it.

So when Lyla asked me to clip her toenails, it freaked me out. What a little weirdo! But she’s my little weirdo so; somehow, I worked up the nerve and clipped away. I started out taking baby steps, no pun intended, by clipping just a teensy bit here and there. But the brave little thrill-seeker pushed me to clip more and more until her nails were actually, well, well-manicured.

I thought that was a once in a lifetime moment. No way would she make the same request again. Right? But then, a few days later, she asked again. And I obliged. And, since that first time, she now comes to me (at least) once a week and asks for her toddler mani/pedi from Mommy. And I’ve started to look forward to this, perhaps oddly untraditional, bonding time with her.

She points to a toe or a finger and says, “Clip this one!” Then she giggles as I clip and then she selects another. I’ve even learned to relax with it and, while I’m still very careful and meticulous with clipper in-hand, I’m no longer irrationally fearful of sneezing and accidentally cutting her arms and legs off. I even throw in a free foot massage, at no extra cost. She loves those, too.

These days, not only does she request her manis and pedis on a regular basis, but she also picks out her own lotions for her massages and she even lets me paint her nails, too. She’s turning into a bit of a diva while I’m turning into a self-proclaimed skillful nail technician.

So I confess…

I’ve developed a bit of a foot and hand fetish. But only with Lyla. I enjoy clipping, filing, massaging and painting her little fingers and toes. I cherish all of our special moments together and I look forward to someday taking her to a real spa and having “Mommy & Me” manis, pedis and massages together.

I love my little girl.

Mommy, kiss it!

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My 2-yr-old daughter, Lyla, recently discovered the healing powers of mommy kisses. And, as a mommy, I recently discovered that it is AWESOME to be able to so quickly and easily kiss away my daughter’s tears.

It’s true. A mother’s kisses are nothing less than mystical and magical, kind of like unicorns. I’ve actually known this since way back when I was Lyla’s age since my mom also has magical kisses. My mom’s kisses had the exact same effect… and sometimes they still do. Now that I think about it, maybe it’s hereditary? Nah, I’m pretty sure it simply comes with the job description.

But isn’t it amazing how something as simple as a kiss can make the hurt instantly go away? When Lyla bumps, falls, bruises or scrapes, a kiss from me is enough to stop the tears. It’s kind of wonderful actually.

So at my daughter’s request, I’ve kissed everything… well, almost everything. I’ll get to that in a moment.

Without hesitation, I’ve kissed her forehead dozens of times. I’ve kissed elbows and knees, arms, legs, feet, hands, fingers and even toes. I’ve kissed the top of her head and her tummy.

I even fell for it the day Lyla said, “Mommy, kiss it” and then puckered her lips. With no questions asked, I puckered up too but as I leaned in for what I’d assumed would be an innocent peck on the mouth, at the last second the little turd stuck out her tongue. I realized too late that she must have bitten it and thought a kiss from me would heal it. I’m not sure if it helped but I now have my guard up for next time she tries to trick me and lick my face. Yuck! But I can’t blame her for trying since biting your tongue sucks and, to her, nothing quite compares to mommy kisses.

“Mommy, kiss it,” she says after each and every ouchy. Bump her head or stub a toe? Better find mommy! It doesn’t always involve a boo-booed body part either. There are times when she asks me to kiss something that wasn’t even an ouchy at all.

On special request, I’ve kissed her best friend, Tags the Tag Ball (it’s sort of like a security blanket-ish item but it’s a ball with tags whose name, for obvious reasons, is Tags). I’ve also kissed a bear or two, a dolly and even a Dora and a Wubbzy.

I know my husband’s jealous too. He’d never admit it, but I’m 100% sure that he wishes his kisses were as magical and mystical as mine. I mean, while he’s no unicorn, kisses from Daddy are obviously good too and they will certainly work in a pinch… I guess. But, in our house, nothing compares to Mommy’s kisses.

If only this could last forever! But I know she’ll someday have a hurt that can’t so easily be kissed away. And, perhaps before then, she’ll probably outgrow asking for kisses altogether. So I’m cherishing this time while it lasts and, at her request, I will happily kiss it–whatever it is–no questions asked.

Well, like I said earlier, almost anything.

I admit there was one time when I turned her down…

Recently, after a rather rough bout of stomach flu and a weeklong case of the runs, Lyla’s tummy was finally feeling better but my poor little angel had a very sore tushy. And I guess baby powder was no longer doing the trick.

So far, that was the only time I’ve drawn the line when she innocently looked up at me and said, “Mommy, kiss it!”

Mommy’s Law

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We’ve all heard about Murphy’s Law. Well, here’s some Mommy’s Law:

  1. The later mommy goes to sleep, the earlier baby will wake up.
  2. Baby will always get a rash, bruise, scratch or some other sort of unexplainable injury the night before a pediatric checkup.
  3. Guinness World Record breaking growth spurts are more likely to occur the night before any occasion for which a formal outfit and shoes have been selected and purchased for baby than any other day of the year.
  4. If mommy should happen to win either a date with daddy or a girls’ night out, the baby’s energy the following day will be multiplied by the quantity of glasses of wine mommy consumed the night before.
  5. The moment the house is finally clean, baby’s diaper will explode.
  6. If mommy buys a new dress, baby will immediately vomit all over it. If said dress or alternate article of newly purchased clothing happens to be white, baby will be sure to have consumed a full tummy’s worth of something in the darkest, most disgusting shade imaginable (strained peas, anyone?).
  7. When mommy decides to bring the stroller along, baby will want to walk. But when no stroller is available and mommy’s hands are full, baby will demand to be carried.
  8. Baby will happily show off clear pronunciation of all her new words and numbers behind closed doors but will only speak baby talk when others are around. If “others” should happen to include mommy’s in-laws, baby will jump at the opportunity to showcase her mastery of the letter “F” and attempt to rhyme everything with the word duck.
  9. The moment mommy brags about anything, baby will enforce a strict no bragging penalty (i.e., “My baby loves to eat her veggies!” Penalty = Baby will never eat anything green ever again)
  10. Baby will be an angel throughout the supermarket, enticing mommy to shop till she drops. But the moment mommy pulls her overflowing cart into the checkout line, baby will turn into a demon. The longer the line, the more head spinning action will ensue.

Happy mommying!

Have you ever seen a cow riding a bicycle?

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Well I have and it was awesome.

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays (3rd favorite to be exact). And ever since way back when I was a kid, I’ve always loved getting dressed up for it, typically alternating clever and disturbing costumes year after year.

Against his will, I usually “urge” my husband to dress up too. In fact throughout our relationship, I’ve tortured him with one awful costume after the next. He claims he hates it. But I don’t believe him since he almost always gives in to whatever I want. One year, I made him dress up like a turd. Yep. It was a group theme. I made the costumes myself. Corn and all. He was a good sport about it… even though it was a little shitty of me. Another year, we were simply ketchup and mustard. He said “no” at first but eventually he agreed and there we were, two condiments at a New York City bar together. He even let me be mustard. That’s love. But he drew the line the year I wanted him to dress up like a vampire. I didn’t see the big deal, really. Honestly he was fine with it until I admitted I planned to dress as a tampon.

Whether I’ve been single, half of a couple or part of a group, I’ve always had fun on Halloween. But being a mom at Halloween is the greatest. Playing dress up with my daughter is so much fun. And rather than simply play dress up once, I get to do four straight days of Halloween festivities with her this year. She and I have already been trick or treating twice in two different towns and it’s not even the 31st yet. If you ask me, that’s pretty awesome.

She’s being a cow for Halloween this year. It seemed fitting since we’ve seen plenty of real cows since moo-ving to Iowa. Like most 2-year-olds, she loves mooing back at them. But she is by far the cutest cow I’ve ever seen!

Today, I put my little cow in her child seat and we went for a bike ride together through town. That was a first! I mean, have you ever seen a cow on a bicycle? I would (probably) never have done that in New York City. But it was great! And you know what? She had a blast being a cow on a bicycle.

Admittedly since Lyla entered our lives, I’ve focused more energy on her costumes than mine or my husband’s. Last year, I didn’t even bother getting dressed up. My husband was stoked when he learned he didn’t have to get dressed up either. Instead, I focused all my creative energy on our daughter. She was a strawberry. Simple enough. But. Cutest. Strawberry. Ever!

My husband doesn’t know it yet but this year, we’ll be making a soft comeback as a family. To expand upon our daughter’s costume, all three of us will be dressing as cows tomorrow night at his parents’ Halloween party.

It’ll be our first Halloween together as a family in Iowa. I can’t skip this one!

But rather than make him dress from head to toe in plush cow apparel like our daughter, I’m simply giving him a button that says “Moo” and a hat that says, “More cowbell!” So yes, I’m going easy on him. But next year… well, that’s a surprise… but if he thought being a vampire was bad!

Tomorrow night, I’ll be wearing a hat that says “I love cows.” And although I’ve never put much thought into that before, this year I know it’s true. If my husband and my daughter are cows, then I must love cows.

Together as a family we plan to party till the cows come home… but really we’re already home so I guess we’ll just party till our little cow needs her nap.

Happy Halloween!