My mom tried to have nice things…

6 Oct
My brothers and I, plotting nefarious deeds circa 1976

My brothers and I, plotting nefarious deeds circa 1976


My mother tried to create a beautiful home for us. Being an artist, she’s all about the visual. Being kids, well, we were busy being kids. We weren’t horrible kids – we didn’t intentionally break stuff. It just happened.

Like the bookcase at the top of the stairs. My mom kept all the kids books in there, nestled in the hallway between the boys room and my room.  I actually loved that bookcase, with its two glass doors that slid up and out of the way. Which is why I’m still ashamed that I broke it.

Really, it wasn’t my fault, it was my brother’s fault. See, we were fighting, as only 10 and 13 year old siblings can do, and I threw a baby rattle at him. Because my brother is not dumb, he darted out of the way. So the rattle went straight through the glass of the bookcase door. The next few minutes were a bit “Oooo! You broke it!” and me going “It’s your fault! You moved!”

I was ten, that was a logical argument.

We solved the problem by just lifting and sliding the bookcase door into its hidden upright position and sweeping up the rest of the glass. We had gotten away with it….until the day my mom went to close that bookcase door and the rest of the glass still in the frame came crashing down.

My brother was still no fool. “Phoebe did it!”

I was still a fool. “Nuh uh! He moved! If he hadn’t moved, that wouldn’t have gotten broken!”

I got in trouble for that one.

Not telling mom about things sort of became standard. Basically, we were gaslighting the poor woman. Then again, we heard her talk about how she hated coming home to hear “It’s okay, we cleaned it up, no one got hurt.”, so really, we were just trying to do her a favor.

But one day, she came home and said “What happened to the back porch?”

We gave her blank stares. “Huh?”

“The porch! The back porch! It’s missing a railing!”

“Oh, that’s where Joe had to cut Patrick head out last month.”


In his defense, Patrick was three, and he had a big noggin. My oldest son has the same big noggin. But yeah, three year old Patrick got his head stuck between two of the wooden railings on the porch. Joe, at seventeen, finally got out the saw and neatly cut out the porch railing to free Patrick. Which, as Joe stated, was nicer than cutting Patrick’s head off.

So when, fast forward to my own motherhood, my two year old son got stuck in the body of the wooden rocking airplane, and uttered his first words of “I’m TUCK! I’m TUCK!”, I just casually eyed him, called Josh, and asked “Where’s the allen wrench?”


“Because your son is stuck in the airplane.”

“Oh. Check the drawer in the kitchen….”

Don't worry Mom, now my kids ruin my things!

Don’t worry Mom, now my kids ruin my things!


This is part of the 31 Days writing challenge…to find out more about it or read more from this challenge, check out the 31 Days page!

You shouldn’t buy a white puppy in the middle of a blizzard

5 Oct

The year was 1979. I know, because it was also the year of the Blizzard of ’79 that hit Chicago. Snow was everywhere, and people were literally shooting others over parking spots that they had spent hours digging out and then were “holding” with lawn chairs. Chicago – always keeping it classy.

We were in the suburbs…barely…but we had alleys and garages and snow routes, which meant that during the night, we were forced to park the cars in the garage that might collapse under the weight of snow so the village snow plows could clear the streets.

How snowy was it?

It was so snowy that they ran out of places to put the snow except on top of more snow. Which meant that when my brother’s and I walked up to the library, in trying to keep on the sidewalk on the block with the lumber yard, we had to climb a mountain of snow then walk along the top of it. Luckily, it was so high that it reached the top of the two story lumber shed, and we held onto the gutter for balance.

It was so snowy that at one point, six year old me wasn’t allowed out there. I was tiny for my age, the snow was taller than me, and my mom was afraid that I might get sucked in by the snow and suffocate. I cried over it – until my brothers got the genius plan to make trails in the snow and spent hours basically building a maze through our front yard, packing in snow paths, so I could run through them as well.

It was so snowy that the snow in parts was higher than our fence, which was about four feet high.

Everything was white. None of it was going anywhere.

Meanwhile, our dog George – who was a wondrous mutt of a dog – died on March 1st. And we cried because George was awesome.

George and baby me

George and one of us as a rugrat

We kids only knew life with a dog, and being kids had the mourning period of gnats, so we were probably all “Can we get a puppy now?” My parents, also being dog lovers, hatched a plan. My brother’s birthday was just two days away, why not present the family with a new puppy then?

It was also the year my dad decided to get those trick candles – the ones that you blow out and they relight? Yeah, not the best option for a cake two days after your beloved pet dies and your greatest wish is to get a new dog. The wish was made, the candles blown out, the candles relit, my brother burst into tears thinking his wish wouldn’t come true, and my mother started muttering to my dad “Get the puppy! For God’s sake, get the puppy!”

The little white furball was then presented to us, and we had cake and a new puppy and all was well again.

Well, sort of.

Because new puppy had to be housebroken. But new white puppy couldn’t be let out into the yard safely because, well, we’d lose him in all the snow if left out there on his own. So someone had to take new puppy outside, lift him up and onto the snow bank, then you’d both stand there shivering waiting for puppy to do his business, and then lift puppy up off of the snowbank, hurry back inside, where new puppy would finally be warm enough to pee in a corner.

Life lesson? “Never buy a white puppy in the middle of a blizzard. He’ll never be properly housebroken.”

God bless the dog, but he never was.

Also, bonus lesson? Never tell your kids about how one of your kids couldn’t say the word “puppy” quite right as a toddler, because that’s how your kids end up naming said white puppy “Puckie”.

I can’t believe we talked them into naming the dog Puckie. We should probably add that to our “Sorry Mom” list of apologies.

Puckie - our wire haired fox terrier that always got lost in snow

Puckie – our wire haired fox terrier that always got lost in snow

This is part of the 31 Days writing challenge…to find out more about it or read more from this challenge, check out the 31 Days page!

Growing up as the artist’s daughter

4 Oct "Phoebe and the Rainy Day Violets" by my mom
"Phoebe and the Rainy Day Violets" by my mom

“Phoebe and the Rainy Day Violets” by my mom

My mom is an artist, and quite a good one as well. She has done many a fabulous thing in her life art-wise, and has gone through almost all the medias…except pottery. And graffiti art. My sister may have the latter covered though.

Growing up as one of her children meant several things –

One must NEVER touch the Sacred Markers, all lined up in their special stand, that cost like five whole dollars a piece back in 1976, and from which you could totally get high off of. They were fabulous markers, and I understood even then that these were not things you used for coloring books or other such mundane stuff.

One must ALWAYS ask about the suspicious container of something that might look like food in the refrigerator. Because that Tupperware jug full of what looks like lemonade? Special glue. That container of oatmeal-like stuff? Paper pulp. This was such a strict rule that even non-household teens caught on. I can remember the day my friend pulled out something and said “Is this edible?” She was smart to ask, because it wasn’t.

One would eventually be sent on a weird art-related mission. Because my mother is the Queen of Mixed Media Art, and always tries something new. Even if it means sending your tween daughter up to the pet shop to ask for fifty feet of clear tubing.

“Did you mean five feet dear?” the lady behind the counter of said pet shop asked.

“No, my mom needs fifty feet.”

The pair behind the counter eyed me. “Why does she need fifty feet of clear tubing?”

Tween me probably sighed. “She’s an artist. She’s making some sort of wall hanging with it.”


On the flip side, I always had the best covered books in the school because my mom was also Queen of Bubble Letter Making, and could take a paper bag and wrap a book with Martha Stewart-like precision. I still mourn the day my mom decided I was old enough to make my own book covers. I never mastered bubble letters.

As a child, I would take friends on tours around my house, like it was an art gallery….which…actually…it kind of was. “My  mom made this…and this…and this…oh, you have to check out this!”

That last “this” would be her Queen Bee wall hanging, that hung at the bottom of our stairwell. The top was satiny material…into honeycombs…into loops of wool yarn.

“But why is it called “The Queen Bee?” people would ask.

“Find it.”

If you looked carefully, near the bottom, she had embroidered the outline of a queen bee, in thread that matched the fabric.

Yeah, it was cool.

The other favorite to show off was her Yellow Submarine pillow, made of white satiny fabric that was watercolor dyed, scrunched up, little things here and there…and if you followed the trail of bubbles that were embroidered, larger at the top and smaller at the bottom, just under the curve, was a tiny yellow submarine embroidered on it. It was backed with yellow velvet and had fabulous yellow fringe all around it.

There were art fairs to run around in, trips to the Museum of the Art Institute of Chicago, then the time my mom took a photography course and set up a dark room in her bedroom closet, another time when she set up silk screen printing in her art room, and of course, the time she ordered a parachute for a project, saw the twinkling in the eyes of my brothers and myself, and said “You may NOT use this to jump out of the second floor window.”

Because my  mother is an artist, not a fool. We totally would have tried it.

This is where someone will ask me “So, do you paint too?”  I used to say no. Art was my mom’s thing. Writing was mine. But recently, I’ve started dabbling. I’m not going to say I’m good. But I am having fun with it.

My decent knock-off version of Rapunzel's wall.

My decent knock-off version of Rapunzel’s wall.


This is part of the 31 Days writing challenge…to find out more about it or read more from this challenge, check out the 31 Days page!


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