Not Here, over there.


I’m over at The Glass List talking about a play that was directed by my good friend Cara, and that’s part of the Capital Fringe Festival.  Come say hi?  There’s beer.

DC Brau


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Poets at Work

Tweetspeak Poetry arrives in my inbox every Saturday morning, and while I prefer to read things I love on paper, I eagerly delve into the website’s newsletter.  Each weekend morning writers share possibilities for playing with words, telling stories, and ways to notice all that shimmers (or perhaps look at a thing until it does shimmer).  It’s like recess.

Last week I read that Wednesday, July 16 was Take Your Poet to Work Day, and the website offered a free coloring book filled with different poets that we can color, cut out, stick on a popsicle stick (or maybe one of those cool hipster red and white straws…are those hipster?), and go to work with a poet.

District 2-20140714-01054I printed out the coloring books for Hadley and Harper, then added a few blank sheets of paper for them to add pictures or favorite phrases of poet’s on, then slipped the pages between two pieces of card stock and tied it up with yarn.  We headed to the library for a poetry hunt.

District 2-20140715-01055District 2-20140715-01056We found a bunch of books with Emily Dickinson and Langston Hughes in them and thought we’d start with those two.  Hadley also found some books of poems on Frankenstein.  I’m pretty sure Mary Shelley would roll over in her grave if she knew about these.

District 9-20140715-01059The girls colored their pictures of Langston Hughes and flipped through some of the books with his poems in them.  Harper was very concerned about getting his blazer color correct. I told her that probably, he wore a variety of colors.

“Did he wear sparkly blazers?” my child, who has decided to wear fairy wings wherever she goes, asked.  I told her I didn’t think he had blazers with sparkles on them, but I wasn’t 100% sure.

I read some of his poems, then asked which words the girls liked.  Harper loved the words, “sweet silver trumpets,” from Hughes’s poem, “When She Wears Red,” allegedly written by a gal he once knew in high school.  Hadley loved “Low….slow/slow…low-/stir your blood./Dance!” from “Dance Africane.”

District 2-20140715-01061Here’s Harper’s picture of the girl with the red dress on.

District 9-20140715-01063District 2-20140715-01064We also took a look at Emily Dickinson’s poetry.

District 9-20140715-01065Harper had a hard time understanding her poems.  She likes to look at the pictures that accompany the words.  It’s always interesting to me to see how much more she grasps (and grapples with) when there are pictures on the pages.  But since she is still learning how to read, it was hard for her to focus on Ms Dickinson.  I think she’ll like her in no time, though.

Hadley thought this poem was nice:

“There is no frigate like a book./To take us to lands away,/Nor any coursers like a page/of prancing poetry./This traverse may the poorest take/without oppress of toll;/How frugal is the chariot/That bears a human soul!

She made this picture after she read the poem:

District 2-20140715-01066

After Hughes and Dickinson, we decided we were getting a little hungry, so we walked back home for lunch. As we walked, we heard Motown coming from a nearby restaurant and as she always does, Hadley began to stomp her feet and shake her hips to the beat (that girl’s hip shakin’ are going to be the end of me, I swear it).

“How’d that poem you liked go again?” I asked Hadley as she danced. “Slow, low, boom, what was it again?” I’d completely forgotten.

“It went like this, Mama,” Hadley began and she clapped as she said: “Low,” clap, clap, clap, “Slow,” clap, clap, clap, “slow,” clap, clap, clap, “low.”  She turned around and said, “Stirs your blood.” Then she jumped in the air and exclaimed, “Dance!”

I think she tested Dickinson’s theory about words living the moment they are said today.

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What To Read In July

What to Read in July



Hadley suggests you get yourself a copy of Ivy And Bean and The Ghost Who Had To Go.  ”It’s about a ghost,” Hadley tells me with a dramatic pause, “IN THE TOILET!”  Oh, the giggles, and oh man, that poor haunt.  Here’s a trick I’ve learned about dealing with children’s fears: it is impossible to be afraid of a thing if you introduce the words: toilet, poop, toot, anything that has to do with a bathroom, really.  Toilet paper works well, too.

Hadley wants readers to know that there is also a really strict gym teacher in the story, but that this is OK because sometimes you need strict teachers. She doesn’t want anyone to be afraid of the teacher who seems a tad grouchy.

District 2-20140713-01051

Harper thinks Oliver by Judith Russell is the book to read this month.  If you look closely at this picture, you might guess why.  Harper and Oliver both have on a pair of wings. Harper’s are fairy wings and Oliver’s are clearly not, but they both hope to use them to fly. Oliver, like Harper, has a vivid imagination and readers get a chance to see it in action in this story.


Of course summer is the time to delve into a chunky book that’ll keep you sitting on your porch while the fireflies dance around, but I’d like to suggest you head over to The Glass List where I am honored to be a part of the group of ladies that write about all sorts of things we find delightful.  Today, I’m writing about a bookstore and a very large piggy bank.  I hope you like it.

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On the YouTube screen

13984023497_2f7a0da7d5_oOn my goodness my Listen To Your Mother performance is up! Check it out here.

Superbuns for life.  Let’s make it a hashtag!

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The Best Place To See Fireworks

There’s the top of the apartment building on Lake street in Oak Park; the one that’s really more of a tower and you can see most of the Chicago west suburbs from. I was up there one July Fourth with my friend. We’d been on a mission that night to find as many fireworks as possible, not an easy project as most of them go off at the same time. After racing around with little success, she suggested we go to the top of the building on Lake and watch them from there.

Would we have been a seniors in high school, or had we graduated? Was she getting ready to go to Maryland and I to Calvin? I wish I knew because we’ve known each other since we were five and she was my buddy: The girl who took my mind off the pain of getting my thumb stung by a bee on the Pilgrim Preschool playground, my partner in an American Studies project that, when we stood up to present it, we got the giggles over the word “gangrene,” a terrible aliment, but my goodness it was a funny word to us at sixteen. She’s the one sitting next to me on the front page of the Oak Leaves. We’re laughing and holding our dozen red roses in our white dresses on graduation day twenty years ago. I wonder, when I look at that picture if others can see that our smiles seem shaky, that they’re the shy smiles of a friendship trying to be mended. I’d not been nice that year, to her, and to a lot of people, but now I wonder when it was that we stood and looked at the fireworks. Was it before or after we’d patched things up? Which Independence Day was it that we stood above those sparkles that would never be able to touch us because we were way too high?

There’s Lake Michigan, near the pier. (Is it Navy Pier? I don’t know, it’s been so long.) WXRT used to play music to accompany the fireworks that flew over the water. That year, I took the architectural tour where you get in a boat and float down the river and listen to facts and anecdotes about the surrounding skyscrapers. I happened to get a ticket for a tour that occurred at dusk and just as we sailed out onto the lake, the lights to the city’s buildings showed up against the purple-y orange sky that would soon give in to a blanket of navy. I’ve written about this moment so many times and I don’t know if I’m lying when I write that the group I was with convinced the docent to stay out on the water so we could listen to XRT and watch the fireworks. I don’t think I am. I can see the tour guide’s face so clear as we pleaded – it was the most animated I’d seen him – a slightly excited smirk, like he knew now was his chance to take a break from all that scripted information and watch this beautiful wall of buildings become characters. Like those monsters in Where the Wild Things Are.

I also can’t remember who I was with. Was it a boyfriend? My best friend? My dad? Had you gotten out of work early and met me on those steps at Wacker and Michigan? I’m sorry I don’t remember who you were but did you think that skyline was the best it’s ever been? Can you think of a better place to watch the day end?

There’s the hill on the corner of Clopper and Germantown, a few blocks from the Soccerplex in Maryland. The hill’s steep enough so that sitting on a blanket or lawn chairs is incredibly uncomfortable and your view of the fireworks pop up between the two streetlights across the street. This isn’t where you’re supposed to watch them. You’re supposed to go to the soccerplex where the real show is, but when you have smallish kids who haven’t mastered the art of sleeping in, it’s hard to motivate yourself to keep them up until it’s dark so they can see flashes of light for fifteen, maybe twenty minutes. So we went to a less crowded place and waited; the girls chased after fireflies with some family friends while we chanted, “Soon, soon! The fireworks will start soon.”

Then the first BOOM and that sizzle sound and Harper said, “OOOOO,” and I’ll never be able to capture her delight and surprise at what she saw for the first time. She was sitting on my lap and each time a firework shot in the air her legs clenched, squeezing my legs, just as she’d done when she was a baby and I had her on my hip. I’d reach for our front doorknob and she’d tense up, excited for what it was she would see next: a ladybug, a daisy, the blue sky. Her legs gave my waist a squeeze and I would fling our front door open to the stairwell and think, “Yes, yes! What will we see for the first time all over again? What will she show me?”

“Does this happen every year?” Harper exclaimed pointing to sky where the lights blossomed between changing streetlights that seemed now to be joining in the show.

“Yes,” I told her, “it happens every year.” These bursts and streams of of light happen every year, no matter if you’re looking for them or not, if you’re ready for them or not, if you deserve them or not, they come every year.

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Summer Smells Like

Melted butter and crumbled graham crackers.

District 2-20140628-01025Perfectly sweet strawberries to be mixed with cranberry juice and dolloped on top of  the graham cracker crust.

District 2-20140628-01026Steamy cement sidewalks and soggy shady trees.

District 2-20140620-00962Summer smells like chlorine and Coppertone.

District 4-20140625-01015District 4-20140625-01016IMG-20140625-01012Summer smells like salted dough mixed with peanut butter and jelly, apple juice and an open window.

IMG-20140625-01017It smells like early morning dew disintegrating into the crevices of gritty brick whose multi colored criss cross pattern says, “Run! Jump! Skip! Stay here for it all.”



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Control the Fun – Quiet Time

Sometimes I get a little nervous when I write a post having to do with reading or writing activities,  because I think you think I’m interested in educating my children.  I’m not. I save that for their teachers. What I am interested in is keeping my kids quiet.

Besides, I don’t do well when I try to instruct Hadley and Harper.  Take today, for example. The three of us went to the neighborhood splash park for a couple of hours and when we got back into the car, Hadley buckles her seat belt and says, “Mama? Gimme a math problem. The hardest math problem you can think of. Just no division.”

Harper wanted to know what division meant, and so, as a way to stall coming up with the hardest math problem I can think of (they’re ALL hard for me), I made an attempt to explain what division is to Harper:

“Let’s say I have six M & Ms,” I began. “If there are three of us and I have six, how many do each of us get if I hand them out evenly?”

Harper looked at me blankly while Hadley counted on her fingers. “We each get two M & Ms,” Hadley said.

“That’s right,” I said, putting the car in reverse. “That’s division.”

“Uhhhh, Mommy?” Harper said.


“Two M & Ms is not enough for me.”

“Yeah, Mama, why would you only give us two M & Ms?” Hadley asked.

“Well, it’s just an example…”

“Is the day hot like it is today when you gave us the two M & Ms?” Harper wanted to know. “Because I don’t like M & Ms when it’s hot outside.”

“Yeah, me either!  Can we just have ice-cream?”

“Yeah! Can we go out for ice-cream?”

This is why I don’t educate my children, and instead, focus on keeping them quiet.

You can’t go into summer with kids without a plan for a little quiet in the day, otherwise it’s going to be like those snow days of ’14 that nobody cares to speak of.

Enter Quiet Time.

District 2-20140612-00927I’ve been doing Quiet Time since Hadley was a little older than three and decided she wasn’t going to take naps anymore, and I decided I didn’t want that two hours of peace and quiet in the afternoon to go away. I know some of you would say, “Oh, but that is the special time when you could give one-on-one attention to your child and play with only him/her.”  And you are so right. It is a very, very special time.  But you know what else is special? Reading InStyle magazine and wondering important things like whether I should have my hair highlighted professionally or just do it myself.  Those are special times, too.

Here’s what I do: I go through all of the girls’ things and make a list of activities that they can do for 30-60 minutes. These are toys, books, activities that they see EVERY SINGLE DAY but ignore and instead say, “I’mboredIhavenothingtodoMamacanwegotoFiveBelowandbuyatoy?” But listen – if you write things down on cute cards and put stickers on them? You are golden. You will be reading InStyle in no time.  Or I don’t know, Sports Illustrated. Just not the swimsuit edition, OK?

District 2-20140612-00926

Right now, Hadley and Harper have an hour of quiet time, but when we first started out, we would shoot for 25-35 minutes.  Each summer we up the number a little bit. By high school I’ll just need to give them breakfast and we’ll be good for the rest of the day.

Hadley and Harper pick three activities, I write them down, set the timer and we are good to go.

With July 4 right around the corner, you could even incorporate some festive worksheets for the kiddos. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a big fan of All Kids Network. 

District 2-20140630-01038

Or have them deck the house with stars and stripes.

District 2-20140630-01034

District 2-20140630-01035

You can tell from the picture that Harper is swiftly moving up the stairs to place her star on the railing, so hey! She’s getting exercise, too! You just can’t go wrong with quiet time.

Come on, people. You know I’m just being sarcastic. Today in the car, after the “M & M Division Flop,” Harper asked me what an opinion was. I tried again to shed some wisdom on my young child’s mind:

“Let’s say I asked you guys what you wanted to do today,” I began.  ”Hadley says, ‘I want to go to the movies,’ but Harper, you say, ‘I don’t want to go to the movies.’  Those would be two different opinions about what we should do that day.”

“Uhhh, Mommy?” Harper said.


“I would never say I didn’t want to go to the movies.”

“Yeah, me either,” Hadley adds.

“Unless I was sick, then maybe I’d say that, but I don’t think so.”

My response to this? “How about we go home and have some quiet time?

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Right Now

District 2-20140622-00968{loving} our new living room and all our orange accents. It’s not finished quite yet (don’t tell Jesse) but every morning when I walk down the stairs all that orange makes me so happy. See all those magazines and such on the couch? That’s my Pinterest board. Only it’s a hard copy of it. I used this stuff called paper and tape and stick stuff I like into journals. It’s a concept that’ll catch on any minute, I just know it.

{enjoying} after dinner scooter rides around the neighborhood, or after lunch scooter rides to Starbucks, and morning walks to the library.  A few nights ago, after we’d cleaned up dinner and the girls were in bed, Jesse said, “We need a pie!”  I threw on my flip flops and walked down the street to the grocery store to pick one up.  The twinkle lights on the trees on the main road were just turning on, folks were walking into Beers and Cheers for their Saturday night brews, and others were spilling out of Sabai, Sabai and other restaurants down our little main street.  We’re in suburbia, for sure, but this little strip of “downtown” that we live on makes me very happy.

{missing} my writing schedule and deadlines. Everyone keeps asking me if I’m relieved that it’s all over and I’m not at all. I feel like I was just getting the hang of it all.  I’ve been inspired by this post and am making plans to do a “Ninety Nine Rejection Challenge” of my own.

{looking forward to} Santa Fe next month. The whole fam is coming along to hear me read and watch me graduate. Should be a fun time.

Six Years Ago: Hadley loves Sesame Street.

Five Years Ago: An attempt to connect Michael Jackson’s death with motherhood. Or something like that.

Four Years Ago: Buy ‘em some peanuts and cracker jacks.

Three Years Ago: Fun on the blacktop.

Two Years Ago: Someone to share things with.

One Year Ago: One of my favorite posts ever. Is it OK to admit that?

Thanks for reading!


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Stop This Train

District 2-20140623-00969“Do you guys want yellow or orange carrots?”

“Doesn’t matter,” Hadley says.

“Doesn’t matter, but I want yellow carrots,” Harper says.

The two of them are drawing pictures of super heroes and one evil villain who has the word “butt” in his name.  I’m packing lunches for the three of us because today we are going to the zoo.  John Mayer’s song “Stop This Train” is playing on Pandora and I feel guilty for liking his music because I’m sure it’s too simple or something like that but I walk over to the computer and hit the volume button a few times so that I can hear his voice over “Bad Butt” the evil villain who is attempting to destroy the world by….well, you can probably guess how he plans to destroy the world.

I always take the girls to the zoo when I’m feeling overwhelmed and I am not sure why that is. Last year we went when I was supposed to be reading In Praise of Folly.  A few years before that we went on an afternoon when Hadley was in preschool and I couldn’t figure out how carpool worked at her school and was sick of telling people there for the zillionth time that OUR CAR DOESN’T HAVE AUTOMATIC DOORS.  A few years before that, it was to push Hadley around the zoo in the stroller because I was pregnant with Harper and feeling miserable and walking helped me feel better.

This morning we are going because I miss writing, and I’m trying to figure out how I am going to take a teaching position that I really want but there are complications. We are going because I don’t know what to do with this blog anymore and I just signed up to run a half marathon in October. We are going because I want to drive down Connecticut, past Politics and Prose, past our little apartment next to the Red Line, past the sushi place we used to eat at and the bar with the rooftop deck we used to drink at, past the Avalon Theatre, past the Starbucks on Livingston I used to grade papers and plan lessons in.

“Mama?” Hadley says as we drive, “Have you noticed that there are more guy rock songs on then there are girl rock songs?”  She says this as John Legend sings over the radio.  ”Does this guy know how long he’s been singing?” Hadley asks after a while.

Coldplay comes on next.  ”This is Chris Martin singing,” I tell the girls and Harper says, “Those are the names of the Kratz Brothers!”  She’s excited because she thinks this will be a song about the PBS show, Wild Kratz.

After a bit, Rihanna comes on and she’s singing “S.O.S. (Rescue Me)” and Hadley starts tapping her foot.  ”This is more like it,” she says, bopping her head. Harper has her Anna doll and is making her dance. “Girls are just better at this then boys,” Hadley says, “Don’t you think?”

We park in Lot D, where I always park because it’s closest to the Red Barn with the cows and pigs, and it’s at the bottom of a hill and it is a lot easier to go uphill with kids at the beginning of your trip to the zoo then it is at the end.

Washington-20140623-00974 Come and knock on our door….


We look at the lions and tigers.


Washington-20140623-00979Washington-20140623-00980We play in the sprinklers that spray along the zoo paths and Harper exclaims, “Hooray for rainbows and water on hot, hot days!”


Washington-20140623-00983We look at crocodiles through telescopes.

When it is time for Harper’s turn, she gets frustrated because she doesn’t see the crocodile, and starts to cry. “Oh, wait!” she says, “I found purple flowers!”

Washington-20140623-00985We take a look at the gorillas, and chimpanzees, and orangutans.



We strike up a conversation with the docent about why orangutangs’ hair is so thick.

Washington-20140623-00989We get Dippin’ Dots. Oh my goodness, what ARE Dippin’ Dots? I couldn’t bring myself to eat them. They scared me.

Washington-20140623-01002We look for the elephants, but get sidetracked by laughing and screaming, and decide we have to find out what is going on. We find this:

Washington-20140623-00994It’s a little splash park dressed up like a beach, and about every two minutes it shoots water out of the rocks on the right. The kids would scream and jump and splash and dance in the water, then, come back and line up at the rock to be sprayed again.


Washington-20140623-00995I don’t know how they knew the water was on its way. There was no warning. After a while, though, the kids would lean against the rock and start a countdown. “TEN, NINE, EIGHT,” they’d scream, and every time they’d get to, “ONE,” sure enough, the water would  come. How’d they know? How could they tell it was time?

Maybe that’s why I go to the zoo when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  It’s full of surprises, but it’s the only place I can think of where I don’t have to worry about what’s coming next. I just walk along the paths with my girls and see what there is to see.


Washington-20140623-01004We leave the zoo and since I didn’t get Dippin’ Dots, I tell the girls that I want to go to Starbucks on the way home.  ”This is where I used to go after I was finished teaching at the end of the day,” I tell them as we get closer to Livingston and Connecticut.

When we walk in, the line is long; filled with spiffy looking professionals and well coiffed retirees. We look a tad out of place in our clothes that are still wet from the sprinklers and the splash park. Harper’s tiara is knotted in her braids and Hadley has dirt on her shorts from sitting on a bench when they were still wet.

As we wait in line, Hadley takes note of the song that’s being played overhead. “Mama,” she whispers, “a girl is singing!”  Hadley is right, and our tally of girl singers goes up this afternoon.  This lady is singing about closing one’s eyes and being home.

“A grande coffee, please,” I say and the barista pivots to fill a cup with Pike’s Place, or maybe it’s Gold Coast. She hands it to me and the lady behind me slides her Odwalla juice so that it bumps into my wrist.

“Hi Nadine,” the lady says to the barista, and the barista starts up a conversations with her, then looks at me, annoyed, because I haven’t moved out of the way.

“I haven’t paid yet,” I say.

The barista rolls her eyes and takes my card.

I used to know the baristas here.  They’d sometimes have my coffee waiting for me when I walked in. I’d sit at a table by the window and make plans for lessons I’d teach. Sometimes I’d write.  On warm nights when the Cherry Blossoms lined the streets, I’d stop by our apartment just long enough to throw my bag in the living room, then hop on the Red Line to meet Jesse somewhere for dinner.

I trudge out of the store with my coffee and my girls. Hadley holds the door and Harper says, ‘Thanks, Hadley” as she skips outside. Hadley takes my hand, a rare thing these days. “This was a fun day, Mama,” she says.

“It was fun, wasn’t it?”

Harper, who has skipped ahead of us, turns around and skips back to join us.

“I had no idea that spray park was at the zoo,” Hadley says.

“OH, I know! I loved that little park! That was my favorite!” Harper exclaims.

“I think it was my favorite, too,” I say as I wonder again how the kids knew the water was on its way, waiting for it to splash them in the face so they could squeal and jump and dance.

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What to Read: June

What To Read In June2One thing I couldn’t wait to do after turning in my thesis was go to the library and look for books to read JUST BECAUSE.  I feel a major YA binge coming on. Maybe some Sarah Dessen chased with some E. Lockhart.  I think that will pair nicely with the TV series “One Tree Hill” that I’m ridiculously involved in.

Now that we’ve moved, we are literally a hop, skip, and a jump to the library and since Harper and I finished school before Hadley, we made several trips already for home decorating magazines and books and Mo Willems’ pigeon books. Harper LOVES that pigeon.

As you step into summer, here are some books the girls and I recommend that we like to pair with trips to the beach, the ball park, or over peanut butter and jelly sandwiches at the kitchen table.

District 2-20140616-00942Hadley says Bink and Gollie by  Kate DiCamillo and Allison McGhee is a great book for summer because, “they do rollerskating and outdoor activities.” Here is Hadley showing you one of her favorite pages with Bink and Gollie hanging out on a park bench – definitely something one could do in the summer time.

District 2-20140616-00943Harper thinks Poem Runs by Douglas Florian  is an appropriate book because, “it is fun to watch baseball games in the summer.”  Indeed, it is.

This is Harper’s favorite page because “the threads of the baseball turned into different words.”  She said looking at that picture makes her want to draw.

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I’m not sure A Door In The Ocean by David McGlynn would be considered a beach read, but it is one of those books that allows you to lose track of time, which is the best sort of summer past time, don’t you think? I love the book for the swimming scenes and the way McGlynn describes the intensity of practicing and training for meets.  It reminds me of high school. I also love the parallels he makes with faith and swimming. McGlynn’s book along with Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead served as inspiration for one of the essays I wrote for my thesis.  Also, A Door In The Ocean is the home of one of my all time favorite paragraphs. I think I will probably spend the rest of my writing career trying to write a paragraph as awesome as the one in that book.

Hope you lose yourself in lots of stories this month!

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