NaNoWriMo #9 (Innocence)

I’d like to pause that moment in time. That moment when the little boy – pale skin flushed red in the autumn chill, brown hair tousled in his scurrying, big eyes bright with wonder of the world – still looked at things without judgment.

“My dog’s not a puppy,” he said with a smile. “He’s three!” The word rolled off his thick tongue like tree, and he took great effort to convince three chubby fingers to remain upright as he trapped his pinky with his thumb. He couldn’t have been more than four, himself. He looked at me, and began to rattle on about his dog. His mother, eyes wide with something akin to horror – – or was it disgust? – – gently urged him away. His father tugged the dog’s leash and quickly continued along the path away from my group. The couple spoke to one another in hushed whispers as they hustled further and further still.

Moments prior to our seconds-long encounter along the trail, the boy’s parents had seen our little entourage ahead of them. Three of my children, my mother, our tiny Grigio on his leash, and me were slowly making our way back to the parking lot. When they saw us, the man halted, jerking his happily trotting dog as he tried to avert our paths crossing by returning the way they’d just come.

“It’s okay,” mom had said happily, as she scooped Grigio into her arms. “I’ll pick him up.” They hesitated – that deer in the headlights pause – before slowly, begrudgingly pressing forward.

Our children – both sets – smiled happily as we drew closer, oblivious to the tension. It’s amazing, really, how young people are blissfully oblivious to prejudices of their parents.

A lump had formed in my throat, but I returned the boy’s ready smile. “Oh, three? He looks so young,” I responded, eying the puppy-faced dog as the boy patted the caramel-colored fur on its head. Stone-faced and silent, the parents continued their now-purposeful escape away from us.

As he was quickly led away, he turned to walk backwards and continued to chatter, raising his voice to be heard over the increasing distance. “Well, bye!” He finally shouted, turning to catch up with a fast paced trot that matched his parents fleeing.

“I can’t believe they were going to skip the trails just because we were coming along the same path,” my mother said in a hush meant only for me. “Why deprive themselves of the experience? Clearly their dog didn’t mind ours. He didn’t even notice.”

“I think they minded us, not Grigio.” I said what she chose to purposely ignore.

“Yeah, I know.”

Boxes in my neighbors’ yards

I suppose I’ve become that nosey neighbor.

It used to be the woman who strategically took her dog for bathroom breaks outside while she chugged a cig and noted the changes of the neighborhood’s inhabitants. She knew folks’ comings and goings, their new arrivals and their sent aways, and she was a master at delivering each person’s juicy gossip – as observed and not told directly. Most of us figured the dog was incontenent; I mean, no dog has to “do his business” every hour on the hour. Talk with it’s owner, though, and it was clear that the “business” was being minded was ours.

And now I find myself being the voyer. When I’m cooking, I’m glancing out the window lightly shielded by the sheer curtains. When I’m outside at the mailbox, I linger a few minutes observing the different vehicles occupying the spaces beside my house. When I walk to the bus stop to meet my son, I note each house’s front lawn – some painstakingly decorated for the seasons despite HOA warnings.

There’s this one house on that route down the street that always causes me pause. The owner (whom I’ve never seen), is a paid-per-delivery employee’s dream. Every day, new packages sit on the porch. They’re in plain sight and carelessly close to a very busy street. And these boxes of many sizes are most often from Amazon, as the bright red tape emblazoned with “fire” entices attention.

Two little brown-and-white dogs sit on either side of the door peering out through the windows that frame it. They watch as I pass by, barking acknowledgement – or warning. They must be waiting for more packages.

The owner is female. I know this because I dared to walk closer and glimpsed her name, which is, coincidentally, merely a letter added to my youngest’s moniker. I wonder what she is ordering. I wonder if her commute is long and she busies herself shopping online. Were those couple of shoe boxes from last week housing sensible work shoes, or does she house a stellar collection of fashionable high heels? I wonder what this woman, with the name invented like my daughter’s, might be like.

And then I walk on by.

This is childhood

ri web

RiAnne, 18 months.

Six Word Fridays: pine

Buried within the tall green grass
A single brown cone lay resting
Scattered seeds taken by whispered breezes
Birds carry the future further still

Vision achieved: A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

It’s been about two months since I first decided to create a Wonderland for my kids. I blame the random searches of the internet for my obsession. I was browsing through Etsy – like I often do – and happened across an adorable mini top hat in pink and lace splendor. It was 100 percent NOT me, but 100 percent perfection for our little lady. Despite my best efforts to have a budget, I splurged and bought the chapeau.

So, having purchased a hat for my little hatter, I decided she should be completely adorned in “madness” wear. I contacted my favorite custom ladies, Amber and Nadine, the mother-daughter team behind Nana’s Creations with Love, and shared my then-sketchy vision.

The two were up for the challenge of making an ascot and lace romper that resembled a collection of storybook sketches I’d found of the hatter. And the result? Pastel perfection.

My Alice couldn’t be traditional, so I asked a boutique to craft a purple outfit just for our adaptation.

The kids and I made several trips to Pier One, where I scored mini tea cups for a discount (the metal holder needed slight soldering to be stable). Two large designer mugs and our handpainted tea pot completed our collection.

I found an awesome pattern for a felt rabbit mask and set to costuming my hares. Already-owned collared shirts and ties set the formal mood.

My final touches included sculpting a mushroom and crafting an always six o’clock time piece.

We chose a “scenic overlook” as our setting and carried our party up the aged wooden steps in muggy 90 degree weather. The temperature was motivation enough to shoot efficiently as my four models’ enthusiasm quickly withered in the sticky climate. theyy performed their parts perfectly and our images are more than I’d imagined.

Click here to view this photo book larger

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Beyond the Fence

Summer is an incredible opportunity to discover the great outdoors with your favorite animals. Dog Fence DIY encourages exploration beyond the fence!


We live in a dog “un-friendly” neighborhood. While it seems like every one of the townhouses that surround us has a furry family member, neighbors really aren’t that into canine communes. Nevertheless, in the quiet of early evening, the many prized pooches can be heard bellowing to one another a la ‘101 Dalmatians’ from house to house.

Nero is lucky. He’s one of the few dogs with a fenced in yard. In good weather, he can explore the small area free of the confines of his leash and harness. He can jump, run, sun bathe without a care. But it’s a luxury that most others aren’t afforded.

Venture outside in that golden hour just before sunset, and the sidewalks and grassy common areas are replete with dogs of every breed, size, color, and age. We dog people – as vilified as we are in every Home Owner’s Association memo and newsletter – are tenacious about our pets. We tote bags in our pockets – some to pick up after “the business,” some to pack away little doggy treats from our people-only visits to local restaurants. We plan whole family escapes to “pets welcome” establishments and locations with open spaces and slow moving vehicles (or reduced traffic volume). Often it takes a little more planning (and sometimes additional deposits or fees) to include our furry son, but for long trips it sure beats kenneling.

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