In Which I Desperately Strive for a Message but Just End Up Late to Class

“Lotus, I have to write something.  What am I going to write about?  I can’t think of anything.”  I’m whining a little bit here.  To the nine year old.  You know it’s been a long day when the chain of command breaks down like this.

“Write about cherries and strawberries and ice cream.”  She didn’t even have to think about it.  It was as if she’d been waiting all day for me to pose that question to her.

Long slow blink.  She grins, showing that ridiculously adorable mixture of adult and baby teeth.

“Oookaaaay.  Sure.  Cherries and strawberries and ice cream.  But in what context?”

“In the context of them being delicious.”  Giggling.  Then more giggling.

“Right.  But there should be a plot.  And a message.  I feel like I should start striving to have a message in my articles.”

“The plot is that a cherry princess got kidnapped by a strawberry giant from a far off land of ice cream.  Delicious, flavorful vanilla ice cream.  And that’s the message, too.  Vanilla ice cream can be really delicious and flavorful.  Like when Daddy makes it.”  More giggling.  It could be argued that at this point, the girl had dissolved into giggles.

Long slow blink.

“You know what?  I am going to write that.  Now go to sleep, and no sneaking books under the covers so I get distracted from my ice cream and strawberries to come up here and de-book you.”  I kiss her goodnight.

I lumber downstairs.  I type the above.  I may or may not have begun to play Castleville.

The front door opens, scaring me half to death.

It’s the six year old, coming back from the neighbor boy’s birthday party.  I realize I’ve entered a stage in my life when my children are out later on a Saturday night than I am.

The six year old is riled up, bouncing off the walls in a fume of sugar and social interaction.  He tells me all about the party, but in disjointed, fragmented sentences that follow no clear linear narrative.  I’m eating a sandwich while he speaks.

“Stop that!”  I say, swatting his hand away from my sandwich.  “Didn’t you eat over there?”  He nods, tells me he did eat over there, and proceeds to pick at my sandwich while telling me about the burp maker his friend has downloaded on his Kindle.

Long slow blink.

“Joaquin, I need your help.  I need to write something.  What am I going to write about?”  Shamelessly mining from the kids.  I don’t care.

He shrugs, then bounds off downstairs to hang up his coat.

“Write about a battle!”  I hear from the family room.

“A battle?  What battle?”  This is as unspecific as strawberries and cherries.

“I don’t know.  A battle in the Civil War?”  His voice is muffled as he wrestles his coat up onto the hook.

“But what should happen?  What should the story be?”  I pick at my sandwich, wishing one of the kids would streak through the house, or stick something up a nose, or do something concretely amusing I could write about.

“Well,”  the boy says, leaping back up the stairs and appearing suddenly at my side, “there should definitely be explosions.  And cannons.  Battles have to have that to be good.  But explosions and cannons that would be around in the Civil War, otherwise people will know you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Long slow blink.

From upstairs, the girl, who has been eavesdropping, starts wailing, indignant that I’m polling a brother for more blog fodder.  I assure her that I already wrote what she told me to do, and pipe down, and shut that book, I know you’re reading under the covers, I don’t even need to look at you.

“A Civil War battle.  With particular attention paid to verisimilitude.  Got it.  But what should the message be?  I really think I should start striving to have a message in my articles.”

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Cari Donaldson


Cari Donaldson lives on a New England farm with her high school sweetheart, their six kids, and a menagerie of animals of varying usefulness. She is the author of Pope Awesome and Other Stories, and has a weekly podcast about homesteading at

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  • Mrs Swanson06

    I just put out the mandate that the boys were to stay in bed and read or talk quietly or ELSE since they had a late night and we don’t have anywhere to be quite so early. I don’t think it will stick.

  • Gosh I love your kids.  They ARE spiritual geniuses.  They have to think so hard about what to say or do, what’s right and wrong.  They just know.  They don’t always choose right (I guess that’s why they have us) but they don’t wade through hours of tortured deliberations the way we do.  Wait?  Everyone wades through hours of tortured deliberations, right?  RIGHT?

  • I’ve learned keeping them up late before spring forward works to make them sleep “in” to a more decent hour.  Also going to Saturday evening Mass helps with the change.  For the Fall “back”, I keep them up two nights before and run them like crazy the day before, so they want to go to bed early.  The changes now flow seamlessly around here….

  • Jjdoc2

    I love that peek into your life!  And I agree with you about the time change.  Now, for the next several months, whenever someone asks me what time it is (this is like a ritual that my family is totally sick of over the years, BTW) I’ll say, “It’s 3:30, but it’s REALLY 2:30!”  lol.

  • Kbtrouy

    I am simply amazed that you could pull that out of your conversations!  I was really wondering where you were going with this one.  Its like on of my email to you!  random thoughts by kim, then BAM! you pulled it together!  Bravo kiddo!  love you and yours!

  • Beth (A Mom’s Life)

    And another great post –  with a message even. Although I simply enjoyed the look into your life.

  • You guys all are so generous and kind.  Honestly, though, you should be encouraging more messages and less poop from me.