“I’m Helping Grandma”

The timer dinged just as Sara was writing “Mom” on the cake. She finished the word, swiped her fingers on a dishcloth and grabbed some potholders, hoping the brownies hadn’t burnt around the edges by now. She opened the oven door and gave them a gentle poke in the middle. Ah, just right. As she set the brownies on a rack to cool their scent mingled with the smell of caramel squares and cinnamon cookies.

Sara looked around, satisfied. The chocolate icing was made and could be spread in a moment once they’d cooled. The cinnamon cookies sat in a plate on the table, as artistically displayed as she could manage. The other squares were iced, cut, and waiting for the brownies to join them on their platter. The teapot and kettle were ready for action. Now she could take a short break.

Her eyes returned to the masterpiece: the cake for her mother-in-law. Covered in blue icing, it read “Happy Birthday, Mom” in bright pink letters with an icing bow across the top and scrolled pink loops around the edges. She grinned, delighted that her nervousness didn’t show up in squiggly lines and loops. Surely her mother-in-law would be pleased.

Sara glanced at the clock. Another half hour until the guests would arrive, forty-five minutes until Dad brought Mom to the party. There was nothing left to clean; she’d been up early polishing her kitchen and dining room until they shone. Time for a breather. She’d leave all the food here in the kitchen until the ladies arrived.

Before she left the room she took her mother-in-law’s gift down from the fridge and set it on the table, too. A gift-wrapped box with a big bow on top, it would have been too hard for Kyle’s little fingers to resist. But he was napping now and likely wouldn’t wake up until the door bell started ringing.

Just to be sure, Sara peeked into her three-year-old son’s bedroom. Kyle was zonked out. It was safe for her to rest awhile. Then she grabbed a magazine, sat in the recliner, and put her feet up. She thumbed through the glossy pages of Parents Today and came to an article for making play dough. It was accompanied by a photo of play food, including a birthday cake. She thought of her cake, smiled with satisfaction and put her head back.

She was decorating cakes in her dream when a thump from the kitchen woke her up. She glanced at her watch. She must have dozed off for ten minutes. But she hadn’t heard the doorbell; anyway, it wasn’t time for folks to come yet. She let down the footrest and listened.

Then from the kitchen came Kyle’s voice. “Mommy. I’m helping Grandma.”

If there were a record established for ‘broad-jump from a sitting position’ Sara broke it. Could she make it in time?

She flew to the kitchen, then stopped.


Kyle sat on the floor amidst shreds of wrapping paper, pulling Grandma’s new sweater out of the box with chocolate-covered hands. Grandma hadn’t arrived yet.

He beamed up at her, his face slathered with pink, blue and chocolate icing. “I’m opening Grandma’s present for her so she won’t have to.”

Sara’s jaw dropped as she looked around the room. How could two little hands accomplish so much destruction in such a few minutes? Cookies and squares were scattered across the table. He’d found her spatula and cut a corner off the birthday cake with it, leaving pink and blue icing smears in his wake.

Sara didn’t trust herself to speak — or she’d screech. Which wouldn’t change anything, right? She glanced at the clock, took Grandma’s sweater from Kyle’s colorful hands and stuffed it back into the box. Without a word she scooped him off the floor and headed for the bathroom sink. She still had ten minutes.

As to Grandma’s sweater, well… Sara thought of how Grandma always said as Kyle snuggled on her lap, “Enjoy your children when they’re little.” Now her words would be put to the test.

Since I missed posting Fiction on Friday, I’ll post my tale today. Hope you enjoy it. Need I say this story is based on an all-too-true incident. I’d be glad to hear how you’d react if you faced the situation Sara did.



Wise Words for Moms on Father’s Day

“Wait Till Your Pa Comes Home”

by Edgar A Guest

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet never a boy of three of four
but has heard it a thousand times or more.
“Wait till your Pa comes home, my lad,
and see what you’ll get for being bad.”

“Wait till your Pa comes home, you scamp!
You’ve soiled the walls with your fingers damp,
you’ve tracked the floor with your muddy feet
and fought with the boy across the street;
you’ve torn your clothes and you look a sight!
But wait till your Pa comes home tonight.”

Now since I’m the Pa of that daily threat
which paints me as black as a thing of jet
I rise in protest right here to say
I won’t be used in so fierce a way;
no child of mine in the evening gloam
shall be afraid of my coming home.

I want him waiting for me at night
with eyes that glisten with real delight;
when it’s right that punished my boy should be
I don’t want the job postponed for me.
I want to come home to a round of joy
and not to frighten a little boy.

“Wait till your Pa comes home!” Oh, dear.
What a dreadful threat for a boy to hear.
Yet that is ever his Mother’s way
of saving herself from a bitter day;
and well she knows in the evening gloam
he won’t be hurt when his Pa comes home.

From Collected Verse of Edgar A. Guest,
©1934 by the Reilly & Lee Co

One day in a store I overheard a frustrated mother say to her misbehaving boy, “Your father’s going to kill you when we get home.”


What a HORRIBLE thing to say to a child. As Mr. Guest points out in this poem, that father wouldn’t have appreciated the role of murderer one bit.

If she’d say, “Your dad’s going to punish you,” it might have been fitting. But kill him? Thank God she was lying! You may say it’s just an expression, but it is a lie.

Someday, about ten years down the line, I can hear her telling her son, “Don’t do drugs. Drugs will ruin your life. They will kill you.”

Will he believe her?

(P.S.: This isn’t fiction; got my Chrisses crossed today.)



Seagulls walk on days like this, I thought as the wind hustled me down the city sidewalk. I kept my mouth shut against the blender of dust, last year’s leaves, bird poo and bug bits swirling around me.

A piece of paper — no, an envelope — twirled past me, tick-ticking as bounced off the concrete. I glanced over my shoulder to see if anyone was pursuing it, but it appeared to be unaccompanied on its outing.

At one point it flopped on the sidewalk, exhausted, but when I caught up to it the wind sent it sailing again, sweeping it over the traffic and into the next block. It didn’t have to wait for the WALK light like I did.

A queue had formed at the bus stop; there I noticed the envelope had landed again. A teen boy stepped on it obliviously, working his thumbs on his cell phone. I heard the beep, beep of an electronic game. He looked up only long enough to board the bus and flash his pass.

I snatched up the envelope before anyone else could step on it, then looked around to see if anyone was running after it. Nada. I boarded, waved my bus pass at the driver and found a seat.

As the bus pulled away I examined the envelope. No stamp, so it wasn’t mailed. The insignia at the top left said “Delorme & Pederson, Attorneys at Law.” Hmm…

Across the front, written in a neat script, was the name Mrs. Amy Allen. That’s it.

I sighed a prayer. Lord, how can I get this back to Amy Allen? Would she be listed in the phone book directory? Who Was Mr. Amy Allen? Why couldn’t it be Mrs. Kathy Klompenhaus or Mrs. Gloria Ganucci?

Oh, well. Best return it to the lawyers — impressively stamped by a teen’s sneaker — and let them deal with it.

At home I set the envelope on the counter to drop off in the morning and set about making supper. Kelly would be home in half an hour and needed a quick meal before his meeting this evening. And I’d promised myself a shower to wash off all this street dust.

I don’t spend much time on Kijiji; occasionally I skim through the Hobbies & Crafts column to see if someone’s selling scrapbooking supplies á la cheap. Alone this evening, I felt an urge to go online and see if there’d be any interesting offers.

I scrolled through the first page of ads and was on the second when an ad piqued my interest. For sale: six rubber stamps. Hmm… I clicked on the ad and read it through, then my jaw dropped as I read: Contact Amy Allen, 304-3622.

It can’t be the same one. I grabbed the phone and punched in the number.


My words tumbled out. “Hi. I saw your ad for rubber stamps and I’m interested. But I also need to know…are you that Amy… I mean…did you lose a letter in the wind today?”

“A letter? You found my letter?” She sounded shocked.

“I found one, sent from Delorme & Pederson, addressed to Amy Allen.”

“Oh, thank goodness! I was hoping and praying it would turn up somehow,” she exclaimed. “I picked it up at my lawyer’s office today, but it blew out of my hand and I had no idea how I’d ever find it again! I’m being called as witness in a lawsuit.”

“I didn’t know how I’d locate you, either, until I saw your ad on Kijij. Are you home this evening? I’ll bring the letter over.”

“Thank you so much,” she said. “I’ll put on some coffee, if you’d like.”

“That would be great. Do you do a lot of scrapbooking?”

“Not so much lately. And you can have these stamps if you want them. They can be my payment for a SPECIAL DELIVERY letter.”


Written for today’s Writing 101 prompt: Finding A Letter.
The goal was to be brief; one of you editors will have to help me with this. I haven’t mastered brief yet.

Something New in the Writing Dept

Hi Everyone,

First, a note from fellow writer, Joel Canfield, about his new project: a marketing forum for writers. Hop over and check it out. This promises valuable help for those of us who have a slim marketing budget.

Second, my contemplations about my blogs — and this blog in particular — have brought me to a decision. I really enjoy fiction, both reading it and writing it. I’ve actually written quite a bit already, so I’ve decided to publish some of my short stories here.

I’ll post one story every Friday, but if the story’s too long for one post, I’ll publish it on consecutive days.

So rather than this blog being the Collection that it has been, it can morph into “Fiction on Friday.”

Moving to a New Domain!

Hello Everyone,

This past month I’ve been seriously thinking about my blogging future. I decided to buy the domain name:


For the time being I won’t shut this blog down but will reblog things over there bit by bit. Please come and join me there!

I plan to post everything, both poems and prose, on that blog but will still post all poems on Swallow in the Wind. So if you’re only interested in poetry, you can follow me on



A special note to folks who follow only because you want to advertise your “get rich quick via internet” schemes: I’m NOT interested — so don’t bother.

Home Invasions: the Furry Kind

Spring Brings new Life to our Yard

It’s an absolutely gorgeous day today! After snow and more snow Sunday and Monday, we have bright sunshine and a nice wind to keep the afternoon at a perfect temperature for me. It was17° C (63° F) this afternoon – that’s about as warm as I can comfortably handle.

The birds are almost all back now; a flock of blackbirds has been scavenging under my bird feeder this week. And this morning the swallows returned.

Yesterday afternoon when Bob and I were puttering outside there wasn’t a tree swallow to be seen. I climbed our ladder to clean out the swallow nest, thinking they’d be back before long. This morning around 9:30 am my daughter came, bringing Evan, their youngest, for me to babysit. As we stood outside talking I noticed a bird fly over. The very first tree swallow!

It was around by itself for awhile, then six more were twittering around. A couple of them came swooping and twirling around me, as if to say “Hi” to their old friend. One swooped so low it was almost at eye-level with Evan, which delighted my grandson. They soon went to the nests to check them out. They seem to understand “First come; first serve” and have already staked their claims.

Perhaps I could say spring has robbed us of our sleep this past week. Last Thursday night in the wee hours there was a bit of ruckus in our house; Bob got up to check and discovered the stray cat in our hallway! He told me I must have let the cat in when I let ours in but I was certain I hadn’t.

This cat, black like our Angus, normally stays at the neighbour’s yard but comes here quite often to hunt mice in the stubble beside us. I have sometimes mistaken him for Angus, but he wasn’t anywhere in sight when I let the cats in just before midnight.

Bob put him out…and before long he was in again. We got this sinking feeling…

Bob went out with a spade and filled in a hole at the back of our trailer. Ten minutes later the cat was in again. By this time it was almost 4 am and sleep was gone, so I got up, filled in the hole and put firewood logs on top of it. That kept the cat out until the next night, when we had to get up and fill in another hole.

It was 2 am Saturday night when we heard the cat meowing in the house again so I gave up on sleep and went outside to deal with a fresh hole dug right by our side doorstep. I covered it with a chunk of plywood we had around, with a rock on top. Then put the “not-our cat” out. I was up until 4am; about 3:30am I looked out and saw the real culprit – as I expected – a black “kitty” with a pointy little nose and a white stripe down its back and plumy tail. It was digging furiously, trying to make a new hole beside the one I’d covered.

The last thing you want is a skunk coming and going where you are coming and going! I certainly didn’t want to alarm him, but had to do something, so I opened the window and said softly, “No-o-o, Moufette, no-o-o.” He paused, then started to dig again.

“No-o-o, Moufette, no, no.” This time he gave up and went away. Nevertheless the stray cat was in again the next morning and Moufette was likely snoozing snug and warm under our trailer for the day. In the morning light we could see he’d come back later and finished his excavations.

The cat is an opportunist; where there’s an opening, he’s in where it’s warm and dishes of cat food are sitting around for him to polish off. But he isn’t the digger. Our trailer is surrounded by a hard-packed ridge of gravel; it takes a determined invader with claws to dig through that!

Anyway, yesterday Bob went out and filled in holes, sprayed Critter Ridder around and we slept peacefully last night. The skunk will have to find a more secluded place to doze away his days. (We went through this last fall, too, if you remember my posts from back then.)

As to my health, I’m feeling okay except for being hot and sweaty a lot. It’s my “thinker” that gives me the most problem; I forget so easy and I have a harder time concentrating than I ever did. Feel sort of tired mentally, don’t have much enthusiasm for projects — even getting my children’s book ready for publication. But I am working at it.

Saturday was our His Imprint Christian Writers Conference. that took a lot of my attention this month; now that this event is out of the way I plan to focus more on my own writing.

Taking A Break

Hello Friends,

I’ve been putting off this day, but now I must take a month or two away from blogging so I can take care of some other things like the books I’ve been working on, spring cleaning, and my sewing projects.

I’m also considering my health. I was feeling a bit better last fall, but can tell my CLL* is worse again. I’ve been told it will fluctuate like this and I’d like to get some things taken care of in case it does get worse faster than the doctors predicted.

I want to thank you all for those encouraging LIKES — special thanks to those who are following this blog. It should give me added impetus to get things done quickly if I can get back to blogging again when I’ve caught up with my other projects. ☺

I will do an occasional short post to let you know how things are going — and I hope you will all have a lovely, cheery springtime. I appreciate your friendship, concern, and prayers.


*chronic lymphocitic leukemia

Colourfully Created Crawlies

crab-298346_640“And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.

And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly, after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind: and God saw that it was good.

And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let fowl multiply in the earth.”
Genesis 1: 20-22

Just think how much fun He must have had designing this one!

(Reblogged from Swallow in the Wind)
Crab from Equador; Photo from Pixabay

Reaching Functionally Illiterate Adults


©2007 by Alice Kuipers (text) and Kath Walker (illustrations)
First published in 2007 by Macmillan Publishers Ltd
My copy was published in 2008 by Macmillan Children’s Books.

I picked this second-hand book a few weeks ago and found it a quick read, being only a few sentences per page. However, it’s a very poignant story told by means of a string of notes written between a mother and her fifteen-year old daughter, Claire.

Mom — a doctor in a busy practice — is forever rushing out to tend others’ ills; Claire leads an active social life. So they converse at the refrigerator door. Mom’s notes are straightforward; Claire usually illustrates hers with teenage scribble-art.

The book starts with everyday communications: Claire should buy some of this and that; there’s a casserole in the fridge for supper; Mom’s forgotten to leave Claire’s allowance again; Claire laments that Mom is “never home anymore.” Then one day Mom indicates she has something serious to talk about.

They try to get together on it, but after a few futile attempts like clinic emergencies and school projects that must be done with at a friend’s place, Mom finally leaves a note: “I’ve found a lump in my right breast… I don’t think there’s anything to worry about…” Claire’s shock comes through clearly in her note, with another lament that “I never see you anymore.”

This book is well worth reading. In one way I found it a sad commentary on modern life for a single mother and our society’s “crazy busy” rush through life. But the writer makes her point in these brief spurts: we need to make time for each other before it’s too late.

Mulling over another problem, I suddenly saw a certain brilliance in the way Alice Kuipers has told this story. This writer with her fridge notes is onto something that we as Christians could get a handle on.

A survey done in Canada about twenty-five years ago revealed that one quarter of our population — folks born right here — are functionally illiterate. Back then it was just a statistic to me, but it’s become a reality as I help a relative to cope with life when she can barely read and write. Bank statements, bills — even phone books — are great trials for her Grade-four education. Most religious tracts are so far above her.

You could say she’s from the “olden days” when not all children had access to adequate education, but a lot of children growing up today aren’t learning the basics, either. Texting is partly to blame. A fellow writer told us one day that her niece, in Grade Four, can’t spell the word “are”; she just makes the letter R. So our writer friend has been helping her learn to read and write after school.

I helped at school one year; we had a six-year-old girl who’d been in & out of the social services’ system a couple of times already. I doubt she’d ever seen a book; she had no idea of color names, no concept of numbers or counting; she didn’t know left and right. It took months to teach her that her jacket was blue and white, that three items on a page were written 3, that if you add three balls: ooo and two balls: oo you get 5.

Someone told me I should give my elderly relative a children’s Bible story book; it would be easier for her to handle. But even these tend to have solid blocks of text, plus the illustrations are more suitable for a small child. Being handed a children’s book to read can be embarrassing for an older woman, so I’d like to find something that’s written for adults.

Last night as I was thinking about the many who have never learned to read well, and the need to present the Gospel to folks like that, my thoughts went back to Alice Kuipers’ book and suddenly it looked like a method we could use.

Life on the Refrigerator Door tells a poignant story in simple words. Could we use a Gospel on Scrolls or similar approach for the many who can’t follow complex sentences? Just a few notes per page with a lot of white space, simplifying the Good News Jesus came to share with us? (Note: not whiting out doctrines, but explaining them simply.)

Does such a book exist already? If so, where would I find it?

A Speech — Oh, Groans!

“Speeches,” Mavis grumbled. “How do I hate thee!? Let me count the ways!”

She tossed her homework on her bed and plopped down in despair at her desk. One day to choose a topic. Tomorrow in English class they had to announce their choice–and her mind was a complete blank.

For a few minutes she dredged the depths of her grey matter for some “informative” subject that she could talk about for a whole three minutes–but only turned up mud.

“Is there a subject that really turns you on, or pushes your buttons?” Miss Gibbings had asked after the chorus of groans subsided. “Something you’re passionate about, some point you feel must be made to the world? Something that thrills you with joy? Something that evokes shock or disgust and you feel this situation has to change?”

Mavis thought about other years, other speeches. Clammy hands, dry mouth, short of breath, shaky legs, butterflies in your stomach. Each minute felt like five–and when you finally sat down, you shriveled in your seat, imagining the after-class critique you were going to get from your friends. Speeches kill passion like bleach kills germs!

Miss Gibbings had tried to be encouraging, “After all, you never know when you may land a job as a newscaster,” she told them, “or become some company CEO. Or a politician – and have to make all kinds of public speeches to explain why you just blew $2 million of the taxpayers’ money on some fabulous scheme that fizzled. That takes some pretty convincing talk!”

“Ha! I will never make public speeches!” Mavis vowed, glaring at the playful pup on the calendar above her desk. “When I leave school I’ll go to work in a factory quietly sewing buttons on men’s shirts.” She grinned at the thought. “Or become a librarian and tell everyone else to hush it. Or maybe get a job teaching deaf mutes!”

She paused, contemplating how it would work to teach someone without being able to say one word. That could be really interesting–and maybe even fun!”

Then the light bulb flashed. “That’s what I’m going to write about!” she told the calendar pup. “Sign language. It’s such a neat idea for teaching deaf people; I wonder who invented it?”

She jumped up from her seat and rushed downstairs. “Mom, would I have time before supper to make a quick trip to the library? We have to give a speech in English class next month and I need to read up on my topic.”

Passion had survived the bleaching.

I did this for a writing exercise one day; we were supposed to use the words public, rapture, bleach, and shriveled in a composition. I think I’ve posted it here before, but hope you won’t mind seeing it again.