Saturday, October 10, 2015

Mia's Playground

Mia's Playground

Mia lived in a beautiful home with her dad and mom. One lovely spring morning, she looked out the window. Two men were outside carrying shiny, metal poles and banging with hammers. She watched with wide eyes.
"Mom, what is that? Is that for me?"
Her mother saw the bright yellow steel, complete with two plastic parts for slides. One part had chain links and was rounded at the bottom. It was a swing.

"Oh, Mia the neighbors are building something for their children." 
"What is it?" Mia asked.
"Well, it looks like a playground." said her mom. 
"Yippee, I can go play on it!" 
"No Mia, the neighbors don't talk to us much and it's their playground, okay? It's like a giant toy that is only theirs."
"Sorry Mia." Her mom patted her on the back. Mia's lip quivered and she cried a little. "Mia would you like to have some tea with me on the deck?

Mom dried her eyes and made her some warm chamomile tea. They sat on the bench of the wooden deck in the bright spring sunshine.  Little Mia began to wander, as she often did, along the small creek in their backyard.  She helped pick up sticks and then threw them in the creek watching the water ripple. It was amazing to her how the water splashed up and around the sticks like rings. The rings disappeared and then the sticks floated along with the current.

"What do you hear Mia?"
"I hear water", she answered.
"And birds", she continued.
"Yes. Anything else?" asked Mom.
"I hear the wind." said Mia as she watched birds jump from one hiding spot to another.
They sat on their long dark logs on the side of the creek. They watched the trees as the wind shook their branches softly, making the leaves wave to them. Mia smiled. She wasn't upset about the new playground anymore.

When she woke up the next day and looked out the window, she saw a complete, bright and shiny new playground. It had everything she liked to play on: a slide, swings, and a climbing ladder.
"Mom! Why can't I go on that playground?" 
"Mia, it doesn't belong to us and we aren't close with our neighbors. They have their own working hours and we have ours. Honey, I'm not sure if they are home at the same time as us. What I mean is, maybe some day they will invite you to play, but until then we keep to ourselves. We can play on our own at the park. It is only a couple of blocks away. "Okay, mom" she replied.

Mia stepped outside and had to suddenly stop her walking. There was a frog looking up at her.
"Mom! Mom there's a frog! There's a frog! It jumped right in that plant!
"Oh Mia, great find, your Dad will be happy to hear of it. He loves frogs!"
Mia grinned.
"See, there's a lot to discover out here." Mom picked sticks and branches out of the yard.
"Can we have a frog in our house?"
"Not today. We will play catch and release one day though.
"What's that?"
"Catch and release is when you catch a frog and put him in a box or a jar with holes for air so that you can get a closer peek at him. You put him on a bed of grass and leaves and you can try to feed him. Then after a couple hours, you let the frog go home to his plant."

At that moment, the bluest, most beautiful butterfly Mia had ever seen fluttered by in their garden, landing on some yellow wildflowers. Its wings were bright blue surrounded by black.  "Mom, look!" 
"Oh, look at that, how wonderful!" The butterfly slowly fluttered off into the sunlight.

Mia, will you help me plant this lily flower?"
"Sure." Mia scooped up dirt out of the hole getting her hands dirty. There was no floor to spill the soil on. "I love gardening with you Mom."
Mom smiled. "You love it and what do you like best?"
"Flowers and frogs and butterflies... Can we get a playground?"  
"Oh, Mia, maybe you can have a swing. We can hang it from that shorter tree there, she pointed. They walked over to a wide tree that had small leaves, looking up for some sturdy branches. We will have to make sure it is far enough away from the creek."

Her mother pointed in the opposite direction. "Over there, you can have your own garden. We can get you a little chair for the yard. We can make a trail together with stone, pebble, or woodchips. Then, you can pick some of your favorite plants and flowers to put along the trail. We'll make you a garden that's all yours. Would you like more butterflies in your garden?" 

"More? How do we do that?"
"Well you should have milkweed and butterfly bush. You can attract monarchs! Monarchs are those orange, black and white butterflies you've seen. If we plant those, you will have a butterfly garden." 

"What do you mean attract? Mia asked.
"That means the butterflies come to those types of flowers because the butterflies like them...kind of like playgrounds attract you!" 
"Oh! The butterflies will come! Thanks Mom." 
"It will be hard work. Gardens take a little time." "'We can do it!" cheered Mia who was now thinking ahead to attracting bunches of butterflies.

Mia and Mom had spent the whole week planning and planting Mia's new garden. The results were stunning as they stood by the butterfly bush. Mia realized they were finally finished with each flower she had chosen. She got all the colors she wanted, purples, yellows, and pinks. Her mother liked Mia's new butterfly garden so much that she even added some lilac bushes on the side of their house for herself.

Dad helped plant the last of the velvety lamb's ear in the center of the flower bed. As Mia looked on, she remembered that lamb's ear would attract bumblebees. She wasn't afraid because Mom promised bees were little helpers to the garden, like she was. Mia sat down in her chair along her winding woodchip path.
"Mia, it turned out so pretty!"
"Yeah. It was a lot of hard work." 
"What do you want to do now?"
Mia took a quick peek at the motionless playground next door. "Mom, can I go to the park?"
"Sure, let's pack a picnic lunch too!" 

They arrived back from the park after a long day at the playground. Mia looked out the window at the new playground in the distance. Still empty, she thought. She said nothing to her mother. She gave her a giant hug. Then, she stared at her colorful garden. It was like looking at a painting. Suddenly, she saw two winged creatures wandering and dancing on the tops of their flowers. "Monarchs", she announced as she ran out to the deck, climbing down the stairs to greet them. "Mom, butterflies!" she called. They fluttered onto the purple butterfly bush. Mia sat in her chair nearby. One of the butterflies fluttered over to her and landed right on her purple sundress. "Mom there you are! Where were you?"
"I was working on a quick dinner project in the kitchen. When did you call?"
"A few minutes ago" Mia answered. "Mom, I love my playground."

She enjoyed everything about her new garden, especially that it was hers and that she had done work to earn it. The purple, pink, and yellow flowers were always inviting as she walked the path. There was a sitting stone by the creek and while on it she viewed one frog hopping along the grasses and reeds. She was glad her mom had come outside because she had another question. How were they going to attract more frogs to her garden? Dad would be so happy to see them hopping and making their low croaks to each other. 

As she sat in her favorite chair, she imagined that one day she might say hi to the neighbor children while they were on their playground. They might say hi back, she thought. In fact, there was a chance that the children might come up to her one day and say, "Hi, want to play?" The sun was beginning to set and the first couple of fireflies were twinkling in the trees. Mia smelled the sweet flowers. She knew that if they ever did ask, she would play. Better yet, she would invite them to her garden playground where they could enjoy watching and listening to nature with her.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Freakish Fair Foods

To fully understand the gravity of this excerpt, you will need to peruse this Des Moines Register article of approved fare for this summer's ten day event.

They ignored my suggestions which were:

1. Fried Cheesecake Balls

2. Breaded Deep Fried Bacon, wrapped in bacon, with bacon dipping sauce

3. Mystery Meat on a Stick (not a corn dog, to avoid confusion, and if you guess correctly they take a dollar off  *hint  Don't dismiss raccoon, aka Raccoon River Dog)

4. Tapas (almost as random as Bruschetta)

5. Chocolate Dipped Peppermint Saltwater Taffy

6. Candy Coated Donuts (you pick the candy, customization)

7. Deep Fried Triple Cheeseburger

8. Cotton Candy Funnel Cake

9. Snickerdoodle Funnel Cake

10. Bacon Fries, half bacon, half fries, smothered in ranch dressing

11. Deep Fried Pepper-jack Pork Balls

12. Barbecue Ice Cream Sundae (an ice cream sundae with barbecue sauce)

13. Bacon Bits Kettle Corn

14. Golden Fried Macaroni and Cheese Balls (with dipping sauce)

15. Deep Fried Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

I went through an onslaught of emotions when compiling this, a helping of sarcasm, a lot of disgust, a dash of cynicism, and a little neglect. (You can't write about food!) I settled on trying to make food choices that had about an 80% repelling factor and a 20% appealing one. I believe this is what state fair organizers do in showcasing these events. They stun us with their shock value foods in order to draw crowds, the way that circus goers of yesteryear were drawn to circus freaks. Have fun with the fare!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Status on The Newt Who Loved Fruit

The Newt Who Loved Fruit is currently being edited, updated, and adapted to fit a younger audience. The title might be changed as well when complete. Some lovely illustrations are being drawn that will accompany the new text. Thank you.