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“I need to show you something.”

His father started in to the kitchen
and the screen door slapped hard
and before he could think to wonder what
the man was back with him in the yard,
thin red fire extinguisher in hand.

“See, you pull out the pin
and squeeze this and then–”

The can kicked
and spurted an illustration,
a plume of powder in the June air.


And suddenly the sleek metal
was heavy and cool against his eager fingers,
his mind burning little wildfires of protest
but also a desire to please
and please let me pass this test.

He steeled himself for the release
and tightened his hold,
so caught up in questions
and a boy’s quest to be bold
that he neglected to aim the nozzle
some place other than
his mother’s garden.


The screen door slammed a second time
and she was at his side,
open-mouthed, stern
and squinty-eyed
in her survey of the damage:
the layer of ash on asters, dust covering the cosmos.

All three stood there staring
until the boy broke into a run
and got the green hose
and again sprayed into the sun,
the stream pushing away the gray layer
and popping off a flower head or two —
a small price to pay
for saving the day.

©2015 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz




Yesterday I packed
a PBJ and pretzels and two kinds of fruit

pink watermelon and red cherries, ripe and ready

I slipped in a note
telling you to have a good day
penned in purple marker
embellished with hearts and curlicues
like you drew
used to draw
for me

only I didn’t
want to risk it
so I didn’t

Today I packed
a ham sandwich
without the ham,
cheese and pickles and lettuce
for my fickle vegetarian

and only one napkin
because you aren’t the messy one

and pretzels yes again
(you ate all the popcorn with your friends)

sliced apples with a squirt of lemon
so they’ll keep and not go bad
keep for hours
maybe days
maybe more
if you left them in your locker

keep for years
and never change,
never turn

I slipped in a small surprise –
a mini Snickers bar
from the woman at work
who keeps candy in her office
who has a teenager, too
who shows me photos
of hugs and smiles and picnics and trips

who asks of you
just before I ask about that project
for that client

Tomorrow I will pack
another PBJ
and strawberries
and pride
and expectations
and worry
and hope

and pretzels yes again

©2015 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Breakfast of Champions (February 2015)


Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s done this, this time of year…



A spinach/egg white omelet
beats a plate of eggs and bacon.

If a healthy breakfast’s what you want,
that’s what you should be makin.’

This morning, though, I’m going for broke —
so here’s the meal I’ve chosen:

A dozen yummy Thin Mints,
oh-so-fabulously frozen.

©2015 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz


©2011 CEStankiewicz all rights reserved The Well-Versed Mom


They’ve got a trampoline
and bicycles
a pool just down the street

a cabinet full of art supplies
a chess set that’s complete

a couple shelves of good books
a library nearby

a sibling and a hamster
and games in good supply

a best friend ‘round the corner
and another right next door

a basketball
a volleyball
a soccer ball
and more

a skateboard and a scooter
a fishing pole and net

a Frisbee™ and a dog
(that pet we had to get)

a front yard with a tree to climb
a back yard with a swing

a water hose
a sprinkler
balloons to fill and fling

a Game Boy and a Wii
a stereo, CDs

a laptop and a tv
a zillion DVDs…

With all these things to play and do,
I have to say I’m floored

to hear that dreaded, dreadful phrase –
you know the one:



©2010 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

The Long & Winding Road Trip

roadtrip, spring break, motel, roadside

A week ago, my two teen daughters, our dog Daisy and I returned from a 2,348-mile Spring Break road trip through Texas, New Mexico and Colorado. We did a similar trip last year, though without our canine companion.

Although a little possessive of the space in the back seat, Daisy was a good travel buddy. Until she wasn’t. That happened somewhere around Trinidad, Colorado, when she developed explosive diarrhea. (I was going to write “a bad case of…” but is there ever a “good case” of explosive diarrhea?)

Thankfully, we all survived to tell about it.


ON SATURDAY, we started out
upon our Spring Break trip:
two kids, one mom, one dog
and one car wisely well-equipped.

I’d packed it with provisions
for both progeny and pup,
anticipating any need
that ever could come up.

I’d piled it full of pillows,
plus dog toys, drinks and snacks,
a stack of books and all three
High School Musical soundtracks.

How well-prepared were we,
with our fully furnished load!
I knew we’d see the miles speed by
once we hit the road.

And sure enough, as 20 clicks
inched off my Google map,
the kids got busy reading
and the dog began to nap.

BUT THEN, just 30 minutes in,
–our mileage still quite low–
I heard a peep from the back seat:
“Uh, Mom? I gotta go.”

No big deal, even though
we’d barely left our town;
just one quick stop and then we
buckled up and settled down.

At mile 68,
our dog announced her need to pee;
at mile 92,
it was a coffee break for me.

A hundred forty miles in
(Woot! We’re on a roll!)
I sheepishly turned off again –
my coffee took its toll.

Convinced by kids to stop for lunch
three hours into our drive,
I also exited for gas
at mile 205.

At mile 289,
of course our dog got sick.
At mile 332,
well, I had to snap that pic.

And so in spite of my intent
to speed on through our travel,
I saw my plans – just like the miles –
reluctantly unravel.

I realize, of course,
that it’s not just the destination
that makes the trek worthwile
when you set off on your vacation.

A ROAD TRIP, though, most likely won’t be
next year’s undertaking;
I’ve learned my lesson all too well
from all of our spring braking.

©2014 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

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dog portrait, dog photo


©2014 CEStankiewicz all rights reserved

The anxiety.

The awkwardness.

The hope.

The humanity.

Ahhh, the joys of dating. For many of us, they’re but a distant memory. For others among us, they’re still very much a reality…



The call just came – you’re going to meet!
Now:  What to do? Where to eat?
A morning stroll? A picnic lunch?
A dinner chat? A weekend brunch?

What to wear? What to say?
Meet at night? Or by day?
All these choices you must make
are stressful with so much at stake.

You hope you’ll click. You hope it’s fun.
You’re thinking this could be the one.
While on your way, you say a prayer
that all goes well when you get there.

You want this first date to succeed,
so best behavior’s what you need.
That means good manners, smiles and caring;
taking turns and nicely sharing.

You hope there’ll be no tears while dining.
And no tantrums. And no whining.
No fussiness, no arguments,
and please, oh please, no accidents!

It’s tougher than when you were single,
cruising bars to mix and mingle;
it’s hard, it’s brutal – even mean –
this merciless new dating scene.

For nothing sets your nerves aflutter
than meeting with another mother
and her child to know just whether
the four of you play well together.

And afterward it’s just as bad,
for if you liked the time you had,
you’re just more anxious, after all,
because, you know, she said she’d call

©2010 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

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Fever Pitch

Cedar ©CEStankiewicz all rights reserved
You should see Austin right now.
It’s sunny…crisp….breezy…and horrible.

We’re experiencing a major pollen apocalypse (apollencalypse?) — courtesy of the “mountain cedar” (Juniperus ashei) that calls the Texas Hill Country home. Thanks to just the right combo of abundant autumn rain and early winter cold snap, these trees are producing copious amounts of the burnt orange pollen for which they’re infamous.

Check out this video making the rounds on Facebook. A friend of a friend filmed it from his back porch. That’s not smoke you see wafting through the hillside.

The stuff is making everyone here miserable. Snot-streaming noses, puffy eyes and migraine-grade headaches are par for the course. All the free tissue boxes at my office have been nabbed. I even heard that two moms got into a kickboxing brawl over the last neti pot at Whole Foods.

Some folks propose reducing the juniper population, while others want simply to eradicate the hated tree — an impractical if not impossible task, given that it covers millions of acres throughout Texas. Me, I’ve got a different idea, noted below. Of course, I’ll still be keeping the Benadryl and Kleenex stockpiled next to my bed…along with my new neti pot from Whole Foods.


My eyes, how they burn!
My head, how it aches!
My nose, how it’s snifflin’ and sneezin’!

My throat’s raw and sore,
and I’m tired to the core.
(I suspect you’ve detected the reason.)

I’m popping the pills
my doc gave for these ills,
and I’ve begged for the meds he injects.

I’m suffering so,
because — dontcha know —
some trees are outside having sex.

Yes, it’s that time of year,
Cedar Fever is here;
In the air there’s a thick, orange-y haze.

It’s their pollen, diffuse,
as those trees reproduce
and we humans go ‘round in a daze.

It seems unfair to us
for no plants suffer thus
when we people do our procreating.

Still, I can’t ease our pain,
so let’s try to contain
this strong penchant for cedar tree hating.

Dare I now ask of you
to take their point of view,
these trees that are misery’s source?

We may hate how they mate
but it’s only their fate
and we have to let life take its course.

For this pollen persists
’cause these trees can’t resist
the power of nature’s sweet call.

You see, LOVE is the reason
for allergy season —
and that, as we know, conquers all.

©2014 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

The Tale of Lights

©2013 all rights reserved CEStankiewicz

I’m a single mom raising two teenage daughters and working outside the home. Which means that stuff around my house doesn’t always get done in a — shall we say — timely fashion.

Oh, I’m also a world-class procrastinator.

But sometimes that can be a good thing…


Oh how my lovely Christmas lights
lit up our house last year:
a sparkling sight on wintry nights
for neighbors far and near.

I loved ‘em so, I left them up
all through January.
When Valentine’s Day rolled around,
they kept our hearts so merry.

March blew in, then April came,
and still they twinkled on
as robins pecked and pulled at worms
upon our greening lawn.

In May and June and then July
the days grew long and hot.
The nights were short and filled with stars,
but still, I thought, “Why not?”

And so those lights that I had strung
to welcome last year’s Yule
stayed up throughout the summertime,
till kids went back to school.

In fall, when leaves of orange and gold
lay gathered on the ground,
the lights hung high — it seemed that I
might never take them down.

As we gave thanks for family, friends
and food for us to sup,
I realized a year had passed
since I’d first hung them up.

Three hundred sixty-some odd days
those bulbs had stayed entwined
around the pillars of my porch,
but I? I didn’t mind.

The Christmas spirit, some might say,
had led me to the act
of leaving lights to shine all year —
but really, here’s the fact:

It’s quite a wondrous testament
(notes one who now believes)
to all the beaming brilliance
that laziness achieves.

©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

One Sweet Plan

trick or treat Halloween ©2013 CEStankiewicz all rights reservedAT FIRST they just hid their Halloween loot, ostensibly in a place I wouldn’t find it. Those poor, sweet, delusional children of mine.

Then they resorted to taking an inventory and making a detailed list noting each piece of candy — down to the very last, awful, ugly Mary Jane. (As if I’d stoop to steal, much less ingest, one of those.  Jeez, kids, give me some credit.)

Eventually they landed on a winning solution to keep me from snagging their sweets.

Those dear, savvy, resourceful children of mine…


“Trick or treat!” my kids both yell
as they approach a door.
And when it opens, they recite
a speech not heard before:

“Trick or treat! Smell my feet!
Give me something good to eat!

We’ll take your Peanut M&Ms,
your Reese’s Pieces, too –
your Snickers and your Almond Joys,
and Baby Ruths will do.

Bring on the Butterfingers!
Milk Duds? Those are fine.
But at Milky Ways, Three Musketeers
and Twix, we draw the line.

Zagnuts, Jolly Ranchers –
Add ‘em to our haul!
Bit O’ Honeys, Tootsie Rolls,
Mounds, we’ll take them all!”

Finished with their list,
my kids just stood there – quiet –
their donor no doubt wondering
about their candy diet.

But I knew why they did it,
this strategic trick-or-treating:
the sweets they listed at each door
were those I hated eating.

©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

Mommy-proofing their Halloween candy with a detailed inventory.

Mommy-proofing their Halloween candy with a detailed inventory.

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Note: This post originally appeared over at Great Moments in Parenting.


©2013 all rights reserved CEStankiewicz

I love my just-turned-16-year-old with all my heart.

But she’s a teenage girl. And I’m her mom. So right now, we’re about as compatible as Voldemort and Harry. Texas and OU. Seinfeld and Newman.

From all the books I’ve been reading, I’ve learned that it’s supposed to be that way.

It’s Perfectly Normal.

It. WIll. Be. Okay.

I know she’s just going through a phase. And she really does love me as much as I love her.

Yet…some days….hoo boy. It’s crazy. She’s just so….so….well, so sixteen.


It’s sullen and stubborn
and oh-so sarcastic,
silly and sassy
and sometimes just…spastic.

Storming and swearing,
occasionally savage,
snippy and sourpussed
(daily, on average).

Short-tempered, sharp-tongued,
and slanderous (maybe);
skeptical, sulky
and self-absorbed, baby!

Slovenly, sensitive,
slothful and surly;
sophomoric, sure –
and still-little-girl-y.

But above all: surprising —
those times when you meet,
and you have to admit that
sixteen can be…sweet.


©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz

The Birthday Party


Earlier this week, I celebrated my birthday with a small gathering of good friends at a favorite sushi restaurant. With a few notable exceptions, my birthdays have been mostly low-key, probably a result of the sweet and simple parties of my childhood. The theme was always “Birthday,” the entertainment was a game of “hot potato” or “pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey,” and my guests went home with naught but tummies full of cake and ice cream. Goodie bags? Coordinated party décor featuring my favorite Disney character? Traveling exotic animal petting zoos? As if.

Not that birthdays weren’t a big deal back then, they just weren’t anything near the BIG DEAL kids have come to expect these days.

My own daughters’ parties have been slightly more elaborate than my childhood celebrations, but none of them — not even the monkey-themed one where we rented an inflated chimp bouncy thing and I baked a monkey-in-a-coconut-tree cake — would be considered extravagant by today’s standards.  Especially in this era of Gatsby worship and “reality” tv shows like “My Super Sweet 16” and the now-defunct “Outrageous Kid Parties.”

It leaves me wondering what’s to become of these kids as they grow up. How do you top a $60,ooo party when you’re four? With a $120,000* party when you’re eight? (*not adjusted for inflation)

One thing’s for sure: if this trend continues, I may just encourage my daughters to pursue careers as party planners.

Or psychotherapists.



You’re invited! You’re invited!
And we would all be
so delighted
If you’d accept this invitation
to Hannah’s PRINCESS celebration!
Next Saturday from noon till eight,
it’s Party Time, so Save The Date!

There’ll be inflated Bouncy Castles
with satin drapes and silver tassels.
Minstrels and Magicians, too,
and a Medieval Petting Zoo!
Don’t miss the Knight upon his Horse
with flowing mane (all white, of course!);
plus you can ride a Unicorn
complete with sparkly rainbow horn!

We’ll also have a Tumbling Group,
Face Painters and a Ballet Troupe,
a Clown who twists and shapes balloons,
a Dee-Jay spinning Top Ten Tunes!
And over on the second stage?
That Boy Band that’s just all the rage!

And next, but certainly not least,
comes the Royal Birthday Feast:
hot dogs, burgers, shish kebab,
curly fries, corn on the cob,
canapés and caviar,
tapas and a sushi bar,
shrimp and oysters, shucked and chilled –
enough for guests to get their fill.
We also had the bakery make
a seven-layered castle cake,
and hired the gourmet ice cream mart
to bring their new gelato cart.

Each guest will get a Goodie Bag
that’s stuffed with precious birthday swag:
candy, toys, a princess crown,
a Princess Barbie, princess gown,
jewelry, make-up, DVDs,
an iTouch filled with mp3s.

Enclosed you’ll find all information
needed for our celebration:

  • maps
  • directions
  • wristbands (two)
  • a schedule of events for you
  • the website for RSVPs (Just e-mail us; no phone calls, please.)

And so that parking won’t be trouble,
attached are tickets for the Shuttle.

And please: no gifts.
(But if you must, she’s registered at Toys’R’Us.)

You’re invited! You’re invited!
And we would all be
so delighted
If you’d accept this invitation
to Hannah’s PRINCESS celebration!


©2013 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz


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Two-Car Family

You can call me on the (juice-stained) carpet for sweeping generalizations, but it’s been my experience that in your typical suburban household where each parent has a car, Mom’s car will be the messier of the two. Throw a pet like my Daisy (right, riding shotgun) into the mix, and disorder and debris are your destiny.

I don’t think I’m off base here. Just a cursory scan of cyberspace found plenty of mothers lamenting the woeful state of their minivans.  One even had a contest that sought out the most unkempt car.

If only I had known. If I’d submitted a pic of my own slovenly sedan, I guarantee I coulda been a contender. That is, if I could find my camera…


Two-Car Family

Never whiny

Vinyl cracked
Not compact
Never intact


©2009 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz


(note: this post has been updated and re-blogged from its initial appearance more than a year ago.)

Laundry List

The saying goes, “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.” As a lifelong flea market frequenter and second-hand store shopper, those words ring ever so true for me.

When I was a girl, my eyes were often toward the ground as I traversed our neighborhood, searching for the Bazooka Joe Bubble Gum comics that I collected to redeem for prizes. If anything else remotely interesting caught my eye, I’d scoop that up, too. There were buttons that doubled as plates for my Malibu Barbie and crayon nubs that I made into candles for her romantic dinners with Live Action Ken. Pennies were always picked up, because back then you could still buy something for a single cent. Sparkly rocks, bits of hardware and plastic rings all made it into my collection. To the childhood me, everything was a treasure.

As it turns out, my youngest daughter shares that philosophy.


Laundry List

The washer stopped
with a buzzing sound;
I pulled out the clothes,
looked down, and found

  • a melted crayon
  • a whistle
  • a string
  • a barrette
  • a shoelace
  • a fake ruby ring
  • a marble
  • a button
  • a ball of lint
  • a foil wrapper from a restaurant mint
  • a hair tie
  • a pencil
  • a bottle cap
  • a shell
  • more string
  • a fabric scrap
  • a bit of ribbon
  • a couple beads
  • a piece of chain
  • sunflower seeds
  • a screw
  • a wire
  • a twisty tie
  • a penny
  • a pebble
  • a plastic fly
  • a bobby pin
  • an earring back
  • a safety pin
  • a rusty tack

all collected in
my washing machine,
scattered about
and sparkling clean.

I guess next time
laundry’s on the docket,
I first should check
my daughter’s pockets.


©2011 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz




A whole row
of parking

spaces saved for the

Wide fenders
real thick with American steel
barely fit

Don’t you dare park there
jam your junk in the trunk
into spaces meant
for micro-vehicles

All that cargo room
crammed with nothing much
loaded up with leisure and greed

Take your suburban self elsewhere
and keep your big-assed SUV off this
sliver of city asphalt

This is reserved
for small cars only
the slimmer models
leaner bodies
the ones who sip fuel
and slip through streets
so breezily

So get on down the road
find another lot
maybe at that First Baptist Church
where the big-bodied
corn-fed cars


©2015 Carlotta Eike Stankiewicz