Susan Vollenweider: A dotted-line trip through codpieces, teamwork and Mom’s stuff

07/16/2014 7:43 AM

07/16/2014 7:43 AM

“You kids know how when the Family Circus guy needs a break, ‘Billy’ draws his cartoon? We should do that,” I offered them over dinner.

Bekah sassed at me in the You Are Not That Stupid voice that kids do so well. “Mom, that’s the cartoonist pretending to be a kid.”

I needed a solid argument. Summer had been busy, far busier than I ever imagined. I was bone tired and weary but dug deep for something to convince them.

“I suppose I could write about teaching you and Luke to drive at the same time. There have been some very funny new driver stories …” I drifted off in fake thought in the Game, Set and Match voice that parents do so well.

** If this week’s column is better written than normal, it’s because it comes from the collaborative effort of the Vollenweider kids. **

“I can’t believe she’s making us do this for her,” Bekah said to her brothers as she sat at Mom’s messy desk.

“I know, right?” Luke pulled up a chair so he could see the monitor.

“How does she do it?” Noah asked as he climbed onto Luke’s lap.

Bekah wiggled the mouse, tapped the keyboard and soon had a blank document on the screen. “The way I see it, she takes an embarrassing event from the recent past, changes it around to make it interesting and sends it in.”

“How long is this gonna take? I’m getting hungry.” Luke started playing with some of Mom’s toys.

“Not long,” Bekah typed, “I mean, we’re already at more than 100 words!”

The typing stopped, and they looked to each other for help.

“OK,” Bekah took charge after a full minute of silence. “What does she do to write one of these?”

Noah flipped through the Shakespearean Insult Generator flip-book that was next to the monitor. “What’s a codpiece?”

“Focus! Let’s see ... She sits down right here and later she looks like she just ran a few miles.”

“Since when does Mom run?” Luke asked.


“Who made you the boss, Bekah?”

“I did. Now shut up and think.”

“Well,” Luke offered, “she usually has a drink or a snack. Maybe we should get some chips.”

“AFTER WE FINISH,” Bekah restored order. “She’s always nagging us for ideas. Like, every. Single. Week.”

“True.” Luke agreed. “You know you can keep track of the days by watching her. Today is Trying Out Topics Before Deadline Day. Tomorrow will be Mom Loses Her sh … stuff Day. Then Deadline Day. Then we get to start the week over again with I Can Totally Wait to Write Day.”

Bekah typed as he was talking. “Good points. OK, so far we have: the eating part, the leaving stuff out of the story part, the procrastination part and the lose her, er, stuff part. Is that all there is to it?”

“Doesn’t she usually have a point? A theme, lesson, metaphor about life or something?” Luke asked.

Bekah and Noah stared at him.

“What? I have a brain, you know.”

“Is a codpiece something on a fish?” Noah asked.


For the next half hour they bantered ideas, typed fast, and eventually Bekah hit SAVE and PRINT.


“Here.” Bekah handed me a sheet of paper. “We worked together, learned that when life is challenging it’s also most rewarding, and that walking in another person’s shoes is as wacky as Billy’s dotted-line trips through town.”

As the three walked out of the room, she added over her shoulder, “You need to tell Noah what a codpiece is. We really can’t do everything for you.”

Freelance columnist Susan Vollenweider lives in Smithville. For more of her writing, visit

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