Ermas summer contest entries

A huge thank you to everyone that entered! Each one is sublime and we toast every pickin' one of you with leftover cold coffee and stale donuts. You're welcome.

#1 Entry by Melanie Recoy:

My mom and dad stopped by the store today. Mom was carrying a can of air freshener. Pine scent.

“Everything going okay?” she said, followed by a lasso throwing like spray above her head.“I bet you are getting tired. I wish you could get out of here more.” Arm fully extended, back and forth motion, as if watering the lawn.

“How’s the house coming? I do need to get over there and see it.” she continued, arm above the head as if swaying to music at a concert.

By this time I was seriously worried about being overcome by the scent of the Great Northwest and knew I wasn't going to be able to get a word in edgewise.

This is nothing out of the ordinary. It’s not always air freshener, but it’s always something.

I retreated from the fresh clean scent of pine to greet my father. He was walking down the aisle of the store he loves, always looking for something to point out that needs to be done.

“Mom’s in the back with the air freshener.” I say.

“Why the hell do you think I had to get out of there?” he answers.

We are in complete understanding.

They aren't bad as parents go, but I do wish mom would get off the air freshener kick.

#2 Entry by Terri Spilman:

Greetings from Camp Puke! What a thrilling three days. Activities include Bathroom Races, Moaning Contests and Laundry Marathons. We even get to sleep on the floor. The camp food is great -- all the Gatorade and Saltine crackers you can hold down. Wish you were here! Ooo, gotta go, it's my turn to drive the bus. Love ya. See you soon. P.S. Please send some Hanes (his and hers).

Apparently a rather violent stomach virus was making its way through the community and happened to make a stop at our house. In an unprecedented event, all three of us were deathly ill at the same time. I'm pretty sure our obedience school drop out golden retriever was in charge of the household at one point. Thank God for the doting Aunt who came to our rescue providing childcare for the day. And kudos to my mother and fellow germaphobe who tossed a ten pound bag of potatoes and sack of vitamin water into the house and then quickly pealed out of the driveway to avoid exposure to the virus.

The only casualty was a rather old, worn out pair of sleeping pants lost in a sharting incident which I consider more of a mercy killing than an actual loss. I'm happy to report we are all on the mend and busy dousing the house in Clorox. Hopefully, we will not return to Camp Puke for a long, long time.

#3 Entry by Lucia Paul

Competitive Tranquility

There is no easy way to break this to you: competitive yoga exists.

I’ve told you, and I’m sorry. Feel free to clutch your head and stagger around.

This came to my attention when I saw an ad for an upcoming “yoga competition.” Is nothing sacred anymore? Even sacred stuff like yoga?

Now before you think that I’m just a doughy malcontent who shovels in snacks while sneering at fitness competitions, let me assure you, you’re close.

But I do go to yoga occasionally. Who doesn’t?

Unless you’ve been on a strict no-media regime, you are aware that yoga has overtaken the nation.

Everyone started to speak knowingly of vinyasa flow (don’t call a plumber). And in hushed tones about the virtues of Bikram (that’s the sweaty kind).

Beginning classes often call only for the prerequisite of breathing. I’m in.

Not practicing yoga has become like saying you don’t believe in the Internet or basic hygiene.

But the fact that yoga has become a sport is odd.

While we’re at it, let’s get competitive about birth, and what the heck, death!

“See you in Miami for the Southeast Death Finals!”

At yoga competitions, are there spectators and do they yell things?

“Nice serenity, Ashley!” Or, “ You call that a sun salutation, Jeremy?”

Yoga has clearly gone to the dreaded “next level.”

I don’t want to go to the next level. I want to lie quietly on a mat.

I guess I’m not competitive enough for yoga.

#4 Entry by John D. Banusiewicz:

My wife is amazing in a multitude of ways, but her most finely honed skill is the ability to detect even my smallest, briefest, most consciously suppressed expression of disappointment, doubt or chicanery. It could be a four-nanosecond twitch of an eyelid or the path the corners of my mouth take when I'm faking a smile to disguise my thoughts, or maybe it's something in my voice that even dogs can't detect. But there's no fooling Kathy. That usually works in her favor, but one instance 25 years ago paid off for both of us.

I don't remember what she'd made for dinner that night, but despite my fulsome praise and accompanying yummy sounds, she knew instantly I would have preferred dining out. In her sweetest newlywed voice, she suggested that I certainly could have whatever dinner I wanted, prepared exactly as I like it, for the duration of our married life. All I had to do was take responsibility for the grocery shopping and the cooking parts of that little equation. OK, well, maybe it wasn't her sweetest newlywed voice, but it was music to my ears. I love to roam the grocery store, I love to cook, and most of all, I love to eat.

We've dined only too well over the ensuing quarter of a century, and the fact that it's impolite to scream at one another with our mouths full has been the key to our enduring partnership.

#5 Entry by Julianna McDowell

Mealtime is my most dreaded part of my day. This poses quite a problem since most of my day is either engaged in preparing, serving, or cleaning up a meal. Maybe you can relate? I am hoping that I am not the only one out there whose meals go something like this:

11:15 Trying to figure out what to make. Will it be PB & J, grilled cheese, or noodles with cheese? So many choices.

11:30 Lunch is ready and my daughter starts to eat her grilled cheese and soup. My son, on the other hand, is vigorously shaking his head "no" and dropping the cheese, that I so thoughtfully cut in the shape of stars, to the floor.

11:32 My daughter has stopped eating, found a toy and is now in her happy place, pretending. My son is momentarily caught off guard by a garlic press and I hastily shove a bite of food in his unsuspecting mouth. SUCCESS!

11:35 My daughter lazily takes a bite of her sandwich and starts to slurp her soup. My son is arching his back and leaning as far away from me as I try to give him another bite of food. Who knew that yogurt was the devil?

11:38 My daughter is now singing a little tune in between "bites". My son is crying and I am searching the kitchen for some gadget to capture his attention. A magnet? A spatula? An unopened beer bottle from the fridge? Works every time.

11:50 Five more bites have been achieved by my son and my daughter has finished her soup.

12:00 Patting myself on the back for a job well done. My children ate well.

#6 Entry by Richard Satterlie:

My son just reached double-figures and The Omens are gathering. His latest conquest is cussing by not cussing. Anything resembling the sound of a cuss word, and he gets the giggles.

“I know a word that sounds like that. And I know what it means.”

So, how do I handle that? Let it pass without comment, but with a disapproving look? The kind of look that strikes fear in his bones (in my dreams, of course)? Do I remind him once again that being rude and crude is neither clever nor cool, even though I remember how cool and clever I felt when I let slip with a four-letter screamer at his age?

So I decide to play a little trick on him. I tell him to grab his tongue with his thumb and forefinger and say, “My daddy works at the shipyard.”

He does. And when the first half of the last word comes out, I put on the gruff and inform him there will be no TV or games tonight.

He pauses, and I brace myself for some serious complaining.

“Dad, you’re an assssssssstronaut. Why don’t you go to helllllllllllsinki?”

I’m stuck. His boldness strikes fear in my spleen—fear for the future. At the same time it puffs my chest with male pride. You see, he has shown a precocious leap to the Y chromosome artistry of bathroom speech and humor.

Come on. I’m male.

And I am still in double-figures.

Clever little cuss ain’t he?

#7 Entry by Jennifer Hayman:

You Need Balls to Buy a Cup.

“I need to find a cup,” I said to the sports store greeter.

"Sure, we have a big selection upstairs, just take the escalator; all our cups are in the camping aisles," he replied.

"Um, no,” I said; “I need a cup (subtly pointing toward my crotch), you know, a cup." He stared at me confused and said slowly, "you need a cup?”

Frustrated, I channeled my inner Michael Jackson with an all out crotch-grabbing demonstration and explained, "You know, a cup, for my son, he plays baseball…”

"Oh, for your son!” he said. “OK, how big is he?”

"Huh?" I was dumbfounded and slightly irritated. I thought, "did he just really just ask me how big my son is? That’s a little inappropriate." I lost for words when a customer watching our display interjected, "I think he means how old is your son."

Taking a deep breath, I blurted out, "Oh thank God! I can answer that - eight; he's eight years old."

“Go straight ahead," the greeter explained. "Take a right at the end of the aisle; the protective equipment is right across from the soccer balls, it’s like, a whole wall of balls, you can’t miss it.”

“Yup, I’m good with the balls," I said. "Thanks.”

If I ever have a daughter, I am sending her father to buy her, her first "cups."

#8 Entry by Sarah Garb:

One thing I have never covered in my third grade classroom is how to wear a bra. The basics of any lesson on the topic, though, would surely include, "take care to prevent the undergarment from ending up on the rug in the middle of the classroom." Probably due to my lack of teaching on the subject, this exact scenario happened one day during math.

Fortunately, the misplaced unmentionables were out of view of most of the class. I figured I'd deal with the situation once the kids were safely distracted by the bustle of putting their papers away. During my clean-up directions, however, I noticed Imani noticing the bra. Now, bras being still new to third grade girls, Imani must not have been completely certain how they worked, either. "Could that be mine?" she must have been wondering. "Did my bra just spring out from under my shirt and land over there on the rug? That would be weird and rather embarrassing, but who knows how these things work?"

To be sure that all of her items of clothing were still where they should be, and that the bra lying out in plain view was not hers, Imani placed two hands on the neck of her sweatshirt, stretched it out in front of her, and popped her face down inside for a quick peek. "Phew!" she must have thought as a look of relief spread across her face. "Not mine."

#9 Entry by Carol Kabat:

Things I Learned from my Mother (but I Doubt Are True)

My mom adores aphorisms. You know those quaint, catchy little sayings that pack a moral punch. She fed them to us like other kids got homemade cookies in their Peanuts lunchboxes. So in between “Enough is enough” and “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise,” we muddled our way into adulthood without much argument. Besides, we knew better than to argue with the woman who packed our lunches. Get her angry and what’s to stop her from reaching for Dad’s head cheese instead of the PB & J, you know what I mean?

It wasn’t until I delivered my first child into the Grandchild Collective that I questioned the wisdom that perpetually issued forth from my mother lips.

“Sleep when the baby sleeps.”

Um. Alright. Now this might be a dandy idea if your baby sleeps from 11 pm to 6:30 am, then wakes up to let the dog out and start the morning coffee. Unfortunately, I did not produce such a prodigy of the circadian cycle. My kid didn’t need sleep like normal humans do. Four hours worth of cat naps and he was good for the whole rowdy day.
Mom would call to check up on me though.

“Are you sleeping when the baby sleeps?”

“No, Mom. Conor doesn’t sleep. I’m pretty sure I’ve whined about that before.”

“Put the phone up to his ear.” Even though she no longer had control over my lunch, I put the receiver to the ear of my 3-month old child. I don’t know why, but I was expecting to hear a full-of-grammie-love lullaby come over the phone.

“Young man, enough is enough.”

#10 Entry by Suzanne Jacob:

I thought I was done; I had reached the finish line and heard the Universal timer go off! I witnessed the gowns “swooshing” as the caps and tassles flew in the air. The agenda was set, each of my three daughters had their college plans and my passport was ready; the empty pages waiting for the stamps of adventure with my European escort. Well, in America he’s actually my husband, but abroad he’s my personal exotic foreign tour guide presenting his homeland attractions. It keeps it exciting that way.

I knew there was a space of sand on the Silver Coast reserved with my name, a boutique in Paris begging for my credit card and a chocolate dessert in Belgium that would seduce me for an international affair.

This getaway had been inked in my mind for a couple of years and nothing could deter me from my well-earned expedition!

Well, nothing except a little stick with a possible plus or minus sign at the end. In my case, a plus!

How did this happen? Wait, scratch that, I know that answer. So HOW did this happen?! Suddenly, I found myself in a real life version of Chutes-n-Ladders and I had just been sent to start over. Uh…can I roll again please? It has been several months since that day of awakening to my ‘new life’ and thanks to perspective I’ve got ‘her’ passport forms filled out and an extra suitcase ready.

”Yes, I ‘d like reservations for three, please?”

#11 Entry by Terri Coop

"The Kid-Whisperer"

I love the Laundromat. It’s a perfect slice of life. No matter who you are, sooner or later you need clean underwear. However, I don’t love parents who view the laundry as their child’s playground. Like when I came out of the restroom to find little boys pulling my towels out of the dryer to make superhero capes, all under the nose of their (willfully) oblivious parent.

This is why I hold the memory of one super-mom in reverence. She came like so many, with three small boys, and ten baskets of wash. At first, all was well. However, as the saying goes, boys will be boys.

A laundry cart race was about to launch when a single not-to-be-ignored word sounded over the clatter of unbalanced and overloaded washers.


The boys froze mid-stride like a game of red light-green light.


Three little butts hit the hard plastic chairs. During the next hours, I heard the occasional well-placed command: stay, drop it, come, and the mildly ominous, “get under the table now.”

No swearing, no screaming, and no overblown threats. She had it going on and she had it under control.

I don’t have kids. I have Chihuahuas. I do my best to emulate her brook-no-argument tone, with generally good results. However, I apparently lack the gravitas to pull off “get under the table now.” I think my dogs are laughing at me.

To all the Kid-Whisperers out there, I salute you. It’s a lot tougher than it looks.

#12  Entry by Eden Sharpe

Last night, I slept on the screened-in porch with my boys in pup tents in the back yard. Before dawn, I heard growling and scuffling. The flashlight illuminated two bright eyes staring back at me. Oh, no.

A little, white-tipped skunk scratched in the castoff sunflower shells. I made noise and walked toward him. He spooked enough to leave there and stalk the patio in front of me. Did I have the porch’s door shut all the way? He paced, squealed, and growled with only screen and a few feet separating us. He did NOT like having me about.

With the boys in the yard, I needed to get him to leave, lest they stumble upon him unknowingly. Finally he scampered toward his usual exit, close to their tents. Then, nearly out of sight, he ran back once more before leaving for good.

I lay down. Another noise. I turned the flashlight beam to see a large, white-backed skunk at the birdfeeder. Two skunks had been the scuffle that awakened me! He scratched; I talked, shooed, and moved stuff inside. The metallic clanging of the tents’ stakes in their boxes scared him away.

When my husband (not a camper) heard me in the house, he asked, "Everything alright?"

I told him my story.

“So the kids are in the house?"

"Of course not. I couldn't bring them in with 2 skunks in the yard."

The kids are still sleeping. I'll smell around when I pack up the tents.

#13 Entry by Shelly Wiseman Webb

Reaching the Holy Land of Cleanliness

Have you ever heard the saying "Nature abhors a vacuum"?

Judging by my family's behavior, nature (human nature, at least) also despises dusting, is contemptuous of picking up, and is downright resentful about making beds. I won't even mention laundry. I wage a lone war at home against entropy, which is what scientists call that tendency in nature for things to move from a state of order to disorder. For a while now, entropy has been a houseguest. One that kicks my butt on a daily basis.

But I have a dream that keeps me from giving up completely to live in a house of filth strewn with Legos and Barbie accessories. When I someday have my house in perfect order (which I know will be through luck, hard work, and weaning myself from sleep), I am sure that my family will realize they LIKE having everything in its place.

In this fantasy, I imagine that my husband and kids finally see the light--and then I will even witness miracles! The Legos will be put into bins before Bakugan balls come out. Even Barbie will look like she caught the cleaning bug--her dream house will look like a dream come true, to me.

Heck, I imagine even the dog will have a conversion experience. Instead of just sneaking bites from the plates left uncleared on the table after supper, he'll lick each plate clean before putting them back in the cabinet to be ready for the next meal.

#14 Entry by Wynter Graham (age 11)

Well, when I first started 3rd grade, it was reading class and there was name tags on the desk . My name was spelled "Wynter" (exactly like my name). When I came in, the people at my table were trying to read my name as "whyn-ter."

I told them "Winter" and we started back and forth...

Finally he said, "How do you know?"  and I said, "It's my name..."

It was a very interesting day after that.


  1. So difficult to decide! Congrats to all of the entrants - you all did a fantastic job!

  2. I loved them! Are we supposed to vote? Or, do you choose, Stacey? Great job, everyone!

  3. Wonderful job, everyone. And now we wait for the votes to be tallied! I hear some serious drumrolls.

  4. All excellent entries! Congrats to the winners!


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