Literary Mama writing about the many faces of motherhood
For Your Journal: Writing Prompt


Do you keep a journal - or wish you could get one started? Literary Mama wants to help.

Three times a month, I'll post a writing prompt. Open a notebook and write for 10 minutes. Don't worry about grammar or punctuation - just write. Then let the writing simmer and your mind wander for awhile.

And who knows? Maybe you'll discover a character for your next short story or a theme for a narrative essay. Or maybe you'll use the idea to create a special holiday card or photo album for someone in your family. However you decide to use your journal entry, I know you'll enjoy re-reading it months--and years--down the road.

My fifth-grade son has asked for help in choosing something to take to his class's end-of-semester auction, so we're digging through a box of things I've been saving for a garage sale. The classroom auction is the highpoint of the semester for these ten- and eleven-year olds. For seventeen weeks, they've accumulated Fun Bucks (monopoly-type money teachers give for good behavior and grades) in anticipation of spending them.

At the auction, most of the kids will survey the tables in search of the perfect gift for Mom or Dad. He hopes his friends bring "some good stuff" to bid on; I wonder if anything in my box will meet his definition, or if I've already given all our good stuff away.

He rejects books, baskets, and an embroidered wall hanging because "no one will want those" and finally settles on a red, star-shaped, metal picture frame.

"It's perfect," he said. "Everyone has pictures."

Turns out it was the perfect item; one of my son's best friends' mother told me so. And my son? He spent nearly all of his 4,000 Fun Bucks on a teacup and saucer, which he proudly presented to me with this modest comment: "I know how much you like to drink tea, Mom."

Journal Entry: Consider your family's gift-giving practices. What is the "perfect" gift? Write about a time you saw your child give or receive the perfect gift. Describe facial expressions, exclamations, the comments given when the gift was opened.

Karna ConverseĀ is a freelance writer who’s written everything from technical documentation and price proposals to newsletter articles, devotionals, personal profiles and essays. Her essays have been published in a variety of regional and national publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Notre Dame Magazine, the Cup of Comfort and Chicken Soup anthologies, Our Iowa, and on Iowa Public Radio. She and her husband are parents to three young adults. Karna is a former blog editor, senior editor, managing editor, and editor-in-chief of Literary Mama.

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I am guessing this is the place to leave the Journal Entry of the "perfect gift". Its my first time. It is that time of year again. My 9 and 7-year old daughters are begging for that annual Christmas gift that we cannot afford. This year's model: A Wii. I have successfully dogged the video game bullet these many years. My growing girls are getting impatient. Most of their friends and family members of same age have two gaming systems. Even my husband thinks playing the Wii with the girls would be "pretty cool". But their mama is a stubborn lady. In private I tell my husband my conscience won't let us put 200 plus dollars on the credit card for something I am fundamentally opposed to. Hubby reluctantly agrees. But where there is a way there is a loop hole. My mother in law gave the e-nouncement to her daughters that she would be giving each of her ten grandchildren a $50 gift card instead of the usual wrapped-up mall merchandise that has a 50-50 chance of being returned to said Mall. I have four children. That equals $200. That is the sale price of a new Wii system at Target. Emails flew. Gifts cards were smuggled in. A hasty trip to Target to catch the sale was taken. Dog-gone-it I was giddy with excitement. Video games rot your kids' brain be damned. The girls SO thought they were not getting a Wii, and I was secretly feeling sad about that. They did however, know that Gramma was getting them a 5o dollar gift card. That is pretty exciting to a 3rd and 2nd grader. That is were the fun part comes in. One of my many parenting theories I love to quote is: "Having the right to torture your children makes living with your children tolerable". Christmas at Grammas: "Okay kids here are your presents from Gramma and Grampa!" Kids quickly extract dollar gifts, chocolates and red and green tissue paper, and litter the floor with their Christmas gift fillers. Everyone knows the good stuff is at the bottom. My eldest is the first to look around, eyebrows drawn sharply down in concern, as she scans the smug faces or her cousins, preening over their gift cards. Possible shopping dates are already being discussed by her teenage girl cousins. My second, less discreet child, cuts through the festive din, "Hey where's MY card". Adults snicker, adverting their eyes. "I have something special for you girls" Gramma pipes up. Big smile. Voice super "up", with that fake excited cadence. "I made you four girls a special CARD!! I spent a lot of time on this card because I know you girls love crafts SO MUCH". My daughters' eyes dart around. Their lips are tight in a frozen pucker of disbelief. I can only imagine what is racing through their minds as they grapple with this blow of unfairness and cruelty. And from their doting, loving grandmother no less! My eldest takes the prettily decorated large envelope. She, God bless her, gives a weak but determined smile to her beaming grandmother. I think I see the faint glint of tears gathering in the corner of her eyes. The homemade card has hand-drawn snowman on it. A chorus of "Oh isn't that such a CUTE card" pours forth from the seated adults, all leaning forward with amusement. In a thought bubble above the drawn snowman is written out: "Do you know what it is"? "Open it up honey" Gramma urges. She numbly obeys. A sketched scene of three snowmen wearing bright scarves fills the opened card. Another snowman's thought bubble reads: "I don't know what it is" Another says the same. A small snowman in the bottom right corner has a tiny thought bubble sketched above his capped head. It reads: "I know, I know! Its a Wii!!" My daughter reads this out load slowly, in a confused halting voice, like she is trying to decode a complicated how-to manual. She says "W-i-i-i-i"...slowly the fog lifts from her whirling 9-year-old brain. "A Wii, a Wii"! Now her three younger sisters are jumping in jubilee as well. A perfect memory. That makes the perfect gift.
Um...I am the one who left the last post. I never read the directions at school, and I guess things have not changed much. Misunderstood the point of the blog. My apologies for my blog faux pas. Though any comments would be appreciated. Its just unfortunate that my first public sharing of my writing was a bit of a blunder. Regards, Leah
No problem, Leah. Sounds like you had a fun holiday. Look for a blog post around the end of March that asks for these For Your Journal submissions. In the meantime, write this entry in YOUR journal and then turn the page and write about the first time the six of you played a Wii game together. (I, for one, can't figure ANY of the games out!)
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