Maps, juice, and puzzles.

  • 2016-07-05 17.30.57I’m improving my mind this week, as I play with the two grandboys whose own minds are soaking up knowledge about their world at a fast rate. I brought their family two large Lauri puzzles that our family of 15 years ago must have acquired too late for them to be of much interest to our own children. In any case, I hadn’t been called upon before to help assemble them, and I was frankly in trepidation about this Fit-a-State puzzle, because I don’t “know my states” very well.

I had forgotten that behind the unmarked pieces is an outline drawing of all the states with their names. Neither of the boys can read those, though, and they were better than I at some important aspects of jigsaw puzzling, such as having a good sense of spatial relationships.

I have always been on the low end of the scale for that kind of perception, and have noticed that many grandchildren are quicker. Laddie who is only two doesn’t even seem to be looking very hard at the spaces to be filled, or at the piece he is holding, but he quickly takes in the view and without hesitating places the piece in the right place.

detail map puzzle

The detail on this map is amazing. Every state is its own piece. Yes, even Rhode Island. You know we haven’t assembled the puzzle many times because neither Connecticut nor Rhode Island has been lost!

I think I’ve probably learned a bit more United States geography through this exercise. I like doing puzzles with the boys because although they are often rambunctious as you would expect healthy boys to be, they both are able to concentrate for long periods on detail work such as coloring and puzzles.

target puzzle

Yesterday I did some grocery shopping for the family and I  brought back something from Target’s $1 aisles for each of the older boys. Liam got a puzzle consisting of sticks to be laid side by side in alphabetical order. I knew it would be easy for him because he knows the A-B-C song perfectly. He soon wanted to make words with the lettered sticks, or to sing the song with the alphabet mixed up but the notes in perfect order. We did that together for a while to gales of laughter. And today we made some of our own “sticks” with extra letters so we can now form words.



Yes, we mix up lower case and capitals. Liam prefers the latter. I hadn’t thought of adding pictures to the new strips but he thought that essential. So I took courage and tried to draw a quail and a glue stick, which were the pictures he suggested.

Soldier and Brodie 7-5-16

Little Brodie is here, of course, lending his newborn sweetness to the atmosphere. At four weeks he’s healthy and growing fast, though he hasn’t yet reached his due date. He is a pretty “easy” baby at this point. Does it seem that third-borns are often like this? I think they like having all the noises of the other children in the house.

Perhaps the loudest commotion happens  when a fire truck leaves the station house a block away and turns on its siren. The boys drop whatever they are doing and run to the nearest window screaming like banshees, in hopes of seeing the truck wailing past.

I’m enjoying the neighborhood walks, and I’ve taken the boys up and down different residential streets every day. Every day I see something I don’t know, and/or a plant that I saw years ago when visiting this area. Soldier and Joy and our good friends Mr. and Mrs. Bread lived very close to each other back then.

For example, this plant that I think is an aloe of some kind…? Mrs. Bread probably told me before what it is. Every specimen I have seen is gigantic, and at first I called it the spidery plant, which made Liam laugh, but then I changed it to I’ve taken to the Octopus Plant. It looks to me like a good place for rats and spiders to breed.

2016-07-05 11.55.46Along the sidewalks where I push Laddie in the stroller and Liam walks, if flowers or foliage hang over the sidewalk we will take a sample to sniff. With the help of the Internet I identified a butterfly bush in Soldier apurple flowernd Joy’s back yard. They have a great yard for having a passel of boys — all the ornamentals are of the sort that can’t be destroyed.

A large flock of Canada geese hangs out at one park we have frequented. We have studied their herd movements and don’t understand them at all. Below you can see part of the group nibbling near the swings where Liam is pushing his little brother.

2016-07-05 11.24.21

So much hands-on learning is happening around here all day long. I brought bags of oranges from our family’s groves in the Central Valley, and my juicer, and one of the boys’ favorite things is to make the juicer go, and the juice to flow, by bearing down hard on the cut orange. While they are doing such real and necessary work they behave in a very grown-up manner and don’t squabble at all.

I brought a big basket from home full of some of my favorite children’s books, including Down Down the Mountain and The Maggie B. As I was typing this blog post last night I could hear Soldier in the boys’ bedroom reading The Clock by Esphyr Slobodkina, a book that I read to him in ages past.

Sleepy People by M.B. Goffstein has been loved. It puts even the reader in a somnolent mood with its brief but evocative tale of a family who “are always sleepy.”  Several line drawings depict parents carrying limp children in their arms, and descriptions of people whose eyes are closing as they eat their bedtime milk and cookies.One evening I was asked to read this book as we all clustered around Liam and Laddie’s beds, and we all smiled as our own yawns involuntarily happened, and before long our whole household was on the way to dreamland and restoration and energizing, for the explorations and challenges of another busy day in Monterey.

9 thoughts on “Maps, juice, and puzzles.

  1. Dear Gretchen, I am glad that you are having such a sweet time. Glory be to God….Lots of Love, Christie


  2. what a lovely, lovely visit! flowers, geese, wonderful books, oranges, fresh orange juice! how delightful! I am so glad for all the goodness I see in these words and in your life!


  3. Oh, what wonderful times you are having. The baby is precious! I am eager about our new grandson arriving in September.

    You are a fine granny, GJ!


  4. Such a lovely tale of homey things and of children learning in the best way – the way they want to. I LOVE The Maggie B book. I want my garden to look just like her boat 🙂


  5. I love reading about your day. I always say, I am Lego challenged. I can see how I need to sit and play with Lego’s so I could figure things out by just looking at them. What a simply beautiful baby boy. I am not familiar with the books you mentioned. I will have to look into that. Enjoy your days and your walks. So wonderful to read.


  6. Ha,ha, we call those octopus arm plants a very high brow botanical name, aloe blobs, emphasis on the blob.

    From time to time my geography is quite good. Those times are very shortly after I spend a hour or two taking the map tests on line and redoing them multiple times until I can get states or countries right. I think a little has sunk in each time, but I would have to go test myself and see. I did Africa for a while, the middle east, Europe and of course the United States of America with all those tiny little states in the north east ready to confound me.


  7. What a lovely post, GJ. It brings back so many memories for me. I love geography, and while homeschooling I had Julia do that subject using a simple website with all the maps around the world. She learned rivers and mountain ranges everywhere. I’m very good at my 50 states and capitals 🙂

    In Mississippi we lived with a railroad just in front of our front gate, and when the trains whistled through town, Philip (who was about 2) would run to the tall glassed front door to watch. He loved trains and trucks. I do miss those days — well, the good ones. So glad you can spend this time with your little boys and pass down so many important family memories. Sometimes the small memories later become the best ones.


  8. Thanks for including the books that you shared with your grandchildren. And for introducing new plants and flowers to me. There are so many I’ve never seen since I have not traveled much.


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