Popsicles and pastimes of summer.

“Grandma, look at that wasp!” This colorful insect was resting near us on a geranium leaf.

“I’m impressed that you know that is a wasp, Ivy. Lots of people call all bees and wasps ‘bees.'”

“Bees have hair,” she informed me, “and wasps don’t.” The supposed wasp had floated away to a lamb’s ear flower, but not before I’d snapped its picture, wondering why it was so lazy and unthreatening, unlike our ubiquitous yellow jackets who seem only to rest when they perch on the rim of my fountain for a drink. We zoomed in on my picture to see that indeed, it was pretty bald — but maybe not entirely. After looking at more pictures of wasps online, I’ve decided this is very likely not a wasp after all, but a syrphid or hover fly. It’s more like a fly in its shape and wings, and pictures of syrphid flies came up as “yellow jacket look-alikes.” On the other hand, this insect approaching the salvia has more the look of a wasp, with its legs dangling down:

But as an example of hairy bees, I showed Ivy a picture of my favorite bee of all, which you might have seen here recently in a slightly different pose. She definitely has the darling fuzzy hairs:

It’s always fun for me if the grandchildren are visiting during hot weather. Popsicles and water play and the play house keep them happy outdoors, where I can play also, doing little garden tasks and walking back and forth to the clothesline with the towels and swimsuits. And many pairs of shorts, because Jamie was too tidy a boy to endure having popsicle drips drying, as I thought harmlessly, on his clothes. Eventually I gave him a bib, a largish bowl for his lap, and a spoon, so he could enjoy the treat to the fullest.

When the sun is baking all the air and sucking up moisture, I think it the most fun ever to wash a little shirt or whatever in the kitchen sink and hang it on the line. One shirt didn’t get that far, but dried in no time draped over a pomegranate bush.

I clipped my fast-growing butternut vines to the trellis, and swept the patio while the children sat in the old galvanized trough we call the Duck Pond, named for its use in another time and place, keeping three ducks happy in what was mainly a chicken pen.

Ivy played in the “pond” by herself one afternoon while Jamie napped, and I sat nearby rereading passages in Middlemarch. She found the tiniest spider floating in the water and held it on her finger, wondering if it were dead. “Why don’t you put it on a hydrangea leaf, and maybe it will revive,” I suggested. Of course, I took a picture of it on the leaf, because neither of us could see the minute creature very well with our eyes only.

When I zoomed in on my photo, it revealed a flower with eight petals. πŸ™‚

At the patio table a few feet away I trimmed my six Indigo Spires salvia starts that I had propagated from a branch I accidentally broke off several months ago; I’m reluctant to transplant them to 4″ pots during this hot month, but that’s probably what they need…

Having gained confidence about African violets from a Martha Stewart video that I watched a few weeks ago, I tackled my plant that had grown two baby plants, one of which was already blooming. The babies I managed to cut off with roots attached, and potted them up snugly.

 

We thought to walk to the library, but the tires on the Bob stroller were too flat and I didn’t feel like pumping them up, so we drove. It happened to be a craft day there, and Ivy wanted to do all the things — but first, to design a Loch Ness monster from clay, because she said she had recently watched a video about that creature. Jamie patiently held the monster and observed, while she went on to make a jeweled crown and a flag.

 

The children actually looked up unprompted into the dome of the kids’ room at the library, and we talked about the stories pictured. I picked out some books to borrow but wasn’t thrilled with the three we read later at home. What I did love was a book someone gave me recently — was it one of you? — titled Joseph Had a Little Overcoat, by Simms Taback. I read it twice to the children, because they liked it, too.

Joseph seems to be a Jewish man, and his overcoat gets tattered, so he cuts it down to a jacket, and when that gets overpatched, into a scarf, and so on. When he ends up with nothing at the end, it seems he doesn’t exactly have nothing after all. Good-natured resourcefulness and humor make for a charming story. I loved the ending, and the proverbs and sayings, and the many unique outfits and beard styles and colorful details. Joseph looks like this every time he realizes that his garment needs altering>>

Some of the artwork includes photographs in collage. I think if I were Jewish I might enjoy the book even more because I suspect that the photographs might be of famous people pertinent to Jewish history and culture.

A typical proverb quoted in a frame on the wall of Joseph’s house,
showing barely over an inch square on the page:

Over four days I read lots more books, like In Grandma’s Attic, The Ugly Duckling, Finn Family Moomintroll, a Thomas the Tank Engine collection (not my favorite, but a chance for Jamie to share with me his vast knowledge about that series), and one that I’ve read more than once to them via FaceTime, How Pizza Came to Queens. I got out my collection of costume jewelry, much of which used to be my grandma’s, and which I keep in her broken down jewelry box; and my small group of Moomin figures, and puzzles that are many decades old, but The Best and treasured.

One morning we cleaned in and around the playhouse
before eating a breakfast of sourdough pancakes in the garden:

With more washing up afterward…

As I was showing Ivy some rosemary and oregano she might pick for pretend cooking in the playhouse, I glanced up and gasped so that she started. “My milkweed bloomed!” She looked on admiringly and I told her that I had seen the same species of milkweed growing wild near her house up north.

Ivy and Jamie departed with their mama this morning, and I’ve been transitioning back into my quieter life. They all were the best company for kicking off summer.

17 thoughts on “Popsicles and pastimes of summer.

  1. Wonder blog post…your life is full of little treasures! I am so happy that you had such a wonderful visit with grandchildren!

    M. Seraphima

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  2. When I read about the book Joseph had a little Overcoat I immediately thought of a book I have and I wondered if it was the same book. It isn’t, but mine is called Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman. It also has a Jewish man who sews his grandson’s tattered old blanket into a jacket which eventually becomes too small so is re-made into a vest which becomes a handkerchief. Soon there’s only enough left to cover a single button. Then the button gets lost. It’s a delightful story and the illustrations are wonderful.

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    1. Granny, that is exactly the same story, only Gilman’s starts even farther back, before the overcoat. Now I’ll be interested to see if I can find your version for comparison! Actually, the author mentions a previous version that he wrote, and that people suggested he illustrate a new one. So, how many versions might be out there…?

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  3. Your grandchildren are darling! I love Ivy’s interest in bees and wasps and garden flowers. I don’t blame Jamie for not wanting sticky popsicle juice dripping on his clean shirt. And you are the best grandma! They must love visiting you, I would too. I didn’t realize you could divide African violets. Maybe I should look at mine more closely as I have a feeling it needs it too.

    As always I jot down names of books when visiting here and remember reading the Moomintrolls to our sons when they were little. I wonder if a 6 and almost 4 year old granddaughters would like them too. It must be a little lonely there after these two left but I know you will immerse yourself in so many interesting tasks and joys.

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    1. Dewena,
      Last year I debated about whether I should give the book to Ivy for her 5th birthday, because the recommended age is 9-12. My Finnish friend who has raised five daughters on Moomins thought that was silly, and it turned out to be so for my grandchildren at least, who are used to hearing long stories with no pictures. There are few pictures in the Moomin books and most of the chapters are longish, but Ivy and her almost 8-yr-old-at-the-time brother were smitten from the get-go and had no trouble following the story. They even got the subtle humor immediately and really liked getting to know all the characters in that world.

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  4. Your photos certainly show all the fun you are having with your grandchildren! I love the galvanized tub for a “swimming hole”. I captured my Ivy eating a popsicle too…summertime must have popsicles. Thankful for healthy popsicle choices.

    Interesting about your African violets rooting on their own like that. I snipped off leaves and have been growing new little plants, that grow very slowly I might add.

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  5. There are too many things I could say, so I will just agree with Barbara Casey up above, but add that your life is full of little treasures, yes – and you are well able to recognize them as such.

    Love that photo of the two in the tub. πŸ™‚

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  6. So much fun at your house! I’ll have to suggest to my son-in-law that he throw together a playhouse for my yard when I move to the farm. Yours and Pom’s seem to get a lot of use! I love the Joseph book. The illustrations are so appealing. I’m also going to look up the Moomin books. You’ve piqued my curiosity! I LOVE the ceiling of the children’s library room AND the duck pond! If you’re like me you miss the energy and joy of the grands…but we do need our quiet time, too. πŸ˜‰ Happy fourth!

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  7. I love how you “grandmother your littles.” Perhaps because that’s the way I like to do it. The children play outdoors and Grammy gardens and hangs the clothes and answers nature questions and looks at all the interesting things all around. Buckets of water are The Best Entertainment at my house and so are the tin cans and shovels and old pie plates to make mud birthday cakes! I even hang out wet T-shirts either on the clothesline or the flag pole, depending on which is closest. I’m going to look up the Joseph book too! Thanks for sharing all of this goodness!

    P.S. Your African violets are beautiful.

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  8. I still have just a few pieces of the costume jewelry I played with as a girl. Much of it’s gone now, but the memories remain — and my favorite pieces, the sparkly ones, still are with me.

    I learned about the Moomins when a blog friend traveled to Finland and suddenly was writing about Tove Jansson and these marvelous creatures that everyone, of any age, needed to meet. I still haven’t made their acquaintance, but now I think I will. They might help to balance out some distinctly non-Moomin-ish behavior in today’s world!

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    1. I somehow feel it sacrilegious even to put my grandma’s clip-on earrings and many necklaces into a different box from the one she had on her dressing table in the 50’s, though it is terribly broken-down and shabby now.

      I hope you enjoy the Moomins! I bought some little Moomin “action figures” that the children like to play with, too, when they come.

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