Tag Archives: Monterey

Historic and overcast with sun.

Of course, every day is historic. Today grandson Brodie ate with a fork for the first time! And lest I forget, it’s the day of the Total Solar Eclipse 2017. My view was as at right.

Last week I was in Monterey, California, where the sky is also commonly white in the mornings. I’m guessing that today Soldier’s family couldn’t see the natural and rare wonder above the overcast there, either.

bee balm



But as is also typical, during my brief visit the sun would come out within a few hours of the start of day, and we enjoyed many lovely walks in the neighborhood, and outings a little farther afield.





Earthbound Farm in Carmel Valley has paths to wander through various gardens with a teepee, a fort, a store and café, berry patches…

It is the perfect place to examine snails, red peppers growing, tiny leaves or flowers. Below is a weed I’ve often wanted to get a good picture of – it helps to have a boy’s finger for comparing size:

Laddie especially loved the aromatherapy chamomile labyrinth. I think he might have walked that path for an hour if we had not moved on.

artichoke in bloom

In the Alphabet Garden we saw a plant, or at least a place where a plant had grown, for every letter, including Echinacea and Bean.

On our walks in the neighborhood we saw familiar flowers and plants that Liam and I have noticed many times now, as well as some new ones. I haven’t had time to research most of them, like this:

But I did learn Sea Lavender, what Liam described as having a rattle-like sound to the flower heads. Only the white parts are the true flowers, what I assume this bee is sipping at:

Flowers love to grow on California’s coast! Here are several more I don’t know – if any of my readers knows them, please share.

Below, a tall bush in Soldier and Joy’s back yard:

Awfully fancy, this one:
Joy and I drove down to the Monterey Bay Recreational Trail and walked with three boys, two bikes, a double stroller and a baby pack. We looked for a long time into the water next to the boat docks and I saw my first jellyfish and skate not in an aquarium, plus lots of hermit crabs scuttling in and out of rock crevices.  It was beautiful down there.

I have been to visit Monterey twice this summer, to offer a little adult company to Joy while Soldier is working on the east coast. So we chatted and talked and talked some more, which may have been the cause of the boys being even more rambunctious than usual. I was amazed at how when it involves three boys ages 5, 3, and 1, every activity, even something as soothing as Grandma reading to them, devolves into roughhousing.

I don’t have a good picture of that. Just imagine a tangle of six arms, six legs, giggling faces and tousled hair, all somehow hanging on to my lap, with an open storybook underneath it all. It was a multi-sensory experience that will go down in my history book as a sunny day.

Proteas bloom in Monterey.


The week before Lent I journeyed to California’s Central Coast to visit my son and his family in the busy city of Monterey. Besides being popular among tourists who like the Monterey Bay Aquarium, nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea, the John Steinbeck (Cannery Row) connection, etc., it has military and higher educational value thanks to institutions such as the Naval Postgraduate School and the Defense Language Institute; a state university and a school of international studies.p1060736crp



But for me, of course, the main attraction is three little boys and their parents! I had two entire days to hang out with them all and read stories, play with Matchbox cars, cook and eat…. Four-year-old Liam and I cleaned up the kitchen together one morning and pruned the butterfly bush the next. He really did work!p1060756

We visited the Pacific Grove Natural History Museum where I took pictures of the boys at the feet of a stuffed grizzly bear, and they played with magnetized glass eyes such as taxidermists use, trying to fit them into the proper skull.





My own favorite exhibit was of sands from around the world. It made me want to start my own collection, to go with my rock collection. I’ll need to get some small bottles that I could tuck in my pocket or camera bag, and always be ready to save a sample.





Joy made an elaborate picnic that we ate on the beach, and then we spent an hour exploring the sand there, and the creatures that wash up. It took most of the following week to identify the animals as pyrosomes (the long pink things) and Corolla spectabilis pseudoconchs (the transparent roundish ones). A marine biologist friend of Kit’s pointed us to this article on: Tubes and Slippers, which also shows them side-by-side.




The proteas are blooming in Monterey:


It was a blessed trip. I’ll stay closer to home now for a few weeks.

Happy March to you all!


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.

Vacation with Bread and Water

clumps of aloes in background

California’s Central Coast was our vacation spot last weekend. We spent time with Soldier and Doll and with our friends whom I will nickname Mr. and Mrs. Bread. Their friendship is so nourishing on many levels, body and soul, that it demonstrates just how crucial phileo is to us humans.

Loaves of grain are humble and plain in a way, but throughout history people have often lived by this kind of food and little else. Thank God for friends who also lavish us with agape, ministering to us of the One who is our Bread of Life.

All six of us had a refreshing walk along the shore in Pacific Grove, where we saw the oldest active lighthouse on the West Coast. The light on Point Piños has never missed a night since 1855.

Mr. Bread played his mandolin as we strolled along under blue skies that reflected in the ocean, and we shared our discoveries of egrets and flowers and succulents. Doll found a rare black abalone shell, which was actually a beautiful blue-green. Some red-flowering aloes had long ago been planted along the path and grown into giant clumps.

We ate our picnic lunch in the courtyard of one of the many historic buildings in Monterey. This city was the capital of California under Spain and Mexico, not long after it was founded in 1700.I always enjoy visiting gardens that I have no responsibility to care for, especially if they are modeled on the historic, as was this one above. But I didn’t get to examine everything in great depth. I was always falling behind the group when trying to get the perfect picture of an aloe flower or a grove of cypresses.


fava beans

A good vacation, especially at our age, must include physical rest. We had a that in good measure, being lulled and comforted by hearing the waves crashing on the rocks below our bedroom window. And watching the waves — I think I would never get tired of it. It seems healthy to have in one’s field of vision the things that are obviously not man-made; compare that to a busy city with traffic, stores and offices. The ocean stretching away as far as I can see, or the stars and constellations that glittered above us all weekend, fill my conscious mind with the reminder that there is Something Bigger Than I Am going on here. And it’s been going on longer than men have been remembering.

Today I was lucky to be able to stay home and rest mentally from the excitement of traveling. This quiet day, combined with the nurturing gifts I received on the weekend, have given me some energy to get out of my January slump –just in time to look up with some hope at what February has to offer.