Tag Archives: toys

Changes, always changes…

I’m not speaking of anything life-shattering, but just the day-by-day
and year-by-year transformations…. nothing is ever the same,
and yet everything important remains steady.

Brodie eating some of the Boston Brown Bread his father has been making:

Every time I am with my children and grandchildren I am overwhelmed with joy and also with awareness of how the moments are golden — and then gone.

For Thanksgiving Pippin’s and Soldier’s families were here,
ten extra living souls in my house for a few days and nights.

The children love my vintage toys, many of which are about forty years old now!

And crafting salads in the playhouse, with gleanings from my garden.

This year we did not eat turkey, but tri-tip barbecued by the guys.




And I helped the children make these puff-pastry goodies I saw a video recipe for on Facebook. They are pretty but not very tasty, because the pastry dough in the bottom of the muffin cups can’t puff, and comes out too dense and doughy. But it was fun, and they look pretty!






The days were full of matchbox cars, Playmobil, Legos, and children
sitting up at the table yet again for more pie, eggnog,
Fuyu persimmons and whatever was leftover and handy.
Thanksgiving comes but once a year!

We took a walk and wondered over live oak acorns with stripes.
Pippin is usually the one who notices such things first,
but we all learn from her attentiveness.

She also showed me three new birds in my back yard!
I was captivated by the flocks of kinglets
flitting from plum tree to snowball bush to rosemary.

I had collected leaves on my walks and pressed them briefly,
and we enjoyed comparing them and watching them change
over the days they were on the table.
The only ones we knew for sure were liquidamber and tulip tree.

Yes, those are Moomins who are also admiring the leaves!

As is typical but always amazing, both my son and son-in-law found projects to do for me.
Soldier remade some junky broken drawers into useful shelves,
and the Professor cleaned rain gutters.
I am the most loved woman on earth.

Joy brought this simple and much-enjoyed cranberry building activity for the children,
and Pippin and I collaborated on materials for needle-felting.

When Scout was in San Francisco with his parents one day, and Jamie was napping,
Ivy and I had girl time, happily poking our needles into wool roving
to make ducks and monsters and a bunny.

All my family have departed now, and left me in this lovely afterglow of sweetness.
The leaves are still changing… and fading. Soon I’ll need to replace them with berries!

Lettuce and other summer playthings.

ivy alligator 6-16


The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

–Denise Levertov from Summer: A Spiritual Biography of the Season

This book, edited by Schmidt & Felch, is helping me to remember to treasure these days I have with my grandchildren again this week; this time they are staying at my house. I have a few photos, too, that show glimpses of peaceful moments, which seem way too few.

jed water 6-16

Yesterday I made play dough for the first time in decades, and the pot of sludge simmering on the stove was just one of the most interesting things that I forgot in the constantly distracted state in which I live these Grandchildren Days, and I went outside to help someone with something. The one other adult in the house smelled the same aroma of burnt toast I was smelling and turned it off. Kit departed an hour later for the summer so now I am back to being the only adult.

I was able to salvage at least two-thirds of the play dough, and made four pastel colors with it. I added scents using some essential oils. I don’t know if it might have been less sticky if I had paid closer attention to my project, but Scout and Laramie had a lot of fun with the dough. They also got it all over two sets of clothing each, plus a fair amount on the floor, and I am content to buy the store kind from now on.

gl 6 P1040723

<< Chairs to discourage Jamie from climbing the stairs.

The children are enjoying all the birds that come and go throughout the day now that I have the kind of garden birds like. When we sit at the dining table we can watch them at the feeders and fountain — and one good thing is that on this visit, there has been no testing of the rule against children playing in the fountain. It’s not to be touched. “It is for the birds, and for us to look at and listen to.” I emphasize how yucky the water actually is, from the birds, even though it looks clear.

We walked to the library yesterday — that is, Scout and I walked, and Ivy perched on the front of the BOB stroller where Jamie was strapped in. It’s about a half-mile away, which was just about right for our entourage. The warm air carried the scent of the juniper that lined our path, and we stopped to pick of off needles of the different forms to compare.

My town’s library has a stellar children’s area, which these country children much appreciated, for its size and design. Ivy took a turn on each of the horses as reading chairs. We spent some time in the the outdoor area with a giant granite boulder for climbing, and wished we had brought our lunch, and swimsuits for the water play area.  Maybe we will go back tomorrow for our non-book activities.

lib 491

Children always want to drop things from my open hallway upstairs, which wraps around and looks down on the entry below. Through the decades the rule has been the same: the only approved droppables are paper flying machines or balloons. So today, lacking any grandpas or uncles, I had to learn how to make a paper airplane. Internet to the rescue! And I did a really good job! Even Scout was super-grateful.Ivy wash 6-16

That was just this morning, and afterward Scout went with his other grandmother for the day, which is why I have a little mental space to think and write. The children who remain are, miraculously, napping at the same time.

But earlier, it was the perfect opportunity for Ivy to do some housekeeping just the way she likes it, in and for the playhouse that she considers Her House. To practice cutting with scissors, to have some water play, and reading with Grandma, all without big brother interference.

One thing I loved about Seventeenth Summer, which I recently finished reading, was the way no one in the story felt the need toIMG_2499 manz be doing Special Things every week, in order to enjoy the season and the time off school and regular routines. People have jobs and housework, and the tomatoes need to be picked. Many of us like to be home washing the dishes these evenings when a breeze is blowing through the open window, and the sun sets late. And of course, working in the garden in the cool of the mornings, and sitting under a leafy arbor in the afternoons.

Margarita Manzanita is in her peeling season. >>

Ivy and Scout like to notice all the trees and flowers and even ask me the names of them. I’ve told them they may pick anything in the front yard, because it’s all coming out soon, but nothing in the back, except the lettuce that has bolted. So they have played with lettuce. And I did give Ivy a calla lily stem to use as a gasoline hose for filling up the tank of “her” Little Tikes Cozy Car.

gl 6 toy pop up men

This toy with four bouncing men is one of Jamie’s favorites, and it has been a favorite of dozens of children in my house over the last 28 years or so. It actually belongs to Kate, and was one of the few things that she as our fifth baby received new. I am so glad I found it for her back then, and that somehow we have preserved the set, because now I don’t think the Toy Police would allow it; a child might shove a little man down his windpipe.

I’ll leave you with a few more words from the introduction to Summer‘s collection of stories, Psalms and readings on this blessed time of year. I’m certain that children have some perspective on leisure that I have completely lost and probably can’t relate to, so I do not try to write from their perspective, even if they are a big part of my summer.

“The Psalms themselves declare the pleasures of leisure, in which we may sing songs and play music in moments when we are not in our work routines….to step back for a moment from our self-importance and our drivenness to provide a larger perspective.”

“…It is delight; it is merriment. It is a pause in the action, a moment to let this thought come: maybe I am not so critical to the world after all… a humbling time when we might dare to believe that stopping and looking round us might be more important than driving toward the distant horizon.”

Summer is for tea parties.

P1100600teapotWarm weather means that if we have any grandchildren around, we can have tea parties outdoors. The other day at Scout’s suggestion I made tea from what could be had in the garden: lemon balm and three kinds of mint.

Ivy and Scout and I sat on the patio with our little plastic cups of tea. Four-year-olds think the sugar cubes are the main event, and the toddler just wanted to put her chocolate kisses, cherries, and cubes of cheese into her cup.



When I had my head turned she put cherries into my tea as well. Soon she had moved on to the washing-up, which she liked even better than the dining (or soup-making) part.


Ivy wash 6-14

Unfortunately, chocolate doesn’t come off with cold water.

P1100609 kids alyssum 6-14

Later in the day I sheared the alyssum and the kids tried to help with their little scissors. But the challenge of getting the piles of cuttings into the yard waste can turned out to be the most fun.



P1100621 can


By the time Liam arrived a few days later, all the work was done, but he was well pleased with the toys and books galore. Little wooden people from his parents’ past were the most popular.

P1100643 little people

Some toys that I keep around you would not be able to find in stores anymore, because their parts are too small to be considered safe. If I had a child who’d choked, I might feel differently, but I am sorry that some of the most charming and fun playthings are now forbidden.

Remember Micromachines? We just ran across one of those this week and were amazed. They seem small enough for a child to ingest without much problem. Of course, I never would let the older children bring them out if there were crawling babies around.

Liam 6-14 play

This last toy that Liam is focused on was Kate’s 25 years ago. Many many children have enjoyed it since, but I am thinking of stashing it away so that all the pieces will still be there when her own children are ready to play with them down the road. This week she showed her nephew how to hit the little stick people just so, to make them bounce out of their holes. A good toy is a joy forever.

The boon of a boy with the pox

Feeding the neighborhood cat

All the planets were in formation for me to have a blessed weekend. First, grandson Scout came down with the chicken pox. Second, his parents needed to attend a wedding and to travel through our part of the state to get there. Third, I had no obligations I couldn’t get out of. So he stayed with us for three nights! This was only a few days after we’d returned from that trip to his house over the Memorial Day weekend.

Though we have eight other grandchildren, this is the first time we’ve had entire responsibility for any of them this long. I was really busy with the little guy, and it was very satisfying.

His pox weren’t bothering him much, which made it possible for us to just have a good time. After the first full day he was here, I was so high I was ready to write a glowing blog post about the experience as soon as he went to bed. I put it off, and at the end of the second day I was exhausted and couldn’t relate to that woman of the previous day or remember the feeling. It’s a mercy he sleeps long at night so I could too.

That first day I was in the Mom groove — it reminded me at least a little of when I was a youngish mother 30 years ago with a lot to get done every day, little children underfoot and needing something every few minutes. You learn to make the most of every five-minute snatch of time when they are occupied, and you figure out how to get tasks done with them alongside and “helping.”

Scout’s very favorite activity at our place is watching the Kreepy Krauly pool sweep when it comes on for 2 hours every morning. I didn’t want to find out if he would be happy doing that for entire time it runs, because I needed to be right next to him inside the pool fence. I was indulgent to an hour’s worth, which was nerve-wracking enough.

Eventually I figured out that I could prune a few rose branches or sweep the fence while we were in there. Scout helped me dig weeds, too, when he wasn’t trotting from one side of the pool to the other following the machine, talking about it or to it, “Heh-woh, Kweepy!” I think I came closer to falling into the pool than he did, more than once.

Two of the three days he was here were unusually warm, even into the evenings, which made it possible for us to spend a lot of time outdoors. A big dishpan and the hose would have been enough to occupy him, but I also brought out the play stove his grandpa had made about 30 years ago, and some plastic tea dishes. He set to work making “chicken noodle soup,” or so he said.

One of the ways one makes use of the minutes when caring for a little one is to explore together — watch bugs, smell roses, and notice how the hose water feels on the toes.

Scout is a talker and asks the name of every flower he sees. I was able to satisfy him about most of the ones growing in our yard, and a few in the neighborhood. When we got back from one our walks he put his nosegay into a little pot.

None of our grandchildren lives close enough to us that we can see them frequently. For the present, Scout is the closest, and five hours isn’t very close. Maybe the arrival of his little brother or sister late this summer will give us the impetus to make the drive more often.

I’m ready to put in more Grandma Time!

Frilled Shasta Daisy