Faith, family, Home Life, Uncategorized

A Homespun Christmas Part 3

One of the most enjoyable holiday crafts I’ve done is what I lovingly refer to as ‘song trees’.

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My initial goal of 6-8 paper song trees, quickly grew to a couple dozen, as they were so beautiful, and easy to put together, that I gave away about as many as I made for myself.

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Here is one of my best, time-saving, holiday decorating tips: I use quilt batting, torn into shelf-size pieces, in the bookshelves to create a ‘snowy’ background. It can be purchased by the yard or in a roll. Rather than empty the bookcases of the regular, year-round décor, I simply push the items toward the back of the shelf, draping and covering them with the torn pieces of quilt batting. (See examples above) There you have, an instant, simple backdrop for all those festive & beautiful holiday colors!

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As a child, I never realized how hard my Mother must have worked in order to assure that all her children would wake on Christmas morning to the hope and promise every child holds on to during the holidays.

I believe the most precious memories about Christmas are rooted in the traditions which are repeated every year….things that are sure….and predictable. It’s an unspoken expectation that everything which is perhaps unstable about this present life will, at least for a brief moment, come back into order and take the shape of something familiar which we can recognize.

No matter how simple that tradition may seem, it causes the uncertainty which threatens our peace of mind to lose some of its power, even if only for a short time. One of those traditions in our house is waking up to lots of goodies in our Christmas stockings.

I have to say (or confess) though, that a few times over my past 30 years of motherhood, “Santa” has been a little late in filling the stockings before the children woke up on Christmas morning! I think he was too tired from the long night of delivering presents all over the world, and he slept in just a little too long…. or maybe he forgot to set his alarm clock….

The kids were so good about waiting patiently for “Santa” to get out there and magically cause those empty stocking to become overflowing with surprises, never calling him out for his untimely oversight.

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To my recollection, my Mother… um.. I mean Santa… never forgot to fill the stockings of my siblings and I.

Every year, we knew exactly what we would find… a large orange in the toe of the stocking, topped off with assorted nuts still in-the-shell, lots and lots of old-fashioned ribbon candy, colorful hard candies, peppermints, and yummy old-fashioned chocolate-covered crème drops! Every now and then, the hard candies would stick to the felt-stockings, but it made no difference to us! We just pulled it off and savored it anyway! These little morsels of sugary sweetness kept us happy all day long!

“It has long been an axiom of mine that the little things are infinitely the most important.”

~Arthur Conan Doyle

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Faith, family, Home Life, Uncategorized

A Homespun Christmas Part 2

Rustic & cozy. Warm & soothing. Outdoorsy & simple.

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These were my goals in creating a wintry, get-away feeling right here in our own home.

 

The next mission was to gather lots and lots of branches to make walking through the house feel like a stroll through a woodland. Now, where am I going to find the branches?

 

Luckily for me, Andy knew someone who happened to have a humongous mountain of branches from their orchard. With gloves and cutters in hand, I sifted through the heaps to find the perfect ones, while my patient husband assisted. Not all branches are alike, and not just any would do! No! I had a vision and they had to be perfect!

 

Once home with our bounty, we sorted them, grouped them, potted them in small containers of plaster, and sprayed them with white texture which, once dried, looked like a dusting of delicate snow. (See picture below)

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The beautiful branches were placed strategically around our home and imparted that warm feeling you get when you sing…”Chestnuts roasting on an open fire…Jack Frost nipping at your nose….Yes, you know the one!

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Growing up, it was always tradition that very early Christmas morning, still in our pajamas with sleepy eyes, and before any presents were opened, we gathered around together and listened as the story of Christ’s birth was read from the big family bible.

 

We knew about Jesus and that this time was a celebration of His birth, and though we tried to listen, our youthful minds were filled with the anticipation of tearing open the colored packages which had our names on them.

 

Andy grew up with slightly different traditions, so we merged many of them and created our own special moments to remember. Taking a few minutes out of the excitement of gift-giving, to honor Jesus Christ and remember His birth was an important tradition that we agreed to continue as our children grew up.

Now, as our grown children bring our grandchildren to our home on Christmas Eve, they are hearing the same story of Jesus’ birth, as we open our big, family bible and read aloud the very same words that I heard as a child, the same words that were inspired by God Himself and were written into His Word, to be read and passed down to each generation, piercing the heart of man with the knowledge that God loves us so much, that He sent His perfect Son to a sinful world!

Here is this wonderful scripture of hope!

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

Luke 2:1-14 (King James Version)

 

 

family, Home Life, Uncategorized

A Homespun Christmas Part 1

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It has long been my little family’s tradition that we deck the halls (our home) the weekend following Thanksgiving.

The marvelous invention of more ‘realistic’ artificial Christmas trees has made it more of an achievable goal. My apologies if the thought of a ‘fake’ tree makes you cringe! I truly do love the feel and aroma of a freshly-cut pine but it doesn’t allow for a lengthy, month-long display, which we love.

 

 

 

Midway through 2016, a vision of the upcoming Christmas season began to fill my heart and mind. I felt like the world was in such a state of chaos, and in fact, it still is. The election was in full-swing, all the relentless arguing and conflict in the news and between people in general, everyone shouting to be heard while no one actually listened to anyone else, was just too much for me.

 

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I needed to get back to my roots and retreat to a simpler time, to be soothed down to my soul, and make our home the one place we could all go to escape the madness. Being a simple, hometown girl at heart, I longed to create an atmosphere that would impart a feeling of warmth, comfort, and peace.

 

I wanted to bring outdoor elements into my home and re-create the comforting simplicity of an old-fashioned Christmas. I enlisted my husband’s help to make my vision a reality. Lots of planning and prep work paid off, and the end result rewarding. (Pictured on the right: hand-woven garland. By Robin Abrams)

 

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Over the next few weeks, as we enter the hustle and bustle of the holidays, I’ll be sharing glimpses of how it all came together, along with a few special memories of my past family traditions. I hope it will bring a smile to your heart, memories of Christmases long ago to your thoughts, and inspiration as you create your own traditions and bring your own vision of the holidays into your home, no matter what that looks like for you.

Feel free to use any of these ideas. I hope you enjoy.

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The first part of my plan was to leave all the shiny-gold, fancier ornaments packed away, and to display the rustic, home-made themed instead. With natural elements being my inspiration, I began gathering sticks, twine, and branches. I looked online for inspiration, and then added my own ideas and personalized touches. (All the items pictured here handcrafted by Robin Abrams)

 

I put my love of thrift stores to good use and found gently used ornaments that fit my theme perfectly, plus I already had quite a collection of nature/country inspired baubles. Even my local dollar store had many ornaments that were exactly what I was envisioning. When the time came to put up the Christmas tree, there was no shortage of beautiful, simple, and whimsical ornaments.

(Ornaments by Robin Abrams)

(All pictures by Robin Abrams)

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I still clearly remember my favorite ornaments from my childhood years. The elves, whose long legs bent at the knees, enabling them to tuck underneath its folded arms, and the colorful little glass birds with long, fuzzy tails.

And we adorned the tree with plenty of shining tinsel!

Tell me, which ornaments were your favorite as a child? Which traditions came with decorating the family Christmas tree?

If you would like to take a stroll down memory lane, here is a wonderful resource for beautiful, vintage ornaments!

ThisThatAndChristmas

family, Home Life, Uncategorized

Ode to the Good Ole’ Days

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This story is a continuation to my previous posts about my childhood days on the farm. You can find those posts in my archives.
Even though these stories may seem simple and somewhat ordinary, they are still share-worthy because the memories which I hold dear from that simple, country life are important times, not only in my own history, but for that era in which people and communities lived and grew. Some of these small communities and rural areas are now almost unrecognizable. As housing, industry and commercialized agriculture expands, the small farm livelihood and purpose shrinks.
So, if you too experienced childhood on the farm, or even if you didn’t, I hope my stories will bring a smile to your heart as you recall your own yesterdays.

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I was about 5 years old when my Mother remarried and we moved to the outskirts of a tiny town called Buena. It was a nice little rural community in those days. It was small, but had a little convenience store, post office, a tiny public library, beauty shop, and a small elementary school within walking distance from our home.
I have always loved the house we lived in. It was less than a mile from town, and sat on about an acre or so of land. The red, 2-story home resembled a barn, with a white, covered porch expanding across the front of the house. To a small child like I was, it felt like a mansion!
I shared a large, upstairs bedroom with some of my sisters, but outside was where we had most of our fun! It was a fantastic place to play! Oh, there were so many things to do!

 

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Farm life suited us just fine. We had quite an array of animal life as well.

 

 

Mom had a beautiful, golden-brown Jersey milk cow, and we also had horses, chickens, ducks, rabbits, pigs, goats, dogs and cats! My favorite cat was a huge, yellow-tabby tomcat, which I would pet and talk to on the back porch for hours!

 

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My Mother, being the hard-working, ambitious woman she was, put the farm to work producing an abundance of food and produce for her family. I don’t know when she ever slept, as she worked from sun up til sun down, and then some!
But I truly believe she loved every bit of it. Seeing the bounty being canned, frozen, and stored away to meet the needs of her big family must have given her peace of mind, knowing her children would be fed well.
One year, she built 2 very large, framed screens, and set them up in the front yard. After lining them with plastic wrap, she spread a thin layer of pureed fruit over them which dried into home-made fruit leather (today they are called fruit roll-ups). She also used the screens to sun-dry sliced apples and other fruit in the fresh, natural sunshine.
Frozen cherries were one of our favorite summer time snacks, as well as sweetened, frozen sliced peaches. There was also plenty of home-canned cherries, peaches and pears.
At that time, there were 7 or 8 kids still living at home, which included my stepfather’s 2 school aged children. The youngest, a girl, was only 2 months younger than me, and my Mom would often sew matching outfits for us. (See picture below)

 

One winter, the older children built a real ice igloo!

 

You can’t spend all those hours out on the farm, and not have a few battle scars.

 

For instance, my hand bears scars from the day I ran out the back door to play. The front door was open, causing the back door to firmly slam shut, quickly taking the tip of my finger off. All I remember is screaming at the sight of the blood, and my mother wrapping my hand in a towel and holding me while I was taken to the hospital, where skin was grafted from my hand in order to repair my finger.

 


It wasn’t all fun and playing, as there were plenty of chores to be done. Pulling weeds in the garden wasn’t much fun, whereas collecting the eggs and giving the pigs their stinky, mushy food was definitely more interesting to me.

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One particular evening, it was my turn to wash the dishes. I was probably about 8 or 9 years old. But that night, my older sister was having a slumber party and I didn’t want to wash dishes, I wanted to hang out with my sister’s friends!

 

So I carried on to my Mother about it, whining, and fussing and complaining, and I mean, I just kept on and on in my misery!
Mom finally had enough, and she firmly said, “Oh, just go on then! I’ll do them myself!”

 

Woo-hoo! I was free! I got to go have fun, right?
No! Because then, I felt so terrible and guilty, that I started crying and crying and begging my Mom to “please let me do the dishes!”, but she wouldn’t!!

 

My poor Mother! Whatever a wit’s end is, I’m sure I drove her to it that night!

 

Of course, it wasn’t a perfect time of life, and we had our share of difficulties, tragedy and loss, but because of our foundation of love… we endured.

Faith, Home Life, Uncategorized

Don’t Forget to Look Up

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It’s hard to believe we’ve been in our house just about three and a half years. I guess when a house really feels like home and you allow yourself to finally put down deep roots, it feels like you’ve been planted there longer.

 

We have completed several renovation projects on our small home, one of which was a complete kitchen remodel. I like to add my own unique touches and features that make my home feel welcome and warm for my family and guests.

 

The kitchen ceiling is one of those, with a recessed section in the middle of it, and a hand-painted medallion which shows off the beautiful light fixture. It’s a lovely feature.

 

But you know what? I seldom enjoy it anymore because when I’m in the kitchen, I never look up! I’m just so focused on my task or walking through to wherever I’m going, and I don’t think to look up. My gaze is fixed on my eye-level view.

 

So when my granddaughter said the other day, “Grandma, that’s a really pretty light”, I looked up and said “Yes, it is!”. And the Lord placed this thought in my heart.

 

“Don’t forget to look up!”

 

It’s so easy to forget to do that! Life gets busy, there are so many world events that overwhelm our sense of security, not to mention our own personal life crises. Discouragement causes our gaze to drop and we barely find the strength to just get through today. It skews our perspective.

 

Knowing we would face those times, God gave us reminders in His Word to lift up our eyes!

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I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.”  Psalm 121

 

Jesus lived this himself as an example for us to follow, when his dear friend Lazarus died and upon arrival at the scene, He gave thanks to His Father in heaven for hearing Him and for the miracle He knew was about to take place.

 

“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.”  John 11:41

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Oh, my prayer is that while I am busy with this life, that my eyes will remain fixed on Him! That I will never forget to look up!

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(Photo- Robin Abrams, A Song In My Heart)

Home Life, Living Life, Uncategorized

June Bugs!

June Bugs. 

At least that’s what we have always called them. The proper name is- Ten lined June Beetle. 

Let me describe this little creature, in case you don’t already know about it. My most sincere apologies to anyone with a bug phobia! I can hear my sisters now saying ‘Ewww!’, and now laughing. 

When I was growing up, this dreaded little bug struck fear into the very depths of my being! 
I was an outdoorsy farm-girl. I loved frogs-and still do-I played with worms, ladybugs and rolly pollys (sow bugs).

I baited my own fishing lines for goodness sakes!

So what is it about these tiny crawly-critters that I hate so much?

First of all, they are not tiny. They are 1- 1 1/2 inches in length and up to 3/4 inch wide, off-white in color with greenish-brown stripes on their hard outer shell. They have large, fuzzy antennae. 

But the worse feature is their long ‘sticky’ legs. By sticky, I mean they stick to things- like screen doors in the summer evenings…and skin…and hair! Makes me cringe just thinking about it.
They come out in the heat of the summer, usually in the later part of the day, and are attracted to the light. So just about every evening, we would find at least one or two of them clinging to the screen door. We could examine and poke at them from the ‘safety’ of the indoors, but wouldn’t dare go out there and risk having them land on us.


Many years ago, after I got married, all the family gathered at my Mother’s house in the summer for a hot dog/marshmallow roast. It was dark outside and we had a big, roaring fire going. It was great fun. But all of a sudden, we were invaded!




June bugs love light and heat, and they began flying all around- oh yes! they fly, too!- and we all started ducking and flailing around, putting whatever we had over our heads, because you do not want one of them landing in your hair, and we dashed for the house! A few of the critters hitched a ride inside with us. Oh my! What an exciting time, right?! Oh, I can laugh about it now!

I forgot to tell you one more thing about June bugs. They hiss! Loudly!

One particular summer evening, two of my sisters and I were rehearsing some songs, using microphone equipment. It was hot and stuffy in the room, so we had opened the door.

All at once, we heard a sound…a hissing sound. We looked around, and there it was.


Sitting on Debbie’s shoulder was a huge June bug, the microphone amplifying it’s already loud hissing! I don’t recall Debbie’s reaction, but I’m certain that if it had been me, there would have been some screeching, and jumping, and carrying on.

I know the unique June bug has a purpose in the balance of nature, although I could do without them!

 
More information and pictures in case you want to know more:

inaturalist.org

(photos- public domain)

family, Home Life, Uncategorized

Setting Priorities

I am finding so much fulfillment in writing/blogging. It feels like this is what I am supposed to be doing at this point in my existence. It makes my simple, obscure life seem like there is purpose after all.

I am so thankful to the Lord that He directed me to this. And I truly mean, it was Him who did so and as long as He fills me with a message, or insight, memories worth sharing, and lessons to be learned, I will continue with expectation and gratitude.

So, if that is the case, I am going to have to commit to prioritizing some things. I would love nothing more than to sit at this screen all day and write, to read the stories of my new blogging community, and develop this into whatever its potential is.

But it doesn’t make for a productive household, meals for the family, or physical wellness. Therefore, I will commit to learning to balance this new-found passion with this life God has blessed me with.

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Inspired via Daily Prompt: Commit

(Photo credit-Robin Abrams, A Song In My Heart)

family, Home Life

Uncle Bob

When I was a little girl, there was a very special man in my life.img_2366
My Uncle Bob.

Oh, he was a tall, handsome, funny, and loving man. He always made me feel so special, even when I became an adult. I think he made all of my siblings feel special, too.

He was a secure male role-model for us, the father-figure we all needed at that time.
He never yelled at us, always loved it when my Mother would take us to their little house for a visit. They never made us feel like we were a bother and we were always welcomed.
In fact, he and his family helped my Mom many times, as she single-handedly worked to raise her children with little income, sometimes bringing groceries or big boxes of apples or oranges at Christmas time.
Whenever we went over and I had a splinter, he would give me a whole quarter so that I would let him take it out. A quarter doesn’t sound like much, but at that time, you could load up on the penny candy at the store!

My sister Shelby recently confessed that when she knew we were going to Uncle Bob’s house, she would run her fingers over the wooden porch rails, trying to get a sliver. Sometimes it would work!

 

He would engage my sister Gwen in a game of checkers, using quarters as the game pieces, and somehow she always ‘won’.

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And every now and then he would bring out the favorite toy. It was a wind-up Mickey Mouse that would play the xylophone, turning side to side, bending up and down, while arms alternated in motion. The most interesting and mechanical toy I had ever seen!

 

 

 

 

But what I loved most about going to his house were the music jams.

He would get on the old organ or piano, Aunt Mary would sit at the drums, and whoever else played an instrument would join in. The children were always encouraged to be part of the music. We gathered around, sitting on the floor, and played maracas, the triangle, the tambourine, and other percussion instruments.

The songs ranged from old traditional hymns, to fun old-time ones like “There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea”. If you’ve never heard it, here’s a link. Be forewarned, it will probably be stuck in your head for the rest of the day, but it’s a fun song!

There were big band favorites like ‘In the Mood’. Uncle Bob loved playing that one and would just let it go on the organ or piano. And my cousin Marilyn was always requested to sing “Teddy Bear”.

It wasn’t just the music that we loved, it was the special time of gathering together with family and finding joy even when times were hard.

When I asked some of my family to reminisce about the days at Uncle Bob’s house, there was one thing that stood out the most to all of us.

We felt loved.

family, Home Life, Uncategorized

Stepping Out of the Cover

I guess you could say that my early childhood was quite sheltered.

Since I spent most of my time at home with my family, and because many of the secular influences which have so saturated society today were not prevalent in our home, I didn’t know about a lot of ‘worldly ‘ things until later. I was quite naïve.

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But when I was in the 5th grade, I began to swear. Yes…
I remember clearly that time in my life. I was happy, I had great friends, I loved school and I was beginning to learn more about the ‘world’. I was slowly coming out of my shell and on occasion was quite bold.

Well, I decided that cool kids cuss and that I was going to do it, too.

So we were just having a great day and the opportune time came, and I let it go.

I clearly and intentionally said “Crap!”….Oh. Yes. I. Did.

I said again, “Crap!”  Was I cool or what?!   Oh, I said it several times!

Mind you, I don’t think I knew many other words to choose from. I certainly didn’t know the “S” word or the “F” word, and if I did, they were absolutely in the off-limits category. But ‘crap‘ was deemed pretty bad in my book, so I went with that one.
At home, there were words we were not allowed to say. Like ‘butt‘, or the names of any other unmentionable body part.

We did not say ‘pee pee’ or the slang-term for any other private bodily function, and if we did, you can be sure that someone was going to tell on you!

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Oh, I’m not complaining about being so protected. I am quite glad that my early childhood was not blemished by the crude world, and that I was simply allowed to remain in my childhood innocence, at least for a short time.
Soon enough, the negative, perverse nature of the world would touch my life and threaten my future with poor choices, others’ ill-intentions, and the knowledge of things which bring corruption to the mind, body, and soul.

P.S. The cussing thing? Wasn’t really my thing.

family, Home Life, Uncategorized

Digging To China

I don’t think there is anything more primal than kids and dirt. You place a kid in front of a dirt pile, and they know exactly what to do. No prompting needed. I love how instinctual it is. They grab handfuls of it and soak in that earthy feeling of satisfaction, like it’s becoming a part of them. 
I remember all the hours and hours I spent playing in the dirt mounds at my childhood home. Mud pies by the dozens! In fact, I think most of my early childhood days were spent outdoors. I don’t remember my Mother ever telling us to not get dirty or getting angry at us for tracking dirt in the house. If she did, it wasn’t harsh enough that it made a lasting memory. We were outside playing, doing what kids were supposed to be doing…and we were happy. 
So as we are planning out and landscaping our little backyard, it is important to me that it be a place not just for my husband and I to enjoy, but also an atmosphere where my grandchildren can store away lasting memories of all the fun they had at Grandma’s house.

There is a small corner of the yard we reserved for them, filled with dirt and sand, because little boys and even little girls love to dig and they need to have the experience of getting dirty and burying the trucks and plastic men in the dirt and making roads. Their little faces, greyed with a nice coating of earth, looking up at me and proudly saying, “Look what I made Grandma!”

A couple of times, two of my grandchildren grew very excited at the prospect that they just might dig all the way to China! Future archeologists! 

And yes some of that dirt from China is going to end up in my house, on the rug, on the couch, and I’m going to spend quite a bit of time sweeping the floors.

I expect that a few of the flowers might not survive my little grandsons, but flowers are replaceable, aren’t they? Floors are easily swept and mopped, right?

When they walk in the door and would rather go outside and play than sit and play a video game or get on their device, that’s a win. 

But they won’t always want to dig in the dirt or play outside. These times are to treasure. 

Let them dig….let them get a little dirty….let them be children.

(Photo credit-Robin Abrams)