Tag Archives: grandchildren

One Bag of Balloons

I think those balloons cost about $1.87. But of all the activities in which our grandchildren were involved the week of our “Camp 1010,” the balloons were near the top of the list. Maybe not capping the wonderful washing they gave my car!

The boys particularly (William 13 and Thomas 10) are very athletic so every day was punctuated with the sounds of the basketballs being dribbled or swishing through the nets. They all three rode bikes. They loved riding around and around our almost quarter mile paved driveway. Mattie (8) built up too much speed one evening and landed in the bushes, which scared us all, but she came through that accident like a trooper after some good ice packs and attention from Grandaddy.

One day we went to Bald Point State Park on the Ochlochnee Bay and had a marvelous time discovering crabs, even a live horseshoe crab, and seashells. Mattie was enthralled with every little seashell. Then we went to the wildlife lab in Panacea where we all had a blast handling star fish, scallops, clams and coral, as well as getting a very close view of several sharks. Eating seafood before we left the bay was a big treat. William ordered flounder tacos and ate every bit of them.

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The Lemonade Stand is an annual event. They make lemonade, posters, and all

 

Aside from the annual Lemonade Stand (which, this year, thanks to our very generous neighbors, brought in $109 for the hungry), we made mayhaw jelly, played badminton, croquet, and corn-in-the-hole. We played a Monopoly game that became a fixture in our living room for parts of three days. And they beat me (trounced me!) in Authors cards time and time again. We made homemade playdough the day Amanda’s two little girls were part of our group, and that day Charli netted a beautiful orange butterfly.

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Mattie, Charli, Caitlin creating with playdough

 

But a great highlight of the week was the balloons.

I had intended to make slime instead of playdough, thinking the boys would like that better, but I never quite figured out the recipe, or maybe never worked up my nerve. Along in the afternoon that last full day, the girls began pleading for a teaparty, and the boys were not quite enthusiastic about that. I decided it was time to bring out the balloons. I thought they’d all, from six-year-old Charli to 13-year-old William, enjoy balloons for a few minutes.

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Mattie, proud of her very big balloon she blew and tied off

 

It was an evolving activity that stretched into several hours and even the next day.

Some of the children had never blown up a balloon so it was a learning experience for them. They learned how to control their breathing, how to hold the “neck,” how to minimize their slobber, and even, eventually, how to secure the opening and have a bouncy toy instead of a deflating flutter. The fluttering, of course, brought squeals of delight.

The boys remembered that balloons pop quickly on hot asphalt. They also realized a nice full bag of balloons was available so popping them was an okay sport. The police never drove up to check on the explosions.

Aside from popping, other sounds filled the air. The balloon players became versatile in making balloon noises, some almost musical, some disgusting, and all quite hilarious to this porch crowd.

The activity gravitated to the water hose where water balloons became the new thing. The boys showed the little girls the techniques of filling the balloons with just the right amount of water. Squeals erupted as balloons of many colors popped and splatted on the asphalt (or on each other!). I stayed safe on the porch.

When Amanda came to pick up Caitlin and Charli, I instructed the children to pick up the many pieces of popped balloons and, of course, that command met with a few groans. After the little girls left, the other three straightened up the porch and each went to read in a favorite chair or corner before our much-anticipated supper with cousin Charles Douglas at Mr. Chick’s. I thought that was the end of the balloons.

The next day we had to take our three Birmingham grandchildren home. Somehow that depleted bag of balloons got in the car. And it wasn’t as depleted as I’d thought!

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These Siamese twin balloons required a double blow from William and Thomas!

Driving toward Dothan we heard the sounds begin, the breathing, the squeaky twisting of inflated orbs, the deflating, the giggles. Confined safely in seatbelts those kids managed to play ball, to play a symphony of sound effects, to compete over who could blow the largest floater and much, much more.

Suddenly Thomas was bleeding from one of the warts Grandaddy had frozen for him (one of the perks of having a veterinarian Grandaddy) so we exited the highway. When Grandaddy opened the back of our vehicle to find a bandaid, a colorful river of inflated balloons escaped drifting quickly across the parking lot like live creatures. Our laughter notched to a high level when, as we drove down the service road to get back to interstate, we were actually sharing the road with a great big red balloon. When last we saw it, that balloon was bumping along on the median as if hunting for the right road.

So if you’re among the brave and the free, buy a bag of balloons (a big bag) and turn your children loose with it. You will be amazed at what develops!

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Stars and Stripes Forever

Look for our flag to be flying on the Fourth of July!

You’ll smell the smoke from our grill as Charles barbecues a goat. There will be roasting ears, sliced tomatoes, potato salad, baked beans, all on a red and white tablecloth. And plenty of sweet tea!

The children will come. The sound of bikes wheeling around our circle driveway will be punctuated by sporadic firecrackers in the distance, fired by folks impatient for the real show later in the evening.

There will be a passionate prayer of thanksgiving at our table by our head of the house as he talks to God about our precious freedoms. (Well, that will be after the little ones say their blessing of “God is good, God is great, thank you for this lovely day; By His hands we are fed, thank you for our daily bread.”) Charles will also include prayers for our president, his cabinet, and, of course, our military including, very particularly, my nephew Nathan about to ship out for a year in Kuwait leaving a wife and four-year-old-daughter behind.

As I pull out patriotic trappings “getting ready,” my mind rushes to other Fourths.

There was the year we pulled up peach trees at the Lane of Palms. Some of us longed to go to the beach. Or to the mountains. Escape the unrelenting humidity and heat of South Georgia. But Charles was the veterinarian on call and we weren’t going anywhere. Instead, Mama and Papa Graham were coming and we were all, one way or another, going to be involved in pulling up peach trees, a whole little orchard of them!

The peach trees had proven themselves infertile and had been condemned. Our plan was to concentrate on blueberry bushes and have a good place for a badminton court and a basketball goal.

But did we have to do it on the Fourth of July? Our children groaned.

We started early after a big breakfast. It turned into one of our biggest, most heated, funniest, and most memorable of all Fourths. With Papa’s truck, a chain, the shouts of “Pull!” and “Whoa!” those peach trees were all gone in a couple of hours. But in our minds we remember an all-day torture ending with a feast of hamburgers, mounds of fresh vegetables, and a huge blueberry pie. Ever after, our children have remembered that day as comparable to the Israelite slaves in Egypt building the pyramids.

And there was the year at my birth home when we all gathered around for the cutting of a watermelon. It was a volunteer watermelon we’d watched for weeks growing in a corner of Mamma’s garden. She kept telling us it wasn’t ready but on July 3rd she thumped it and decided, a little dubiously, that we could enjoy it the next day. She instructed Stanley to take it to the spring to cool overnight. We all, about eight of us, gathered around it as Mamma prepared to cut it open, our taste buds wild for the rich red juicy texture. The melon opened–and we all gasped in disappointment. It was the first time I ever had heard of a citron, green and tasteless as grass! To this day, I remember the disappointment unappeased by any substitute.

Charles and I have enjoyed many fabulous family vacations at the Gulf, viewing a parade in Demorest, Georgia and watching kayaking through Tallulah Gorge, enjoying the blue Smoky Mountains, roasting marshmallows in the backyard, watching fireworks at Disney World and at Cairo High School stadium with children and grandchildren. There have been gazillion churns of ice cream, delicious indoor picnics at our church–and one year a very quiet trip to St. George Island with our daughter Julie.

Julie couldn’t get out much in those days. She was in pain and discomfort so much of the time due to a neurological disease. On that Fourth (about 2010), we talked her into going with us for a day trip to the beach. We took folding chairs and established ourselves under a shelter. The wind was brisk, as it always is at St. George, but there were no flies, no-see-ums, or mosquitoes. We ate sandwiches, drank ice cold sodas, watched the seagulls and the blue water. I think I took the game Trionomos, one which Julie always won.  But she didn’t feel like playing that day. Charles, always trying to make things better, tried to figure out a way to push Julie in her wheelchair down near the water. Julie stoutly refused his offer, however. She said she never had liked the sand that much anyway. We stopped on our way off the island at an ice cream shop, a traditional stop for our family. Charles and I climbed the steep steps and purchased cups of ice cream for us to eat in the car. We drove home without stopping for fresh seafood because Julie cared nothing for shrimp or fish. It was when I saw how glad she was to get back to her little apartment that I realized she had gone because she wanted to make us happy.

Charles shared an article in Thomasville Times-Enterprise yesterday about our nation’s birthday. We were reminded that it was actually July 2, 1776 when our founding fathers voted to form the United States of America. The first signatures were written on July 4, but it was as much as a month later before all the signers had affixed their signatures on that earth changing document, the Declaration of Independence.  The last paragraph of the Declaration says: “And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.” Each person who signed the document had to know it could be his death warrant, pointed out the journalist team writing for the Times. Yet they signed it, imperiling themselves and their families. Freedom meant that much.

Yes, we will be flying our flag on the Fourth. We are free to salute that flag, to praise the Lord for His goodness, to raise our children in peace, to read books of our choice, to sing our national anthem, to object to what we think is wrong, to shoot squirrels that are eating our lawn furniture, to butcher a goat for a feast, to gather friends and family, to vote for our choice of president and to work together if our choice didn’t win the election. We are even free to pay taxes about which we are regularly informed and to enjoy results, such as traveling safely across the land.

What a great country we live in! Thank God for the USA!

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Quilting Party

Quilting Party

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 I didn’t know how many would come to my quilting party but I knew, however many or few, we’d have a good time. I invited women I know and love, some of whom are excellent quilters, some just learning, one who decided to work on her own creative crocheting project. There were four of us at the quilting frame, two on each side, with others coming and going, sharing a story, a laugh, and some heartening hugs.

It was a glorious beautiful morning outside and, because of my quilting friend Sally and her husband Wes, we had the quilt on a nice frame and a light that is perfect for quilting. It was a great morning for quilting on my nine-patch quilt I named “Sunny Afternoon.” The name is right for all the bright colors, the hummingbirds, butterflies, flowers and blueberries.

During hard times in our country’s history women quilted. They quilted to keep their families warm. They quilted using whatever resources they had, remnants of torn or outgrown garments, flour sacking and unbleached muslin. They quilted so all their blankets could go to keep their soldiers warm. In more affluent times and with new exciting fabrics they became extravagantly creative. In leaner times they made do with what they had. They quilted alone in their rural separateness. But sometimes they had a quilting party or quilting bee. Getting together to quilt they could actually finish several quilts in one day and everyone enjoyed it.

Women today don’t need to quilt. We can buy handmade quilts from China for far less than it costs to make them ourselves. We don’t need quilts as door hangings as pioneer women did. We don’t even have time to quilt. Working women are scattered every day to highly intense jobs, and when a busy homemaker gets home she and her spouse have hungry children, and then there are ball games, PTO meetings, and the list goes on.

But, yes, women do need to quilt. They need it for their own emotional health, for spiritual wellbeing, for connecting with the past, the future, and themselves. They need it for the sense of accomplishment it gives. They need it for passing on to their daughters a skill of the past and for teaching them to be resourceful, for our future may very well require that.

And, yes, quilting now is a very popular craft for women and for men. There is such a satisfaction and joy in making something beautiful even if, as in my case, the squares are not square and the seams keep dashing away from straight!

The word “quilt” comes from the Latin word “culcita” which means stuffed sack. It is a cloth sandwich with a decorated top layer (whether pieced fabric, appliquéd work, or a whole fabric with intricately stitched design), a soft filler (one hundred years ago the filler was dense, heavy cotton, but now is light and easy to stitch through), and the backing which also showcases the hundreds of stitches made on the topside.

I wondered if new quilters, or some who hadn’t quilted since forever, would grow quickly discouraged at a quilting party and remember something else they needed to do. I made a crock pot of soup, muffins, and brownies before they came so the house would smell so good they’d have to stay for lunch. And they did.

I also planned that we’d take turns being readers, read good wholesome shorts from Guideposts, maybe some poetry of Sidney Lanier, and our favorite Bible passages. There was no need for that plan! The chatter amongst us was all the entertainment we needed. Juanita, who is a veteran quilter, told us about some of her quilting successes and errors (we love to know that someone so good can make a mistake!). Annette helped us remember quilters in our church who now are in heaven and that brought on some interesting discussion on what may be happening in heaven. Sue, who had never quilted before, got so excited when she could see she’d stitched three three-inch blocks, we all had a good laugh. And when I sewed my finger to the quilt all I could hear other than giggles was “Don’t bleed on it!” Juanita kindly helped me cut free.

The moment-by-moment comments of quilters range from “All right! There went the knot popping in” to “Who had the thread last?” to “If I hurry, I can get to the end of this block before the thread runs out.” There are the peaceful murmury sounds of a long thread winging through fabric, of knots popping in, of the quilting frame creaking and giving to the quilters’ movements.

We talked about prayer needs. There were several heavy ones just amongst the few of us. We avoided politics this crazy election year but talked gleefully about our grandchildren, new folks in our community, how many bricks are going to be visible on the sidewalks when Cairo’s renovated town center is complete. We even talked about football. Sue lives near the high school stadium; Annette is an avid fan as am I.

Lunch was fun. My husband came home, helped serve iced tea, and, as usual, kept everyone enthralled with one of his animal stories from a morning’s work. Was that the day they put a 500 pound sow on a surgical table designed for dogs? And Dr. Kidd, a neat little lady veterinarian, stood up on a stool to get the right surgical perspective.

When my friends started to go, I gave them each one of my books, an author’s prerogative, and reminded them to take their thimbles, souvenirs of our quilting party. And we formed a circle around the quilt and prayed for those prayer needs, especially for Sally recovering from a fall and about to have surgery.

Titus 2:3 says this about women and I think it applies to all the wonderful quilters in my background including my mother and to present quilters, discounting, of course, the “a” word: “The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;”

They all said they’d come back. And that’s really good because my quilt is not nearly finished.

Below is a picture of my dear granddaughter Amanda who helps me “blog” my pictures. I insisted she make stitches too! Charli was very patient and curious.

If you’ve had fun giving a quilting party, or just quilting, why not make a comment below?

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Grandchildren Trees

The week our first grandchild was born happened to be Earth Week. When my husband and I ordered hamburgers at a McDonald’s near the hospital we received along with our meal a tiny pine tree planted in a Styrofoam cup. We laughed about the incongruity of an Earth Day gift in a Styrofoam cup. But we liked the little tree and, even though we had lots of huge pines already, we set out to plant that one. We planted it where it would receive plenty of sunshine and grow to a lofty height. This tree, we told each other, would always be our granddaughter Amanda’s age. It was quite naturally dubbed “Amanda’s Tree.” In the picture we took of her with her tree when they were a year old she’s smiling big and the tree only reached to her little feet dangling from the stroller. Now, at twenty-five, our girl turned woman has to look high in the sky to see the top of her tree.

When our next grandchild was born someone was giving away maple trees in cups. We planted Charles Douglas’s little tree near a couple other maples hoping for bright colors in the fall. “This tree will never be as tall as Amanda’s pine,” I worried. But Charles, my husband, reasoned that wasn’t the point. We were planting a nice tree to honor the birth of Charles Douglas Reeves. Later, when he was old enough to question why his tree wasn’t as big as Amanda’s, I assured him his would be much brighter.

Our third grandchild was born on the first of January, not in March like the first two. No one was passing out trees in Birmingham. But when we got home to our place in Cairo, Georgia, we looked around and decided this grandson, William Stacey Graham, Jr., should have a tree also. It just so happened that not far from one of our huge pines was a brand new long leaf seedling. Charles staked it for protection and that became William’s tree. As you can imagine, for two or three years he was totally unimpressed by that little tree. As he grew in wisdom and stature, however, he was glad to own a tree as his cousins did.

And then along came Thomas Hamilton Graham, born in February. No trees were being given. But Charles and I had begun to crave a ghinko tree. We’d enjoyed their fall color when we lived in Athens and then had been intrigued by the sprawling ghinko at our church in Cairo where it hugs up under a magnificent sweetgum. We purchased a ghinko tree that spring and planted it by the driveway where a palm tree had died leaving a nice rich spot. Thomas’s tree grew year by year more slowly than the other trees but with a certain exotic atmosphere true to its Chinese heritage, its fan-shaped leaves turning gold in the fall.

By the time Martha Elizabeth Graham was born in March, 2009, we had become enthusiasts of the majestic and romantic magnolia trees. Charles planted one for “Mattie” across the driveway from Thomas’s ghinko tree. I thought about the women in the movie “Steel Magnolias” and felt sure this little girl who, even at her difficult birth, was called by her father “a fighter,” would become both gentle and strong like them. Our first picture of Mattie with her tree shows her instant curiosity over those shiny leaves.

Growing a tree for each of our five grandchildren has not been without some disappoint-ments. Thomas’s ghinko tree lost its whole top one year in a storm but it has recovered and looks beautiful now. Charles Douglas’s maple contracted some kind of moldy disease and died. Charles D took it in stride. We planted him another tree but it died too. By then Charles D himself was about grown and able to laugh about losing two trees. “Don’t plant another one,” he said. “Look at all these trees we have to mow around already.”

And now we’re selling our place, our beloved “Lane of Palms.” What will happen to all the grandchildren trees? I comfort myself in thinking some other children will enjoy playing around those trees. But I know that is just a leafy dream. We can look at our pictures from “tree photo ops” over the years and reminisce. But I hope most of all that our grandchildren will always love and respect trees and find joy in their beauty.

As Joyce Kilmer wrote in his poem titled “Trees,” “Poems are made by fools like me, But only God can make a tree.”

If you’ve planted trees for your grandchildren, or made some other kind of collection, given books to the library in their honor, or made a tradition of some kind with them, please share your comments below.

 

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Porch Sitting

I don’t consider myself a lazy person, at least not most of the time. But I really do love to sit on our porch watching the birds, enjoying pine trees against the sky, reveling in the rich watermelon color of our young crepe myrtle and listening to the cicadas putting on their dynamic concert in the pines and magnolias.

Actually, there’s more to porch sitting than immediately meets the eye. In fact, ladies and gentlemen, the art of porch sitting has many facets.

It is very likely true that porch sitters, or variously those occupying porticos, patios, canopied walkways or even front walls of courthouses, have had a very great deal to do with electing presidents, solving peculiar mysteries, erecting high rises, and identifying rare species of birds. We’re being positive here so we’re not going to mention the characters that may have been defamed unjustly or achievements marred by disgruntled tongue wagglers. We’re talking about peaceful porch sitters.

Consider the porch. It is a place set apart from the rest of the house, at least to some degree. It is outdoors, but at least partially protected from the elements. It is a place where one can talk to a solicitor or other stranger without inviting them in. It can be a private place for a cup of coffee and a talk with the Lord. Or it can be the scene for an informal party decorated with hanging ferns, or for a gathering of friends and neighbors any time, any day. It’s a good place to serve lunch on a workday when men appear with sawdust on their britches and children cluster up with a great aptness for spills and crumbs. In other words, it is a gathering place, an informal one, not at all stiff as a parlor might be, but comfortable with a swing and rockers and lots of fresh air.

Speaking of porch sitters–there are very active ones. They can be snapping beans, peeling peaches, knitting a scarf or, even, telling stories. I once came upon a lady busy at her quilter’s frame on her small porch. The other day when my sister Suzanne and her husband Bill came from North Georgia they brought me a basket of green beans straight from their big bountiful garden. We sat on the porch and exchanged tales as we strung (should that be un-strung?) those wonderful beans. Their eight-year-old grandson Matthew happily tried out our sports rider, an exercise device that we find helpful, even challenging. For him it was way too mild, though, so he gave it up soon and tried out the swing, giving it some good exercise before he took off to try out any bike or wheeled object he could find. We could watch him while we filled our pot with beans for supper.

There are also the not-so-active porch sitters who are actually not idle at all. From a distance, two people rocking can appear to be simply taking in the evening when, in fact, they’re having a very deep discussion. An author may be sitting alone on the porch looking as idle as a tractor in a shed when, really, she/he’s planning a deep plot or searching for the very best simile. And there are the readers and the puzzle workers and the scientists with binoculars to their faces. And the knitters and cross-stitchers and knife-sharpeners and, in the case of some of our grandchildren, young artists busy sketching.

A little porch sitting usually leads to ideas for a lot more work to be done! Charles and I sit down under our porch fan for a nice evening chat after supper. Soon we find ourselves imagining new landscaping endeavors, or we notice a bird feeder is empty, or Charles suddenly remembers something he wanted to see about in his shed.

A porch can even be a good place for a snake show. Yes, that’s right, a snake show. I am mortally afraid of snakes but it’s amazing what love propels us to do! The first time my grandson, Charles Douglas, brought a small corn snake to see me he brought it in the den wrapped around his wrist. I threatened him with his life if he let that thing get lost in the couch. He and his friend Hannah were passing it back and forth between them! But then only a few weeks later I asked them to bring snakes for young Matthew and other young cousins to see. I stipulated they couldn’t be in the house. Charles D insisted the “visitors” would have to sit up on a shelf in the dining room while we all ate. But not to worry, he said, because they would be in their fabric carriers. He failed to tell me the carriers have windows through which the snakes can stare at you! But I lived through that–then we moved to the porch and I closed the door firmly.

Charles D and Hannah put on a very educational and entertaining show for everyone with their snakes center stage on our porch! There was a Brazilian (some other name I’ve forgotten!), and a couple of boas, one of which is about five feet long and wrapped itself lovingly (!!!!) around Hannah and eventually around almost everyone there. But not me! I did touch one and took two pictures of them which, for me, was pretty good. The only tears shed were from little two-year-old Kaison who was so upset because he was too small to hold the snakes. The next time he came over he looked around hopefully saying “Snake, snake!” as if perhaps one might have stayed behind.

I like to see people enjoying their porches. It shows they’re taking time to breathe deeply, to notice birds feeding, to absorb a sunset, and to dream a little. When the air turns frosty and folks start leaning their porch chairs against the wall or storing them somewhere, I feel somewhat sad. Another year of porch sitting all over and done. But, for me, I sit on the porch even in the winter. I may be huddled in a big coat or have a blanket around my shoulders, but there’s nothing more inviting on a Saturday morning than a cup of coffee on the porch swing!

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A Fig Moment

The season of harvest for our fig trees is about two weeks. This year was no exception. I canned my last batch of fig jam Tuesday and dated the labels 7/21/15. The jars show off the beautiful red figs, color enhanced by lemon juice. I look forward to giving them away at Christmas. But I look back with great joy on that first day of harvesting with my three grandchildren from Birmingham. It was their first time to help pick the figs.

When we approached our trees I saw the bees had beaten us to them. My heart fell. These children (William is eleven, Thomas is eight, and Mattie is six) would not want to get anywhere near the bees. But after I cautioned them to let the bees have any figs they wanted, they went right to work. Thomas went up a tree like a monkey to retrieve high fruit. William studiously picked figs that matched my instructions of what was ripe but not too ripe. And Mattie gleefully called out every time she picked one of the plump, warm, sticky figs.

They tried out the taste. “How do I peel it?” “Oh, just eat it–like an apple, peeling and all!” I didn’t get any “Ughs” but there were no rave comments either.

Someone discovered the next tree with the base of an old lawn recliner beside it. The chair made picking easier. Katydids commenced their rising and falling chorus in the pine trees. The morning sun blazed hotter. And the gnats began teasing around our eyes. Our bag felt weighty and abundant. I told the troops I thought we had enough figs for a batch of jam and they were off eagerly to see the goats.

Fig trees can make wonderful climbing trees. There was a time when our young son William (now father of these three) spent a great deal of his summer in the fig tree we had at that time. It was a fantastic tree with nice thick sloping limbs. The foliage was so thick he could hide up in the tree and survey the world through leafy peepholes. Seems to me he used a bucket and some string to pull valuables, such as peanut butter sandwiches, up to his perch. Fig leaves are so interesting with their harp-like shape, and they’re so generous in size, one can really imagine Adam and Eve covering themselves with them, although I’m quite sure they would be itchy.

We start watching tiny nubs of green figs develop in late April. Some years, like this one, we think we will have a huge crop, there are so many little baby nubs nestled amongst the leaves. But of course the birds–and the bees–have to take their part. One year our oldest granddaughter Amanda, about four then, having heard us talking day after day about when the figs would get ripe, asked this question. When, she wanted to know, would there be hogs on the tree.

Back at our house across town, we took time for a refreshing drink before starting the fig jam process. Then Mattie washed jars, William manned the blender, and I rinsed gently the very tender fruit. Thomas and William measured the sugar and there wasn’t much on the floor! Soon the jam pot was heating up. It is so much fun to place seals on jars and listen to them pop tight. But it was more fun this time doing it with my Birmingham Bunch!

Picking figs is a joyful thing. Especially with children’s voices circling the tree–exulting, arguing, bragging, complaining, and exclaiming. But as I write this I’m reminded of Habakkuk’s writing about having joy even when the fig crop failed. Think about these words: “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stall, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” Habakkuk 3:17-18

A Recipe for Fig Jam

5 c. prepared figs                     1/2 c. lemon juice                              1/2 c. water

1 box Sure Jell                         1/2 tsp. butter                                    7 c. sugar

Gently rinse approximately three quarts of figs. These should be rosy with only little touches of green. They should be firm enough to handle without falling apart, but not hard. (Unripe fruit will float to the top of your jam.) It’s alright if some figs have a split in the bottom as long as they haven’t been attacked by creatures!

Measure sugar into a bowl and set aside. Wash jars in preparation and gather together tongs, a ladle, a long stirring spoon, a small bowl for holding foam skimmed off the top, soft towel and clean dishrag for handling hot jars and wiping rims of the jars. To heat jars, I put them on a cookie sheet and place in oven at 212. They’re ready when I need them. Lids and rings I place in a small pot of water and heat at back of stove.

Grind or mash by hand a few figs at a time to make five prepared cups of smoothie-looking slush. Immediately add lemon juice to retain color. Place in heavy six to eight quart pot. Add 1 box Sure Jell and stir over medium heat until dissolved. Add water and butter to all. The butter will help keep your jam from foaming as much as it might. Bring this mixture to full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add sugar all at once and stir constantly.

When jam reaches a full boil and you cannot stir the bubbles down, cook for one full minute stirring constantly. Stirring constantly is a key to making jam!

Remove from heat. Skim foam off into your small bowl. Ladle beautiful red jam into hot jars and seal as directed. A milk jug top cut about four inches from mouth and turned upside down in your jar makes a very nice wide funnel.

This recipe makes ten half pints of jam.

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A Favorite Recipe–Playdough!

This recipe was a favorite of mine when my children were little. It was given to me by my son’s kindergarten teacher, dear “Miss Dixie Franklin,”who recently went to heaven. I can just see her now surrounded by all her happy students forming their great creations. My son is 46 now so that was more than a few years ago. But in the meantime, I’ve used this recipe numerous times with grandchildren, Sunday school children, and, just the other day, with two little industrious great grandchildren.

Charli (3) and Kaison (2) pulled their stools up close to help make playdough. They took turns stirring the dry ingredients. Charli helped me decide what color to make our dough. My choices of food color were yellow, red, or green. Charli chose yellow. After the children poured the liquid ingredients into the pot they had to climb down and play at a safe distance while I did the 3-minute cooking of the dough.

Here’s the recipe:

1 cup plain flour

1 cup water

1/2 salt (we tasted the salt and talked about what it is good for)

2 tsp. cream of tartar (“Miss Dixie” said do not omit this ingredient!)

1 tbs. cooking oil

Food coloring (2 or 3 drops)

In heavy saucepan mix dry ingredients. Add oil, water, and coloring. Cook 3 minutes or until mixture pulls away from sides. Knead slightly as soon as you can handle it. Store in airtight container.

By the time the dough was ready for them the children were clamoring for it. I laid sheets of wax paper on the table and gave them each a nice warm yellow ball. Kaison immediately tasted his and made a terrible face. I reminded them this dough is not to eat! (Of course Kaison tried it several more times!) We made balls and snakes, pancakes, biscuits, and six-layer cakes. We even made smiley faces. And Charli and I made an impression of her hand in one big pancake. This activity lasted at least ten minutes before their short attention spans were exhausted.

The older children can make animals, mountains, trees, pyramids, houses and towers. They would enjoy several batches of dough in different colors.

If you’d like to keep some of the children’s creations, make some playdough leaving out the cooking oil. When the artists finish molding, leave the statues to dry at room temperature uncovered. You can use this recipe at Christmas time to make tree decorations using cookie cutters. Be sure to make a hole for threading yarn for hanging.

Thank you, Miss Dixie Franklin, for your recipe. I’m sure I could have found it online where, these days, we can find almost anything. But I wanted it from my own collection as you’d given it to me! Thanks for it and the many other things you taught me about working with children–like your saying “Don’t let the children ever know where your goat is tied.” And your philosophy that children learn best by playing.

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