Staying in Focus: Grandchildren, Cupcakes and Hugs

We had a birthday celebration for Evelyn on Saturday. The first part went off without a hitch. We ate at Red Robin and the staff gathered round to sing her a happy birthday song and give her an ice cream sundae. Unfortunately,the museum we planned to visit was inundated by both rain and people. We couldn’t find a place to park for miles around. So we gave her a rain check and headed home to open gifts. Evelyn especially liked the harmonica and book of Jack Prelutsky poems we gave her, as well as the hundred-dollar bill that was a part of the money for swimming lessons. We topped the day off with colorful cupcakes.

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Monday, our little buddy came by  to stay for a few hours. We had fun with Legos. Gavin created this Indiana Jones all by himself.IMG_3728IMG_3731



Pretty clever. Then he and Grandpa got a case of the sillies.



Finally, there is nothing like a Gavin hug!


Staying in Focus: Dollar Store Fun

I love the dollar store. Yesterday my two most favorite people, my grandchildren, Evelyn and Gavin, came over to play. I had picked up a bag of goodies at the dollar store and with a little creative thinking, we made a lot of fun.

We started with an iron man action figure and a paper doll, with clothes to decorate and little plastic hangers and a rack to hang them on. We taped two pieces of cardboard together to be a backdrop, one set for the doll and one for iron man. We covered the cardboard with colored cardstock and cut out pictures to hang on the walls. We made Evelyn’s a super fashion closet, with an aluminum foil mirror and a couch with a lamp beside it, all cut from old magazines Dollar Store Fun!. Gavin’s we made into a workshop for iron man, so we made  a bench and cut out shelves and cabinets and  drew some partially completed iron man suits. Gavin wanted a table and a bed, so we used leftover cardstock to fashion those.  This activity kept them occupied for some time, total cost for the fun $2.13.

Next we needed to move a little so we went outside on a bug hunt. The dollar store had these little bug containers, with pincers to use to pick the bugs up.  Breathing holes were supplied and a built-in magnifying glass made it easy to see small bugs. I, however, have had encounters with fire ants, so I picked up 2 bags of friendly plastic bugs, of generous size. Before the kids arrived, I hid the bugs on the patio, using the camouflage of plants and other objects to make it challenging. Before we started I asked if they knew what camouflage was. Evelyn, who is about to turn 8, thinks she knows everything and the scary part is, I think she does. She sure knew about camouflage. I told them to find eight bugs each and off they went. They had so much fun, they wanted to hide them and have me find them. They were pretty clever, and used camouflage to make it difficult for me, too.

Total cost for this much fun (and learning – we identified all the bugs by name) $2.13 each.

Next on the agenda was  a marble race. My house is long front to back and the rooms sort of flow one into the other. We took one of those “noodles” the children use to float on in a pool and leaned it against the back of the sofa in the family room. Inn the center of the noodle there is a hole large enough for a marble to pass through. We took turns dropping the marbles into the noodle and counting how many made it on to the rug behind the front door. More fun  for $2.13

We retreated from the hot sun to the porch, enjoyed an ice pop and Evelyn challenged me to a game of stack the chairs and tables, also a dollar store item, while Gavin relaxed on the lounge chair and iron man sat on the frog’s lap. The total cost per child for all this fun:?$4.79  Like I said, I love the dollar store!

Evelyn and her winning tower of chairs and tables


Gavin , iron man and the frog

Staying in Focus:Daily Prompt: Adult Visions: Making it Look Easy

Daily Prompt: As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

The first memory that came to mind when I read this prompt was how, as a child thinking how easy my mother had it. She would wake my sister and me up at 6:00 am.  We’d wash, get dressed, eat breakfast, then lay down on the couch, for maybe five to ten precious minutes of rest, until she would rouse us again, point us in the general direction of the bus stop, and once we were safely on our way, she’d lay back down in her bed, all cozy and warm, while the bus whisked to school to face tests, oral reports and gym (three things that terrorized me at school) .

I think that misperception is the most common one children have about adult life. It’s the autonomy the child believes the adults have that they envy. Unlike the child who is told when to go to bed, when to wake up, when to go to school etc. it seems adults can do as they please. This misperception occurs because the child can see the person or persons (mother, father, teacher; etc.) who wield control over him, who restrict his autonomy with rules and regulations. What he does not see are the people who restrict the autonomy of his parents, like managers at work, doctors who want them on a restricted diet, the bank that wants the mortgage payment paid promptly each month.  Adults certainly have less autonomy than I thought they had as a child. And a lot more responsibility carried on their shoulders.

My mother was a stay at home mom. She had to be her own manager and we would come home after our day in school to a clean home, supper on the stove, clothes washed, folded and ready to be ironed after she helped us with our homework.  We put little thought to how all that was accomplished while we were otherwise occupied. We’d kiss her goodnight, then snuggle down in our beds, all cozy and warm, to the hiss of the steam iron as she tackled this chore long into the night waiting for my dad to come home from work around midnight. She had no more autonomy than we, she just did what had to be done. The thing is she loved taking care of her home and family. Maybe the need for autonomy diminishes in proportion to how much you love what you do. Taken from that perception maybe mom had it easy, after all.

Staying in Focus: Signs of Spring, and Poetry


No matter how cold and dreary the weather is, there is something in the air that hints of spring. Maybe it is that one day a week when the temperatures  creep past 70 and we decide to take a walk. As we travel through our neighborhood,  I see changes all around. From the crocus and daffodils that encircle the tree mounds. to the pink blossoms on a Japanese cherry tree,and  the full out white blossoms of the Bradford pear trees, it is obvious that spring is fighting to vanquish old man winter. We pass a weeping willow tree covered with tiny green leaves and  notice new growth appearing on our knock out roses. The yellow of forsythia helps to draw the eye away from the still sleeping Bermuda grass. The sky is blue and the sun shines brightly and hope that we are nearing the end of this long, cold winter grows stronger every day.

I have two favorite spring poems I would like to share with you. The first is by ee cummings:


when all the world is mudluscious…

when the world is puddle-wonderful.

–  ee cummings

I love the words mudluscious and puddle-wonderful!


My other favorite poem is Spring Morning by A.A . Milne

Spring Morning

Where am I going? I don’t quite know.poems

,Down to the stream here the king cups grow –

Up on the hill where the pine trees blow –

Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.


Where am I going? The clouds sail by,

Little ones, baby ones, over the sky.

Where am I going? The shadows pass

Little ones, baby ones, over the grass.


If you were a cloud, and sailed up there,

You’d sail on water as blue as air,

And you’d see me here in the fields and say:

“Doesn’t the sky look green today?”


Where am I going? The high rooks call:

“It’s awful fun to be born at all.”

Where am I going? The ring doves coo;

“We do have beautiful things to do.”


If you were a bird, and lived on high,

You’d lean on the wind when the wind came by,

You’d say to the wind when it took you away:

That’s where I wanted to go today.


Where am I going? I don’t quite know.

What does it matter where people go?

Down to the wood where the blue bells grow –

Anywhere, anywhere. I don’t know.

– A. A. Milne

I love the imagery in the first poem – spring and mud and puddles become mudluscious and wonderful to the writer. The second one speaks to me of childhood. A windy Saturday morning, nowhere you have to be, walking along, finding flowers and listening to the birds, imagining being a cloud or a bird flying by- it doesn’t matter where you are going, the important part is the journey.


To a child, it matters not if the sun is shining or rain is pouring from the sky. Both offer opportunity for discovery and fun. One of my boys loved to stomp his boots in puddles, He could not pass them by without  a splash. Certainly not to put myself in the above august company, but I also wrote  a spring poem many years ago. I actually sold the poem to a children’s magazine, but unfortunately the magazine suspended publication before my poem was published.


I like to walk out in the rain,

along the road and through the trees

I like to stomp in puddles then,

my pants get wet right to my knees

The water splashes all about

My new red  boots go squishy-squish

when I get home , my mom will say,

“You should have been a fish!”

-pc 1988


Wecome Spring!

Staying in Focus/Daily Prompt: Our House

Daily Prompt : Our House   What are the earliest memories of the place you lived in as a child? Describe your house. What did it look like? How did it smell? What did it sound like? Was it quiet like a library, or full of the noise of life? Tell us all about it, in as much detail as you can recall. 

The house I grew up in…1319 Ringwood Avenue, Haskell, NJ.It was an old house, even back then, in 1953.Photo_0039_3 It was a two story house with a screened front porch, 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, a big country kitchen, living room and a semi-finished basement.  It had a front “parlor” designated for receiving guests, but we were much more casual a family, and everyone gravitated  to my mother’s warm, friendly kitchen. In later years, my father knocked down the wall separating the living room and the parlor, into one large family room.IMG_0003

The three bedrooms were all upstairs, so if we needed to use the facilities, we had to go downstairs through the living room and into the kitchen. The bathroom was located off the kitchen and contained a commode, sink and  a shower. We had no bathtub, and when we were little we were bathed in the kitchen sink!IMG_0001 The tile behind me in the picture was red as was the ceiling. Thus it became known ad Mom’s red kitchen. You can see the red ceiling in this next picture, of a common occurrence at our house -guests.IMG_0004 My mother was one of nine children and her mother, our grandma,  lived next door, so there was  a steady stream of visitors for birthdays, holidays, or to play cards on a Saturday night. The door was always open at Jack and Ann’s. Our friends were always welcome , too. The basement evolved from a playroom for little ones, to a hang out spot for cousins and friends. My earliest memory of the house was sitting on the front porch on parade day – we had them for memorial day, veteran’s day,and the Fourth of July. We’d sit with our grandma, and wave to the paraders, and then later the Struble clan would descend on us for a big picnic that lasted well after the fireflies lit the night sky. Six of us lived in that house, and four of us were raised there. I left only when I married, at age 23. Somehow we all managed to take our showers,  fix our hair and put on our makeup, with only one bathroom.

Today my husband and I live in a house with 3 full baths, one  a master bath with  a big tub and separate shower. We managed to talk to our friends on one landline telephone, no cell phones in those days. By the time   we were dating, though, dad added  a phone in the basement. Despite these austere , in today’s world, circumstances, we did not feel deprived because although old  (it even had  a coal cellar for the days before oil and gas), it was filled with what counted most – love. It started with two loving people who brought up 4 great kids, filled their home with music and books, family and friends and warm memories which have stayed with me throughout my life. It’s with a smile I recall that house, the shouts and laughter of children playing in the yard, the quiet talk of grown -ups sitting on the porch on a summer’s eve, the tinkle of ice in their drinks, I can smell the turkey my dad roasted for Thanksgiving dinner, and Mom’s pumpkin pie. They were a team, my parents, their love strong and steady for nearly 50 years before he passed away . My mom will be 91 in May. She is the last of her family – so many passed on. However, it is with ease that I can close my eyes and see them all in that house  –  a house of  family, friendship,  love and treasured memories.

I am working on a memoir/scrapbook, and I wrote this prose poem for it:

The Last Stop

this is the last stop  on our tour of  historic houses of Haskell, NJ in fact, this is the last tour ever as these 8 homes are slated for deconstruction to widen the road who could have  foreseen an interstate highway in 1930? some call it progress; I prefer preserving  –  these homes and our connection to a time now past. as you can see, this first home’s primary asset is its 19thcentury charm The wide, front porch brings to mind summer days and glasses of lemonade  enjoyed by neighbors stopping in to “sit a spell” and this large, red  kitchen is, most certainly, the heart  of the  home I can almost smell the bread and pies cooling on the counter , can’t you? off the kitchen here, is the only bathroom, but I’ve been told a family of six managed just fine, living here for nearly thirty years. can you imagine that? and take a look at this big backyard, I can hear the voices of children playing tag on a warm summer’s eve, listen closely, you can hear them can’t you?

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Staying In Focus: Their Future is In our Hands

Young Archeologists at Work.

My sister hit a home run when she gave my granddaughter a Smithsonian Archeology Kit for Christmas. It consists of a rectangular sunblock, goggles, a hammer and chisel, a paint brush and a magnifying glass. The aspiring archeologists “excavate” gem stones by gently tapping the chisel with the hammer and when one is discovered, carefully brush away the sand as the gem is removed from the sand block.

Both my seven-year old granddaughter and her five-year old brother had a blast searching for the gems. They unearthed 5 of the 11 gems buried in the block so far. Evelyn declared that science was the most fun and that she was going to be an archeologist/geologist/biologist because she wanted to go tomb hunting, find more hematite like the stone she had at home and work with germs. If anyone could achieve this trifecta, it would be Evelyn’

She is currently writing a “non-fiction” article about hookworms and other parasites, after reading about them in a book on the slimy side of science which Santa brought her for Christmas.  We gave her a laptop computer for Christmas, and she is already learning how to use windows 8, and drew her hook worm using a Paint program, and then inserted it into her Word file.

Although I am a proud grandmother who thinks her grandchildren  are the smartest and cutest on the planet, I know there are millions of other bright minds out there. Children who will grow up in a world where technology has exploded in its ability to transfer information, cure diseases, entertain us with the unimagined  ability to cross the boundaries between reality and the virtual world.

But I fear we are falling behind in preparing our children for this brave new world.  Our teachers are undervalued and underpaid, held to strict curriculum that allow for little in the way of creativity. This is boring for the students, and unpalatable for the best teachers. So they are leaving the profession in droves. Latest statistics show that 40% of those with advanced degrees never enter the classroom at all. Finland is reported to have the best school system in the world. Why are we not studying this model? Are we too arrogant to admit we can learn from someone else? If so, where does that leave my two future archeologists?

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Staying in Focus: Focus On: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, GAVIN

We celebrated my grandson’ s 5th birthday this week with a chocolate chip pancake breakfast at Bob Evans. Here are some photos of the event:

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To Gavin

How can it already be year number five

since you first arrived, so precious and  small?

but in almost no time at all

you won my heart with your winning smile,

and vibrant personalityIMG_6070

I love the special kind of hugs

and kisses that you give to me

you have such a great imagination

I look forward with expectation

to find out who you decide to be

your father says right now the choice

is between being  a daddy

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and Ironman.

To be both of then, I think you can –

but in my heart and memories

you’ll always be my little man.

Happy Birthday!



Daily Prompt: My Favorite Toy: Staying in Focus: Dolls Rule!

Daily Prompt: Toy Story

What was your favorite plaything as a child? Do you see any connection between your life now, and your favorite childhood toy?

My favorite toy as a child was actually a group of toys – namely dolls. I loved to play with baby dolls, Barbie dolls, large and small dolls, dolls made of plastic and dolls made of porcelain.  I had many dolls but there are a few I remember most fondly:

Betsy Wetsey, a doll who drank from a bottle and wet her diaper. My sister and I each received one for Christmas, and our brother promptly drew measles on their faces with ballpoint pen!

Patty Playpal, a doll that was as big as I was at 3 years old

Lonnie – a baby doll I named Lonnie after my favorite Mouseketeer. I saved Green stamps to buy it and my mother sent my brother, then about 14, to the store to get it at the Green stamps redemption center in Gelman’s Department Store. He had to walk all the way home carrying a baby doll, and he never forgave me for it! Fair payback, I thought, for the measles incident.

My friend, Lucille would bring over these beautiful hand stitched baby clothes to dress our dolls in. We played under the back porch (this was our house) in the sand and spider webs. Looking back, I’m not so sure Lucille’s mother knew what she was doing with these beautiful clothes.

Barbie and Midge. My sister and I played with Barbie dolls for years. I loved their vinyl cases, complete with hangers and a pull out drawer for accessories. Sadly for Barbie and Ken, however, was the arrival of my brother’s GI Joe. In those days (before he was shrunk) Joe was the same size as Barbie. He had a more masculine physique than Ken, and that cool jeep to ride in. Ken didn’t have a chance. Barbie didn’t fair too well in the children department, however. Lacking little dolls to be her children, we used our troll dolls to fit the bill. At least they weren’t naked (as they were sold) because our mother made them little clothes. She couldn’t abide naked dolls. She would stitch long into the night sewing clothes for our Barbies. We would wake up in the morning and our Barbies would be sitting on our dresser wearing their new clothes.

Raggedy Ann. I have  a 3-1/2 foot Raggedy Ann bought by my crazy high school friends for my 17th birthday because I once mentioned I never had one as a child. I have her still. IMG_3451

I guess they had an impact on my life

because today I am a Doll collector. I have a 15” Scarlett O’Hara doll, which is the jewel of my collection. She has a trunk full of clothes, including her “red dress of shame” and her green velvet dress, made to lure Rhett into proposing.

I have collected dolls from all over the world: Italy, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Holland, Scotland, IMG_3386France, Alaska. I have Native American dolls, an Amish doll family, Daniel Boone, George and Martha Washington and a Royal Canadian Mountie named Dudley DoRight, now 53 years old and the first doll in my collection

As an adult I started a Madame Alexander collection. My newest is their version of an American Girl Doll. I bought her to play with my granddaughter. .. Yeah, right!

Anyway, dolls were my toy of choice. When not playing with them, I was reading. See next post.

Daily Prompt: Focus On a Gift in a Child’s Hands


swept by surf upon the sand
now cradled in a child’s hands
there examined thoroughly
then put in place most carefully
into a box of weathered wood
amidst the treasures of childhood