The log cabin that Dad built

Building a log cabin “the old fashioned way,” appealed to my father in 1975 until he chopped down a few trees with an ax. Quickly he embraced the invention of the chainsaw to harvest trees for the logs for his dream house.

The Hibbard log cabin became the family project. As dad cut trees on the old home place, my long-retired grandfather sharpened chainsaws for him. His twin brother provided the tractors and wagons needed to haul rocks and logs and the muscle to move them. My younger brother Burnie recalled recently on a family Facebook page. “Mel (our brother) did all the wiring, sanded the floors and a lot more. The day the logs went up, there were quite a few of us around. The notches were started with chainsaw cuts but finished by hand with a double-bit ax. In the top corners, Dad had spikes made that were very long: 24 to 36 inches. He worried about them staying in place. It was a pretty big deal when they were put in.”

“One day while trimming logs with an ax to get the top log to fit right, I slipped off the top, did a reverse 360 in the air and landed on my feet on the ground. Mom talked about guardian angels often and that was one time in particular,” Burnie wrote.

Dad built the first fireplace using creek rocks gathered from the Hibbard farm and carried to the house site on Uncle Bert’s hay wagon. That fireplace proved too heavy for the foundation.

The center beam supports came from an old building on the farm place. Dad installed a front porch of heavy planks and a maple wood floor inside.

Living in Indiana at the time I missed all the construction.. When we did visit, our children romped through the upstairs loft and played with cousins while my mom told me, “I have to put all the food in metal boxes or the mice and other creatures who come into the cabin will consider it their next meal.”

No food sat on the counter to feed any creatures passing through the house. Fortunately, the black bear that wandered by ignored the house and my mom’s scrambling to snap his picture.

My parents lived there for a short while without plumbing before they moved out to the Wild West. They returned with a list of things to do, including adding modern plumbing.

Mom passed, Dad moved again and self-financed the sale of the cabin to a man who failed to pay. He made no payments to Dad, but many to himself as he stripped the cabin of the fireplace and its inserts, the maple floor, the front porch and the quality kitchen appliances. Dad moved back east and lived in the cabin for a few months before he settled into residential care.

My Colorado sister and her husband took the New York cabin as their inheritance. Her family began replacing items and changing the loft into the originally planned three bedrooms. For a while, my New York cousin used it as her main home. On the new front porch, she set up a gazebo tent with a bed and slept in the woods every night.

Colorado sister realized her family would not return. She sold the Hibbard log cabin to Burnie who also lives out west. He returned to begin a renovation which contractors say will be completed this fall. I don’t know who will live there when it is completed. I do know that on our next trip back East, we will visit the updated “old fashioned” log cabin that dad built.

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Election today and Truman then

Serendipity had me reading the history of Truman’s campaign for the presidency during this year’s Democratic and Republican national conventions. As the national media emphasized the current poll ratings of today’s candidates, I read about Truman’s low ratings. Pollsters assured everyone he would not, could not win. Dewey had the election won hands-down, according to David McCullough in “Truman.”

Dewey proceeded with a low key campaign. Truman, his family, staff and an entourage of reporters piled onto the train “Magellan” for a whistle stop campaign traversing the country. Stopping in little and big towns along the way, Truman made up to eight speeches a day. If he did not have time to stop, he would stand and wave at the folks who came to the station to watch the train pass through their community. Newspapers and radio coverage of the day negated the crowds as “folks who want to see a seated president.” They saw the president. They heard the president. They cheered him on.

The Republican party knew that they had the farm vote securely tucked into their back pocket and ignored them. Truman, as a farmer for three decades, went to the farmers and talked.

When election night came, the commentators said, “once we have the farm vote, Dewey will have the election settled in his favor.” It did not work that way. Truman’s time with the farmers had left them thinking. He knew their issues and presented a plan for those issues. On the other side of the political aisle, Dewey also boarded a train to campaign in across the country. He did not travel as extensively or as exhaustively as Truman. McCullough noted that Dewey often pulled the curtain on his coach and did not even wave at the crowds as his train passed through communities.

The predictions all said Dewey would win by a landslide, even though few really liked the “aloof” Dewey, and he did not discuss the issues or present solutions. On election night as the votes rolled in, reporters continued to expect Dewey would win.

Truman went to bed with the election undecided saying, “Wake me if anything significant happens.” At 4 a.m. his staff woke him. “you have won.” More than one newspaper already had set the front page headline for a Dewey victory. One photograph summarizes the upset: A broadly grinning, victorious Truman holds up the “Dewey Wins” headline.

He won because he listened to the people. A voter who had talked all summer of voting for Dewey told a reporter, “When voting time came, I just couldn’t do it.”

An Ohio farmer said, “I had the feeling he (Truman) could understand the kind of fixes I get into.”

Truman easily carried enough votes to win the electoral votes. His nationwide, grass-roots campaign of meeting folks face to face and talking with them put him in the White House for another four years.

Four years later, the Republicans, with Eisenhower as their man, took the White House. Ever the man aware of his responsibility to serve the country, Truman did everything he could to assure a smooth transition.

In these final weeks before the election, the talk shows focus on difficulties related to mail-in votes, election fraud and a delay in final tallies. It may take days or weeks for the final vote to be determined. I can only hope we will again see a peaceful waiting and acceptance that “the people have spoken.” I don’t predict the outcome of the election. I do expect to be like Truman and head for bed at the end of election day saying, “Wake me up if something significant happens.”


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A finger stitch in time

Never, say never. And yet, I said it. I ate my words within days of encouraing my granddaughter Courtney to use the sewing machine.

I will get hurt,” she said.

No way! I have been sewing for years. I have never been hurt. That is impossible.” She cautiously entered the room and sat down.

Practice sewing straight lines on this page,” I handed her a page of school paper.

She stitched several lines. I promoted her to fabric.

You could make this Christmas stocking,” I pulled out a printed fabric panel. She cut out the printed stocking. I cut out the lining.

Courtney sewed lines veering deep into the stocking. “Keep to the edge. Wait, I need to draw lines for you to sew.” I grabbed a pencil and began sketching a seam half an inch or so from the edge.

With some help she completed the stocking and took it home to show her family.

I cleared the clutter from the stocking and pulled out the quilt I was making. I changed thread on the machine and began sewing. Setting the fabric under the needle and presser foot, I stepped on the pedal. The tip of my finger went under the presser foot. The needle nipped into my nail and finger.

Ouch!” I pulled back quickly, dashed to the bathroom and found a Band-aid. 

Recently, I joined a sewing group on Facebook. A member asked, “How many have stitched through your finger on your machine while sewing?”

I posted, “Yep, I have. Right after telling my granddaughter I have never been hurt by a sewing machine.” Over 100 responded on the original post, including only a few who said, “Not, me. Never.” The rest reported their experiences. These are my favorite stories from that online discussion.

“I have a little blue dot on my finger still from it.”

“Around six years old, after being taught to sew using the treadle machine, Mum showed me how to operate her new Alfa electric machine. She told me not to use it while she made a cup of tea. Of course, I knew better and wanted to show her how clever I was. I did not feel so clever as the pliers cut the end of the needle, so that it could be removed. Lesson learned, the hard way.”

“With a hand crank machine through the middle finger and nail. We were poor. My mom pulled it through the other side with pliers.”

“I needed surgery to get the needle out!”

“I was at work using a fast industrial machine. My boss told me I better not get blood on anything. It happened very quickly. It really didn’t hurt, but the needle was hot and it burned.”

“…into my right index finger. I turned the hand wheel with my left hand. Then I had to get the needle unscrewed from the machine so I could pull it out. New needle, rethreaded, and kept sewing.”

“My mom did. She pulled the needle out with pliers, dunked her finger in alcohol, put a bandaid on it and got back to sewing.

“My mom worked in a lingerie and a dress factory. She did this multiple times with the fast industrial machines. Industrial machines make 1900 stitches per minute enough to make one complete stitch into a finger.”
“I was at home. My five year-old son had to turn the hand wheel to free my index finger.

“I worked for Singer Company selling sewing machines. While demonstrating a machine I sewed through my finger.
There are so many stories legitimizing Courtney’s fear. If I had known, I never would have said “Never.”

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Books for a bibliophile

It looked like a full treasure chest, and I wanted the treasure. “How much are the books in that plastic tote?” I asked the clerk of the resale shop. He named a price that left me salivating. “Great! I’ll go look.”

I began sorting through the hundreds of children’s books: a mother lode of riches for a bibliophile like me. I definitely needed all the books in that tote. I have plenty of grandchildren, and my bookshelves go through a constant cycle of gather and distribute.

As a bibliophile I find plenty of ways to justify buying more books. Just ask my husband who recently encountered five heavy boxes of books filling the trunk of my car and the back seat. They came from the church estate sale. He sighed. He had already hauled out three or four boxes of books the day before. Well, he didn’t haul out the boxes, he sorted and repackaged the books into more portable boxes.

I don’t usually bring home that many books. I made an exception at the church estate sale. Curiosity had pulled me into the church. I didn’t need a thing as far as I knew, but I had time and always enjoy looking.

The pews and church furniture did not call my name. Up the stairs and around the corner I scanned the tables of miscellaneous church detritus and discovered a collection of oversize classroom story books featuring Bible Characters, “these would be great for Love Packages,” I murmured.

Love Packages, located in Butler, Illinois, collects new and used Christian literature and all the Bibles they can to ship to churches and Christians in third world countries which use English. Discovering Love Packages gave me another great excuse to buy more books at yard sales.

So a whole church with leftover books and Bibles at least need a quick perusal. Pulling up a chair, I sat down in front of the bookshelf in the nursery. I stacked up little books featuring Bible characters for Love Packages and half a dozen “Magic School Bus” books for my granddaughter as well as other books.

Rather than try to lift the boxes, I asked the sale manager, “Can someone carry these books downstairs for me?”

“Yes, just a bit.” He was already moving furniture for someone else. While waiting, I walked over to the church library with its hundreds of books, hymns and Bibles on shelves and tables. I began sorting through the books looking for hidden Bibles. A second and third box of books joined the first for the trip downstairs.

When I checked out, I saw a table with several stacks of Bibles, “I want all of them, if I can.”

I could and did. I considered an unused set of hymnals and called Love Packages, “Can you use hymnals from this church sale?”

“No, but we need Bibles.” he said.

“Right, I’ll look,” I promised, but it was the next day before I returned.

“I’m looking for Bibles,” I said to the helper.

“Someone came and bought all he could find. You might look in the pastor’s office.”

Although I had already been in the pastor’s office, I went anyway and with fresh eyes I pulled another box of Bibles from the shelves.

Back in the library I met another bibliophile, “what are you looking for?”

“I don’t know. I just like to look. I might find something,” she said.

Perhaps she did. I know I did. Two hours later the guys toted five boxes to my car. We now have 12 boxes ready for Love Packages and probably more to come during the coming second half of the sale.


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Grandma’s stash of goodies

My grandmother Hibbard kept a stash of Hershey candy bars in her dresser drawer. I found the rich brown wrappers that she kept there in case she had a diabetic blood-sugar dip. I only remember her sharing them with me one time. I was in first grade and living with her because my mother had gone to the hospital with a serious infection. For the duration of my mother’s illness, my older brother and I stayed with Grandma Hibbard. She packed my lunch every day. One day, I opened my metal lunch box to discover a huge chocolate Hershey bar resting on top of my sandwich.  Grandma had raided her hidden stash just for me.

Grandparents have their stashes for personal use and sharing. Grandma Waight kept a stash of oatmeal cookies inside a silver roll server with a lid. Most Sunday nights we visited and watched Lassie. (My parents chose to not own a television.) One at a time, we five children slipped quietly into the kitchen, lifted the lid on the metal dish and snagged a cookie. No matter how carefully we put the lid back, it dinged. “Someone just took a cookie,” Grandma often commented.

No noisy cookie container resides on the counter at my house. During the first years of grandchildren I made double batches of three or four kinds of cookies and left platters of cookies on the counter. I enjoyed any remaining after the grandkids left.

Evidently, years have drained my energy. A couple days before my granddaughters’ recent visit, I made one batch of peanut butter cookies. Then just minutes before they arrived, I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies.

Katie didn’t care how many batches I made, she just wanted to know, “Can I have a cookie?”

“Yes, help yourself. They are cooling on the counter.”

She returned holding a half eaten cookie and big smile between chocolate smears on each cheek. By the time she left, only the peanut butter cookies remained in my stash to fulfil my husband’s frequent dinner question, “do you have a cookie?”

Most of the time the grandparents’ homes are ready for tiny visitors, but occasionally curious grandchildren open a forbidden door or get into mischief. I blush to confess that describes my child who saw no problem with opening the upright freezer door at a grandparent’s home and perused the contents without permission. Frozen blueberries looked like a delicious treat to eat while laying on the floor reading a book. That totally shocked her grandmother. Grandma had never had a child do that before.

Then there was the stash of loose change which one grandmother kept in an open dish until a visiting toddler sampled the pennies like M&Ms. Immediately, that stash went into an inaccessible hiding spot.

Our own curious (nosey) grandchildren have discovered future gifts that way. To channel their energy, I keep a stash of various entertainment options. During her recent visit, Caroline found the Halloween decoration kit I bought several months ago thinking some child would find it. She asked, “Can I put this together?”


Daisy came over to help.

“I want to do it myself,” Caroline insisted until the parts and pieces did not cooperate. She shoved aside the foam gate, “It won’t work.” Only then could Daisy and Katie help. I threaded foam pieces to hang. Daisy helped with stickers and Grandpa found the glue. Katie arranged stickers on the fence. I tried positioning it, “Hmm, I think you need to get some pins to make it stay.” They all knew where to find the pins from having explored my stash of fabric and notions.

This grandma keeps stashes of toys, snacks and craft supplies handy – to entertain and feed any visiting grandchildren.

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Eat the ice cream

  My husband practices that old saw “Waste not, want not,” quite religiously with ice cream. 

           After his mother was widowed, she never kept ice cream in the freezer. Thrusting her leg forward, she would declare, “Look how my ankles have swollen after I ate ice cream last night!”

    It was obviously our fault. We had come in for a weekend visit with a bag of kid-friendly groceries including ice cream. Before we left, we ate most of the food. Only a bit of ice cream remained. My husband finished it off as a late night snack. He did not want to leave any to spoil in his mother’s freezer because she obviously did not want anymore; it made her ankles swell. She opened the freezer to prepare breakfast before we left and exclaimed, “where’s the ice cream? I wanted to eat some.”

    A stunned silence followed. “I ate it,” my husband admitted. After that, we left ice cream for her instead of finishing off the last few bites.

    We did not leave even a few bites of ice cream, though, after each of our stops at the modest restaurant we frequented on 167-S. My husband found “Motts” in Sheridan years ago; the menu included banana splits made with four-inch high mounds of ice cream, each doused with chocolate, strawberry, pineapple or caramel sauce, topped with nuts and a cherry. 

    My children’s benevolent father decided each of the children needed a banana split. 

    “Wow!” they said and began eating. None of them finished their split. My husband did it for them.  

    So the minute we saw an ice cream stand in Hot Springs last week, I knew we would stop. As he studied the board, a customer walked over to the trash and tossed away an ice cream cone. “Did you see that?” he exclaimed in a shocked voice.. 

    Another customer waddled past carrying a super high, thick cone swirled with a trim of lime green. 

    “What is that green?” he asked.

    “It’s flavoring they add to the outside.”

    “Looks good. What do you want?” he asked me, barely disguising the fact that he was already licking his lips.

    “Hmm, I was considering a dipped cone, but the homemade nutty buddy sounds good.” I weighed the options and decided on fewer calories and lower costs, “A dipped cone.”

    He brought back a tall cone with raspberry swirled around the edge. “Here, this is for both of us.” I sampled as much as I wanted before he reappeared with a wad of napkins surrounding a huge dipped cone and a monster waffle cone with ice cream doused with chocolate and peanuts. 

    We had enough ice cream for four or five people! All three cones began oozing ice cream. I bit into the top of the dipped cone, licked the side and considered how to attack the nutty buddy in my other hand.

    Hubby slid in and reached to start the car. “Oh, no! We are not driving anywhere with this much ice cream. Just sit there and eat.”

    He industriously attacked his raspberry swirl. 

    I alternated bites of chocolate saturated nuts with plain chocolate and ice cream. It has been years since I have eaten so much ice cream. I offered the nutty buddy to my “buddy.” It was an ice cream overload. 

    “I think I know why that person threw away their ice cream cone,” I admitted. 

    Ice cream dripped down my hands. My husband pulled sticky napkins off cones and kept on eating. The sticky mess threatened to ruin our drive home until I remembered our thermos of water. I unscrewed the lid, opened my door, leaned out and poured water over my hands.

    He did the same, collected the soggy napkins and carried them to the trash can. No ice cream cones hit the trash. When I reached my fill, he kept on eating saying, “I should not have ordered the dipped cone. That really was too much.”

    It was, and we enjoyed every bite without wasting a bit.

Joan Hershberger

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Age will tell

“Watching the sepuagenarion presidential candidates’ has me thinking about age. In my own home I see how the mind looses some sharpness with age. For instance we recently acquired another dollhouse. It needed minor repairs. My Energizer Bunny husband has been doing house repairs all his life. In short order, he cleaned, reglued and stablized the dollhouse. He left it on the dining room table and asked me, “Where are you going to keep it?”
“Hmm, I will think about it.” I probably won’t keep it so I set it on top of the nearby sewing machine cabinet. I also have too many sewing machines that need new homes. However, I know that I will buy another machine or house if the right one comes along.

Hubby walked in and asked, “What did you do with the doll house?”

I just looked at him. It was right there. “I think I will let you find it.”

A few minutes later he said, “Oh, it’s on the sewing machine.”


We have days like that around here. This morning, hubby woke up complaining about being stiff.

“Do you need a pain pill?”

“I just need to move around and loosen up.”

He walked around pulling on work clothes to clean up the tree trash from the hurricane. He followed me to the laundry room where I sorted clothes to wash.

“Have you seen my belt? Do you know where it is?

Usually that is a logical question to ask me. If he hangs it on the door handle in my bathroom, I may toss it into the hamper or deep into his side of the closet. Sometimes I hang it on one of his hooks.

“No, I don’t know where it is….this time.”

He walked away mumbling about looking for the belt in the bedroom and his bathroom. And, yes, since the kids left we have his and her bathrooms – except when he wants to soak in a really deep tub, then he comes to my bathroom and leaves his belt hanging on the cabinet handle. His bathroom has a wonderful walk in, fully tiled shower that he installed a few years ago. His luxurious shower fails to satisfy when he wants to soak in a deep tub after a day of hard work. Recently he helped my son move into his new house with a wading pool of a tub in one bathroom. At the end of the day of moving boxes, hubby tried that tub. “I could not even get my belly covered. I might need to lose some weight.” he acknowledged

That belly is the reason he needed the belt this morning which he still did not have when he returned to the laundry room, “I still cannot find my belt.” Finally, he resigned himself to hitching up his pants all day. Sighing, he hooked his thumbs on his blue jeans to pull them up stopped, “I’m wearing the belt.”

We looked at each other and laughed,

“And how old are you?” I teased. He just smiled and left to do yard work.

Most days he could give a couple presidential candidates, who are only a couple years younger than him, a run for their money in mental acuity. But even the Energizer Bunny will attest that no matter how many times folks insist, “60 is the new 40!” it isn’t.

Which is why I say, “The next time we have a presidential election, how about finding candidates closer to our children’s ages? They can see the dollhouse right in front of them and know when they are wearing a belt.”

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Cane can and can’t

ou know those old dance routines with the fancy foot work as dancers swing canes from one side to the other? The dancers engage in fast, fancy foot-shuffling around the cane as if it were a small, steady table. These dances look so smooth and easy that surely anyone could do, right?

Not with my cane, I can’t. No smooth moves with my cane.
I trip over the thing just walking down the hallway from the bedroom to the kitchen. I wake up feeling as spry as Fred Astaire until my cane-side foot stubs a toe hard against that metal rod. As pain surges up my leg, a lot of angry impulses breathe in and out of me.  I don’t dare act on any of them lest I trip again.

The medical field labels canes as tools to help folks like me who wake up thinking, “Hey, I think I will just stroll down the hall to the kitchen for breakfast.” I stretch, slide my legs over the side of the bed, stand and crumble back to the bed.

“No I am not strolling today. Not without a death grip on my cane, and not until I get some oil on these ‘Tin Woodman’ joints.”

At least in the movie the Tin Woodman could ask Dorothy to magically heal him with a liberal application from his oil can. Not me. I get a death grip on the cane and begin a serious conversation with my stiff hip. “Just one step. Just one. Believe me, it will get better. I promise.”

The cane assists me by turning my wobble-hobble into a Hop-Along-Cassidy routine to the lounge chair where I lay the cane on the floor. Unfortunately, a cane on the floor or leaning against the wall signals play time to visiting grandchildren who reach a sneaky hand forward to quietly lift the cane. Only when the grandchildren use my cane does it swing across the room in true Free Astaire style.

The grandchildren can’t resist grabbing the cane because it pulls apart and folds into three sections. The youngest children snap the pieces apart and pop them together over and over again. The internal bungee cord holds all the pieces together.

Really, I don’t mind their playing with the cane, unless I need the cane and they abandoned it in another room. Then, I’m up the creek without a cane to paddle.

Canes extend my reach so I can tap that sneaky kid on the head, “My cane, leave it alone.” Or with the cane, I can snag the fuzzy blanket back from the sneaky child or slip a spare colored pencil from their collection on the coffee table.

Canes silently announce “I need help.” Once I hesitated at the top of a couple of deep steps studying the descent without a handrail. The cane indicated, “This not-so-little-old-lady needs help!” A kind gentleman held out his hand to help me descend. Other times, the cane opened doors, carried a package, and earned me generous cautions, “Now be careful, watch your step.” No one ever said that when I hurried through the heavy doors without a cane and a load of packages.

Of course, people notice, so the cane is a conversation stimulator. Some overtly stare,  a few dare, to ask, “What happened?” I just say, “You know how Fred Astaire floated across the stage dancing with a cane? Well, I didn’t float, I flopped. I won’t try that again.”

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no summer plans until…

“How do we get roped into these things?” my husband asked facetiously.

What things?

Things like taking care of grandchildren for a day or two weeks this summer.

It sort of began when I volunteered to go to Little Rock and supervise grandchildren so my daughter could focus on a weekly business meeting. Looking ahead I saw 13 weeks of nothing else much to do except one short week visit from granddaughter Brittany and her family.

I supervised during one business meeting. Then my son from St. Louis called, “Can the kids come to your house while we prepare our house to sell? It might be for a week or two.”


It was two weeks including a week of Cousin Camp with the Little Rock cousins.

For the rest of the summer we only had that short week visit from Brittany and Chris’ family. We made one more trip to Little Rock to supervise grandchildren during a business meeting.

Meanwhile hubby kept asking, “What are we going to do for four days when Brittany and her boys come to visit?” I did not see a problem. We have entertained per-schoolers and elementary-aged children before. His question did get me thinking though, so we called her, “Do you want to come to our house specifically or would you like to meet us in Branson rather than drive the extra hundreds of miles to our house?” we asked.

“We want to spend time with you and Branson is fine,” she said.

A couple days later, I asked, “What about asking Nate, if he wants to go from St. Louis to Branson?”

Initially Nate said, “We have other plans.” only to call in couple days later and say, “Our plans got changed, so we would be glad to vacation with you.”

After that an empty August with a couple days covering business meetings remained for these retirees’ summer – until the phone rang, “Do you have enough timeshare points that I can use to go to Fairfield Bay when my friend’s family goes?” my daughter asked. “More than enough,” I assured her. “And would you mind if we rented another unit and visited you up there?” I asked in return.

We had three days to prepare for that weekend. En-route, my cell phone dinged, “Would you be able to have the boys visit for a week or two while we finish closing on the houses?” Joy, Nate’s wife, asked.

“Sure. When?” I texted.

She suggested meeting and getting the boys about the time we returned from Fairfield Bay. We worked out the details between visits with my daughter and her friends. And Sharon asked, “Can the girls stay Sunday night with you? I need to be home early Sunday morning.”

“Sure, we have a large unit with extra beds. Eli is already planning to stay, so no problem.”

I hung up. That’s when my husband asked me, “How do we get roped into these things?”

“Because they live so far away and we take every opportunity we can to be with the grandchildren,” I said.

So, as I write this, we are heading south to Little Rock with four grandchildren safety belted into place. When we get to Little Rock we will deliver three girls and a boy to their home and will collect two boys to take to our house. We still don’t know how long they will visit, but does that really matter? We may be old. We may need a nap when they don’t. Still, we hope to always be ready to make room for one more visit whenever the phone rings.

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Toys to share

I like to share my sturdy, vintage Fisher-Price and Playskool toys with grandchildren. The unfinished wooden dollhouse stays home. Daisy likes the house so much that she bought it a miniature buffet for when she comes to play.

No dolls were needed for a recent visit with five grandsons and one nearly teenage granddaughter. I filled a tote with a variety of toys to share with twin two-year-old great-grandsons. I also took books for all ages, the board game ‘Clue’ and a tub of Legos for the guys who recently asked, “Can we take them home?”

“No you have Legos and Grandpa may want to play with these.” I may not want to give all my cool toys away, but we do know how to share our toys, so I brought them along.

The cousins’ parents set up an electronic video game. Legos and toys sat untouched as Titus, Henry and Sam played a few rounds of Clue. Sam, 10, played many rounds of Clue and asked, “Can I take it home?”

I handed him the box.

Trace and Tyler, who turn three this month, quickly found their favorites in the canvas tote. Trace repeatedly picked the wheeled toys. Time and again he brought us the hand sized back-hoe to manipulate. He also took ownership of the remote control for the choo-choo engine. He carried that engine around by its toddler proof antennae to grandpa.

“Push button,” he said and handed grandpa the steering wheel shaped control.

Grandpa pushed. “It needs new batteries.” He found some and said, “Let’s turn it on.”

The engine has two buttons. One initiates a horrendously loud song with toots, whistles and chugs. I clicked that button first and immediately slid it back to the off position. Any time that merry “whoo, whoo” jingle sounded, the nearest adult grabbed the engine muttering, “No way!” and slid the button off. We also slid on the motor button to make the red, yellow and blue engine move in straight lines and circles. Besides that awful song, simple maneuvers are all the train does. That’s quite enough for Trace who spent a lot of time pushing the button.

I heard Trace and Tyler talk about “choo-choo” a few times. A couple times Tyler wanted to play with it. An adult would insist Trace give him a turn. We watched as Tyler pushed the buttons, making the train go forward and in circles before we returned to our conversations. The next time we looked, Trace had the train again and Tyler stood at the toy box pulling out the magnetic building set – chubby plastic red and blue rods with magnets on the ends and yellow balls with iron inside.

He spent hours pushing the pieces together and pulling them apart. He never did figure out why the pieces refused to link when he pressed north pole to north pole. He just kept trying until someone turned the rod in his hand.

The twins played with toys. The big boys played video games until my son asked, “anyone want to play ‘Wing it?'” It’s a game where you get five cards with phrases or nouns and you have to use three to solve a challenge.”

“Sure let’s play it,” we said and spent a couple hours creating silly story solutions to the challenge cards’ impossible situations. For instance, “To get out of the sewer, I would take my 100 spools of thread and knit a cord using my baseball bat and hook it onto the plane flying overhead.” No matter how I tried, I could not find a way to work the ‘pancreas’ card into any solution. All the big folks enjoyed the game and hope he packs it the next time he visits. After all, if Trace has to share, so do we.

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