Coke and Coffee

Your mommy is mad at you.  Daddy is fed up.  Uncle Tommy and mommy’s mom (that other Grandma) are annoyed.  Everyone is in a tizzy.  What about you, buddy?  How are you doing?  “Motel now, Grandma?” you asked me when I called.  I am at home I told you.  That was fun wasn’t it?  Are you remembering our vacation in Montana, the zoo, the little swimming pool and the motel?  You sure are.  Especially now; you are longing for it.  Me too.  You got in a little trouble with your family when you woke up at night and played all by yourself. But you are three.  That’s what three-year olds do-Try things out.  Touch, climb, reach, test, drink, pour, write, draw, sing, and cry. You were alone all night until daddy got up at 6.

You drank coffee and flat soda and wrote with permanent marker on the walls, beds, furniture, books and yourself. You sang and talked to yourself according to your mommy. She was mad and kept trying to sleep. Where were all the grown ups? All trying to not have to get up.  You know what? You never should be alone like that.  I am glad you are safe.  I wonder what happened that they don’t even know about?  Maybe you were sleepy until you had all that caffeine pumping through your little body.  Oh, my.  Please know that you are not a bad boy.  You are three years old.

Sometimes I want to come and scoop you up and bring you here with me and grandpa but how does that help you figure out your place with your family?  I want you to know that I am confused. I will have so much fun when we visit in a few weeks, but how can I help you manage Montana?  We can manage your testing and anxiety at my house just fine.  We can help you let go of worries for a bit and relax.  Working together, yes, we are fine.  But what about you, our little 3 yr old?  I try to imagine what I can do to help you bridge California and Montana.  But, I haven’t yet figured it out.  When I talk with your mommy and ask her to think about what her ideas are for meeting your needs (and hers). She says good things.  I hope she really tries them.  But sometimes people are good at knowing what to say but then can’t really do it. Someday you may have some good ideas for her.  And for your daddy too. We are always learning.  Remember that.  Every occurrence is a learning opportunity.  And that’s true!

But for now, I guess we can hope they pay occasional attention, find a few happy moments, that tiny but good moments get noticed and sweet times occur daily.  For all of you.  The story that you are writing about life, life in Montana and your Grandma and Grandpa’s role is in draft now; a work in progress.  Let’s make it a good story with lots of action, joy, playfulness and adventure.  Some tension makes it even better for character growth and making good changes. With a little focus on learning about each other when there are problems, when we try something and it doesn’t work out; we hope we encounter forgiveness, understanding and hopefulness.  Let’s not look too soon for the person you will become, but enjoy the child that is here now and working hard to figure out so many things.   The struggle is not the point, you are; preserving and developing your character and well-being are.  You are the point.

Grandma and Grandpa love you buddy; and so do your mommy and daddy and Montana family.  I’m sure of it. gma

Just a fun grandma-nothing else.

Dear Mr Sun,

It’s cold outside, rainy, drippy and wet.  I scuffed out to feed the horses in grandpa’s rain boots and my big raincoat with a green hood.  Its plastered with hay and grass pieces from weeks of feeding in the rain.  It barely has any time to dry out before the next storm comes. Georgia and Metro followed along.  They need something interesting to do. And they can’t paint, draw pictures or help me make bread-like you can! NO. Walking to the barn is better than sleeping on the carpet all day. If you were here we’d rain walk to the creek and watch it roar and bump over the rocks under the bridge.  It’s the color of chocolate milk now. You’d be soaked and take a hot bath when we get home.  I’d take a shower.

The other  kids (your cousins) were here until yesterday.  Now they are back in Boulder.  Kalen got up yesterday morning and looked across the table at your grandpa, its his grandpa too, and said, “I don’t like this kind of Grandpa.” Its the only grandpa he has.  Poor guy.  He must have some idea that he was trying to tell us about.  But that was all he said. I guess I am the okay kind for now.

I want to tell your mommy and daddy some things but feel so worried about them getting mad at me for bothering them. Sometimes I used to talk about things they don’t want to hear.  I have to stop that.  Now that you are so far away and your daddy and mommy are worried about things going well for the family, I have to find a way to chat,  just fluff and kindness.  I have been working on it.  Bringing out their best.  And believing that there is some. I thought I was doing fine, but then mommy was mad at me again. I don’t know what I said.  Something about watching your spark re-ignite when you played in the pool.

I don’t really understand how to be a good grandma and also a helpful mother-in-law.  She may prefer I not be helpful, maybe just kind, chatty and positive.  Your daddy may want that too, although I am his mom so I want to be real and find out what he wants to happen and what I can do to support him. But maybe he’s over that. I have favors I want so I have to be very nice.  I want them to let me talk to you on the phone and have them read you my letters (not these) that come in the mail and also to let you visit me.  Maybe I need to come closer to being an invisible mother-in-law.  How do I do that and be your Grandma?

That’s my job to figure it out.  I am not going to save you, I tell myself.  I am not going to change your mommy and daddy. I can’t save your sister. Should I stop trying?  Maybe you both don’t need saving at all.  Maybe I made up my own story about this.  I’m going to stop looking for ways to help you.  I may help; but secretly. And sometimes, but mostly act grandma-ish.  Let’s think about what that means. I am going to be a nice, fun grandma.  That’s what I’ll do.  I’ll give you a call right now and try it out.

Mommy told me about being a peacekeeper in the busy trailer and how much you all need her.  She has a plan for quiet times, like at daycare, she says.  She’ll listen to Julie’s music with the kids.  She’ll do it everyday. She likes to think about ways to help all of you get along better.  I am very happy to hear that she’s focused on you all. She’s looking for solutions as she herself is in a lot of pain. She had two teeth pulled and has to have cortisone shots for her back.  It sounds like she needs 12 more teeth removed before she gets dentures. You all have Medicaid and food stamps too. Good you have some kinds of help. I think our talk worked.  I just kept telling her what good ideas she had and told her if she wanted to talk more about the challenging behaviors of the kids, I’d be happy to listen.

When I talked to you all you could think about was that you wanted a piece of bread. Yearning absorbed all of your attention.  I talked anyway.  Then the phone went dead.  Bye, buddy.  See you in February. I’ll start the countdown at the 10 day mark again.  I won’t even tell you until your trip is a few days off.  Maybe around the 15th or so.

Okay, talk again soon.  I had to stop to check on a puddle that I found on the table.  I wondered what grandpa spilled.  My friend Ofelia came and visited with her big dog,  Jordy,  to play with Georgia the other day.  She brought me a hot pink azalea.  I have it in the middle of the table.  The spill is next to it.  I soaked it with a napkin and its yellow.  Smelled it-ugh.  Its pee!  I stood back to see if Metro had gotten on the table and yes, his footprints are all over it.  He stood next to the plant and lifted his leg…right on our kitchen table.  Yuk, Metro.  What do I do with an old foolish dog like him?  What do you think?  Pretty gross, huh? I wonder if this is a big problem or a small one to solve.   I’d better figure it out soon.  We don’t want potty on your peanut butter sandwich!  EEEEWWWWW. gma

Billings …a short report for my grown-up friends (offer your love)

I have electric power again! Shower, dishes, clothes…ahhh. Running around with preschoolers, Ella and Kalen  has kept me very plugged into “the here and now” and little time to reflect on Billings.  That may be a good thing.  I may be less fresh in my telling about seeing my little buddy in Billings, but possibly have some perspective.  We’ll see in the telling.

The motel, C’mon Inn, was perfect for our visit.  The place was landscaped inside with artificial trees, boulders, real running water and koi in a pond. The blast of warm tropical air,  drenched in chlorine steam was an otherwise a nice respite from the chilly and dry outdoors. The swimming pools around the courtyard (hot tubs), the big pool and 2 ft pool were full of families and  grandparents in many cases.  We fit right in. The footbridge was a favorite of my own toddler-preschooler grandson and helped him map his way back to our room.

At the airport my buddy greeted me with his hands over his face.  It had been too long. When he peeked out (sitting on the roof of the car) he smiled and weakly offered, “Grandma?” I snaked up to him and held his hand, asking if I could hug him.  He nodded.  Nothing ever felt so right.  Legs hooked at my waist locked arms (mine and his) breathing into one another’s necks. “Hi, Grandma” he said. Hi, Buddy.

We checked into the motel.  I got mom and dad their own room with our smiley little 5 month old Liza.  They needed a respite, too.  We ate lunch, dinner and played in the pool together.  He was very tentative in his movements, talk and expressions.  He watched me, mom and daddy carefully.  Social referencing.  We actually all watched one another with some caution.  The buddy-guy barely spoke.  When he said something I had to come close.  He’d utter a word here and another.  He’d lost his talkie-ness. I went on with my talk, describing, sportscasting as if all was the same as before.  He cautiously laughed a few times and then after mom and dad went off to their room, really loosened up.  He began talking.  “….This is a little pool, there’s the big one.  I don’t like splashes.  Can I blow bubbles here?” He let himself play,  splashed at the water and eventually lifted his feet up off the bottom and announced, “I swimmed, grandma!” His moody eyebrow and  drawn mouth lifted.  I saw a sparkle  in his eye before I had to leave. I was not imagining this.  I just asked myself the question and no, it was so.  We played together, talked, snuggled, rocked, giggled, watched an animal show on TV and read familiar books.

I sang him to sleep with our car seat songs. I made up a song about our motel. He asked me to sing it again.  Out time together was like a much needed cool, long drink of water.  Way better than any ordinary water.  A quenching.  That’s what it was for both of us. Sweet and quenching.

He was a hungry.  His food behaviors were that of a starving puppy we once adopted from the shelter.  Tyler had been found in a dumpster with his litter mates.  He ate like he feared we’d steal every bite.  Wolfed and snorfed until it was gone.  It took months to get him to eat slowly.  It may take him months too.  I watched him put one bite after another into his full mouth, shoving until overfilled and he was unable to swallow.  I offered my hand and asked him to put some there and I’d save it for him until his mouth could hold it.  What  happened?  He was a little underweight, pale and “deadpan”, but not starved.  He acted as though food had been withheld.  Regularly withheld.  In the room we ate shrimp and rice and broccoli that was delivered from a nearby restaurant.  He wanted all the shrimp.  I told him it was all his.  I asked him to eat one piece at a time.  Then handed him one then another.  The phone rang, I talked to grandpa and five or six shrimp were pushed in.  He gagged.  I hung up and we started again.  “This is your food.  Not grandma’s.”  This was therapy I wasn’t up to.  I wanted to lie down and cry.  I fed him one at a time.  More than a helping, two or three.  His tummy must have ached with the over- fullness.  Later, at 2:30 am when he woke up to pee, he asked for the cole slaw he’d not eaten.  What have they been doing to this boy?

I was talking to grandpa in the morning before I left and he put the animals on a magnetic board with a jungle scene; “you stay right here.  I told you to never, ever, do that again. Hear me? ” he narrated. “I don’t ever ever ever want to hear you do that again,” he scolded in a raspy whisper. Therapy.  We have to do this often. Again really soon.

Mom and Dad were closed about their new life other than to say that food stamps was generous, the Medicaid was coming soon and Section 8 sounded hopeful. Montana is great, they boasted.  I asked them if all that was going to help them reach their goals.  “Absolutely” and nothing else.

Shoes that fit at Dillard’s and a jacket for little buddy and some jammies for sissy.  Mom didn’t bring any clothes and she’d peed thru.  Mom and Dad are besotted with their baby.  Buddy outside the circle. Diapers and wipes and left overs at the airport.  Bye and I’ll see you soon.

You can take him if you want for a few weeks. Ann said. Not today, I said.  How about in mid-February?  Sure.  She said. ” I want to go with you to see grandpa.” He cried. ” Please, I go too.  I love you, Grandma.” ”

Bye.” crying in the carseat after they dropped me off three hours early.  Their Sunday curfew was in the afternoon some time.  Their nightly one was at 8 pm. They are children again.  Always.  Maybe that’s what they need.  But what do the kids need?  ugh.  I called and invited him on February 17 for two weeks.  Grandpa could stop by on his way home from an east coast trip to get him.  Okay?  Fine, Dad said.  Okay with Mom?  I’ll ask again.  Okay.  Talk to He was full and informational.  Still there.  Not lost yet.  Hold on, just hold on, I tell myself with tremendous sadness and concern.  Gma  has to figure some things out.

Checking In

Billings, Denver, brought two grandkids back to home, I’m exhausted. No power, storms, no shower for days, sleep and woodstove heat now that we dropped 2 yr old and 4 yr oldoff at Grandma # 2 house. At New Leaf on wi-fi outing w/ hubby. Forgot my purse so I am borrowing un purchased glasses from the rack with tag hanging down over my nose. Smelly, dirty, muddy boots. That who-cares-I’m out of town feeling. But Grandma#2 just walked in w/ the kids. Hi! Hi, hello. Stories from Billings after power restored. Need to sit with my journal and pick out the places I want to explore a bit more. Good news. My Buddy guy will visit for 2 weeks in February. Back to you soon. gma B

Everyone working hard

Come here buddy, let me hold you.  Want to rock and pretend you are my baby?  Yes, I used to rock you like this.  And sing a song. I’ll hum and let’s just hold each other.  You are precious and safe.  Lovable.

I was awakened last night by a series of screams and crashes with my mind’s vision obscured by clouds of dust and smoke.  It was a dream.  Sometimes dreams play behind our eyes and are silly, fun, or can be dangerous or scary.  Mine was  scary.  I’d been following the news from a country called Haiti where people needed some help after the ground shook really hard, called an earthquake.  I was thinking about the mommies, daddies,  grandmas and children there when I went to bed last night.

I got up for a glass of water and thought about my upcoming visit with you (in only two more days) and fell back to sleep. This morning I am pacing with worry.  Pacing is walking a few feet then turning and doing it again.  Back and forth. I do it when I am amped up about something and need to think using my whole body.  It’s a “can’t possibly sit still” state.  Agitated. What happened was that my Haiti dreams were mixed with Skype.  An experience that we had with your daddy on Monday.

I sent daddy a tiny camera to use with the computer so that we could all see one another while we talk.  I could show you the dogs , wave at you and laugh.  It’s better than the phone.  So daddy tried it on Monday, but I don’t have a camera on my computer.  Grandpa does, and he was at work. I could hear the trailer noises and daddy’s voice but he couldn’t make the picture work. We fiddled around with it and then I went away into another room.  But I could still hear the people in your trailer.  Daddy didn’t hang up after I said good-bye and I didn’t either. That was funny hearing a conversations for about five minutes; a scream, a laugh, someone looking for who ate their burrito and I even heard daddy burp. Then it stopped being funny.

I heard a child scream, Mommy yell and Daddy shout.  “Okay it’s about time I got some respect around here!” Then he slammed his hand six times.  I know it was a spank.  Too many spankings.  I know it was you.  And I cried.  You screamed, mommy shouted to put you down for a nap. Then daddy and you were gone.  I heard mommy tell someone that you had hurt Nathaniel for no reason. Daddy returned.  I had written a message, “I can hear you.” He said Oh, shit. And the line closed. It was quiet. But not for you.

I am so sorry that happened to you.  Daddy was wrong to hit you.  I’m sure you are okay now.  But I doubt if daddy got what he wanted. You are all under a great deal of stress.  It is crowded, unfamiliar, lots of adult interaction that must confuse you, worry you and your cousins.  And you can’t get outside to dig in the sand. I called your daddy that day and we talked a long time about what to do about hurtful behaviors. I let him think of ways to support the positive interactions between you little ones and also find outlets for your needs.  We brainstormed what you might be feeling.  And then we got to daddy’s feelings.  I hung up and cried.  Thank you, Skype.

You can ask for roughhousing time on the bed with your daddy.  You can ask for snowplay, a walk.  Your mommy and daddy have to be ready to find special moments for the four of you.  That is really really hard to do, I know.  They are working so hard to make their idea work.  You may just have to  remind daddy not to hit. You can both work on it.  As you control that you will find self-respect, pride in your actions and be better able to accept when you blow it.  Afterall, everyone of you is under pressure, and working to do your best. Looking for your best includes noticing what isn’t.

I am working hard, too.  gma

Ck out this radio broadcast on aggression in children.  Good discussion!


Grandpa bent to one knee looking for just the right box on a low shelf. We were at Radio Shack.  I glided aimlessly around looking at boxed sets of radio-controlled toys, a boat, a truck and a robot.  We had so many of those over the years.  And with four boys; one in each color.  Silly things. So soon after they were assembled, they lay powerless, broken, batteries worth more than the toy, itself.  A helicopter that really flies 100 feet.  There it goes…gone.  Grandpa finds what he’s looking for and jets into his library/work room  to build it when we get home.

He’s making you an electronic device to check current.  Sounds sophisticated for a three-year old, but that’s what you two did together.  He let you play with his volt meter in the evenings.  I’m not quite sure what he told you about it, but you sure did have a good time with it.  So now he’s modifying one to send to you. It has a battery, a light, a buzzer and two probes.  He filed them down so that you wouldn’t poke yourself.  When you were here you poked it into our Halloween pumpkin. Crystal and Nathaniel are not pumpkins, buddy. That holey pumpkin with several dozen,  darkening piercings sat on the front porch for weeks after you left.

You know how your mommy really wanted to move someplace else.  Close to her mom and brothers?  Well, Shelby’s mom, Katie,  wants to move out of her house too.  They still live next door with Shelby’s grandma and grandpa, Sharon and Geoff, but Brandon says that Katie is in Colorado now.  She’s looking for a better life.  Just a different life, I think.  Maybe not better.  Maybe her OWN life. Colorado is far away like Montana. It’s where Ella and Kalen live.  It’s close to Montana, but too far to ride your tricycle over for a visit.

The other day I noticed the poked pumpkin was moldy around all of the little holes and reached down to touch it.  It mashed under pressure.  I scooped it up and tossed it over the cliff for little animals to eat.   I should have thought about it some more before I did that.  I miss seeing it there on the steps. I washed the car this week, too. Your handprints are no longer waving at me in the passenger-side window.  The prints are gone from the car, and the pumpkin is gone, too, but I  still see them in my mind’s eye.  That’s an important place-the mind’s eye. It holds memories, or as your daddy used to say, “remembories”.  We have a mind’s ear, too.  It can hear your voice from the car seat that is perched back there in my mind’s eye. “There’s the ocean, Grandma. Gone, now.  No cows today. Must be in the barn.”  And you giggling in delight at so many things we liked to talk about.  Sometimes the mind’s eyes and ears get too faint to hear and kind of blurry after time passes.  This is becoming too long for mine.  I need a re-charge.

Grandpa sent you the little box with lights and a buzzer so you could complete a circuit, or make one right there in your little box.  I was a little worried about you putting it in an outlet at the trailer and asked mommy to put it away after you used it. I told her to always watch you closely. Maybe we should have kept it here.  Grandpa didn’t think about those things until it was already in the mail.  He just couldn’t wait to send it. Your funny mommy remembered that you poked an apple, a potato an onion,  a banana and the pumpkin with the probe when you were here.  So when she opened the package in Billings, she handed it to you with a potato.  She didn’t know what grandpa made you, but told me on the phone that she thought it must be that fruit and vegetable thing.  Cute.  But no potato is necessary.  Let your three-year old discover what it does.

Only four more days until the pinky day called Friday. Then I  see you in Billings. Hope your daddy remembers to pick me up! I’ll bring you a bathing suit for the warm indoor pool. Maybe I’ll bring your tricycle,too.  gma

Empty the Chute

Don’t we just hate cleaning and putting things away?  Most of us do.  Okay, sometimes it is a good mindless chore;  no brain power needed.  But usually it is something I put off.  Chore, bore, roar….snore.  Maybe I am sick and have to wait another day.  Maybe I will need the shiny reindeer wrapping paper again in the next few weeks, or will change my mind and put the ornaments out again.

I have to clean up the spare room.  Its called spare because nobody sleeps in it every night, but also because it represents extra space and like a spare tire gets used when needed.  Around the holidays it was really needed.  Now I have to put it all away.  Its my junky mess.  So I began.  But now I am here writing.

What happened?  This is a lesson, not on procrastination or rewards coming after chores -dessert after you eat veggies, but instead I want to explore the value of delaying an inevitable task.  (It has to be done so Ella can find the bed when she’s stays here next week.)

Remember when the gravel truck came and dumped all the pea gravel near the shop?  There was a long metal chute (the concrete truck had one too) to send the gravel directly into the trench.  Well, what if a big rock sat there in the chute and all the pea gravel spilled over the sides of the chute?  Messy.  So okay, let’s say that I had something in my chute.  So when I started going through the stuff in the spare room trying to think about where to put things, I kept dropping them back onto the bed.  Messy, too.  I had not a rock, but a problem in my chute. I think once I write it out, I’ll get back to my other chore.  This may be something that can help you out someday.  Keep an open  emotional chute.  When something is on your mind, you feel confused or worried, deal with it.  Usually right away.

This morning I called you.  I was going to tell you that I would come see you on a day called Friday.  Your daddy answered.  I was thrilled to hear his voice.  Really.  But, as we talked, I asked about the weather, what he’s learned about snow, to keep it light.  I asked about your mommy and opened a door for more conversation.  He handed the phone to you. We talked a moment about your breakfast cereal bowl on the counter then daddy was back.  I reminded him when I am coming and he said he’d forgotten.  I was hurt.

Cleaning the spare room was hard because I was mad at your daddy for not loving me enough to have a real talk.  He seems less capable of a phone conversation than you, his three-year old.  We used to talk.  I can think about how hard bridging two experiences is for some people. I can come up with all kinds of excuses for him, but when it gets down to it I am deeply hurt.  He, not your mommy, is who I am confused about, disappointed in and annoyed with.  He won’t even really talk to me, but oh, yes he can give me a list of what to bring from here to Montana for him.  What a self-serving creep your daddy is.  If he wasn’t my son, I’d never be his friend.  And besides, he’d never be invited to my birthday party.  So there!

Whew, strangely I feel better.  Sort of.  But at least my chute is somewhat unobstructed.  I can go do my chores.  But,  wrapping paper scraps are so good for collages.  Should I keep them? But I am not a teacher anymore.  And the grandkids don’t need a little school here. Recycling should help retired teachers clean the closets we’ve stuffed full of interesting collage items. Shouldn’t it? Paper, plastic, glass, cardboard, the library, goodwill, the women’s  center, the mental health center?

Grandma Mouse

I just finished your book, buddy.  I’ll bring a copy next week. 8 more days. gma


Jim the carpenter had been hammering in the old kitchen all week. He had to take the old cabinets apart to fix them.

A pile of scraps grew and grew. Some of it would be used again. Some was rubbish.


A little mouse scurried across the floor and dashed outside.

She dipped out of sight and quickly slid underneath the porch. “SQUEAK”, she said, speaking to herself.


The old mouse pushed together some dry grasses and a bit of stuffing from a torn patio chair.

She was making a nest for six tiny mouselings. They were not her babies.

They were her grandmice.


Grandma worked the entire afternoon, getting ready for her mouselings.

She moved her collection of recycled household items out of the cabin. She pushed them safely back into the furthermost corner.


Grandma Mouse didn’t know where mommy mouse had gone.  It was a good thing that she still knew how to take care of young mice.

She carried them one by one to the soft, warm nest.  And sang them a little song as she pulled the stuffing up and over them.  Grandma was never sure about the words of songs. “Rockin’ Rollin’ rider, out across the bay.  Train bound for morning town, many miles away.”


Grandma became an artist after her children left home.  She carved figures from wood and had begun several paintings.  She had an interest in clay work, too.

But now her grandmice needed her.

So her art would have to wait.


Grandma pushed a piece of bread into one of her graying cheeks and some fatty meat scraps into the other.

She pulled small portions from her mouth and pushed them into each of the open mouths.

As they awaited their turn, the mouselings squeaked and squealed with delight at the delicious meal.

Then with full tummies, they snuggled down into the nest, rolled up and went to sleep


Grandma Mouse had always lived in the cabin.  Her ancestors had never spoken about any other place.

This would be the family home of her grandmice, too. Or so she thought.

But things changed right about the time the Big Creek Lumber truck pulled up. It arrived to unload Jim’s wood.  Up on the truck bed Grandma saw a big box that read, Montana Slate.


Two well-worn laced leather boots clumped across the wooden porch.

A stack of lumber dropped to the floor. Boom!

And the next thing grandma knew, she was flying through the air and landed in the rosemary!


Grandma Mouse slipped down a bristled branch, gathering some of the lacy lavender blooms and a few of the aromatic needles for her kitchen.

She was okay.

She rubbed her tender backside and hustled back under the porch.


The nest was empty.  Her grandmice were gone.

Grandma called and called. Her voice, crackled with age, grew weary. She squeaked out to them again and again. “Mousies, Mousies!” But they were truly gone. The truck had driven away.

After awhile she stopped waiting for them and went on with her life.


Grandma slept alone in the comfy nest she’d made for the mouselings. It had been a perfect place to raise little mice, she thought sadly. But it was just fine for her, too.

She stretched her furry legs and rubbed her rounded belly with her paws.  She cleaned her face and few remaining whiskers then headed off to get some clay.

She’d found a nice deposit of red clay by the pump.  And now that she had time, she could gather it up and bring it home.


Grandma Mouse scooped up the sticky clay with her claws and rolled it into smooth, round balls.  It would be a struggle to get them back to her home. But well worth it, she thought.

It took several days to guide each sticky ball through sticks, over small hills and out of holes. The gophers got a few freebies.

Back home, she removed the dirt and debris and stored them under a cup to keep them moist.


Grandma mouse was lonely without her family, but she had plenty to keep her busy.

She had a great idea; she’d make her grandmice each a tea cup. And began working the clay.

Tea cups could have handles or not, could be tall, short, round or even square.  But Grandma was a little bit traditional.  Her cups would be round, with handles and glazed in earthen tones.


Grandma hummed a little song as she worked, patting the cups on all sides to keep them well-shaped.

On the outside she looked quite happy, but inside she ached with longing.  Doing something with her hands always helped to cheer her up a little.


When the clay was dry and then fired in the woodstove, she set the cups out to cool.

She carefully strung one at a time on her tail and held it up high to prevent breakage.  The cups, though small, were quite heavy and took a strength she didn’t know she had in her old tail.

She stacked the colorful teacups on the floor in her home. Clink, clink, clink.


She set a pan of water to heat for tea. A favorite tea of all young mice is “Honey Vanilla Chamomile.”

As the water reached a boil, she sang a song.  (Grandma always thought it was okay to change the words in songs). And because she had so much time on her hands, it was a long one.  (Originally called Teddy’s Bears Picnic)


With a deep sigh, feeling a bit disappointed, Grandma turned off the pot.  Her ears twitched at a sound.

It was the rumble of a truck.  It was Big Creek with another delivery. That Montana slate must be popular she thought, another box sat perched on the back of the truck.

Grandma hid as several cans of recycled paint were delivered out front.  Clank, Clank!

In one of the cans was yellow paint.


Grandma had saved a few spots on each of her paintings for some yellow.  Now she could finish them.

And with nothing but time on her paws, she scooped the tip of her tail in yellow paint and returned home.

She painted a moon, some stars and began some flowers… But she heard a faint squeak.


It was a voice, then more voices.  “Grandma, Grandma.”  Yes!  It was her grandmice.  They had come back!

As it turns out, mommy had been frightened by Jim’s hammering and jumped into the big box on the Big Creek truck to seek a better place to raise her children.

But nothing was better than home.  They were hungry and very, very cold.


Come in, said Grandma, with her arms open as wide as they could get. “Have a bite to eat and a cup of warm tea.”

Welcome home, mouselings.

After a snooze, the young ones asked Mommy, Where’s Grandma Mouse?

The mouselings called for her.

But Grandma couldn’t hear them for she was in her studio; measuring, pounding and sawing.  She was building a new bed for herself.

It would have a carved wooden headboard, with stars and a moon and maybe she’d find some gold leaf to make it shiny.

She’d just have to see, she thought, sipping the warm tea.

(I see that you could not read my adapted song- here it is again)

Adapted from “Teddy Bear’s Picnic”

If you go under the porch today
You’re sure of a big surprise
If you go under the porch today
You’d better go in disguise

For ev’ry mouse that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the Mousies have their tea time.

Ev’ry Mouse who’s been good
Is sure of a treat today.
There’s lots of marvelous things to eat
And wonderful games to play

Beneath the porch where nobody sees
They’ll hide and seek as long as they please
Cause that’s the way the Mousies have their tea time.

If you go under the porch today
You’d better not go alone
It’s lovely under the porch today
But safer to stay at home

For ev’ry mouse that ever there was
Will gather there for certain, because
Today’s the day the Mousies have their tea time.

Picnic time for Mousie, Dears
The little Mousie, Dears are having a lovely time today
Watch them, catch them unawares
And see them sup tea on their holiday.

See them gaily gad about
They love to play and shout;
They never have any care;

At six o’clock their Mummies and Grandmas,
Will take them home to bed,
Because they’re tired little Mousie, Dears.

For music go to:

Searching for the right thing

10 more days.  Waiting for anything gets good when you reach the number that matches the number of fingers we have on our two hands. To complete the countdown,  let’s start by holding your two hands out in front of you with your palms facing out.  Begin with 10 on the left pinky and move across the left hand down to the thumb dip with 6, hop over to the right hand with 5 days left on the right hand’s thumb and across. Then while I am on the airplane, it’s another pinky day.  The last one.

So, buddy, I’ll see you on my right hand pinky day.  Got it?

That all made perfect sense to me.  And I found it rather fun. Sharing thoughts with a three-year old is really hard with 1240 miles between us. I can’t put you in my lap and talk, show you or listen as you tell me. You don’t really receive these letters, you know.  They are eye and ear snacks for me and my friends.  I have not yet found a satisfactory way to share a bit of my life, your Bonny Doon home or Grandma time with you.  What is it you need, buddy? I have been trying to figure it out.

I have some ideas because I know you and  I also asked for help.  Some friends who know about kids and families made some suggestions.  But since I am their friend, maybe they were gentle with me; not quite forthcoming.  That means that when I told them I thought that you needed me and I had to keep in touch they agreed. Afterall, I saw you every single day that I was here.  And when I travelled, you and grandpa hung out.  Your well-being was tied to us.  What’s it tied to now?

Sometimes I wonder if I should let go and let you be there and stop trying so hard to reach you? Originally I called you every few days.  I wanted to call you everyday. But you were never alone to listen and tell me things.  Someone wants the phone, you see a toy or food is on the table and you have to get to it.  And actually, you are three.  Phones are not effective.

What else?  I send you little letters about our daily life and sometimes a picture of the dogs, the Christmas tree or something like the dry leaves, moss and a tea bag.  I sent you a packet of note cards, stamps and address labels all ready to send back if you want to talk to me, too.  I told your daddy and mommy to write me a note now and then.  I haven’t gotten any yet.  Maybe you are really busy.  I sent your daddy a computer camera for Skype.  That’s what we do with the Boulder kids.  Grandpa and I love it.  The kids there like it for a few minutes at a time.  Last time baby Lindsey kicked over mommy’s coffee and Kalen was driving his motorcycle through it after Ella left too  cranky to talk.  Bye, said Tab.  That’s okay.  Its fun to see all of it.  What else would work for you?I think you just have to come here for a visit.

I finished the book I was writing and will bring a copy to Billings.  I wanted you to see me making it.  That’s good stuff watching people create things.  We have ideas, change them, throw something away, give up, start again and then change it and its different from we thought.  Often better.  The journey into a creative project is always worth sharing.  The way it consumes me while I work, into the night, the next day and the way I never quite want to stop changing it.  That’s what I want you to know about.  I mean you do need to brush your teeth, change your socks, wash down there and eat veggies.  All of those things, too.  But grandpas and grandmas are for this other part.  The character lessons.  Did I just say that? It’s late and I am blathering.  Maybe an occasional blather is good stuff too.

Hey today I saw your handprints on my car window.  They still show there in the middle part surrounded by dog nose smears.  It’s on the side where your car seat used to be.  Now its Metro’s seat. Maybe he’s pretending he’s you.

Goodnight buddy, tell your mommy to make sure you brush your teeth and all that stuff, but you also tell her to draw and paint and write so you can witness her trying, making a mistake, fixing it and then standing back, both of you, and having a look at it together. These are the most important kind of lessons. Love to you and your sister, gma

Happy New Year

Hi Buddy,

This is the year that you will turn four, but not for many more months.  You have to be three first.  Being three means that you will decide about more things for yourself.  You may decide to stop eating something that you used to like.  But tell mommy its okay because you’ll eat it again later, maybe when you are ten or eleven. And you will tell the people in your life what you want. Even if you have to repeat it several times, or say it really, really loudly.  You may get frustrated when things don’t go your way, take toys from other children and may even push them.  But you’ll appreciate hearing how to manage those feelings and are able to change your behavior.  That means caring and understanding adults will have to support you through it.  You’ll examine your sense of what is right and wrong. But not inside your head.  You’ll try things.  A lot of behaviors will surprise your mom and dad. But by the end of this year, you’ll start helping other people  manage their behavior.  You’ll be telling adults not to smoke, to drive more slowly and what to buy at the grocery store.

The person you will be gets some practice with all the good language you have collected.  The ideas you have are numerous and burst out so quickly that your mouth can’t keep up.  You may have a little speech dis-fluency.  But that subsides on its own in a few months.  Not to worry. I hear I stuttered until I was 8.

But the best thing about your developing self this year is your imaginative play.  You already pretended that your little dolls drank tea, the plastic cows ate grass and you could eat magazine food.  But this year, you will dance more freely, sing songs out loud as you play, take on roles of people, animals and stories you read, movies you see.  You may decide that you are not Orien and insist that others stop calling you that.  You will delight in funny antics, simple jokes and want us to repeat favorite stories. You may also awaken at night with bad dreams.  Movies for adults, loud music, the news, adult conversations or arguments can set you off.  I hope the adults take care about those things. You can manage them by talking to daddy about them, playing them through with your little figures or paint your feelings in pictures.  Oh yes, you will draw and scribble and paint and glue discovering your way to your first human representation this year. Representations of all kinds! I hope mommy send me your art.  Because once you see what you’ve done, you won’t stop!

There are so many ways that you’ll be busy.  You’ll learn to ski, hike further, and maybe paddle and swim.  You’ll climb and slide, swing and dig deep holes.  All of what you learned at two, you’ll keep doing.  Maybe this year you’ll learn to pedal.  It was just beginning when you left.

I bet your bike will be too small for you when you come back.  Maybe Elizabeth can use it.  I put it in out of the rain for you.  It doesn’t snow here, but we get plenty of rain. I bet you really miss the outdoors.  Today is a good day for a hike in Bonny Doon.  I hurt my leg and am limping a little, but if you were here, I’d walk with you anyway.  I could just put it up to rest after we got back.

That’s another thing, this is the year that you will come back home.  I think so.  When I gave up your spot at Rob’s school, I knew that it would be hard to get back in. But as soon I know when you are returning (I hope September), I will put you on the list for Carl’s classroom.  Remember he was your infant caregiver at the college Lab?  That would be good for your mom and daddy if Carl was your teacher again. They really hit it off.

Your mommy says that food stamps come this week.  That’s how, she tells everyone on Facebook, that she is getting your lives back together.  That’s a little sad to me.  I tried to help you guys get food stamps here, but your daddy made just a few dollars too much money. There, with four of you now, in 2010 maybe he doesn’t.  Maybe he’s really not working at all. I don’t ask about that.  I am glad you’ll have some food.  I hope you have had some all along.  That’s another thing.  You’ll be growing a lot.  You’ll need healthy food and vitamins.  Did you get the ones I sent?  I used to like it when you’d come in each day and chortle, “Hey, I didn’t have my vitamins yet.” Even if you did. I’ll bring some when I see you in 12 days.  I’ll also bring books, art materials and…oh my, I’ll only be there two nights.  We can have a Happy New Year party.  Shall I bring a tea set?  I’ll try to finish the book I am writing you so we can read it.  I hope you want to stay all night with me. See you soon buddy.  Not soon enough.  12 and 11 and 10 and 9, 8 and 7 and 6 and 5 , 4 and 3 and 2 and 1  and whole lots more, they mow the hay and they take it away on a beautiful summer’s day!