Lego and the Maniac

A bucket of Legos has been sitting dormant in our basement since the Clinton era. Not totally dormant. Since the bucket is now twice as full as when it got shoved under the basement steps, we assume the pieces get lively around Lego mating season.

Now that our youngest grandchild reached the Age of Reason, (no longer consuming every potential choking hazard), we excavated under the stairs and unearthed the red bin.
But before the grandsons are let loose on the toys their daddies played with, their grandma has work to do.

The sorting of the Legos has begun.

One grandson jump-started the process when he turned the bin upside down to find a particular Lego piece.
And I’ve now spent half an unabridged audiobook and two podcasts sorting the dross from the gold, tiny specialty pieces from the standard Lego bases and blocks, thumbtacks and screws from the $100 Star Wars set.

“Tacks and screws?” The alert reader may ask. Yes. If memory serves me correctly we didn’t give our children sharp objects to play with. Here’s what I think happened, in those long ago clean-this-mess-or-else days. They tended to sweep everything from floor and dressers into the Lego bin. Which accounts for the ancient candy wrappers, pennies, and Mancala stones. And K-nex pieces. Do they even make K-nex any more? I’m a little concerned about the counting bears. We used to have hundreds. Now down to two. Maybe Legos eat them as part of their mating rituals?

And what kind of high-falutin’ set did we buy that has chess pieces?

Also. I wouldn’t want to be alone in a room with the only fighting guy who has all his body parts.

These are the Lego accoutrements.

Tiny coins, chalices, leering heads and weapons.
Do you know that a 2 millimeter drinking stein is as painful to kneel on as a lumpy rock?

This sorting business is the kind of self-appointed task that leads me to reflect on the compulsive desire to do something stupid.

Like the child who throws a softball at a wasps’ nest. Mid-flight he ponders. Was this a good idea?

Like the suburbanite who rakes leaves while autumn gales blow or snowplows the driveway during a blizzard. In the upper Midwest we commonly refer to these as ‘exercises in futility.’

Like the gambler who puts all his money on the long shot at the track because the horse reminded him of his mother and too late wonders if he should have thought this decision through.

I should realize the the grands probably won’t fully appreciate the effort that went into the Lego Sorting Project. They most certainly won’t maintain the separation of bits from pieces for long.

Shouldn’t the little voice in my head say, ”Don’t you have more productive and slightly less futile tasks to do? Pay the monthly bills, feed your husband, clean the floor around the toilet from the last time the little boys came before they come again?”

Likely, I’ll continue to suppress the voice.

I’ll imagine the excitement I hope to see on my grandson’s faces when they find just the right Lego figure for their current make-believe scenario.

And that possibility will make this lousy idea, exercise in futility, poorly thought-out scheme all worth while.

The Enchanted Granny


DSC06066.jpgIt was a bad idea. My husband said, “This is a bad idea.” But I suffer from an enchanted condition called ‘Grandmother.’ The spell works differently in different grandmas, but I’ve been told that, when fully under its power, I am blinded to any defects in my grandchildren. Past disasters are blotted from my memory and possible future chaoses are bedazzled by blind optimism.

My two oldest grandsons, ages 2 and 3, both wanted to sit with my husband (Grampy) my youngest son (Uncle K) and myself (Granny) in church.
I said yes and led the two small boys to our customary seat.
Families with small children usually sit in back.
Our customary seat is middling-front.
In the area frequented by people who came that day foolishly assuming they were going to hear an entire worship service.

My husband slipped in to my left. “This is a bad idea.”

“No. It will be fine! Three adults and only two little ones? We can separate them. Besides, they are playing with their church toys.”

I folded my hands as the pastor began to pray, ready to offer a silent postscript of gratitude for these wonderful little blessings.
We didn’t even make it through “Dear Father in Heaven.”

Did you know that church toys, contrary to all that is right and good and expected, are cursed with a dreadful spell?
EACH TOY is under enchantment to make it alluring and desirable ONLY WHEN ONE’S COUSIN IS PLAYING WITH IT.
As soon as the magical toy is wrest from the grip of the other, its enchantment dissipates.

Did you know that small children are shape-shifters? They change into eels that slither around and between adult legs to reach each other. Their 30-pound frames transmute to several tons of bonelessness when an adult attempts a leverage-and-lift.

You know how beavers have that extra eyelid that closes in water?
The magical human variety have a mudflap that descends over the eardrum in public.
It flips down  at the first sound of “SHHHHH! We’re praying!” or “It’s not your turn” or “Do you want a timeout?”
The mudflap rolls back up at the smallest vibration of a fruit snack package crinkled anywhere in the building, which triggers the vocal chords which immediately demand, in a roar also heard to the limits of the building, “I want a snack, Granny!”

I have a magic bag of tricks. I call it my purse and it contains everything that could address any conceivable physical emergency. It contained fruit snacks. The magical children made them disappear in 3.7 ( blessedly silent) seconds. Then these amazing creatures turned the purse upside down and— ABRACADABRA! 28 sq. liters of stuff came out of my 8”x10” handbag.

For their next trick, they levitated my artfully-tied fashion scarf from around my neck. A lively discussion between the cousins ensued. #1 thought he should wear the scarf around his head. Pirate style. #2 disagreed. It should be around #1’s neck. Hangman’s noose style.
For a brief moment my Enchanted Grandmother brain cleared and I remembered how dangerous anything around the neck of a child can potentially be.
I reclaimed the scarf, hissed words of warning,
and all billy h-e-double hockey sticks broke out.
#1 transformed into a shrieking hydra, squirting tears in a three-foot swath. Then he saw Cousin looking smug and his resulting howls registered on sonar equipment.

Grampy hustled #1 down the aisle and into the back.
Uncle K busied himself comforting a sobbing #2 who, now that he’d gotten exactly what he wanted, no longer wanted it.
I smiled assurance at the tense people around us. Things will settle down now. Only one little boy. You may even catch the last few lines of the sermon.

Grampy, who’d forgotten he needed to collect offering, hustled back up the aisle and deposited #1 next to me in the pew.
Only a few minutes to go. I could do this.
Did you know that time, under enchantment, expands?
The few minutes lasted well into the next century.

Ignoring the urgent cries of the little Faeries of Common Sense fluttering around my head, I handed each boy a quarter to put in the collection plate.
Once the quarters hit the warm hands of the magical children they fell under the spell. They multiplied. For the next seven minutes quarters hit the floor 220 times.

The pastor pronounced the benediction and dismissed us with the Lord’s blessing. Our grandchildren’s parents came to reclaim their offspring. The little boys hugged our legs, looked up with sweetly trusting eyes, and lisped, “Love you Granny. We sit with you again.”

Anyone have a good counter-spell for ‘Enchanted Grandmother?’


SONY DSCPeople of a certain delicate age, we decided last time out, don’t really forget stuff. We just misplace it for a time.
This week we face another conundrum. Why do decisions that were once clear-cut now have more angles than a 10th grade geometry book? When did snap judgements expand to Supreme Court-deliberation length?
Why does a final, rock solid decision continuously elude me?

Something else is going on here. It isn’t only the sheer amount of stuff shoved into my memory bank.
It’s the filter.
My filter assigns virtue to incoming information.
Like my hair, the filter is getting gray and brittle.
Another scourge of middle age.

My grandsons are infants. The world is white to them. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, centers around their needs. A nuclear explosion could erupt in the next town and they would demand a diaper change. Naptime can’t wait for important phone calls to end and they really have no use for Mommy’s migraine when their little tummies rumble. The world is straightforward and monochrome. It is responsible for making them happy and keeping them safe. All is white.

By the time these little ones hit their teenage stride something remarkable will have happened.
Another color, another dimension, will have gradually crept into their ‘me’ world.
Black takes its place along white.
Now, while still wanting to fulfill their own pleasures and needs, these blossoming youth comprehend that some things are bad. They will begin assessing data and assigning colors.
Is this good or bad? Black or is it white?
Decision making over all that info takes more time. They no longer see just a white spotlight focussed on their own needs. They see the dark of wrong, bad, evil. Their brains have more information to process. Not only are they working with more experience to apply to the info. They have to make a judgement call.
Black or white?
Life isn’t entirely simple.
But it still is sort of simple. Rarely in the idealistic absolutes of youth do black and white puddle together into ambiguity.

Here at the tail end of middle age, black and white are no longer the primary colors used by my brain to file information, make an application and deduce, “This is bad. That is good. She is evil. He is pure. Do this. Don’t do that.”

Grayness has set in. So few of the decisions are easy. Implications abound. While some actions I observe are overtly evil or obviously good, I have learned (oh, blast that experience!) that quick verdicts are not always easy to make.
Judgment calls require the sifting of acquired wisdom and accumulated experience and hits and misses. We are so much slower than we used to be because our filter has so much more to sort. Lean chicken or marbled steak? Spankings or time outs? Liberal Republican or conservative Democrat? What does ‘in the world but not of it’ look like? Will the shabby man begging for spare change spend it on liquor? How can one tired finite mind figure this all out?

Humans and situations and issues are complex. People can do bad things with good intentions. Charitable actions can have self-serving motives, honorable nations can fight dishonorable wars and every story doesn’t have 2 sides. It might have a dozen.

There are absolutes in the world. I respect them but understand that fallible humans have trouble living those absolutes absolutely. I respect justice but crave mercy. The gray filter of my mind has seen the dark recesses of my heart struggle with the brightness of Good. It reminds me how foolhardy and hypocritical a rush to judgement can be.
At the same time my brittle, tired filter longs for the day when I won’t have to analyze, appraise and critique myself or others or issues or events.

Someday, my gray filter won’t be needed. All will be White. And I’ll have eternity to enjoy the chicken AND the steak.

Pre-Prude Post

For weeks now I have been twittering (which pre-dates tweeting by several centuries) about how to use my new site here at WordPress. In a previous, simpler blogging life (The Prude Disapproves) the language was simpler, the options fewer and I learned to manage my blog in a matter of days. That was 2010. The Stone Ages.

2013: The Millennium Falcon tripped into lightspeed and dumped me in an era whose language includes words and phrases comprehended by everyone except me.  My infant grandsons are even now adding crucial words like ‘domain’ and ‘widget’ and ‘akismet’ to the vocabulary bank in their brains––a bank that in previous years considered ‘mommy’ ‘daddy’ ‘more’ and ‘yukkies’ sufficient funds for early communication.


The blogging road beckons, and I must follow. Please, if you come with me, understand that I will be falling into potholes, stumbling over boulders and going flat from running over sharp objects on the shoulder. Lord willing, in the very near future, The Prude will be chugging into a Tuesday near you.