Swings and Lawn Mowers

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves

My inspiration! Photo by Elizabeth Groves


Once upon a time, a little girl with flowing hair and a bright smile held a baby bunny in her hands. Her Daddy had found the bunny lost in their yard. The little girl stroked his extra soft fur. She cuddle him close to make sure he wasn’t scared.

With help from her Mommy, the little girl made the bunny a soft home and fed him lots of carrots. But, her Mommy said they could only keep him for a short time. See, the bunny was wild and wild bunnies have to live in the wild. The little girl was sad but she understood. She knew the bunny had to go home. So one bright morning, the little girl let the bunny go back into the deep grass. She let him go.

“Don’t forget me,” she called to the bunny as he hopped away. And the bunny never did.


Once upon a time there was a girl who kept a bookmark in a special place in her special book. She kept her most favorite picture marked so she could look at it anytime she pleased. And this special place, you ask?

This special place was a picture of a golden horse who could fly. The horse could bound over buildings. The horse could soar through the clouds and follow rainbows. Two best friends loved the golden horse, and the girl with the bookmark hoped that one day she could find her own magical horse and her own best friend

One day, one perfect day, she did.


Once upon a time, a little boy with blond hair and blue eyes had a birthday. On his very special day, the day the whole family celebrated his birth, his Grandpa and Grammie made him a swing.

Now, this swing was hung in a great oak tree. His Grandpa and Grammie came over on a special trip just for him, just to hang it.

The little boy was so pleased. He loved his swing. Almost every day he climbed up on the flat board, took hold of the ropes on either side and pushed up off the earth. Higher and higher he swung, pumping his long legs and laughing for joy. Back and forth, back and forth the swing swung make believing the boy could fly.


Once upon a time, a boy with a wonderful smile got a new pair of shoes. They weren’t like his other sneakers. They weren’t like his boots. They weren’t like his Sunday shoes or his sandals. They were magical shoes. Magical? Yes. With every step the boy took, his shoes lit up. Lights flashed across the back and sides.

Hop. Hop. Hop.

The boy bounced through the house watching his shoes flash.

With these new sneakers the boy could run faster, jump higher, and do great deeds of daring much to his mother’s great delight, for they were magical shoes.


Once upon a time, there was a little girl with blonde curls who delighted in everything. She loved the old hole in the parking lot. She loved her Sunday School teacher. She loved her Mommy. She loved her Daddy. She loved her Sister. She even loved the bathroom.

There was nothing in the world that the little girl didn’t find amazing. Bugs, rain, mud, coloring, singing, duck-duck-goose, Simon says, running, Grammie, Grandpa, everyone and everything was worth seeing and doing and that’s just what she did.


Once upon a time, there was a little ginger girl who lived out in the country far away from busy city streets and hustle and bustle. She lived with a tangled mess of a dog and a cat, tall weeds, trees and other neighbors’ pets. She lived where the bugs grew big in the summer and the old barn always needed to be explored again.

Every few weeks, her Daddy would drive the big old mower out and cut the grass back to a manageable height. The ginger girl was fascinated by the big old mower. She ran from window to window on her little legs watching her Daddy mow, watching the bugs fly out of the path, watching the grass blow away.

When, oh when, would she be old enough to mow, too?


Once upon a time, there was a little boy who loved to smile. He smiled at his cousins. He smiled at his mommy and daddy. He smiled at Grandpas, Grammie, aunties and uncles. He smiled at everyone. But, most of all, he smiled at his big brother. He also growled and hollered with his big brother. He thought everything his big brother did was awesome and to be immediately copied to the best of his ability. And who wouldn’t with a cool big brother like his? Who wouldn’t smile?


Once upon a time, there was a little boy who tasted food for the first time. Now, this little boy’s Momma was a wonderful cook and she’d been waiting and waiting for the day he could try food for the first time. One day, he did. And oh how magical the world seemed them. Not just a world of color and light, night and dark, nor just a world of hard and soft, warm and cold, but a world of sweet, bitter, sour, salty, savory, lumpy goodness…and peaches were his favorite…though chocolate wasn’t bad either.


Once upon a time, there was a little unborn girl. Safely growing inside her Mommy, she listened to her sister, her parents, her dog and cat, her loud cousins (there seemed so many of them), her aunts and uncles, and her grandparents. She listened to them sing. She listened to them pray. She listened to the words of love they spoke to each other every day.

One day soon she would meet them all face to face. She would see them all and she would touch them all. One day she would feel and know the love she only now could hear.

…and they all lived happily ever after…

Bruce swinging with Grandpa Ronnie!

Bruce swinging with Grandpa Ronnie!


A Texas Cousins Adventure: Being Brave

Texas Cousins (Picture stolen from Liz)

Texas Cousins
(Picture stolen from Liz)

A loud squeal of fear rang through Grammie and Grandpa’s house. All the adults came running. A big green monster growled and stalked up the hallway. Seven cousins huddled together. The monster growled and waved its claws.

“I’ll defend you,” Grandpa said jumping in front of the scary monster.

“Me too,” said Grammie drawing an invisible sword. She tossed it to Grandpa and drew another one.

The monster giggled.

“That’s not a monster,” Aunt Abby said.

“It’s not??” the seven cousins said in unison.

“I think it’s Uncle Jason.”

“Daddy!” said Ellie breaking from the huddle of frightened children to hug the green monster around the knees.

“Are you all okay?” Aunt Abby asked kneeling down in front of the kids.

“I was very scared,” said Bruce.

“Me too!” said Jules.

“I wasn’t,” said Joshua.

“Yes you were,” Constance said poking him in the shoulder. A few minutes of bickering ensued.

“Aunt Abby,” Bruce said once Grammie straightened out Joshua and Constance, “I’m not brave. I was scared.”

“Oh Bruce, you being scared doesn’t mean you aren’t brave.”

Uncle Jason pulled off the monster’s scary head. “They’re not mutually exclusive,” he said.

All seven cousins looked up at him and blinked slowly.

Ellie tried out the two big words without coming any closer to understanding them.

“What does that mean?” Jules asked wrinkling her nose.

“It means what Aunt Abby said. Being afraid doesn’t mean you’re not brave.”

“How about I tell you a story about it,” Aunt Abby said.

“Can I be brave in the story?” Bruce said.

“Is it a Once Upon A Time story?” Imogene asked taking Aunt Abby’s hand and leading her to the couch.

“A fairy tale western,” said Jude plopping down beside them.

“No Jude,” Jules said. “It’s just a western.”

“Actually,” Aunt Abby said. “This time it is a fairy tale western. Ready?”

Seven heads nodded.


Once upon a time, a chill wind blew over the Texas flatland. It blew through the fingers of the pecan trees and the oaks chasing squirrels. It whistled around noses and ears until they were red and cold. Behind the wind came a white, dense fog. Hobbes, the golden lab, stayed close to the house. Patrolling the property was complicated when it was so windy. Clyde, the donkey, kept his back to the wind. Three pairs of brown cowboy boots sat on the front porch while four pairs of pink, purple, blue, and red cowboy boots covered little painted toes down by the pond.

“Bruce, Joshua, Jude,” Grammie called.

The three boys came tramping through the house with growls, snaps, and stamping feet.

“Ohhh,” Grammie said. “Did a bunch of dinosaurs replace my grandsons?”

The boys roared and showed off their sharp teeth and sharp claws.

“Well, I need my three grand-dinosaur-sons to go outside and find their cousins. The girls went to play at the pond and it’s getting late and dark.”

Bruce, Joshua, and Jude stared out the window at the gray sky, the fog, and the cold wind dashing through the fog.

“Grammie?” Bruce said. “Can we stay inside? It looks scary out there.”

“No,” Grammie said. “It’s just the weather. Besides you wouldn’t want to leave Jules, Ellie, Constance, and Imogene out there all on their own.”

“Yes we would,” Bruce said.

“That’s not good,” Grammie said.

“But we’re scared,” Joshua said.

“Well, you’ll have to be brave,” Grammie said.

“But we’re scared,” said Jude.

“Do you know what being brave means?” asked Grammie.

“It means not being scared,” Bruce said.

“Are we in this story?” Jules said from beside Constance.

“Is this a boy story?” Constance said.

“No, you’ll come in later,” said Aunt Abby. “And besides, sometimes girls have to be even braver than boys.”

“We do?” said Ellie.

“Why?” said Imogene.

“Because we’re usually afraid of more stuff,” Aunt Abby said with a smile. “The more stuff you’re afraid of the braver you have to be.”

“No Bruce,” Grammie said. “It means doing what you have to do even though you’re scared.”

Three sets of blue eyes looked up at her.

“So, even though you’re scared, the brave thing to do is go out and call the girls in for dinner.”

The three boys dropped their snarls and dinosaur growls. They glanced at the front door leading out into the foggy fall weather. Bruce swallowed. Jude took his hand. Joshua sighed.

“Go on boys,” Grammie said. “Go like dinosaurs. Maybe then you won’t be as scared.”

The boys tried to growl as they made their way to the front door. The wind almost whipped it out of their hands as they opened it to go outside. Hobbes greeted them with a wagging tail. The boys petted his head, scratched his ears, and Joshua gave him a big hug. They slipped on their boots and started out into the yard. The wind snatched at their hair and twisted their sweaters. The fog hid the other pasture on the other side of the road. It hid the neighbor’s house. It hid the pond.

Hobbes whined.

“Come on boy,” Joshua said patting his leg to encourage the lab to follow them.

Hobbes wigged his tail but didn’t come down.

“Maybe he’s scared,” Jude said.

“Hobbes,” Bruce said, “it’s okay to be scared. Being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared.”

The golden dog cocked his head at the blond-haired boy. He barked in agreement and came down to them. They headed out towards the pond feeling less scared with Hobbes. As they trekked through the pasture, Clyde joined them with a swish of his tail. The pond seemed so far away. It was so far away they couldn’t see it through the fog. But Hobbes and Clyde made sure they didn’t get lost.

Out of the swirling, wet, whiteness they heard a scream.

The boys stopped in their tracks.

Hobbes hair stood on end.

Clyde stamped on small hoof.

“Ellie!” Jules screamed through the fog. “Don’t go in the pond.”

Another splash.

“Imogene!” Constance yelled.

Hobbes barked and trotted off into the white mist. Clyde followed him.

“Hurry!” hissed Bruce.

The three boys ran after the dog and the donkey afraid of being left in the fog and trying to be brave.

Jules stood on the edge of the pond staring down into it. Constance, her hands muddy and full of sticks and rocks was a little deeper down. The boys hurried up beside Jules. Deep down in the pond, Ellie and Imogene waded. The water sloshed over their boots kicked up by the chilly wind.

“It’s cold!” Imogene shrieked. Her red hair glowed in the foggy darkness of the fall evening.

“I’m gonna tell Grammie. You’re not supposed to get wet,” Jules said.

“You’re going to get too cold,” Constance said.

Ellie and Imogene started back towards the bank. They tried to pull their boots up out of the water.

“Help!” Imogene said. “I’m stuck.”

“Me too!” said Ellie

Everyone ran down to the edge of the water but couldn’t reach Ellie and Imogene.

“We need a big stick,” said Jules.

Constance held out the stick in her hand.

“No,” Joshua said. “That’s not big enough.”

Hobbes ran up with a log in his mouth.

“Good dog,” Joshua said patting him on the head.

The three boys and two girls held out the log to Imogene and Ellie. They caught hold of it and with a mighty tug were jerked free of the cold pond. After much splashing and a vain attempt to wash their hands, boots, and faces of mud, the seven cousins headed back to the house with Hobbes and Clyde.

Grammie jumped as the seven muddy and cold children stamped in the door.

“I should take you back outside and hose all y’all off,” Grandpa said.

“It’s too cold, Grandpa,” Jules said.

Grammie carried them all to the bathroom where she cleaned them up while Grandpa wiped up the mud. Dinner was a little later than usual.

“We did it, Grammie,” Bruce said as they ate.

“What?” Grammie said.

“We were very brave even though we were scared,” he said.

“We went all the way out to the pond,” Jude said.

“Hobbes helped us rescue Ellie and Imogene,” Joshua said.

“You’re all very brave little children,” Grammie said. “I love you very much.”

“Boo!” said Grandpa.

The seven cousins jumped.

“Got you!” said Grandpa.


“The end,” said Aunt Abby. “Now do you understand that being brave doesn’t mean you’re not scared? It means you do what you have to do anyway?”

“I was very brave,” Bruce said.

“Me too!” shouted Joshua.

“I jumped in the pond!” Ellie said with delight.

“Me too!” said Imogene.

The End

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Jules and her Daddy, Jason!

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Imogene testing out her first lemon.

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Bruce showing off some muscles!

Jude, our littlest man!

Jude, our littlest man!

One of my favorite faces!

One of my favorite faces!

Constance and Joshua!

Constance and Joshua!

California Cousins: How Tomatoes Grow and Sunday Clothes

Building GI Joe forts...not in our Sunday Clothes.  (L-R: Abby, John, Emily's legs, Jason, Matt, Tom.)

Building GI Joe forts…not in our Sunday Clothes. (L-R: Abby, John, Emily’s legs, Jason, Matt, Tom.)

“A story, a story, tell us a story,” Jules said on a crisp October morning when the sun shown delightfully warm.

“Well,” said Aunt Abby.  “I think I know just the one.”

“Is it going to be another western, Aunt Abby?” Jules asked.

“There are lots of westerns,” Constance agreed plucking a late summer flower and handing it to Imogene.

“We live in Texas, don’t we?”

Five or six heads nodded, one wasn’t sure, and one drooled on a truck.

“But today I’ll change it up.  Today isn’t a western…it’s a war story.”

“Yes, that’s perfect!” Bruce said.

“I don’t like war stories,” Jules said emphatically.

“You’ll like this one.”

“Is it gross?” Joshua asked.

Aunt Abby pondered that for a moment.  “Yes, but mostly funny.”

“Is it about us?” asked Ellie.  “I’ve never been in a war.”

“How about we find out,” Aunt Abby said.

Once upon a time, another set of cousins lived near one another.  In fact, they lived right next door to each other and shared their yards.  These cousins had no idea how tomatoes grew…or they forgot when the war started.  It was a lazy Sunday afternoon with hours to go before church.  They were all dressed in clean clothes their mothers expected them to keep clean.  Cleanliness and time are a horrible combination of circumstances for any child, and especially a group of children, to bear.

“Why aren’t they at church?” Jules asked.  “At this church, they have Sunday School in the morning, the Main Worship Service, and then everyone goes home.  Then they all come back in the evening for the evening service,” Aunt Abby explained.  “That’s strange,” said Bruce.  “Yes, it’s very strange,” Jules said.  “Odd?” Aunt Abby said with a slight sparkle in her eye.  “Very odd,” Ellie said.  “Well,” Aunt Abby explained, “not all churches have the same schedule that we do.  In fact, most of them don’t.”  “Are we odd?” Jules gasped.  “Probably just a little bit, but back to the story.”

As the cousins wondered the backyard ideas sprang up, each one wonderful, and each one shot down.  They were in their Sunday clothes.  They couldn’t make the pit in the backyard deeper.  They couldn’t play Over-the-Wall.  They couldn’t play the Gun Game: a combination of hide-and-go-seek, war, and arguing.  They couldn’t play Ghostbusters, or G.I. Joe.  No one remembered later who first said the b-word: bored.  It might have been Matt, John, or Tom in their white button up shirts and black or khaki trousers.  It might have been Abby or Emily in their matching blue dresses with a strawberry pattern.   They whispered the word at first afraid their mothers would hear.  All five of them knew exactly what would happen if they uttered the b-word.  Chores.  Even on Sunday.  Moms loved chores.

They gathered in the back backyard near Matt, Abby, and Emily’s mom’s garden.

“Abby!” Ellie said.  “Is this a story about you?” Jules said with wide-eyed wonder.  Aunt Abby smiled.  “It’s a story about me, and Bruce’s mommy, and Constance and Joshua’s daddy.”  “My Daddy is Matt,” Joshua said in case anyone was in doubt.  “What about my mommy?” Jules said.  “We didn’t know you’re mommy then, Julie-bear.”  “Daddy?” Ellie asked.  “He was too little to be there.”  “Daddy is not little.”  “He was once, and,” Aunt Abby scooped up Imogene, “Your mommy was just a baby like you.”  “Are you all related?” gasped Jules.  Aunt Abby laughed.  “Yes, that’s why you’re my nieces and nephews.  You’re the children of my brothers and sisters.”

“We could sword fight,” Matt suggested gesturing at the swords and shields littering the grass.

“We can’t sword fight in our Sunday clothes,” Emily reminded them.

“We could throw balls at each other,” John said.

“The soft ones?” Abby said.

“We could have one team with shields and one team with the balls,” Tom suggested hefting an old, wooden shield lying in the yard.

They all agreed that throwing soft balls and blocking them with shields could be both fun and not ruin their church clothes.  Matt and John ran off to get the ball bucket while Tom and the girls drew up teams.  They decided, since Matt and John weren’t there to argue, that the two girls and Tom against Matt and John was a fair division.  Tom being the oldest had a natural advantage due to age – every child knows this.  They also knew Abby and Emily’s aim wasn’t the best.  The two girls would even the odds on Tom’s age advantage.

Matt and John returned with the ball bucket, agreed to the terms and conditions of war, and the game began.  It proved only slightly less boring than doing nothing.  Trying to hit your brother, sisters, and cousins with balls and block them with shields was satisfying on a certain level.  The thunk, thunk, thunk of the balls striking the wooden shields and the occasional howl of pain as they struck a limb occupied the cousins for several minutes.  But the war needed something more…

“What about the rotten tomatoes in the garden?”

No one later admitted who first suggested the idea of the tomatoes.

“Sunday clothes,” Emily reminded them.

“We have the shields and swords, we won’t get dirty,” said John.

For once Matt agreed with John.

Abby pulled a squishy, rotten, stinking tomato from the vine and lobbed it at her brother.  It didn’t thunk when it struck the shield.  It splattered.  Tomato juice and seeds went everywhere.  This was not boring.  This was fun.

The backyard erupted into a full-out war, everyone for themselves.  They stripped the tomato vines of all their rotten occupants.  Tomato goo coated their shields.




Arms wound back and released a hail of rotten, red fruit.  Shields rose and fell protecting white shirts and hair, half-up.

“You know,” someone who remains unnamed said, “no one ever eats the green tomatoes.  We can throw those, too.”

The green ones hurt.  They didn’t splat.  They thunked harder than the soft balls.  But, that didn’t stop the war.  The two teams drove at one another armed with green tomatoes.  They clashed in the middle of the backyard shield to shield.  The cousins screamed and yelled and laughed as tomatoes flew left and right.

“What is going on?”

Everyone froze.

The cousins turned.  Matt, Abby, and Emily’s Mom stood at the edge of the backyard, hands on hips, Sunday dress clean and pressed.

“You’re Sunday clothes,” she said, stunned.

The cousins looked down.  Shields had not protected them from the tomato splatter.  Rotten tomato flesh and seeds clung to their shirts, dresses, and hair.

“My tomatoes,” Mom said.

“It’s okay, Mom,” Abby said.  “We only used the rotten ones and the green ones.  Nobody eats the green ones.”

Aunt Abby giggled and a sparkle shown in her eye.

“Is that the end?” Constance said.

“Was she mad?” Bruce asked.

Jude turned his large serious eyes up to Aunt Abby’s face.

“Grammie, you mean?” Aunt Abby said.

“Grammie’s your mom?” Jules said, her eyes wide with surprise, again, and her eyebrows arched.

“Yes, of course she is.”

“But was she mad?” Ellie asked.

“Of course she was mad.  We ruined our Sunday clothes and picked all her green tomatoes.”

“Why would she be mad?” Bruce asked.  “No one eats the green ones.”

Aunt Abby ruffled his blonde hair.  “Cause, what we didn’t know is that the green ones turn red when they’re ripe.  We picked all the unripe tomatoes.  Now none of them would ever turn red.”

Jules put her hand over her mouth.  Ellie, Bruce, Constance, and Joshua did the same.  Imogene and Jude looked from them to Aunt Abby and back before covering their own mouths with plump fingers.  Jules giggled.

“Did you get a spanking?”

“No, we didn’t.  But we did learn not to pick the green tomatoes, and not to have rotten tomato fights in our Sunday clothes.”

“Can we have another war story, but about us?” Bruce asked.

“I’m sure someday we will,” Aunt Abby said giving the whole group of nieces and nephews a hug.  “I’m sure we will.”

The End

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)

(L-R: Joshua, Jules with her arm around Ellie, Constance, and Bruce.)