Tag Archives: children

Anyone Up for Catching a Leprechaun?


leprechaun (1)It’s been snowy, so leprechauns may not be out yet. But the white stuff is melting and spring on its way to the valley, so maybe. According to the small people in the family, in order to catch one, you dig a shallow hole–deeper, if you’re in a digging mood–beneath the old maple tree in our front yard, then disguise it with twigs and sticks, fallen from the tree, and add some tempting leaves and flower petals. The clover isn’t really out yet, and the best blossoms they can find are tiny white snowdrops. The idea is similar to a tiger trap, the thinking being that the unsuspecting leprechaun will tumble into the trap and stay there until discovered by eager youngsters. What they’d do with one if they caught it, hasn’t been hotly debated. No one has a clue. I’m not sure they even realize these magical little guys have a bag of gold at the end of the rainbow, or that they’re required to grant you three wishes upon their release.

Snowdrops one

(Snowdrops blooming in our yard. Image by Elise)

irish shamrocksRecently, six yr old granddaughter Emma asked her Aunt Elise if leprechauns actually exist. Elise said that all depends on who you ask. Many would say ‘yes’ and there are a lot of stories about leprechauns. Satisfied, Emma returned to her task. Heaven knows our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, knows about leprechauns. They fall into her area of expertise, as they’re a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Nine yr old grandson, Ian, the original instigator of the annual trap laying, had a theory that a leprechaun hitched a ride to his school in the pot of shamrocks his teacher brought to class, found its way into his backpack, and then ultimately my yard. I’m told I have highly fairy, and likely, leprechaun friendly gardens with all my herbs and flowers. Scant this year, though, until warmer winds blow favorably upon our realm. It’s been a long winter.

Last spring, Elise dipped the small foot of a doll into green paint and walked her around the trap, to give the kids a thrill. Just missing a leprechaun is almost as good as snaring one.

darby-ogill-and-king-brian-shar

Who remembers Darby O’Gill and the Little People? I saw the film years after it first came out in 1959, when my children were young, but we all found it enchanting. Although the banshee scared the bejeebers out of us and seeing Sean Connery with dark brown hair and singing was rather a shock for me. He was much younger then. I was a preschooler in ’59, only they didn’t have preschool in those days. Plus, I was in Taiwan where I spent much of my early childhood and they most definitely did not have leprechauns. Dragons, however, are another matter.

(Image of Darby O’Gill and King Brian)

leprechaun“Magic
Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.”
― Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends

***This is a repost from last March, but very fitting.

“Marley was dead: to begin with.” Thoughts on A Christmas Carol


A christmas carolI’ve always loved Charles Dickens’ timeless classic, A Christmas Carol, the most widely popular piece of fiction he ever wrote. Given all his great novels, the popularity of this far shorter work would likely surprise him. It’s not the length of a story but its weight, and A Christmas Carol has deep significance. There are those individuals I can think of, and likely so can you, who would greatly benefit from the visit of three spirits on Christmas Eve. I have prayed this might occur, and still do. Transformation in a good way is of inestimable worth to the person involved and everyone whose lives they touch.

Another amazing thing about A Christmas Carol is that Dickens didn’t begin writing the story until October of 1843 and it was published that same year. Quick work.

From: http://www.charlesdickensinfo.com/christmas-carol/

A Christmas Carol was the most successful book of the 1843 holiday season.  By Christmas it sold six thousand copies and it continued to be popular into the new year. Eight stage adaptations were in production within two months of the book’s publication.

The book is as popular today as it was over 150 years ago. Charles Dickens, through the voice of Scrooge, continues to urge us to honor Christmas in our hearts and  try to keep it all the year.”

***If only more people did, I add.

Excerpts From An American Rose Christmas“Scrooge’s transformation is legendary.  At the beginning of the story he’s a greedy, selfish person .

“Every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart.” to the man who “knew how to keep Christmas well.”

Initially Scrooge is a miser who shows a decided lack of concern for the rest of mankind.  However after a ghostly night, Scrooge sees life in a whole new way.

“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”~

“I wear the chain I forged in life….I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“No space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Vintage American Christmas Card--excited boy peering through window“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child Himself.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

So be good and caring and kind.

And God bless us everyone.

“There is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good humor.” ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

What’s in the Box?


antique chestThe mystery of boxes, what they might–or could–hold, has long intrigued me. Ornate or simple, all have great potential. While growing up, a good cardboard box was hard to come by and cherished. The ideal repository for all my worldly goods, such as they were, like those 1960’s Superman, Spiderman, and Batman comic books left behind when we moved. Mom didn’t want so many boxes in the u-haul to deal with. I had to choose. The dolls, stuffed animals, and books went, the comics stayed behind. This sort of thing is the reason those old comics are so valuable now. As a child, I built a doll house by securing cardboard boxes together, and fashioned most of the furniture myself. I was enthralled with my creation.

Boxes may contain real treasure, or those things that have significance only to the person who hid them within its recesses. The famous, long sought after Ark of the Covenant, (Indiana Jones comes to mind) is the ultimate special box. And not one you want to be messing around with should you find it.

wrapped Christmas giftAnd then there are Christmas presents. Back to what’s in the box? How I loved to speculate while awaiting Christmas morning. Oh the angst of that seemingly interminable wait, so long ago. My Uncle R.W. made wooden boxes in his wood working shop that he gave us to put our special things in. Great concept and gift. I still have mine. Not to overlook jewelry and music boxes. The list goes on.

Treasure chests and Pirate chests are also boxes. Don’t mess with pirate treasure if you find that either. Generally cursed.

Back to cardboard boxes. The small people in my life love my penchant for holding onto boxes. Amazon delivers a lot of them to my home. All sizes. The ‘smalls’ grab tape, scissors, markers, and they’re off creating everything from armor to battle wind fairies, (my niece Cailin’s idea) kitten houses, (kittens can never have too many) ships…hideouts for themselves…you name it. All highly decorated. When I informed them that I’ve been accused of having too many boxes (hoarding, actually) by some members of the family, they regarded me sadly. How could anyone not recognize the vital importance of boxes, they asked, saddened by such ignorance.

vintage wooden boxIndeed.

And then there’s the idea that people are like boxes. What’s inside?

A box without hinges, key, or lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid.
 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, 18921973)
“There are people who put their dreams in a little box and say, “Yes, I’ve got dreams, of course I’ve got dreams.” Then they put the box away and bring it out once in awhile to look in it, and yep, they’re still there.
 Erma Bombeck (U.S. humorist, 19271996)

How To Catch a Leprechaun


leprechaun (1)According to the small people in the family, you dig a shallow hole–or deeper, if you’re in a digging mood–beneath the old maple tree in our front yard, then disguise it with twigs and sticks, fallen from the tree, and add some tempting leaves and flower petals. The clover isn’t really out yet, and the best blossoms they can find are tiny white snowdrops. The idea is similar to a tiger trap, the thinking being that the unsuspecting leprechaun will tumble into the trap and stay there until discovered by eager youngsters. What they’d do with one if they caught it, hasn’t been hotly debated. No one has a clue. I’m not sure they even realize these magical little guys have a bag of gold at the end of the rainbow, or that they’re required to grant you three wishes upon their release.

irish shamrocksRecently, six yr old granddaughter Emma asked her Aunt Elise if leprechauns actually exist. Elise said that all depends on who you ask. Many would say ‘yes’ and there are a lot of stories about leprechauns. Satisfied, Emma returned to her task. Heaven knows our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, knows about leprechauns. They fall into her area of expertise, as they’re a type of fairy in Irish folklore. Nine yr old grandson, Ian, the original instigator of the annual trap laying, had a theory that a leprechaun hitched a ride to his school in the pot of shamrocks his teacher brought to class, found its way into his backpack, and then ultimately my yard. I’m told I have highly fairy, and likely, leprechaun friendly gardens with all my herbs and flowers. Scant this year, though, until warmer winds blow favorably upon our realm. It’s been a long winter.

Last spring, Elise dipped the small foot of a doll into green paint and walked her around the trap, to give the kids a thrill. Just missing a leprechaun is almost as good as snaring one.

darby-ogill-and-king-brian-sharWho remembers Darby O’Gill and the Little People? I saw the film years after it first came out in 1959, when my children were young, but we all found it enchanting. Although the banshee scared the bejeebers out of us and seeing Sean Connery with dark brown hair and singing was rather a shock for me. He was much younger then. I was a preschooler in ’59, only they didn’t have preschool in those days. Plus, I was in Taiwan where I spent much of my early childhood and they most definitely did not have leprechauns. Dragons, however, are another matter.

(Image of Darby O’Gill and King Brian)

leprechaun“Magic
Sandra’s seen a leprechaun,
Eddie touched a troll,
Laurie danced with witches once,
Charlie found some goblins gold.
Donald heard a mermaid sing,
Susy spied an elf,
But all the magic I have known
I’ve had to make myself.”
― Shel SilversteinWhere the Sidewalk Ends

Christmas is Coming, the Geese are Getting Fat–Beth Trissel


“Christmas is coming, the geese are getting fat, please to put a penny in an old man’s hat!” 

I’ve been known to burst forth in this traditional English carol whenever it’s near enough to Christmas to warrant it. Many moons ago when my children were small, this was my cue to joyfully anticipate the coming of Christmas. I don’t know why I happened on this particular song, though it’s a favorite from past madrigals and perhaps because we have geese.

I was horrified one year when my mother-in-law suggested we actually eat one of our abundant flock. I never sang that song in front of her again. She tried to persuade my hubby to catch one for Christmas dinner, but he was reluctant and it didn’t ap­peal to her to scamper after them alone, so that’s how the matter was left. The geese lived to see another Christmas unmolested and we had our usual turkey, not a bird I’m the least bit sentimental about.

Eons ago when our son was in grade school and times were particularly tight, I suggested that perhaps it would be a good idea to give more hand-made gifts because after all, what was Christmas all about? Wasn’t it enough to focus on the wonder and  true meaning of Christmas? To sing carols, pop popcorn, read stories, make paper chains…simplify.  In other words, “We don’t have much money, son.”

He regarded me impassively for a moment, then said, “You could get a job and we’d have more money.”

I was taken aback. “But my job is being here on the farm with you and Daddy and your sister(s).  Who would take care of you and the house and do all I do, if I weren’t here? You’d rather have Mommy here than more money for mere gifts, surely?”

He considered this reasoning, got out the calculator and the Christmas wish book and proceeded to tally up the desired items. He then presented me with his estimated cost. How I wanted to handle it was up to me, but here was his projected budget.

I cast my mind back to when I was a mere nine, sensitive, humble in my expectations and grateful for whatever I received. There was the one moment when an “Is that all?” slipped out of my mouth, but that’s the only ingratitude I can remember.

I’m glad to say my son has grown into a fine young man with a family of his own and is appreciative of all I did as his stay-at-home crazy writer/gardener mom.  All three of my children are, and now the grandbabies are excited to come visit and find me here.  Little faces light up and they toddle to me with outstretched arms or hurl themselves at me for hugs.  Precious little people.

Christmas means being with family and friends, treasuring those times, and shared traditions.  This year, more than ever, I find  comfort in the enduring truth at the heart of the season, best summed up in the ancient words of the Gospel of Luke.  “And the angel said unto them, ‘Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior  which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.’”

***Goose pic by my mom, our dog Mia under the Christmas tree by daughter Elise and my husband took the one of our daughter-in-law and grandbaby as Mary and baby Jesus in the Christmas program at our church several years ago. That baby is now three.

Autumn on our Farm in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia–Beth Trissel


An excerpt from my nonfiction book about gardening and country life,  Shenandoah Watercolors, a 2012 EPIC eBook Award Finalist:

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go outside, somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be and that God wishes to see people happy, amidst the simple beauty of nature.” ~ Anne Frank

(Image by my mother, Pat Churchman. If you look closely you can see my daughter Elise as a child and her little friend, James, peeking our from behind the trees.)

“A cold autumn wind blew as my younger daughter, Elise, and I scurried about the garden in the last of the light to gather in our treasures. She heaped great orange Cinderella pumpkins into the wheelbarrow and picked the rest of her pink and blue Indian corn. Beams of sun touched the crimson cockscomb flowers just coming into full bloom, an antiquated variety that I seeded late and coaxed through our wet summer. (Cinderella Pumpkins, image by Elise taken this fall)

The vibrant color of the plumes stood out against the grayish black clouds like a king’s velvet robes. This wealth will quickly dwindle if the temperatures dip too low tonight. The weather is quite cool here today. Forecasters are calling for the chance of frost tonight, but only if the gray blanket covering the sky clears and bright cold stars come out. Then maybe Jack Frost’s chill breath will silver the hoary earth.

I must get myself to the garden and pick the last of the orange persimmon tomatoes–truly the most luscious variety in the world–and the heirloom lima beans, called Christmas limas. These beans are mottled a lovely wine color and very tasty. Perhaps I can get our dog, Mia, to help me. But I doubt it. She takes no interest in vacuuming or dusting either, just wants to know when its time to eat.

I have this wild hope in the back of my mind that maybe I will wake up one day and find the house ordered and gleaming, all put to rights while I slept. I suspect this delusion comes from my having read The Elves and the Shoemaker too often, and other fairy tales. I have also seen too many Disney movies.”

(Colorful maple tree near green rye field on our farm in the Shenandoah Valley, image by Elise)

***Shenandoah Watercolors is available from Amazon in kindle and now paperback with lovely photographs taken by my family.

***For a seed link to the Christmas Pole Lima Beans click HERE.

***For a seed link to Cinderella Pumpkins click HERE

***For a seed link to my favorite Orange Persimmon tomatoes click HERE.

After your initial purchase you can save the seed.

New Children’s Book from Emerging Talent Elise Trissel–Beth Trissel


My daughter has finally completed her highly imaginative and wonderfully illustrated children’s book, Skaritch Skaratch Munch: A Cautionary Tale. A perfectionist, Elise labored over every detail, as I do words, and the result is well worth all the toil she invested.

Of herself, and her book, Elise says:

“This is a project that has been very dear to me and that I have been working on for well over a year and a half now.  I wrote in the style of a reverse cautionary tale, where instead of the adults being right, (as they usually are in cautionary tales,) in this tale it’s the children who are right all along and who ultimately come up with a solution to the problem.  I always like to try out new ways of illustrating so for this book I decided to go with some major mixed media creating and I had a lot of fun experimenting with it.  I greatly admire author/illustrator Mo Willems ,and his book Knuffle Bunny is one of my inspirations for illustrating this book the way I did.”

*Before and After images below

Having lived and breathed the ongoing efforts of an artist at work for many moons, I much more appreciate all that goes into illustrating a children’s book, not to mention writing it, and the thought behind even the font size and positioning of the words on the page. And a big plus, the two darling little people featured in the book are my grandbabies Emma Rose and her big brother Ian.

I’ve always loved children’s books and took Elise to the library faithfully when she was young. She haunts used bookstores and secondhand shops and has amassed quite a collection of her favorite authors and illustrators. Sometimes she or I even buy the copies new, but considering the library she’s building we must keep an eye on the budget. Any funds she gets from her own book will probably go back into buying others.  Or art supplies…computer software….

For eager readers young and old, Skaritch Skaratch Munch: A Cautionary Tale is available in print from Createspace.com and Amazon.com

To visit Elise’s newly formed blog and learn more about this book and her other projects visit: Coloring On The Couch

“Ladybug! Ladybug! Fly Away Home”


An old English nursery rhyme that dates back to the mid 18th century or earlier. Seems rather a strange thing to teach to children, as are many nursery rhymes, if you think about it.

I like ladybugs, the gardener’s friend, and explored possible origins of this odd rhyme.

“Ladybug!  Ladybug!

Fly away home.
Your house is on fire.
And your children all gone.

All except one,
And that’s little Ann,
For she crept under
The frying pan.”

Or this version:

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home,

Your house is on fire,

Your children shall burn!”

There are other variations, and it’s been made into a lovely little song.  Years ago when my eldest daughter was in a children’s’ choir they learned it in German.

I had no idea what the actual words were, just hummed along happily.  After I discovered the merry melody translated to, “Lady bug Lady bug fly away home, your house is afire and your children are burning,” I was rather taken aback. (*My grandbaby Emma dressed as a ladybug for Halloween)

From Favorite Poems Old and New, Selected for boys and girls by Helen Ferris Doubleday & Co., Inc.(1957)

“Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the field mouse is gone to her nest
the daisies have shut up their sleepy red eyes
and the birds and the bees are at rest
Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the glow worm is lighting her lamp
the dew’s falling fast, and your fine speckled wings
will flag with the close clinging damp
Lady-bird, Lady-bird, fly away home
the fairy bells tinkle afar
make haste or they’ll catch you and harness you fast
with a cobweb to Oberon’s star.”
*This one is much nicer than the others.
Possible meanings for the rhyme include: “Superstitious beliefs that it was unlucky to kill a ladybird, and that the verse would make them fly off. Another superstition states that you should chant the verse if a ladybird lands on you: if it then flies away again, your wish will come true.”
From Ladybug History Connection:
“Ladybug, ladybug” is chanted by children when a  ladybug insect lands on their person. If the ladybug doesn’t fly away of its own accord the child would gently blow it away chanting “Ladybug Ladybug fly away home”. This insect is found every summer in the gardens of Britain – the most common colour is red with black spots, less common are the yellow variety. In Britain ladybugs are referred to as ‘ladybirds’.
Farmers knew of the Ladybird’s value in reducing the level of pests in their crops and it was traditional for them to cry out the rhyme before they burnt their fields following harvests ( this reduced the level of insects and pests) in deference to the helpful ladybird.”
*There has been some speculation that this Nursery Rhyme originates from the time of the Great Fire of London in 1666
For more theories visit: Nursery Rhymes Lyrics and Origins
***All royalty free images

Cinderella Lied


According to my four-year old granddaughter Emma.  I’ve never heard that take  before.  But she’s an unusual little girl.  So I’m in my writing cave–the couch with my laptop and fur babies–when Emma appears, as she does when weary of being on the farm with her adored father.  No, I didn’t want to go outside and swing, or pick flowers, or dig in the dirt.  A gusty wind blew and dark clouds were gathering.  And we heard the ominous rumbles of thunder.

To avoid a session of Wonder Pets— that darn song stays in my head for hours, or worse, Dora the Explorer, I suggested a much neglected favorite to entertain while I worked on edits, Disney’s Cinderella.  A film I first saw when I was a child.  This agreed to and a snack provided, we settled in, as much as one can with Emma.

Rapt silence for an extended length of time and then, “Cinderella lied.”

This gained my immediate attention. “What?”

“She said she wasn’t going to the ball and she went.”

“But Cinderella only said she wasn’t going after the wicked stepmother heaped so much work on her that she didn’t have time to make her dress, but then her little mice friends made one so she changed her mind.”

“Is changing your mind like lying?”

The vagaries of truth is a frequent topic of conversation as she tries to fathom the difference between harmless pretend and willful tale-telling, plus, plus.  I’ve decided this earnest child takes after the Puritan side of the family.

Emma also pointed out that Cinderella didn’t fess up to being at the ball after she’d gone.  Exasperated, I said she would’ve been beaten with sticks and shut up in her room.  And some things are best left unsaid.

A blank look.  I also got a blank look when in Cinderella’s defense I reminded Emma that they made her do all the dishes and cleaning and cooking and then remembered how hard her mother works.  So, no biggie there.  Emma was not accepting excuses.

But she did like the shoes.  And the fairy Godmother.  She could definitely find a use for one of those and made inquiries.  But Cinderella?  What a whiner.  Apparently she should have asserted herself, made the dress, and gone to the ball.  The prince didn’t seem to impress Emma one way or the other.  Not the sharpest knife in the drawer but a good dancer.  And she liked his castle.

Women have married for less.

*Next up, Emma on musicals.  “Why do they keep on singing?”

Hark the Harry Angels Sing


Back when my all grown up with children of his own son was ‘wee little,’ as the country folk around here say, he thought we were singing about ‘Harry’ angels.      Another child assumed the angel’s name was Harold.  Perfectly understandable.   The lyrics are rather unfathomable to children.  Even for some adults. I’ve also heard of a child who mistook ‘sleep in heavenly peace’ for ‘sleep in heavenly peas,’  which makes sense with the emphasis on eating your vegetables.

Last Christmas, my then three-yr-old grandson Colin  freaked out and was hiding his toys because he was afraid Santa Claus snuck into your house on Christmas Eve and took all of your stuff.  We think this misapprehension came about as a result of watching the cartoon version of ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas.’    Colin also didn’t like the idea of some strange dude who ‘sees you when you’re sleeping and knows when you’re awake’ watching him.  Like Santa was a creepy stalker.  His weary parents in their efforts to reassure him (and get any sleep) said they would  post a note on the mailbox advising Santa to leave the goods in the driveway.   Colin accepted this but was still rather leery.

He was also really put out when told that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday and insisted ‘that’s not fair!’  When asked why, he said because Jesus gets the best birthday of all.   I’ve never heard  this take before.  But Colin is the same kid who tried to boost his one-yr-old baby sister up onto the picnic table on their deck with the ultimate aim of giving her an even higher boost onto the roof of the house so she could retrieve the action figure toy he’d flung up there.  After all, the baby couldn’t boost him up there, and his mother had warned him if he threw the toy on the roof, it was gone.  So he schemed a way but was intercepted.  Drats, foiled again.

Recently Colin was overhead singing Away in the Manger to himself with an alteration.  Instead of ‘The little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay’ he subbed in ‘batman asleep in the hay.’  He loves action heroes, but this version may come as a surprise during the Children’s Christmas Program next week at church.

Also, at the top of his Christmas list is a ‘real Spiderman’ action figure who shoots out ‘real webs.’  None of that fake silly string stuff like last year.   And his little four-yr-old cousin, my granddaughter Emma, asked me some time ago for a ‘real’ baby dinosaur.   I hate to squash dreams, but pointed out the possible difficulty I foresaw in locating one.  In a dramatic gesture, she threw her hands up and said I had all the way ’til Christmas to find one–that she wasn’t expecting it right away.

Well, Christmas is almost upon us and I’m still short one newly hatched dinosaur and a Spiderman who shoots out real webs.  I suspect this request of Colin’s stems from his desire to swing from them and ‘fwy’ as he pronounces it.  An impossibility for small boys that we’ve failed to persuade him of.  He suggested his mother make him some wings so he could soar off the deck.   I think Santa needs to bring him a large net.

If you know of any real baby dinosaurs, let me know.  I haven’t given up.