Friday, May 29, 2009


Matrioshka Dolls, or Russian nesting dolls, have long been one of my favorite things to collect. The ones with political figures on them are way to kitchy for me, but I love the traditional ones and some others.

I have several sets of them: a traditional black, red and orange one, a little bit like the image on the left. I also have a winter scene doll and inside are small Christmas tree ornaments, instead of smaller dolls. I have a kind of cool Biblical one that has Mary with the infant Jesus as the biggest doll, then three gray-haired saint-like men in chausibles (the three persons of the Trinity? Joseph and some other saints? don't know). Then the last littlest object is a tiny little candle.

My favorite nesting dolls are the ones that tell stories. Here's one of Goldilocks and the three bears. I like the story-telling dolls because, I guess, of the teacher/storyteller in me. I want to use the dolls to tell a story. My favorite set (that I own) tells the story of the turnip. I love this story because it shows how important a role everyone in the family plays--from the littlest to the biggest.

A farmer grows a huge turnip. When it's finally ready to harvest, he goes to his field and tries to pull it up. It won't budge. So he asks his wife to help. It still won't budge. He asks his children to help. No good. He gets the dog to help, the cat to help, and still the turnip won't budge. It's only when he enlists the help of the mouse that he is able to pull up the turnip. Pop! Turnip soup!

The turnip story dolls show, as you might guess, the different people/animals who help to pull the turnip out, starting with the farmer, then the wife, then the kids, then the dog, the cat, and finally ends with the mouse (or a rat).

In one of my unpublished-but-I-have-high-hopes-for stories (a tall tale about a western cowdog named Lightning Lulu), I use an echo of the turnip story. Lulu can't pull the flooded chuck wagon out of the river by herself. She needs the help of the cow, the cat, and all of the other animals. Finally, working together, they rescue the wagon.

Folk arts, like matrioshka dolls, the Russian Easter eggs, quilts, Japanese fans, and even origami appeal to me because of the stories they share. Crazy quilts show a lifetime of little scraps of clothing that a family lived in. The memories enfolded in a sheet of paper or a painted egg or a piece of cloth tell the stories of our lives and help us understand ourselves and others.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

An Awesome Children's Program

Dolly Parton is doing awesome work as "the book lady" with her Imagination Library, a program that donates free books to preschoolers on a monthly basis. I was so honored to have Gobble Gobble Crash chosen as one of their volumes. Here's a little article about her and the program.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


Today I cleaned out the bird feeders. Yuck. They get pretty nasty after awhile. But it was a beautiful day for it. It feels so good to be out in the sunshine after being cooped up all winter. During the ice storm (in December) and the cold, snowy winter, it's refreshing to be able to keep the windows open, to breathe in the spring green air.

Everything is bursting into bloom right now. Tonight, my dog and son and I went for a walk, searching for goose nests. We found two, but one was abandoned (a pair of geese was close by, but it seemed odd that they'd let us get so close without causing more of a ruckus. Maybe it was the dog that scared them.Still, I'd think they'd at least honk at us). The other nest only had two eggs in it, and they didn't look healthy. They had blackish spots on them. One was cracked open, but no baby was nearby. Hopefully the groundskeepers haven't done anything to keep them from hatching. I love the geese.

I was never all that interested in birds until the last few years. When I was a teenager, I had a couple of not-so-great experiences with birds that sort of messed me up for awhile. I was taking care of the neighbor's parakeet, who I think was named Gordo. While I was changing the newspaper at the bottom of the cage, he got out. What happened next was awful. He was flying all around their living room (with a cathedral ceiling, so I couldn't get hold of him), and he kept crashing himself into the chimney and their big living room and dining room windows. It was awful. Finally, somehow (I don't remember how), I got him back in his cage. The poor thing must have been a wreck.

I also remember getting occasional birds in our chimney when I was growing up. Seems like once I had to help take care of getting him out. (By the way, a good tip is to throw a blanket over the bird, and then gently take him outdoors.)

But now I like birds. Some are cute and twittery (sparrows), others silently majestic (herons), still others colorful (cardinals and finches). Until I started watching and identifying the birds that came to our feeders, I never realized how many types of birds there were. I always thought most of those little birds as sparrows, but I've identified lots of others: nuthatch, titmouse, finch as well as two or three types of woodpeckers and many others.

So I've put out my thistle seed feeder (thanks to Shirley who got me started on that) and my regular feeder, and I'm soaking my other hummingbird feeder to clean it out.

I noticed on Amazon today that Kevin Henkes has a new book called, "Birds." Looks interesting.