Baby Beads and Wooden Blocks: Happy Mother’s Day

I played with pastel-colored beads and wooden blocks with ridges, babyhood toys. Mother kept these oblong & round beads and animal-themed alphabet blocks for her grandchildren and great-grands. These sturdy toys entertained children of mothers they nurtured in their ministry for New Life for Girls too.

All of Mother's children and many of her grandchildren sat on this highchair and played with these wooden beads and blocks. We never played with plastic toys.
All of Mother’s children and many of her grandchildren sat on this high chair and played with these wooden beads and blocks. We never played with plastic toys.
These blocks are entertaining my sister Jean's grandchildren
These blocks have entertained my sister Jean’s grandchildren

To me, such simple toys bespeak innocence and the charm of a simpler life..

On this Mother’s Day 2016, these artifacts seem an apt metaphor for my mother’s contribution to our heritage.

Beads of Wisdom: Mom’s Mottos

  1. “Outen the light,” meaning turn off the light switch to conserve energy.
  2. “Ach, don’t talk so dumb,” spoken as a way to discourage silly talk.
  3. “You get what you pay for.”
  4. “Be sure your sin will find you out.”
  5. (Someone) “turned up Jack,” meaning disappointed or didn’t pan out
  6. “Be sure to add enough butter: Butter makes it better!”
  7. “Tie your head shut,” admonishing us to wear a bandanna during cold or windy weather, illustrated here with a flash of memory:

I paid attention, of course, and rushed out wearing my blue wool coat and pink and white polka-dotted bandanna on my head, eager to help Grandma set the table. In cool weather, I always had my “head tied shut,” an expression Mother used to keep us from getting a cold, she thought. But looking back, I think having my head tied shut is a metaphor for keeping out the world and all the corruption that can come in through an unlocked door, even a passageway like my ears.


Blocks of Faith

  1. Tied a nickel into the corner of a square, white hanky to teach me to give to God.
  2. Read to me from a Bible Story Book, one story for every day of the year.

BibleStoryInside copy  BedtimeBibleStories copy

The date on the flyleaf, MCMXLII, can be translated as 1942. In the years following, my sisters Janice and Jean and my brother Mark must have heard these stories too.

3. Prayed with us at bedtime: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep . . . .”

4. Led us in prayers of gratitude before all our meals. Usually, the prayers were silent.

5. Uplifted arms, palms turned upward, her gesture of acceptance, “Whatever the Good Lord wants.”


My mother wasn’t perfect. Whose is? She had moments of impatience, she sometimes complained, yet she did the best she could. I choose to celebrate those attributes of a woman who all her life sought to please God.

An invitation to you: Add words of wisdom or silliness from any source, including your mother.


Coming next: Vintage Photo in Need of a Caption, Part II


52 thoughts on “Baby Beads and Wooden Blocks: Happy Mother’s Day

  1. Good morning, Marian! That is so cool that you still have those wooden toys that you played with as a child.
    I remember hearing “outen the light” from when I went to college in Kutztown, but “tie your head shut” is a new one to me. 🙂

    My mother has a very different world view from yours, but my siblings and daughters have discussed certain expressions she’s used. She used to always be concerned that there wouldn’t be food “for the men” (if we were having lighter fare or things like dips and appetizer type stuff). So whenever we’re planning menus for family get-togethers we always say, “but what about the men?” Or we’re having such and such “for the men.” Family joke. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That family joke is hilarious. I know your parents had an antique business, but I wonder whether there are some farming genes farther back. Men did hard physical labor in the fields, blacksmith shop then – work that generated huge appetites. Maybe her comment is a throw-back to that. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I wish I could remember: let’s see. Eat all your food, or you’ll get it at supper time again. Think of the starving children in India. Don’t go to sleep with wet hair, you’ll catch a cold. Stand up straight, don’t slouch. Don’t make those faces, the wind will blow in another direction and you’ll have that expression for always …
    Thanks Marian this was fun!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, Susan, as I read your expressions I thought of another one: “Clean up your plate,” usually followed by the thought of starving children in China. The one about “faces and wind blowing” is new to me, but I remember the tale of a child who pouted and her/his face froze into a forever frown. Glad this post evoked so many memories for you.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “A nice hot bath will cure all your problems, ” what will be will be”, “this too shall pass”, “clean your plate, think of all the poor starving children in China”…just a few Mom-isms that I find myself saying. Lovely post, Marian. Your photos and memories are priceless. Have a wonderful Mother’s Day!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your mom was wise too. I certainly subscribe to the nice hot bath practice, the most relaxing part of my day. I think my Grandma said a version of “This too shall pass.”

      Oh, a Twitter notice from you appeared just now on my screen. Thanks for being so gracious to share, Kathy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s interesting to me how flexible dates are for holidays around the world. Canada, for example, celebrates Thanksgiving in October in contrast to November in the USA. Wherever you are in your travels, Fatima, it’s always nice to meet here. Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. All the items in your photos look familiar to me, Marian. However, I’m just young enough, and my siblings even younger, that we made the move to plastic toys even while keeping some of the wooden ones. We reader from Egermeier’s Bible Story Book, now selling for $55 on eBay. 🙂

    Did my mother repeat any admonitions? Apart from using “ach” as an all-purpose term for disgust, disapproval, or pain, I can’t think of many. Stuart remembers his mother saying, “Remember who you are and where you come from.” Just found this old post. Thought you might enjoy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did enjoy reading your tribute to your mother-in-law Edith, posted before I knew you. And I love how you tease out what’s under the obvious, paying homage to “the fleeting arts–the art of rearing children, cleaning a house, gardening, sewing, making fabulous meals, volunteering in church and community,” true of so many women of that era. Now also I know where grandson Owen’s name originates!

      Mother said “Ach” often. In fact, your mention prompted me to go back and add it to # 2 where it definitely belongs. See your influence, Shirley!

      I imagine your suitcase (Mom always called it suity-case) is packed and ready for flight. Happy travels, safe landings. We await your reflections later.


  5. Hope you have a happy mothers day. Yes my children grandchildren and great-grandmother enjoyed the wooden toys. Actually my son Peter asked who got the wooden toys they loved them. I was so surprised when we visit mom in April prior to her passing that my grandchildren loved being there. Actually loved the simple quiet life so much that they asked why can’t we live here. It’s is great memories of love and security. Mom would always tell me this to shall pass. I now say it to my children when their in pain and distressed. Great post. Leaving this weekend to Nikko’s graduation my children coming too. Mothers day at Nikko’s. Yes great blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Happy Mother’s Day – you have such close family ties – and in more than one direction.I’m glad you remember the love, security and peacefulness on Anchor Road. The house has been sold – again!


  6. My mother never liked to see me staying up late to study. She’d always say, “Get a good night’s rest and it will come to you in the morning.” Unfortunately, that didn’t work so well with Algebra. 😦
    Happy Mother’s Day, Marian!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the laugh. Algebra was a mystery language to me too. I even took Trig which was even stranger. Women of letters don’t often relate to numbers well. 🙂 I agree with your mother though – something I have been straining to remember comes in a flash when I’m doing something else or when I wake up the next morning. Wise women, our mothers!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I remember those old wooden toys; no plastic legos back then! Another favorite was the wooden marble chute – and, of course, pickup sticks and jacks.

    Some wise sayings …
    From my mother:
    “A stitch in time saves nine.”
    “Haste makes waste.”
    And one from Grandpa:
    “The way you make your bed is the way you’ll lie in it.”
    (I wish I had paid better attention to that one!)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. My German great-grandmother used to say, before every meal (evidently thinking she was “translating” the German Guten Appetit into English) “Make out your meal.” Sometimes one of us will still say it, in memory of her.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. How sweet! Probably the work “make” has a wide spectrum of meanings in German as it does in other languages. Your great grandmother’s saying is both funny and touching.

      Several generations of Longeneckers have taken to singing the Doxology before a holiday meal in Grandma’s honor. I hope you are doing well, Tracy. Thanks for commenting here.


  9. Hi Marian. I had a bit of trouble thinking of sayings from my mom. As you may know, she was more of a sister to me, and her sayings were never ones of admonition or advice. Instead they were things like “You can get used to anything after awhile; even hanging.” Or, “I should have married the first time for money; that way I could afford to marry the second time for love.” (said with a chuckle, usually). And then there was this little ditty: “I’m looking to find myself a husband and I don’t care whose he is.”

    I should write a book!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Janet, your book could be called Sisters-in-Love, Mom Re-invented (or the reverse). Sister Wives is already taken. I love your mom’s droll sense of humor, which you obviously inherited.


  10. Oh, Marian, all of the expressions were familiarly humorous to me…except the last. “Tie your head shut” still has me smiling.
    My grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch Brethren, and her expressions were charming and practical. I wish she were still alive–and my mom could still understand–I think they would both love this entire post and would smile and nod their heads in agreement. Grandma had a sweet prayer she sang in German at night when the cousins and I visited, but all four of my girl cousins have different interpretations of the meaning. However, we all agree it was tender, loving and protective.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. My Grandma had a similar song, and I went to Google Translate and Bing to try to piece together a facsimile. It started of with what sounded like “Zsu, Zsu” (an enigma) but went on to say something like “Sleep little love in heavenly peace” – “Wenig Liebe in himmlischer Ruhe schlafen.” I’m missing the mark here, but I hope you get the idea. Sitting on her lap, I heard the comforting words, and felt protected and loved as you say.

      Your forebears and mine sound like the same people with slightly different labels, yours Pa Dutch Brethren and mine PA Dutch Mennonite.


  11. Sooo lovely wooden toys ❤️
    I don’t belive any mother is perfect unless her name is Mary Poppins 😊 My mum had two saying when I was a youth ‘ Don’t forget your cardigan ‘ I hated cardigans I never put one on when she told me . Now I wear layers , hence , a cardigan plus I live 10 miles away from a town in Wales called Cardigan …beautiful it is too .
    ‘Don’t forget your hat ‘ hated this statement I used to stuff my hat in my pocket when she turned her head . Now I wear hats wooly to keep the cold out , caps for fun , and sun hats to keep out the sun . Thanks mum . Happy mothers to all who are celebrating …you included dear Marian

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “Mum was right,” your stories seem to say, even if you discovered the sense of her wisdom years later. We just don’t like to admit it. Thanks for the chirpy story and your unique slant to things. Happy Mother’s Day to you too. I picture you in a sun hat today, Cherry.

      How I’d love to visit you in Wales. We could both wear Cardigans – ha! xxx


      1. That would be lovely . Our ‘half house’ that we have been building for the past few years , we plan to turn into a tiny B&B ( only two rooms) So if ever you want to visit you ll be very welcome ❤️


        1. Do we ever – love to visit, that is! This summer we are moving house, so it would have to be in a year or two at the earliest. I know you will do well with this venture.

          Nice accommodations play a big part but so does personality and hospitality, qualities I sense you have in large proportions. I can picture 4:00 tea with scones, clotted cream and jam. Ah! Thank you for the invitation. 🙂


  12. I do remember a string of beads like that. As for Mom sayings, we have a name for them: “Berthaisms.” Mom’s name is Bertha (oh how she’s always disliked that name) and they are as classic and in-house-joke funny as they come. I have a file of them somewhere. Maybe I’ll dig them out sometime for a blog post.

    Hope you have a wonderful Mother’s Day weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Oh, Melodie, I had great aunt named Bertha; that must have been the “Brittany” name choice of a bygone era. I’d love to read a blog post of Berthaisms. When I left my rural Mennonite community in Lancaster County for Charlotte, NC I came up with Marian-isms, according to my sophisticated roommates at the time. Though I had a college degree and into my 4th year of teaching, I was woefully naive and unsophisticated, a sheltered Mennonite. I remember feeling embarrassed, but I can’t recall a single one. Ha!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It’s wonderful that you have such wonderful childhood memories of your mother, Not all of us do. Certain sayings stick in my mind my mother used to say, nowhere as endearing as your mother’s. Like if I asked a question about something being talked about in front of me, but I wasn’t invited into the conversation, I’d get: “Children should be seen and not heard.” Touching, I know, not really.
    But I do remember some wooden beads at my paternal grandparent’s home, a bit nicked and discoloured, reminding me they were there long before I was born. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tucked near the end I remarked that my mother was perfect; however, she didn’t belittle us, so harmful to one’s self-esteem. You have chosen to make lemonade out of your proverbial lemons, all the more remarkable because of what you have had to overcome. Brava, Debby!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks Marian. And I did see that part. Nobody is perfect, but there are healthy guidelines to child rearing. Everyone has their moments, even moms, that doesn’t constitute bad parenting. And yes, I was lucky I had the tenacity and a guiding hand from a few special people in my life to overcome. But as they say, we learn, we forgive, but we can’t forget. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Every high-achieving woman like you has had one or more strong mentors in her life. Anyway, that’s what I have observed, and I think there is research to prove it.

          I found a quote recently that concerns dealing with childhood pain: Making the story of our family history doesn’t mean we change the realities of our forebears’ lives. We don’t turn a thief into a pillar of virtue . . . but we learn to carry the story differently so the lineage can heal. Christina Baldwin, Story-Catcher

          Great “talking” to you, Debby!

          Liked by 2 people

  15. I played with blocks similar to those. My grandma also had wooden beads, but I think they were smaller. I still have a book called Manly Manners plus a few books of nursery rhymes. The British looking boy in Manly Manners knew it was wise to pick up all toys (and wash all dishes and clear tables) before bed. I still follow that advice.
    My mother taught me that education was more important than anything. To her, education was about getting ahead in the world. I now know there could have been a little emphasis on the education of the soul. For that, I turned to my Paternal Grandma who taught me to love spiritual music and the community gatherings for service and shared picnics at the country Presbyterian Church. She also grew vegetables and fruit and tended the hens with an air of reverence. And prayers before meals and before bed at Grandma’s house.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. As you review your heritage, it strikes me that you have been given all the tools for a rich life. I can see why you approach everything you do with an air of reverence.

      Your comment about the Manly Manners book reminds me of another of Mother’s truisms: If your beds are made and dishes washed, your house’ll look pretty good.

      Liked by 1 person

  16. More great memories of your dear mother. Mom said many of the same things, also “Who do you think you are?” I just Skyped with my mom in Canada and it makes me realize how lucky I am to still have her around. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day. It was celebrated here in Spain last Sunday.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. I had wooden blocks and beads too. They’re so much more tactile than plastic I think. My mother’s words of wisdom were, amongst others, don’t follow the herd and try to be like everyone else. Obviously, I took those to heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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