You’ve been dragged by the ear,  you’ve been bounced on a million times,  you’ve been cried upon,  you’ve had multiple ropes tied around your neck to act as reins.  You’ve lost a few whiskers along the way and you’re not really as fluffy as you were eight years ago.   Sometimes your back has been a pillow.   You’ve had your mane brushed a gazillion times—sometimes gently but mostly not.  Your two front legs have acted as a cradle to an infinite number of stuffed bears, cats and dogs.  You’ve had to be “the bad guy” a couple of times, but only because of your sheer size.  You’re easily the biggest stuffed animal this house has ever known.   You’ve had your limbs wrapped in bandages while mini-sized doctors poked and prodded you with an array of “doctor’s tools.”  Little girls have buried their sick and runny noses into your white mane.  You’ve been yelled at for not being still, even though you were being perfectly still, while they drew your portrait.  You’ve had your limbs nearly ripped off while we fought about who got to sit on you first.  You’ve been banished to closets because you take up so much space, but then dragged back out every time the closet door is opened and we see you.   And when the day is done, and they are asleep, you sit quietly in the corner of the living room, patiently waiting for a new day.  When I first got you, I had no idea how often you’d be played with.  I had no idea that you would become as special as you are.   Now, I can’t imagine the girls’ childhoods without you.  Unless one takes a really good look at you, it’s hard to tell sometimes just how much ware you’ve received, just how much love we’ve lavished upon you by way of time and energy.   But the three of us know.   Thank you for keeping your stately pose.  Thank you for being soft and cuddly with a head that flops whichever way we want it to go.   Thank you for being B-Bop. 

I think all little girls must probably go through a horse crazy phase, where they all but breathe horses.   The girls in this house all have, anyway.  It was Christmas time and I had my heart set on getting the girls a rocking horse big enough for Breathe to ride on.  One day, I walked into Pottery Barn Kids and saw you.  I instantly fell in love.  You were so big I could sit on you!  And beautiful.  I was sold.  And, on Christmas morning, it was all worth the while to see the girls’ eyes light up.  We named you Beautyland because you are so beautiful, and so soft.  We’ve dragged your big self out into the grass for pictures.  We’ve galloped you.  We’ve pulled you by your reins many a time.  We’ve fed you pretend apples and oranges.   Your hair has been brushed a thousand times.   Like B-Bop, you are  technically a stuffed toy.  Also like B-Bop, though, you are our friend.   You’ve given us so much joy.   The girls even try to clean your hooves and care for your saddle.  You still rock with ease and you’re strong enough to hold both the girls at once, which is partly why you’ve been so special to us.   We love horses not only because they are beautiful, but because the feeling of being carried so easily by one so strong makes us feel cared for and safe.  You’re a toy, and yet, every time the girls rock on you,  I see the same feelings ignited in their eyes.  You spark memories of riding real horses, and of the special connections we’ve formed together over horse-related events, be it Steeplechase or horseback riding.  The girls love you.  And so do  I.

                     

 

It’s just a playset.   And yet it has Alight’s name written all over it.  We call this set  “Beech Bend.”  It has a working roller coaster, a pool, a tree house and, best of all,  “little toys,”  miniature sized dolls and princesses and accessories that are just perfect for small-sized hands.  We’ve knocked you off tables, we’ve nearly lost several parts of you.  We’ve stuffed “little dolls” that are really too big into the roller coaster car and laughed, time after time, as the hefty weight topples it over.  We exclaim “yay!”  every time the roller coaster successfully completes the track and splashes a tiny dot of water on us.  We stick miniature Barbie and the mermaids in the pool and laugh as they do tricks.   Hours have been spent changing the clothes of these dolls and creating elaborate make-believe scenarios that leave us laughing and grateful for “Beech Bend.”    And Squinkies.  We have almost three hundred Squinkies, because they so delight the girls and myself

   

I knew baby dolls would be beloved in this house, but I had no idea which ones, or what memories we would create with them.  The picture on the left is of the Baby Alive’s we have.  Emma, Joy, Charlotte, Clarabell and Annabell have been us with ages.  Every time a new Baby Alive comes out, we get very excited.  We have cut your hair,  fed you all kinds of things and then squealed with horrified delight when you pooped or peed.  Late at night, I’ve heard you laughing or talking all by yourself, and I’ve laughed.  You’ve gone on dates with our boy dolls Hayden and Hunter and you’ve also groaned and complained about being in the same room as said boys.  You’ve had your limbs twisted and turned every which direction to get you to do acrobats like sitting and standing unaided,  crawling and even cartwheels.  You’ve been banished to time-out because, in our game of  daycare, you couldn’t stop talking at naptime.   But, no matter what the game calls for, you’ve withstood it all.  Spilled mystery food, soiled “diapers,” having your teeth brushed and your hair twisted and tangled and cut and sprayed with hair spray  (we even used a real curling iron on Charlotte once).    And then, there are the  “Mary Kate” dolls on the right.  These are the friends Breathe loves.  You’re perfect for riding our horses and we love how flexible your limbs are;  we can pose you in just about any way we want.   We especially love that you “come alive” during our “experience” game.  We’ll pose you up and remember the positions you’re in.  Then we’ll leave the room and go for a walk.  The girls haven’t yet caught me as I quickly change your positions so when we come back in,  they are amazed that you have  “come alive” and moved.  You’ve been stuffed into the freezer.  You’ve been put high on a bookshelf  (pour Ashley, you were so scared of heights too.  It took you forever to “jump.”  I’m sorry about that—it took me forever to get the girls to go into the other room for half a second so I could get you down).  We change your clothes every night, take you out of your daytime clothes and put you into pajamas.  We brush and braid your hair.  We even paint your fingernails and toenails.   We know how old each of you are, and what your individual tastes are like.  We know which ones of you are sisters and which ones are friends.  We know who is bossy and who is shy.  Day in and day out, you provide the most excellent source of unique and differing games.  Our imaginations get to soar when we pick you up and give you a bottle, or teach you how to swim.   In short…. thank God for baby dolls.

This entire set has become beloved in our house.  The pink book on the table is the set of child-friendly recipes.  The microwave makes a sound and spins around.   The tea set on top of the fridge is real glass and has been used in hundreds of tea parties.  We’ve baked and set out every dish in the place.  Real crackers and treats are a must and water from a tea cup is some of the best tasting stuff ever.  We’ve made and bought aprons and oven mitts and created  “Cupcake Diner.”   Inside your cupboards sit containers of sprinkles and we put fresh water in the teapots every day.   The girls have mixed up all sorts of  interesting food dishes, including those with mud.  And that’s exactly what you, dear kitchen set, were intended and made for.  You’ve given us time to play, time to imagine and time to grow closer.   You are one of the toys we look forward to using every day.

     

Dear Puppet Theater….  thank you.  Just thank you.   I can’t even begin to tell you all the ways in which you have made our lives meaningful and rich.   Several of the best memories we all three hold involve you.  We love your yellow curtains and how they tie back. We love the clock which allows us to move its hands to display “show time.”   We love how you let us put on puppet  shows and also act as a stage—the time Breathe pretended to be Lucy during the Vita-Veta-Vegimen episode was absolutely priceless.  And remember how Oinkers lost his oink and none of his friends could help him find it?  What about the time Alight pretended Chocolate Pudding Applesauce Oranges was a moon instead of a bear?  Wonderful.    Thank you for withstanding all the crisis we’ve had.  Thank you for not minding the crayon stains on your foot.   Thank you  for being transportable so we can drag you to the park and elsewhere.  Thank you.  Thank you.   Thank you.  Out of all the many toys we have,  you are right at the top of our list of beloved ones.

Most of our toys are in pretty good shape, regardless of their age.   Not Easel.  One of Easel’s legs is getting kind of wobbly and there are paint stains everywhere.  The side that was, once upon a time,  a dry erase board is now basically a paint canvas.  But, for five long years, we’ve loved this easel.  Picasso Days are a staple at our house–days when we get the paints out and go a little crazy.  We start by painting a picture but, by the end of the day, we’re painting ourselves!   And Easel has seen it all.  Every time we do art,  I say, at least twice,  “There is no wrong way to do art”  because I want the girls to learn how to express themselves as freely as they want.  Art is a way of looking into my girls’ minds and hearts.  Easel has given us an easy way of doing that.  Maybe the girls don’t yet appreciate all the wear and tear Easel has been through—but I do.  And I know that, long after they are gone,  Easel will remain with me.

Who knew that toys could ever come to mean so much?   But it’s toys like you that have built a bridge for the girls and I between school and bed.   Thanks to toys like you,  we have memories of playing games together and laughing.   The way the girls will know I loved them, when they are old, is because they will remember that we took the time to play.   We learned about each other’s fears and joys and hardships with the aid of horses, baby dolls and Squinkies.  We learned to try new foods through various games we played with the kitchen.  And we learned to never hold back what we’re feeling through puppet shows and Picasso Days.   I’ve come to know that a child doesn’t want anything more than she wants time to play with an adult she loves.  I’m so thankful for the creativity and the inspiration these toys have given us for, so far, eight years and I can’t wait to uncover the delightful memories we’ve yet to make with them!

One of our favorite movies is  “Toy Story 3.”   I cried when I watched it.  Time passes and children grow up.  But their toys, the ones that we as parents put into memory boxes, keep the games and laughter and play.  I see a picture of a toy we’ve loved but lost and get weepy-eyed in the matter of seconds.  Time is flying me by and, as hard as I try to make the most of every moment I get with these girls, the truth is I can’t do it all by myself.  Fortunately, I don’t have to:  I have the help of sturdy, beautiful, inspiring toys that continue to make all of us “heart-happy.”

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