I will admit that I have felt a few pangs as the children have begun to move out of the realm of fantasy. But as I have found with each new stage, there is something to miss and something new to relish. The something new at our house has come as a very big and involved project that has thrilled me to no end. In fact I have lost count of the nights I didn't sleep this summer from the excitement of it all. The added benefit of this project has been that it is not for just our two children that the magic has been woven, but for my two nieces and for any friends who care to come and play as well.
This summer the Creative Cottage and the Babbling Brook were born! In grownup language, we had a garden shed built and a water feature added to our yard. However, everyone is pretty much in agreement that this is no ordinary shed or collection of rocks with water running over them. The Creative Cottage is the new club house for four art project obsessed children (well, three out of the four, Max is still warming to art projects and mainly plays with his Fuzzies in the cottage). It is filled with art supplies and set up to pull the remaining bits of fantasy out of these growing kids. I love that even at the ages of 6 1/2 to 9 1/2 all four of them are still playing with the toy kitchen. They insisted it have a spot in the cottage. We had to put the kitchen up on risers so they could fully use it, they have all grown so tall! In the weeks since the cottage has been finished, they seem to divide their time pretty equally between playing restaurant and creating masterpieces.
The cottage has been such a hit, however when the water feature was finished the lure of the Babbling Brook has had the kids outside of the cottage more than in it. The landscapers really struggled with the fact that the kids would not stay out of the water. They were quite worried that they would undo their hard work as they dashed about launching boats. After two polite, but firm, conversations from the landscapers, I finally hauled the kids out. I didn't want them to hurt it either, of course, but the fun they were having was pure magic. We are now working on a plan to still launch their boats with out potentially dislodging the rocks that hold the sides of the brook up.
The disappointment of not being IN the water was eased quite a bit with a generous offer from our neighbor. She happened to come by just after the second babbling brook scolding and said she wanted to give the kids her gnome collection from her garden, since she is planning on moving. Feet where dried in no time and we were in her yard filling a wagon with gnomes. My nieces have a huge garden at home, so they enjoyed seeing the lavish and seemingly never ending garden. Max was beside himself with excitement about expanding the gnome collection. The week before the same neighbor had let Caroline and him each pick out one from her garden. Never could this little boy's mind imagine that she would give them the whole collection. He looked up at me and said, "she is kind Mommy, she is just so kind." So the Gnome Village was born, an unexpected addition to the cottage and brook. My nieces made me promise that we would not set up the village until they came over again. The delay worked out well since the landscapers were building a berm behind the cottage with some pine trees. The creation of the Gnome Village was fun to watch. Max didn't care to participate, it was a really hot day, so it left the project to the girls. They made a sleeping gnome area, a mini gnome village and a magic river watched over by a fairy.
And how did this whole project start? I have had a fascination with playhouses since I was a child. I would get excited if we even drove near a Tuff Shed dealership. My young eyes could see the potential in those sheds! And then there was Chrissy, a sweet friend who had a playhouse that no other could rival. It had a loft and if my memory is correct, even running water in a tiny sink! I will never forget the joy we had in her playhouse and I hoped to share that joy one day with my own kids. The water feature has a similar back story. Ray has always loved water features. When I met him, over 12 years ago, he was in the process of building one. He had a built in planter box in his front entry that he transformed into a fountain. It was not long after we moved to our current home that he started dreaming about the perfect spot for a water feature...the very spot it ended up.
Watching the kids have fun with their new backyard has been magical. Max has taken on the role of mailman for the cottage. He delivers treats and art supplies to the mailbox every time my nieces are over. Caroline has become obsessed with racing boats in the brook. The gnomes are now family and I love watching the kids show off their hideout behind the cottage to anyone they can drag back there. Ray and I enjoy sitting in the cottage with the kids while they play, but we spend more time watching them from the porch. We are all itching to roast marshmallows in a fire pit by the water feature. Max has plans to roast bacon. I heard a whispering that the gnomes prefer bacon too. This has been a fun and fanciful summer!