A Chipmunk’s Garden

The Penis Chronicles presents a re-blog. The following piece was originally posted on May 2, 2016 and was titled “If my children are chipmunks, then toys are nuts!” I have made very slight edits before reposting it today. I really enjoyed writing this little piece and sharing. I still enjoy sharing it because I truly was surprised by what I found and I can’t help but wonder if anybody else has had a similar experience.

The Penis Chronicles presents, “A Chipmunk’s Garden.”

I run a fairly tight ship at home, or at least I thought I did. My children, at 2 and 5, listened as good as could be expected, minded their manners, and took care of their possessions. Perhaps took care of their possessions is a bit of an understatement. So to be more clear, they played with their toys like I would expect little boys to play, they shared with each other like I expected them to, and they picked up their toys and put them away.

Then came spring cleaning!

I am somewhat familiar with the habits of chipmunks. I spent a number of summers at my cottage nestled on the border of Eastern and Central Ontario where we had a small community of chipmunks that we feed peanuts. These little hoarders would spend all day coming and going from the peanut stash we supplied to squirrel it away in a stash of their choosing. It wasn’t overly surprising to accidentally dig up a cluster of peanuts when weeding the flower planters or the garden. It was always mildly amusing to find those stashes and  it was certainly relaxing to watch these little critters in action.

However, I had no idea that later in life, when I become a mother, my time spent participating and monitoring chipmunk’s hoarding habits would suddenly materialize in the form of tiny humans and toy stashes. I didn’t draw any connections to the comfort I felt watching my children coming and going from the room with one toy after the other. I certainly didn’t think much of brief squabbles over a toy that ended sometimes in the disappearance of child and toy from the room, or the return of said child looking satisfied but toyless.

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Photograph by Shari Marshall ©

All that said, when the question about the location of a toy is brought to the forefront I now look at my house as a chipmunk’s garden. Here are 3 things that I have unearthed about toy stashes:

  1. Toys are no longer in the toys bin. They are stashed in every crook and corner that surround it. The yellow and green bins that fit the John Deere storage stand in my older son’s room are no longer an obvious spot to look for toys. Said child is capable of concealing toys in crafty and devious ways. Similar to searching for chipmunk hoarding damage, when viewing this storage stand I assess for structural and foundational changes. Are the bins sitting properly or are they slightly lifted and skewed? Is the stand itself flush to the wall and resting firmly on the floor? I try to explain to the child the dangers of having the stand sitting half on the floor and half on a partially hidden toy, but it is akin to telling the chipmunk that burrowing under the house isn’t good for the cottage or safe for the chipmunk.
  2. Floor vents are not built to hold toys, regardless they make for great hoarding spots. Much like weeding that garden and coming across a stash of peanuts, in my house opening a floor vent can result in finding a stash of toys. It was typically always the same vent, the one in our living area under a window. I’m not sure if this vent became the prime spot because of its easy access and warmth from the sunshine, but I do know that the first time I stumbled upon the hoard I felt like I had opened Mary Poppins’ bag! Toy after toy after toy came out, and they were shapes and sizes that left me puzzled and marveling. First, how did I not see this happening right under my nose? Second how did this particular toy fit because it was hard enough to get out, let alone put in?
  3. If I hide it here nobody will find it. I understand not wanting to share that special toy with your younger brother. It goes without saying that when I ask the hider about his actions, he will respond that he was hiding this toy because he didn’t want his brother to play with it. However, tossing it under the sofa is hardly a challenging spot to hide something. Yet, five minutes later when said toy is right where it was hidden I am proven wrong because the hider can’t find it. That fast slide under the sofa was such a challenging hiding spot that the hider has managed to successful hide that toy from even himself. It followed that mom was going to be called upon for its whereabouts. Obviously it was of utmost importance to be aware of the places that toys were stashed because if mom can’t unearth the location of the missing toys the hider will ask in a voice that suggests the toy hasn’t been seen in weeks (like a chipmunks shrill rapid chirping sound) if mom threw it in the trash!

Now, using the lense of seeing my house as a chipmunk garden I see the possibilities for toy hoards whenever I see uprooted household objects, or any opening that a child can fit a hand into, as well as pieces of furniture sitting funny and changes in the general

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Photograph by Shari Marshall ©

shape of carpets, towels, blankets, and etcetera. We must not forget that a child is able to burrow an object into the laundry or folds in the sofa. Furthermore, I have learned to be honest with myself; my children are lively, speedy critters with pudgy cheeks, large eyes, and hoarding habits much like the chipmunks that fascinated my summers.


Now just over 3 years later I look at my children and something more akin to the red squirrel. The chipmunk stage has shifted to a more aggressive little animal that is defending its territory. However, there is still a bit of caching.

By Shari Marshall – 2016 and edited and re-blogged 2019

The Penis Chronicles is a weekly platform for sharing childcare stories, advice & etcetera. Raising children is an adventure! And please, I know the title says “penis chronicles”, but stories about raising girls are very much welcome. Please post and share your link and/or your comments in the comments section below.