Family Homes

Thanksgiving kicks off the “family season” and I love it!

All my grandkids (and their parents, of course) are under one roof – mine! There is noise, new aromas (some of the less pleasant ones emanating from the infants), new and old traditions. This is the time of year when anyone who arrived in the past 12 months makes his or her family debut.

But, this will be the first year in a while without four generations. We have new grandchildren to introduce but are missing my father-in-law. He will be a topic of conversation, of funny memories and old photos. Should I still serve pumpkin pie in his honor? He was the only one who really enjoyed it. Is it a sacrosanct tradition or should we start making new ones? Maybe we can do both.

We eat our holiday dinners in rooms filled with old family photos. On our walls, there are 100 framed pictures in black and white and sepia going back more than a century. Each season, we look at them with new stories and new reverence. We never really miss our parents, grandparents and great-grandparents because they’re right there with us.

Family is central to our celebrations. I am thankful that this year, we have two new people to initiate into the fold.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Singing along to the car radio is often a very, very creative experience. I sing what I hear (which is not always what the songwriter wrote). Years later, I suddenly hear the proper lyrics and realize how much more sense they make then what I’ve been belting out.

Kids learn to sing the same way, just by listening. They can be loud or whispery. They can be dramatic or hide behind you as they sing. But, sing they do because so much of childhood is brought to us with a musical accompaniment.

My cousin used to think that “My Country Tis of Thee” had a line that read “Land where the Pilgrims fried.” Yummy!! My granddaughter sings “Twinkle Twinkle” in a language only she can understand. My grandson watches his dad and sings one beat behind, trying to mimic the words.

I sing a Yiddish lullaby to my newest grandson. I actually looked up the words so I got them right. Who knows what he’s actually hearing? But, at least his great-great-grandmother’s legacy lives on.

Sing to and sing with your grandchildren. They will love it. You will love it. It’s just another joyous moment you can share with them – regardless of the words!


March to Your Own Drum

Have you ever wondered if the color you identify as red is exactly the same as the color your neighbor calls red? Does he see your red, juicy apple in a shade you would call purple? The world is a different place to every one of us because every one of us is unique.

Children these days begin school at a very early age. Whether it’s infant day care or summer camp, the hours are structured to include developmental enhancements. Each child is getting the same stimuli and training, But, each absorbs it differently. Even the youngest preschoolers bring their outside experiences into the classroom and vice versa. Not everyone learns the same way. Not everyone applies that knowledge to the same tasks in the same order.

As a grandparent, you have the perfect opportunity to foster uniqueness. Your time is usually spent playing and introducing your grandchildren to family traditions and activities. You’re rarely the disciplined teacher. Use your time to cherish each child’s personal approach to the world. Encourage his inventiveness. Praise her individuality.

Don’t expect these littlest humans to march to your drum. Instead, be delighted that they hear a rhythm all their own.


“My turn” is a favorite phrase of my grandchildren. I’m sure they learned it at preschool where it really means something. At home, where they are the only ones playing with their toys, its significance gets a bit skewed.

Sharing is hard. As a hostess, I’m always tempted to save the cake with the most frosting for myself – definitely not good sharing modeling. It’s easier to share Brussels sprouts and ocher colored crayons. But, sharing your favorite dress, hoping it comes back clean and usable, that’s a leap of faith. No wonder your grandson doesn’t want to let his new neighbor play with his bright red locomotive.

When I’m playing with the grandkids, I ask when it will be my turn. That way, I always get a turn, eventually. If I hadn’t asked, would I get one? Sometimes. Sharing isn’t instinctive. It’s an acquired skill. So few of us share unconditionally. We should remember that taking turns is learned and relearned by everyone all the time.

Be patient (another acquired skill on which I’m still working). If you insist on taking turns, sharing will slowly become more automatic. It’s just another life lesson…and another reason to get down on the floor and play with your grandchildren.


Attending summer camp is non-negotiable in my world. Camp is where I made life-long friendships. Camp is where I was my most authentic self. Camp is where I was able and willing to try out new skills without fear of embarrassment because camp is all about laughing when you miss the archery target or fall off the sailboard. And, camp is all about getting back up and trying again.

I made my first well-turned out bed at camp. That’s a useful skill. Braiding lanyards, not so much! I waited on tables. I chose when to shower and when to just jump in the lake. These are big deals to a nine-year-old.

Camp is where I learned both independence and commitment. I became a correspondent and a more adventurous eater. Living in close quarters with a dozen other girls honed my sense of empathy.

My camp smelled good – wind and lake and trees. If felt good – pine needles make a remarkably soft carpet. It still looks the same – green and white and brown. Nothing fancy, but very comforting. Camp sounds good. I sing camp songs to my grandchildren while I rock them to sleep. They’ll be ready for camp since they’ll know all the tunes when their turns come.

Encourage your kids to send their children to camp. Even if it’s only for one week for one summer, try camp. Your family will thank you – forever.


It only seems fair. Last month I wrote about spring showers and dancing in the rain. What warm, tender images. Well, it’s May and where I live, that’s Mud Season.

Why, oh why, is mud so attractive to otherwise clean children? My three-year-old grandson is fastidious about lining up his dozens of toy cars and trucks. He can sort them by size, by color, even by function. He eats everything with a spoon and fork. But, when he sees a mud puddle…

I had a friend who told her preschooler to stop jumping in puddles because he got his clothes soaking wet. One day on the playground, as we were tending to our newborns, we turned to find Bill back in the puddle – and completely naked. Wet clothes problem solved. Smart (and obedient) boy!

Mud makes wonderful sounds. It yanks at your shoes and feels funny. It makes adults squeal. Maybe we should all try jumping in a mud puddle or two.

Spring Showers

Spring showers. Warm weather. Those things should make my granddaughter happy because she hates any day that isn’t sunny and mild. She complains about wet, hot, cold and wind. She’s terrified of snow and not all that thrilled about rain. Do You Like Snow? is my next book. I’m looking at a fall publish date. Guess who I used as my inspiration?

One of my goals for spring is to dance in the rain with this climate-phobic two-year-old. She loves her baths. Now, I want her to get her good and soggy with her clothes on. She doesn’t mind dirt. Let’s see how she does with mud.

Of course, I’ll have to plan ahead to clean her up before we go back inside. I don’t want to be chasing a slippery toddler around my house (or my daughter’s). I made those rookie mistakes with my own kids. I know better now.

I also know that dancing in the rain is a time to giggle and wonder. What could be better with your grandkids? Give it a go this spring.

Everyone Has A Story

What’s your story? It’s probably part comedy, part tragedy, part farce with maybe some adventure thrown in. I tend to see the world through silly, rose-colored glasses so my story is funny and cheerful (even when it’s not). We all have a point of view. That’s what helps to make our own story unique. 

We need to pass on our versions of our lives. Our kids and grandkids can’t possibly know everything about us – and maybe they shouldn’t. But, they will want to know about our childhoods, our rebellious years (some more rebellious than others), our romances, our careers, our hobbies, our passions. There are grandparent books with charts to complete. But, these charts just tell the dry facts. Your story, embellished and colored as you wish, can communicate so much more. You can really get to know your family and they can enjoy the fuller you.

I was a National Park Ranger. My kids still find that hilarious. It’s a slice of my life that they enjoy and find unbelievable. It’s just one part of me. Talk about your life.

Tell your story!