May 8, 2013

Baking with grand-kids. It doesn’t get better than that. I visited Emily and Maggie, and we baked a pineapple-upside-down-cake. When I got home I topped off the trip with a letter! I just had to put pen to paper and tell them another “olden day” story. Luckily, they’re polite and considerate, and they responded with the cutest letters. It doesn’t matter what you do when you visit your grandkids, you can turn it into a letter! I have posted my letter to Emily and then Emily’s response. I think she does a pretty good job for a second grader.


A Toolbox Full of Grandkids

July 21, 2012

Every tool in a toolbox has been uniquely designed. Size, composition and form, and even function have been carefully considered in its creation. I tend to think the Good Lord took such care when creating my seven grandkids. Yes, God works in lovely ways. The toolbox itself is a work of art. It encases seven little lives. It is the result of years of good work by good parents taking good care of good kids and harboring and corralling good habits and manners. I wonder. What kind of tool would my grandkids be?

When I need a tool, I’m usually looking to solve a problem. As I open the lid, the first thing I see is Megan. She is my carpenter’s pencil. She’s right on top. She thinks, she figures, she solves step by step: notes, cautious observations, calculated decisions, then revisions, and finally results. “Hmmmmm,” she resonates thoughtful tones. No problem if calculations don’t work the first time because my little pencil doesn’t care how many minutes, hours, days or weeks are needed to find the answer. Fretting, worrying, and contemplating kick in; it’s all part of finding answers. Problems will be calculated again and again until the absolute, perfect, final, undisputed, and most certain answer is found. Then, that tiny, positive, little smile shows up, “Hmmmm,” and I know she is satisfied with her findings. And, my little pencil … she glides like a little gel pen. She makes her way through life with style, grace and unwavering direction. Yes, my little pencil accomplishes a whole lot of stuff!

Now, right next to the pencil, and sitting in the top tray, ready to work, ready to pop into a job is my tape measure, Emily. She is ready to pop into or out of an area of discovery at a moment’s notice. Her eyes flash as she spots something to examine. Like a tape measure, her hands zip out to capture, analyze, and assess a leaf or bug, or any kind of anything. She appraises and delights in her discovery. She might extend herself fully, or she might just do her figuring in close quarters if she feels exceptionally thoughtful.

You or I might end up tripping over her when she’s fully engaged. She spreads out and reels in. Part of her is here and part of her is there. Out and in, thinking and playing, out and in, studying and drawing, out and in …. I tell her mother that Emily is really more of an amoeba: you can’t pinpoint her beginning or her ending. She’s just everywhere all the time. Her work and play areas flow and spread and seep and gush: like a tape measure … in and out ….

If I want something done now; fast, hard, furious, and NOW, I reach for my hammer, Hannah. No pain, no gain; that’s her motto. Do it, get it over with! Be done with it. OH, and don’t try to change her mind. Don’t try to reason with her. Don’t try to explain. She’s got it! She doesn’t need any tapping, tacking, or rapping. She knows you get something done by pounding through it. Black and white; no gray. Right and wrong: no melancholy ifs. Up or down, soft or hard, there’s no middle ground. Commit and just do it! I recall so many politicians, clergy, and officials with nicknames of “The Hammer” and I know Hannah is right behind them on the road to success. If she puts her mind to it, it will be done. Sometimes, I think Hannah sees everyone and everything as a nail. But like all hammers, the handle is form-fitting, and it feels just right when you engage it. Yes, if I want something done, I will get my “Hammer” to do it.

Right on top of all the other tools, lies a little cellophane-wrapped telescopic magnet that attracts the flailing nails, screws, and such odds and ends that I can’t throw away. That’s my Maggie: All wrapped up, neat, and looking like new. Not really a worker, just sort of “tool candy”. When Mom says, “Girls get dressed, we’re going out to pull weeds,” Maggie comes out in her princess ensemble: not ready to work, but she looks pretty necessary. Maggie isn’t going to attempt anything foul that might mess up her “wrapper”. She walks, talks, skips, and salsas through chores with classy delegation and abandon. She knows the important thing is to sit up here on top of the rest of the tools and look good; like she’s worth a million bucks; like she’s gonna get something done, just maybe not right now.

My toolbox is neat. I don’t like all that sawdust piling up in it. So, I keep a little brush, sort of like a paintbrush, but with soft bristles for whisking away rubbish and stuff. That’s Riley. No, not a neat-nick who’s always sweeping up dirt. Not a cleaning nut with a spotless room. No, Riley is a whisker who whisks away everything in his way. He whisks away every comment that might indicate some menial labor lies ahead. He whisks away every shoe under the couch instead of into the closet, every glass into the sink instead of into the dishwasher, every shirt under the sink instead of into the basket, and every wet toothbrush, floss string, and hairy hairbrush into one single drawer instead of into the correct basket or container. Riley is cool, smooth, and silently adept. I don’t know how he has become so proficient at whisking things into black holes. His arms are like Zambonis that come out of nowhere and smooth away everything so it looks good, but you have no idea where it might have gone. He’s a con with a heart, a slacker with drive, and a dandy with grit. But, if I am ever in a pickle and want to whisk away a mess, and have no witnesses, I get my Riley to do the job.

One of my best and most useful tools is actually anchored to the bench: my grinder. It’s constantly humming, whirring, sharpening, milling, and pitching out sparks and embers, and generally generating all kinds of flurry. That’s my Bryce. He isn’t something; he’s a process. He doesn’t take in information; he seeks and seizes it, then ignites and grinds it to pieces, then showers the rest of us with kindled tokens.
As we’re ready to mount bikes, Bryce might spark us with, “Baba, did you know the fangtooth Anaplogastar cornula has the largest teeth in the ocean? Proportionally, that is.” We answer, “No kidding?” And, as we’re putting bikes back into the garage, Bryce will detonate his brother, “Hey, Riley, LeBron is actually better than Kobe because of his offensive and defensive maneuvers.” Riley silently sweeps away the grenade.

When my grinder is grinding, he sees nothing, hears nothing, and seems to stare off into the very depths of the pit of knowledge. We find ourselves waving our hands in front of Bryce to stop the grinding (and the obvious internal blasting noises he experiences while he’s thinking) to bring him back to our world. Ever grinding, ever thinking: that’s Bryce.

Ah, my last tool. Not necessary for every job. Not necessary for most jobs. But when you need it, you need it. It’s my level. I think my little level, Olivia, could win the all around medal in any of life’s matches. With two big brothers and no sisters, she can easily transition from a rough, tough kickball opponent to a fancy, feathery princess. Why, she can play kickball in heels and tiara. She’s flexible; emotionally and physically. She’ll calm the squalls of sibling rivalry, yet squall at peak decibels for a solution. My little level tilts and attacks her brothers’ persistent pleading, then teeters the other way and serenely ignores their oppressive teasing, and finally finds equilibrium while presenting closing statements on why they should be willing to not only tolerate, but find joy in toasting a bubbleicious fairy queen in full tea-party attire.

As I watch the ever-moving bubble in my level, I see Olivia who appreciates beauty but recognizes the importance of competition; she understands battles cannot always be averted but quickly seeks harmony once engaged; she constantly waivers and floats in and out of balance as she flirts with tipping the scales in favor of either recognition or peace. I am sure one day for her, they will be synonymous.

I couldn’t do without one of my tools. Each is unique and dear. Each fills a gap where another leaves off, and sublimely, they unite as they encounter the perpetual challenges of a family. Yes, my little toolbox is in good shape.

And, how about you grandparents? Have you looked into your toolbox lately? Who do you see? From the plane side of grandparenting, I bid you goodbye.


March 5, 2011

My grandson, Riley, is a great basketball player. He’s in fourth grade, and he flat-out tells me that no one in his class can play as well as he can. I’ve watched him, and I have to agree with him. You would think it might be hard to find some humble pie in a kid with that kind of statement, but not true. He will gladly compliment any good player.

So, here’s how I know: Yesterday, Baba (grandpa) and I are at Riley’s house (none of us can go in because the house is getting cleaned) and Baba and Riley start a pick-up game.

They finish a good round of Horse and One-on-One. I look over, and there they are, Baba and Riley, sprawled out on the grass — recouping.  So, I pick up the ball and start practicing my hook shot. Riley’s mama comes out and we go one-on-one. A couple of neighbor girls come up, and we now have four girls on the driveway shooting hoops.

Riley decides  he wants  to play. “Okay,” I say, “but we’re playing Ladyball.”

“What’s that?” His face tells me  he thinks I am joking.

“It’s when somebody on the other team shoots a basket, and you say, ‘Wow! Nice Shot!’ And when you foul them you say, ‘Oh, sorry. Your ball.’ It’s when we make up the rules as we go along, because we don’t need any rules. Everyone just knows they have to be nice.”

“Okay,” he says without hesitation, “I’m in.”

We play. He’s a ball hog of course. But he manages to pass occasionally to the little girl on his team. He is one of us — having a good time. And, as his grandmother, I am in hog heaven!

Baba soon comes up and decides to get in the game, but he hasn’t been paying attention to us; he’s been fixing Olivia’s bicycle pedal, and so he’s kinda been out of the loop. But, he jumps right in. “Hey,” he says, “I’ll play on Grandma’s team.” He quickly calls double dribbling on Riley and claims the ball.

“Uh-uh, Baba. We’re playing LadyBall,” Riley grins at Baba and takes back the ball. I could tell Riley loved that move. (After all, this is the kid that, at the ripe-old age of five, was teasing Baba and gave him the nickname of Fuzzy-whiskers).

Baba has a big question on his face and he looks at me.

“That’s right,” I proudly prop up Riley’s return, “LadyBall.”

“What’s LadyBall?” Baba looks at us as though we’re pulling his leg.

“It’s when we’re nice enough to make up the rules as we go along.”

“Oh-h-h, make up the rules as you go along,” Baba nods. “Only a lady would think of that,” and he politely hands the ball back to Riley. He smiles out of the corner of his eye.

We played LadyBall for at least an hour: my grandson, my daughter, and my love … and a few other kids. Not only was LadyBall possible, it was a blast!

And, I think Riley just might want to play again.  I know because I heard him compliment one of the players.

“Grandma can shoot!”

I heard it clear as a bell.

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren.  Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on

Nature’s Child

July 23, 2010

Dear Grandparents,

It never ceases to amaze me—how kids can accomplish the most remarkable things.

I believe it is their innocence and their innate honesty that propels them into the virtuous pursuit of life and joy and, along the way, leads them into the discovery of work and play, and heartbreak, and justice and compromise. I believe holy guidance from above allows them to bungle their way through life while doing such things as setting a glass of water—balancing half-on and half-off—on the table’s edge and then walking away with no concern of whether it will stay or crash to the floor. I also believe, on the other hand, it is their very innocence and lack of experience that creates havoc and chaos in their everyday activities. And, in keeping with heavenly benevolence, I believe that mommies and daddies are miraculously injected with a huge dose of patience and understanding on the day the child is born. I believe these things because I am awed and inspired by what a child can do if left alone with nature.

My granddaughter, Hannah, decided she would find wonder and amusement in a wren who chose to become a squatter in her daddy’s barn. The wren diligently built her nest, laid her eggs, and hatched them while Hannah constantly visited and (with good manners) closely observed the feathery commotions.

Many times I inquired about the progress of mother and baby birds. And, the usual and expected responses reached my ears, “Oh, the babies hatched, today, Curly Grandma,” and “Oh, the babies are out of the nest today, Curly Grandma.” But, I never really knew how much of a naturalist Hannah was or what delicate bonding she had accomplished with these birds until I saw her video.

As Hannah’s video played before me on her little camera, I witnessed the time, the gentleness, and the sincere curiosity of a child unfold across the screen. I heard her coo softly as she spoke to the baby birds. I felt her slowly and gently moving toward the birds. I saw her reaching out to a tiny species of animal generated only by a need for connection—no need to dominate or own. Remarkably, these wild baby birds flew right up and sat on Hannah’s shoulders when she walked into the barn. The video clearly showed a baby bird sitting on the windowsill of the barn while Hannah’s hand went up behind the bird to pet it and stroke it the same way she would have pet her newborn kitten. And these were wild birds!

I am amazed that she accomplished such a feat. But, Hannah is not the least bit stirred by this fact.

I believe these birds must have sensed Hannah’s innocence. Oh, I am aware of imprinting, and wonder if perhaps it applies here. But, the bond had to have begun with the mother bird. She must have felt no peril while building her nest with Hannah nearby. Did she feel guarded or protected with Hannah around?

Yes, I am truly astounded that my own grandchild possesses the mysterious gift of communicating with and befriending wild animals. I am puzzled by her gift, just as I am puzzled by many simple things in nature. I am not sure what makes the world go ‘round. I am not sure how sand can filter water. And, I am not sure why some people are chemically attracted to others. But, I am so very sure that all children are blessed with holy innocence and gifted with natural decency upon entering this world, and that they are innately good if given the chance to flourish in a world of love and appreciation and if given the opportunity to participate, unleashed, with nature. And, I believe that every once in a while, we adults are blessed with the chance to see God’s beauty and majesty play out between a child and a wild creature.

Well, Grandparents, I hope you are given the chance to see your grands in a new light, a new avenue, or in a new perspective. I hope you can observe them in their natural goodness and can see them as a radiant beam of nature.

From the blessed side of grandparenting, I wish you much joy,

Curly Grandma

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren.  Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on

My Little Country Dandelion

June 27, 2010

Dear Grandparents,

When I pick a bouquet of dandelions (my favorite wildflower, and my mother’s favorite) they all look the same. I know they are all the same because they have come from the same field, the same sunny spot, and they have received the same amount of rainfall. So, yes, they are the same; I think you would agree.

Given the sameness in nature, why is my little country-girl, Hannah, my 11 year old granddaughter, so different from her sisters? They all get the same amount of sunshine—Hannah hasn’t been locked up in an attic. They come from the same field—no stepparents here. And, Hannah is well-fed and has been showered with the same abundance of love and concern as has been bestowed upon her sisters. Yet, she is different.

Oh, Hannah’s difference is something to celebrate!  We say Hannah is undersized. You might say she’s spindly. Despite her size, she’s tough and strong. Hannah’s talents and skills seem to be peppered with extremism. She’s not just fast; she can outrun kids two years older. She’s not just smart, she is brilliant. And, so I wonder, “How can a talented, straight A student forget to wear shoes to school?  Is this Possible?

Hannah’s mother, Shannan, pulls up to the drop-off-lane at school and hurries the kids out of the car.


“What is it, Hannah?”


“What, Hannah?”

“Mommy, I forgot my shoes.”

“You … what?”

Hannah’s sisters have never forgotten to wear shoes to school.

Visiting Shannan and Luke and the girls is so much fun because I sit back and wait for something to happen: Something involving Hannah.

“Mommy.” Little Emily dawdles up to the adults.

“Mommy.” Little Maggie waits patiently for an adult, any adult, to answer.

“Mommy, can we climb trees?” they ask in unison.

“No, you can not.” Shannan never even looks up.

“But, Mommy, Hannah is.”

“Oh, my God!” Shannan runs and takes in the sight of Hannah scaling the top of a 20 foot Magnolia. “Hannah! Get down from there! You’re going to fall!”

“No, I’m not, Mommy. I promise!”  Her voice echoes across the wind.

“H-A-N-N-A-H!” And, Mommy shudders and winces as Hannah descends with the balance of a gymnast and the speed of a flying squirrel.

“See. It’s easy.” Hannah flashes her quick, little country-girl smile and takes off to search for some endangered species of lizard or toad.

An exasperated Shannan looks wearily into my eyes. ““Mom? Does she not see the danger? Does she just not know?”

I dispense sympathy to my daughter. She is such a devoted mother. And, I contemplate the thought that perhaps Hannah has a much-pruned frontal lobe. I honestly wonder if the part of her brain that is home to judgment is self-pruning at a rapid pace.

Now, when it comes to Hannah’s sisters, I can’t recall them looking for the opportunity to perch twenty feet off the ground. Nope. They won’t even fetch little green apples for me.

Talking to Hannah on the phone gives this grandmother such pleasure. “What have you been up to, Hannah?” I cannot even begin to guess how she will reply.

“Curly Grandma, the baby wrens have hatched in the barn.”

“How do you know?”

“I saw them hatch.”

“You watched them hatching?”

“Yeah, it was really neat.”

I am thinking that such a hatching takes more than a few minutes, more minutes than a child would spare, even a barefoot, little country girl. “How long did it take?”

“Oh, it took a long time. I had to hide in the rafters. I had to sit really, really still. The mother bird knew I was there, but as long as I didn’t move, she was OK. I have been watching the nest since she laid her eggs. So, she’s used to me. She’s still scared when I move, though.”

About two weeks later, I talk to Hannah on the phone again. “Hi, Hannah, what have you been up to?”

“Curly Grandma, the baby wrens left the nest, yesterday.”

“You saw them?”

“Yeah, they are still in the barn. When I first saw them out of the nest, I thought they fell, and I put them back in the nest. Then, I realized that the mama wanted them out of the nest. She is staying with them.”

“Hannah, how long did this take?”

“Oh, I spent about two hours in the rafters this morning. Then I took a break. Then I went back out and watched some more.”

“You sit in the rafters?”

“Yeah, it’s so cool.”

“Hannah, aren’t you hot up there?”

“Yeah!” she giggles. “It’s really hot.”

Hannah has the gentleness of a new mother, the curiosity of a kitten, and I think the brain of an absent-minded-professor. You’ll find her checking up on pets and wild creatures daily. She runs though the sandspurs, barefoot; she climbs the trees and rafters, barefoot, and she runs to the “back forty” to put out feed, barefoot. She is her mother’s wild child.

And, so goes Hannah’s experiences with the birds, the flying squirrels, the baby ducks, and whatever might be hatching or moving, or just catching a country girl’s interest.

But, Hannah’s sisters, Megan, Emily, and Maggie, share the same interest in animals as their Curly Grandma. If it’s more than 80 degrees outside, we’re in the air-conditioned house observing little hatch-lings from the window.

Now for school: Hannah excels in both academics and physical education. She’s on the cross-country team; she took second place in the county. She misplaced her shoes there, too.

One day, I decide to watch her run. I find her family in the crowd of spectators. “Hi, Shannan.” I greet my daughter and get big hugs from Hannah’s three sisters.

“Hmm.” Shannan answers back; she rolls her eyes.

“Isn’t Hannah running today?”

“Yeah, she’s running all right.”


“Well, the coach is mad at me.”


“Well, I had to take Hannah to a cross-country meet last week. When we got there, she was all upset because she forgot her shoes at home.”

“She forgot her shoes for a running meet?”

“Yeah, she was barefoot. So I said, ‘Forget it. You’re not running today.””

“O-o-h. That hurt.”

“Yeah, so the team lost, and the coach says it’s my fault.”

“O-o-h. That hurts.”

“Yeah, so I don’t think the school is happy with me.”


“Mom, she’s only eleven years old! How long will this go on? Is she ever going to start wearing shoes? Is she ever going to start remembering things?”

Sadly for Shannan, yet comically for me, poor Shannan and poor Hannah continue to lovingly butt heads.

You might wonder, what is Hannah like with her dad? From the day this little country girl was born, Hannah was her daddy’s sidekick. She fished with him. She hunted and cleaned deer with him. She rode in front of him in his saddle. And, she adopted every bullfrog, reptile, and baby hog he brought home.

The other day I was talking to Luke and asked him, “Are you still picking on my granddaughter?” I gave him that forgiving smile that grandparents dole out when they know they’re sticking up for the wrong person.

“Yeah, your granddaughter informed me that things aren’t working as well as expected.”

What do you mean?”

“She was giving me some lip, as usual, and I told her if she said one more word she was going to her room for the rest of the night.”


“She sputtered out big tears and said, ‘Daddy, you and Mommy might as well go ahead and put me in an orphanage because things just aren’t working out between us.’”

Coke sprayed from my mouth as I laughed and choked on my chips. “She did not say that!”

“She did, and she meant it.”

And, in sharp contrast, Hannah’s sisters are content living with their mommy and daddy. They’re not in a big hurry to push Dad’s buttons. They kinda don’t mind not “having the last word.” And, unlike Hannah, they’ll do all they can to avoid a hot day in the sun pulling weeds for punishment.

But, if you want to know what kind of grandchild my Hannah really is, if you want to know where her heart is, if you want to peer into her head and her heart, you should know this.

It was Shannan’s birthday, and some of our extended family was gathering for cake. We visited and made small talk and enjoyed each other for about an hour. Then I went out to the car to get something. Here came Hannah, following me, without shoes.

“Curly Grandma, can I use your phone? I don’t want Mommy to see me calling anyone.”

Red flags went up.

Hannah explained, “You see, this morning when I got up, I said ‘Happy Birthday’ to Mommy, and she just sort of shrugged. I said, ‘Did anyone else remember your birthday?’ And she just nodded, so I know Daddy forgot. I don’t want Mommy to see me using the phone because then she’ll know I called Daddy to remind him. But, I don’t want Mommy’s feelings to be hurt.” She looked at me with genuine, 11 year old concern, “Curly Grandma, I just know Daddy will want to surprise her with something after work. So, can I use your phone to remind him?”

Hannah has a brilliant mind. Yes, she hates shoes and forgets them all the time. Hannah is a thorn in her sisters’ sides. She argues a lot. But, Hannah has the biggest heart for a little girl of eleven. I wouldn’t want my little country dandelion to be any different.

Well, Grandparents, I know you probably have a little dandelion among your lovely lilies and marigolds, too. Aren’t dandelions grand?

From the blooming side of grandparenting, I bid you Happy Gardening!

Curly Grandma

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren.  Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on This blog and illustrations are not to be copied or reproduced without permission from Anita Bryce.

If it aint broke, don’t fix it!

June 2, 2010

Dear Grandparents,

Aren’t grandkids grand? Are you stressing? Or are you one of those grandparents who takes it all in stride and lets nothing bother you? After all, they’re just kids, and you’ve been there, done that. Nonetheless, with this new generation we grandparents get to meet the challenges of childrearing with a whole new perspective—with zest and willingness!

I have found that I treat my grandchildren much differently from how I treated my own children. How different? Well, I am much more lenient, more understanding, more apt to think the child knows what he’s talking about when he disagrees with me, and certainly, I am more likely to spoil these children.

I thought I knew everything there was to know about raising kids. After all, I was a teacherl for more than twenty years, and I raised two healthy, successful daughters. I should know everything there is to know about kids. Right? Not so fast.

Riley, my first grandson, was a unique baby. He was the first baby I’d ever seen that did not like food. Luckily, his mother was an Occupational Therapist and knew how to remedy this problem. He didn’t have a major problem; he just didn’t like solid foods. Even today, he is a picky eater. So, Riley taught me patience, and his mama taught me what a real teacher looks like. Watching them work together was not only new and interesting, but also like watching one of those unfolding, revealing Disney movies—heartwarming. But, Riley also taught me something else. He taught me that every kid really is different, and  he proved that my presumptuous expectations could easily be crushed.

I had been Riley’s babysitter when he was an infant, but then his family had moved away, and I was left to deal with the heartbreak of distance. But, that is another story. In this story, Riley’s parents were coming home for a business visit. So, eighteen-month-old Riley would have to spend two nights with me. Halleluiah! My baby was coming home!

Of course, we wanted everything to be perfect. Much preparation went into the days ahead, and then I got the most brilliant idea. “Angie,” I said to his mom, “I want to videotape you talking to Riley. I want you to tell him that everything is going to be OK. I want you to look into the camera and say soothing things. That way, if he cries or misses you at bedtime, we will play this video to comfort him. Then he won’t miss you at all!”

“What a great thought, Mom,” she said with her usual snappy grin. I think she even muttered something about inspiration and initiative.

Anyway, Riley’s visit went great. We played, he quietly napped, and we explored the house and yard. He was one happy baby. We even went to the library. Coincidentally, another grandmother was there with her adorable, red-headed granddaughter. They were in our same situation. The mother was getting ready to leave the baby with grandma. Helpful me told them about my great idea. “Yes,” the doting grandmother said, “I will videotape the baby’s mother before she leaves, and I will show it to the baby tonight. It’s a good thing you were here today,” she winked, “I would never have thought of such a good idea.”

The proverbial feather in my proverbial cap bloomed!

Well, that evening at bedtime, Riley wasn’t the least bit sad. He was having a ball. We wouldn’t even need Mama’s movie tonight. But. Why let such a good idea go to waste?

Riley’s big brown eyes looked up at me with curiosity as I pulled out the movie camera. “Look, Riley, you can see Mama.”

A look of sheer terror spread across his little face. His eyes, as big as saucers, shattered my heart. He grabbed the camera, put his nose right up to the screen, and bellowed out, “Mommy!”

Sobs and deep breaths echoed off the walls. Screams that begged for Mommy resonated throughout the rooms. And, I … I, the almighty, smart, know-it-all, pompous grandmother—now filled with humility and sorrow—hugged, cuddled, and comforted Riley the best I could. After an eternity of tears, Riley finally fell asleep in my arms. And, I know that you know that I did not put him down for the rest of the night.

Sure enough, all ended okay. Except of course, that my heart was forever damaged. But Riley played the next day as if nothing traumatic had occurred. And that night we stayed away from the movie camera! Nevertheless, I was so very haunted by two things. How had I been so wrong? And, how was the grandmother at the library doing?

This horrific affair taught me two lessons.

Lesson #1

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Lesson #2

It’s not necessary to do so much for my grandkids.

Sometimes less is best.

Well, grandparents, I hope you are having a good time with your grands. If you ever have to babysit them, don’t fret. You just don’t have to do that much worrying.

From the sunny side of grandparenting, I bid you farewell.

Curly Grandma

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren.  Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on This blog and illustrations are not to be copied or reproduced without permission from Anita Bryce.

Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen

May 5, 2010

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As big as a whale’s tail

April 4, 2010

Dear Grandparents,

How’s that babysitting going for you? Is it a blast? Or are you a nervous wreck?

Relax. Little can go wrong when you’re in charge of precious cargo because a little love goes a long way. And more importantly, a little love usually places the right decision in your court.

Nonetheless, precarious problems can arise. When 5 year old Riley was spending the weekend with me, he was a bundle of energy … until about 6pm. He then began to run around in slow motion. He suddenly had a penchant for sitting—not what I expected.

So, we popped a movie into the old VCR.  As we watched The Lady and The Tramp kissing over a single strand of spaghetti, I tussled his hair, and Oh! He had a fever.

Well, no problem. I can handle administering a little Tylenol. I was prepared: I had bought some children’s Tylenol last month just for this type of emergency. As I opened the bottle of syrupy, red ooze, I checked the dosage: easy enough. It came with a tiny little measuring cup: even easier.

Well unfortunately, I suddenly learned how important it is to know the weight of my grandson: Children’s medicines are dispensed according to their weight, not age.

His weight? Who would ever have thought that knowing how much Riley weighed was important? I know what he likes to eat. I know what time he goes to bed. I know what pages in his book I have to read. But his weight? I never thought to ask Mommy, “Oh, by the way, before you take off for the weekend and slip into some pocket of rural no-man’s-land where there is no tower for cell phone reception, how much does Riley weigh?”

I could guess. Or, I could ask Baba (Grandpa). “Baba, how much do you think Riley weighs?”


“Well, I think he’s got a fever, and I’m going to give him something.”


“Oh, maybe some Tylenol.”


“Well, I need to bring his fever down.”


“Well ….”

On second thought, maybe Baba wasn’t the answer.

On second thought, maybe I shouldn’t be giving Riley anything at all. It’s just a little fever.

I go into the room, and sit next to Riley, who is covered up to his eyeballs in blankets and pillows … in July. Yeah, I need to give him some Tylenol.

Back to the bottle. I read it two more times. Guessing a kid’s weight just isn’t that hard. So, I go back to the bedroom and drag him out of his covers and pick him up—we have no bathroom scale—to feel how heavy he is. He’s certainly much heavier than I expected. He’s solid as a rock. He’s downright heavy.

I go back into the kitchen and read the bottle … again, as if staring at the directions will suddenly flash big numbers that reveal his correct weight.

Then, I got the most brilliant idea. Just ask Riley. He’s a smart kindergartener, and for a little kid, he knows a lot. He’s been talking all about all kinds of scientific things that he has been learning in school.

“Riley,” I coo, as I stroke his hair. “Do you know how much you weigh?


Thank goodness! Why didn’t I go straight to the horse’s mouth to begin with?

A long silence fills the puffy abyss, where somewhere down underneath, lay a sick little kid.

“Riley, how much do you weigh, honey?”

“Um ….”

He wipes his forehead and rubs his beet red cheeks.

“Um …. About as much as a whale’s tail.”


I go back to the kitchen, take a wild stab at the right dosage, and hope that all will end well.

Lesson # 1        When babysitting grandkids:
Know how much they weigh.

Well, Grandparents, I hope you get lots of chances to babysit. Keep some children’s Tylenol and peppermint on hand. And, you’ll do fine.

Yours truly,

Curly Grandma

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren. Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on This blog and illustration is not to be copied or reproduced without express permission from Anita Bryce.

one day I’ll write a letter to the boys

March 29, 2010

Dear Grandparents,                                                     5-10-07

Amazing: The fine little moments that come along with being a grandparent. Some deserve to be enjoyed again and again.

When our very young grandsons spend the night with us, it is a tradition that after bedtime baths, the boys join Baba for a rootin-tootin good ol’ wrestling match on our big, king-sized bed. All the flipping and flopping and body-slamming into pillows, and pulling and dragging little bodies across mountains of fluff are a way to role-play the masculine supremacy that boys, big and small, seem to crave. (It’s also a way to wear them out and get them good and tired!) I watch, and occasionally I will join in … once I remove my prescription lenses, my hair barrettes, my watch, my rings, my shoes ….

Say! You should try this wrestling stuff with your grandsons! It’s a lot of good exercise!

After our romp, we find a good 4-wheel-drive, mud-slinging, adrenalin-drenched saga on TV. Not that we are Nascar fans, or anything like that, just that slinging dirt and mud, and splashing through puddles and creeks is a hoot to little boys! Anyway, we all pile up in the great big ol’ king-sized bed with big bowls of popcorn, tumblers of half-juice-and-half-soda-pop, and hundreds of paper towels. We feast our eyes and ears on roaring, rumbling exhausts and revving engines that blast from the big screen—three feet away from the bed. Sometimes, we watch shoot-em-up-bang-bangs, or outer-space-galactic animations. But, whatever the choice; it’s loud, it’s fun, and it’s definitely stimulating!

Of course, when you’re little, even cannon blasts or exploding buildings can’t captivate you much past bedtime. Once your inner clock says nighty-night, you can sleep right through the sound of detonated ammunition or crashing tsunamis.

No matter how exciting, the boys just can’t hold out very long. Soon, the talking stops. The questions cease. And the excitement wanes. Then, a yawn or two will float out of a little mouth.

That’s Baba’s cue: The volume goes down. And Brycie nuzzles up against Baba’s big chest. Brycie tugs at a cover and tries to pull it high enough so he can burrow his chin into the downy abyss. “Let’s cuddle, Baba,” he mumbles. (This is what his mama says when she puts him to bed.) And then, he puts his little hand in Baba’s hand and says, “Wub it, Baba.

You see, Baba started a tradition with the boys when they were very young. Holding hands is nice, but that’s what you do with Mommy and Daddy. With Baba, you get your fingers massaged! Baba rubs between the fingers—down where the fingers join together and protrude from the palm. The fleshy, web-like-skin between the fingers must be a point of relaxation. I don’t know anything about acupuncture, but I’m betting this area must be a good pressure point into which they stick those pins!

Baba discovered that tender finger-rubbing worked when our grandchildren were infants. He found that when he held the babies, the gentle massaging of their fingers and hands relaxed them and helped them fall asleep.

Once Baba holds hands, it’s usually only a matter of minutes before the boys release one or two more yawns and they give up their eyelids to gravity. We are soon lugging their limp, little spaghetti-bodies out of the big romper-room-movie-bed and retiring them to their own little beds in the guest room. Before long, they will be too old for the great rumbles, and for the cheap popcorn and old movies. And, I know that even the finger-rubbing will no longer be requested. But for now, it provides precious moments with two of the most cherished little people in our world.

Baba says one day Bryce and Riley will be grown men, sitting around a McDonalds table, and they will say something like, “Remember when Baba used to rub our fingers? That felt sooo good.” They will laugh and recall the many movies and the spilled popcorn and dumped drinks that we shared. Nevertheless, we are sure that when our grandsons are grown, and they have babies of their own, they will calm their little ones by “wubbing” their fingers.

When the boys are old enough to read good, long letters from Curly Grandma, I am going to write to them and tell them all about how they used to plead, “Wub it, Baba.”

With this future letter in mind, you can bet I was certain to get a picture of them wrestling so I will be able to include it in the correspondence. They will really like that!

Well, take care, Grandparents. Have a good time with your grandsons. Use sunscreen! And, don’t forget to write lots of letters.

With all my love,

Curly Grandma

P.S. Last time Brycie was falling asleep, he said, “Wub my weg, Turdy Drama.” You gotta love it!

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandma with seven grandchildren.  Her name comes from her first grandchild, Megan, who learned to distinguish her two grannies with adjectives (hence the Curly). Visit Curly Grandma at her website and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information, free stationery, and you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on This blog and illustration may not be copied or reproduced without permission from Anita Bryce.

Dear Grandparents

February 11, 2010

Dear Grandparents,

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.” I’ve heard it all my life. As a young child, I saw only absurdity in such a statement. As a young woman, experiencing lost love; bittersweet was the taste of absence. Now, as a grandmother with grandchildren miles away, I find the cliché to be simply untrue. Quite frankly, absence rips your heart out when you drive off into the sunset— with fading images of grandchildren waving in your rearview mirror. My heart could not be any fonder.

“Stop whining,” you say. Yes, I have learned to deal with absence. And yes, I continue to make the best of my sad affairs, living so many miles away from my grandchildren. But, emerging from this awful distance is a new avocation—a peculiar habit. I write letters to my grandchildren—the good old-fashioned kind.

Writing letters is not meant to replace other forms of casual communication. It is a form of connection that is seeded in the very core of tradition: It is truly old-fashioned stuff. It is a way of not only connecting to your reader, but giving the reader insight into your “head and your heart,” as Thomas Jefferson would say.

Charmingly traditional and truly a lost art, a letter can be held in the hand, folded into special shapes that fit into special drawers or notebooks; it can be tucked away, only to be retrieved and visited again and again. A letter reflects the attitude and temperament of the writer. It reveals volumes about the writer’s sentiments, values, and logic. If eyes are the window to one’s soul, a letter is the door to one’s heart.

I found some old family letters dating back to the 1800s, and now, when faces stare back at me from dusty, old albums, I look at them and I connect my ancestors to the letter. And, I know these people. I feel like I know their head and their heart thanks to their letters.

Because of the very nature of letter writing— the process of penmanship (keyboarding), self-editing, and even slogging down to the post office—it is understood that correspondence necessitates effort, even to a young child. I wonder if this is the reason that children express gratitude, appreciation, and a feeling of importance upon receiving a letter. I think a child senses that a letter is specific … for him.

Whenever a child begins correspondence, he becomes a participant in the give and take of a relationship. He learns to be patient and thoughtful, and he learns the value of camaraderie. Once a child is integrated into a writing relationship, he learns to be generous with his heart and his mind.

For this reason, I am urging grandparents, and even aunts and uncles, and yes, all of you, to bring back this old tradition of writing letters. How wonderful it would be if children had a relative who wrote to them regularly because the child could learn so much from the writer. Letters can be models for writing techniques and examples and of how to write with one’s own voice.

Children would also gain emotionally from corresponding with a caring, loving grandparent (or elder) who shares their life in letters. Correspondence helps children gain confidence because they get a chance to practice writing skills in a safe venue. They are not being graded, so they become more creative. And then, they are motivated to transfer the use of these skills to school work. Most of all, children feel important when someone loves them and cares enough to send them letters. Corresponding with children means that adults, too, will hone the core values of give and take, and also enjoy the benefits of bonding in a unique and endearing manner. My experience is that writing letters to my grandchildren is good for my soul, and it is even better for my fond heart.

So, Grandparents (and aunts and uncles), here’s a good idea: If your grandchildren live far away, dig into your supply of colored pencils, pens, and stationery. Begin an epistolary relationship with your grandchildren. Your fond heart will beat with delight, and the misfortune of absence will begin to fade away into the sunset.

Yours truly,

Curly Grandma

Who is Curly Grandma? She is a real grandmother. When her first grandchild, Megan was around two-years-old, Megan was trying to distinguish between her two grandmothers. Mommy tried to help out by saying something like, “…Grandma with the curly hair…” Well, that solved the problem for Megan; Curly Grandma was the name.  Six more grandchildren came along, and they all call her “Curly Grandma.”

Visit Curly Grandma at her website and learn all about writing letters to grandchildren. On her site, get lots of information and free stationery. And you can even buy her book Curly Grandma’s Letters: Writing to Kids and Capturing Your Autobiography (Tate Publishing; available on This blog and illustrations are not to be copied or reproduced without permission from Anita Bryce.