Archive | February 2013

Pet Peeves – On the Road

By Ruth Topper

Photo Credit:  http://www.123rf.com Stock Photos

Turn Signals, Anyone? Photo Credit: http://www.123rf.com Stock Photos

So… what comes to mind when I mention the word “pet peeve” to you?   Do you have something that really bothers you?  I’m sure, like me, that you do have at least one or two pet peeves!  My 1983 Merriam Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines “pet peeve” as “a frequent subject of complaint.”  When I checked on-line, Random House has added “personal bugbear” to the definition.  I found that an interesting and fun word choice!  I always just think of a pet peeve as something annoying or bothersome.  We have several “topics of frequent complaint or bugbears” in our household.  One of these topics relates to our pet peeves when it comes to being “on the road” behind the wheel.

  • Use of blinkers (or should I say “lack of use”).  To the best of my knowledge every car comes equipped with a blinker (or turn signal).  In Pennsylvania we have a yearly state inspection and I’m sure having an operational “blinker” is part of the lighting and electrical system and/or horns & warning devices that gets inspected every year.  My pet peeve is that people don’t seem to know how to operate their turn signal!  We live in a gated community.  When we exit our development there is a 3 way stop.  We need to make a left to exit.  It never fails that someone is coming into the “lake” stops at the stop sign & then we wait thinking they are going straight when the next thing we know they make a right!  Granted we only “lose” a few seconds off our travel time – but it is so annoying! And yes, if you are wondering – I have yelled at these people from inside my car on numerous occasions!   And, for the record, I always approach the guard house to enter my community with my right turn signal on!

    This is "me" exiting my community.  It makes my day when someone entering by the guard house uses their "blinker" when turning right!

    This is “me” exiting my community. It makes my day when someone entering by the guard house uses their “blinker” when turning right!

  • Passing vehicles on the highway.  How come it never fails that when you decide to pass another car on the highway they choose that time, when you are right beside them, to realize that they are going slower than the rest of the traffic. They then proceed to hit the gas & speed up – so now you are going 80 trying to pass them!  Then once you finally get around them they slow back down.
  • Merging onto the highway.  A “killer” for my husband is when he is following several cars on an entrance ramp to a highway and one of the cars ahead of him on the ramp comes to a complete stop rather than attempting to speed up to get in front of the vehicle(s) already on the highway or slowing down to try & merge between two of them.  (Yes, he will yell when this happens!)
  • Green “right of way” arrows at traffic signals.  In the past few months I have had the following situation happen to me more than once.  I am sitting at a traffic light waiting to go straight across the intersection.  My light is still red – but the opposing traffic gets the green light and those vehicles making a left have the “left turn green arrow” so have the right of way through the intersection.   My light changes from red to green, so the left turn green arrow is gone – but I can’t proceed into the intersection because a whole line of cars continue to make the left in front of me – even though I now have the right of way.   Yes, I yell again!
  • Parking lots.  Parking lots are treacherous in my opinion and therefore a source of pet peeves!  Your head needs to be on a swivel looking all around when you drive through a parking lot and/or are backing out of a space.  There are two things that are especially annoying, in my opinion, in parking lots.  The first is when someone takes up more than one parking spot.  This is especially bothersome in a parking lot that has limited space.  The other is when you have a “tight” parking lot and there are two or more oversized SUV’s, pickup trucks or vans parked back to back and there is barely enough room to drive down the “center” aisle of the lot without taking off your side mirrors!  (My church parking lot is a prime example of both of these “peeves”)!
The church parking lot isn't very full today - but you can probably see how narrow the "aisle" can become when oversized vehicles are parked on both sides!

The church parking lot isn’t very full today – but you can probably see how narrow the “aisle” can become when oversized vehicles are parked on both sides!

You might think that I am a very high strung driver – but really I’m not.  Normally I am pretty much a mild-mannered, mind my own business kind of person while I am “on the road,” but there are times you just need to complain a little.  We all have made and do make driving “mistakes.” Fortunately none of mine, to date, have been too detrimental.  I’m sure you have a few personal pet peeves when you are driving about town.  What are they?  I would love to know if we share a few.  You will probably come up with another pet peeve that I will totally agree with too!

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“Lose the ‘Boob Tube:’ Alternative Activities to Engage Your Children”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Photo Credit: Chris Stein, Getty Images

Photo Credit: Chris Stein, Getty Images

When it comes to television, I’ve gotten the ‘eye rolls,’ the “Oh, come on’s,” and just about every comment in the ‘pro-television’ corner … yet not from my son. Rather, these comments have come from other parents I know. Most people find a hard time believing that my son will be 4 years old soon and he still has not watched a television program or a DVD, nor seen a movie. That’s why, while discussing this with a mother at church this Sunday, I was shocked when she responded, “Good for you! I wish I’d done it.”

Although I have run into some like-minded moms, in general most parents I know have set their children in front of the television before the age of 2 – some as early as 1 year old or younger. Some have rationalized their decision with, “But it’s Sesame Street!” Others with, “Yes, but my baby is learning so much from those Baby Einstein DVDs!”

Now don’t get me wrong, I have my favorite Sesame Street character, and I think that the developers of Baby Einstein had a great concept. However, when interviewed about why they are making DVDs for such young children, even though developmentally it has been proven to be inappropriate before the age of 2, the creators of Baby Einstein had a ready response. Since they know parents are going to let their children watch anyway, they wanted to create something that (and this is a real big paraphrase here) wouldn’t be too bad. Huh…

The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that children under 2 years old not be exposed to media of any kind, and screen time for children older than that should be limited – kids 2 and older should watch no more than one to two hours daily. Despite that recommendation, the average American child watches three to four hours a day.

Very few children’s television programs are interactive. In fact, they can actually delay a child’s development in some areas. Think about it: most television programs flash rapid-fire images and concepts at a child to the point where their mind has no time to process what is happening – let alone respond appropriately.

I subscribe to Baby Center and in their “TV-watching guidelines” web article, they state: “The best way to approach television is to think of it as refined sugar. You want your kids to enjoy the seductive stuff without consuming it to excess.” This makes sense, and my little boy will certainly soon get to enjoy TV time. However, as I think about how much time he will spend watching television, and how I will keep his viewing time and content under control, I believe it is best to start out “tough” from day one. It will be much easier to relax my standards later on than to tighten the reins.

Baby Center has several excellent ideas for monitoring your child’s TV viewing, including choosing what to watch and your role.  They also have two other articles I highly recommend reading: TV for Kids Filled with Social Bullying, Study Finds” and “What to Watch: The Best Children’s Television.”

Here are several alternative activities you can use to engage your children and keep them busy in another way – even if you really just ‘need a moment!’

1)      Put the focus on reading ~ Most little ones I know enjoy story time. You can read to them, together, or have them read to you. Even if they are too young to be reading other than from memory, change the words around, or vary the story line – remember this is creating a strong foundation and enjoyment for reading. The myth that you must be sitting next to your child listening and watching as he or she experiences a book is not true! It is perfectly fine for you to ask your child to read to you while you are preparing dinner. No direct eye contact necessary!

Little Drummer Boy

Little Drummer Boy

2)      Invest in upbeat, interactive children’s music or story CDs ~ This develops their auditory learning, and gives them freedom to create images in their mind. Some come with a book and your child gets to hear someone else read to them besides you. These also tend to be slower paced, allowing more response time for your child.

3)      Invest in a child-friendly musical instrument kit (Target has some good ones) ~ Even if you have to “grin and bear” the noise for a bit, your child will love ‘playing along’ to a favorite CD or just making up their own tunes. Add a ‘marching band’ stroll around the house!

4)      Lay out miscellaneous craft supplies ~ Construction paper; small pieces of thin cardboard; fun little bits and pieces for gluing (buttons, felt pieces, googly eyes, stickers); scissors; glue and paste – let your child have an unbridled craft fest (parental involvement not necessary)! It doesn’t matter what they create, just that they are being creative!

Making Christmas Cookies

Making Christmas Cookies

5)      Venture into the great outdoors ~ Your backyard is fine and if you don’t have one, the nearest local park is great too. Children need to expend (lots of) energy and what better place to do that than outside. I have to force myself to do this on days when I am not up for a trek in a light drizzle, getting bundled up against the cold air, or am just plain tired. Yet when I see the joy all over my son’s face once we’ve stepped outside (in all kinds of weather), I remember what it was like to be a kid again.

6)      Cook or bake something together ~ Believe me, this is certainly my greatest weakness, yet I have found that simply letting my little guy stir up some powdered muffin mix in a bowl, and help me add a splash of milk and crack an egg is all he needs (besides to taste one when it’s finished) to feel like a real chef!

7)      Play a game, put a puzzle together, or build something ~ There is so much your child (and you!) will learn – about social skills and about each other, when you take time to play together.

Helping Mommy Houseclean

Helping Mommy Houseclean

These are just a few ideas, and of course you likely have many more to add. Let us know what you do when it is time to turn off the ‘boob tube’ – we would love to hear your activity suggestions!

And – for another perspective, check out fellow blogger Jen’s post: Setting Limits on TV and Video Games (or How NOT to Win Mother of the Year).

Lessons We Learn from Our Children

By Jen Ashenfelter

Our children are amazing. Their accomplishments are inspiring. Their achievements in the classroom, on the playing field, in a performance, or out in the community make us proud parents.

These days—compared to when I think back to my years in school—the parenting trend is to involve our children in a multitude of sports and activities as well as nurture a well-rounded honor student. Whether you subscribe to the tiger-parenting philosophy or your approach is less hands-on, as parents it’s our responsibility to prepare our children for the future.

Sometimes our children’s efforts are self-driven because they are naturally competitive, thrive on the positive feedback, or simply enjoy what they are doing.

Sometimes it’s not that easy. As parents, we cheer them on, share our wisdom gained from years of experience, dish out advice—wanted or not—or basically lay down the law to motivate and challenge them to do better.

My youngest and I had a nice conversation recently which made me smile and got me thinking. To set the background, students can choose a musical instrument in fifth grade; he decided to play the trumpet. Having never expressed an interest in playing an instrument before, we had many in-depth discussions about his decision and the resulting commitment. He didn’t waiver in his decision. The trumpet was rented and the lessons began.

If we quit too soon, we may never know our potential.

If we quit too soon, we may never know our potential.

Many times I could be heard saying, “I want to hear you practicing that trumpet.” By the time Christmas break was over, he got off the bus one afternoon and announced he wanted to quit playing the trumpet because “everyone” was allowed to quit, and he felt it was taking up too much time.

(What? The kid has nothing but time. And who is everyone? Wait, I don’t care about everyone; they are not my responsibility. Would you jump off a bridge if everyone was doing it? You gotta love the everyone argument; I’ve used it myself back in the day. And then it bubbled up and spilled out of my mouth, that voice of a mother…)

My response was a firm “No” with a reminder about the commitment he agreed to for the school year, and I expected him to do the work as required by the teacher to earn a good grade. I knew he was frustrated over the time and practice it took to sound good. Who wants to sound like a dying cow in public? The fear of failure and public humiliation can be paralyzing—just quit before it reaches that point. But that was the end of the conversation and we began to hear him practice more often during the last month.

Our recent chat:

C: I’m going to work on getting 140 minutes of trumpet practice this week. If I practice for 30 minutes on Saturday and Sunday, that’s 60 plus 80 minutes during the week…that’s 80 + 60 = 140. (Students are expected to practice 80 to 100 minutes a week.)

Me: Ok, that’s great! Do you think you are getting better with all this practice?

C: I think so, but I still have trouble with the high notes.

Me: Maybe you should devote a few minutes of each practice to just the high notes?

C: Yes. On the weekends, I could do 15 minutes on the high notes and 15 minutes on the songs.

Me: Sounds like a good plan to me. See how it works out. (huge smile, fist pump when he left the room)

By simply not letting him quit and challenging him to honor his commitment and push through the frustration, something grabbed hold. It was his decision how to handle the situation. I’m proud of him.

At that moment I realized a few things. As adults, who challenges us? How many times do we give up on something new because there’s no one above our authority to encourage us to push on? What can we learn from the accomplishments of our children when we challenge them to do better?

Sometimes it’s what we teach our children and what they teach us in return!

  • To challenge ourselves as much as we challenge them
  • To choose how we will handle a challenge and create a plan to rise above it
  • To put our best effort into everything we do
  • To manage our time wisely
  • To push through the difficult moments—we are stronger than we think
  • To learn from failures and try again
  • To practice, practice…and practice some more—success takes patience and hard work; striving for perfection shouldn’t be the goal
  • To determine when it is the right time to change direction
  • To take pride in a job well done and celebrate success

Do you set the same expectations for yourself as you do for your children? Do you feel you set expectations for your children higher than you do for yourself? What can you learn from their efforts and accomplishments? Next time you are struggling with a challenge, listen to your own advice—or call your mother—and see what happens next!

Coping with the empty(ing) nest: Invest in your work

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Image: Some rights reserved by San José Library

By Chris Little

In my last two posts I wrote about adapting to the empty(ing) nest—how do you manage the transition from being a mother with kids at home to being a mother whose kids are off on their own? I suggested, first of all, taking some time to reconnect with yourself and your hopes and dreams after all those years of child-focused living. Then I suggested expanding your nest—broadening your circle of concern to include not only your immediate family but your local community, and investing in that community through volunteer work.

Now I want to think about investing more in your work. Many moms who step “off the merry go round” of full-time work remain connected to their careers through part-time, home-based, or freelance work. If you’ve scaled back your work for the kids, then as the kids move out of the house, now might be the time to pick things up again. Because even though we’ve loved being home with our kids, having work we love can be immensely rewarding and provides a sense of purpose for a lot of us, especially as we transition out of the intensely child-focused years.

I’m thinking of my friend Wendy, who had done project-oriented and volunteer work at our local arts council for years. As her kids got into middle school and high school, she stepped into a part-time position there. She’s still home when the kids are, and she’s involved in an organization she feels strongly committed to, so that as her kids move on out into the world, she’ll have a meaningful focus for her energy and talent.

And there’s my friend Karen, who loved working as a substitute teacher when her kids were young, so she decided to go for her teaching certificate while they were in high school. Now she’s starting a full-time teaching career as her youngest is beginning to look at colleges.

Here are three steps for investing in your work as the kids move out of the house:

1. Think about your work: Is it a good fit?

Do you love your work? Is it meaningful and exciting and a good use of your time and skills? In short, would you like to do more as your schedule opens up? Some women find that their interests have changed over the years they’ve been focusing on their families, and their old careers just don’t excite them anymore. But others can’t wait to dig a little deeper and commit themselves a little more. So take some time to think about whether your work is still meaningful to you, or whether you’d like to go off in a different direction (which I’ll write about in my next post!).

2. If it is, consider taking on a little more.

Talk with your supervisor to see if you can pick up more hours. If your work is freelance or home-based, look around for a few potential new clients you can approach. Take some people out to lunch. Do some work on a pro bono basis (that is, [volunteer]!) Tell your friends and colleagues you’re looking for a little more work. It may take awhile to get re-established, but that gives you time to slowly transition from being child-focused into a more work-centered life.

3. But don’t overcommit!

As you get more into your work, you might be tempted to overcommit. Be careful to maintain balance in your life. Although your kids might not show it, they still need you around, and you never know when they’ll want to talk. In fact, I know moms who chose to step off the merry-go-round during their kids’ high school years, so that they’ll be available for them after school, and for college visits, etc.

But inching your way back into the working world as your children begin leaving home can be rewarding for both you and the kids, and it can definitely smooth your transition into being the mother of daughters and sons who live outside the home.

So how about you? Do you do part-time, freelance, or home-based work in addition to parenting your kids? Do you love it? Are you thinking about investing more in your work as the kids leave home?

Icy Artwork

My daughter Kelly created Christmas-themed ice art, winter 2010.

My daughter Kelly created Christmas-themed ice art, winter 2010.

By Karen Hendricks

The saying goes when life hands you lemons, make lemonade… So when mother nature brings cold weather your way, embrace it and make a (temporary) piece of artwork out of ice!

This is a project my children and I have made many times through the years. I think we originally stumbled upon the idea in Family Fun Magazine. But I don’t think this project is only for children… I think children of any age, including us moms and parents, can get our creative juices flowing with this one!

Here’s how:

Materials needed:
Pie pans
Cookie sheets
String, yarn or fishing line
Fruits such as berries or sliced citrus
Natural items such as holly leaves, nuts or twigs
Water

1. Arrange your fruit slices, berries or natural items in a pattern of your choosing, inside the pie pan.

Orange, grapefruit and cranberries form a geometric design

Orange, grapefruit and cranberries form a geometric design

2. Take a length of your string, yarn or fishing line. Knot the ends together, tightly, to form a loop. Place one end of the loop inside your pie pan. -Or- Thread one end of the string through your citrus slice and knot your string so that it’s anchored to the orange or lemon.

3. Place the pie pan on a cookie sheet and then transport outside in the cold. Even if the temperature is below freezing, avoid sunny areas.

Warning: cranberries may result in PINK ice art! But this recent creation tied in nicely with Valentine's Day.

Warning: cranberries may result in PINK ice art! But this recent creation tied in nicely with Valentine’s Day.

4. Very slowly, pour water into the pie pan so that it’s deep enough to cover your design, about 1/2 – 3/4 inch deep. Make sure that the string is going to freeze within your design. If your design shifts when you pour the water, slide things back into place or wait an hour or two and rearrange when the water starts to turn icy.

5. Check your project in several hours or leave it sit overnight. (OR: Freeze your project in your refrigerator’s freezer.)

6. Dip the pie pan under hot water at your kitchen sink and loosen the ice from the pie pan.

7. Hang your icy artwork on a porch or from a shepherd’s hook for a beautiful, winter time decoration!

This project will “hang around” for several days (or even weeks depending on your climate) if you have an extended period of time when the temperature is below freezing.

If you try this project, I invite you to upload a photo to our Facebook page and share your creativity!

LOVE What IS!

By Mary Ann Filler

Happy Valentine’s Day! I pray that you are all feeling blessed by your loved ones this day!

Here I am following my fellow blogger Jennifer’s post on “Blood is Thicker Than Water and Other Misrepresentations of Family Life.”  While Jennifer has given us her amazing perspective as an adoptive parent, I’m going to give you one individual adoptee’s perspective on adoption.

If you follow football here in the U.S., then you witnessed the battle of the Harbaugh brothers in the Super Bowl. Leading up to the big game, the following picture surfaced:

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Credit: Instagram, @therealcarlosa

For those of you who do not follow football, this picture depicts John Harbaugh (coach of the Baltimore Ravens…SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONS..sorry couldn’t resist;-), telling his brother, Jim Harbaugh (coach of the San Francisco 49ers), that he’s adopted.

I have to admit that when I saw this, I laughed. But, this picture also got me thinking.  The overall theme is that finding out that one is adopted would be a bad thing.

When I was growing up, I remember watching shows where the characters, children, were plagued with fear about the possibility that they were adopted only to be relieved when they found out otherwise.  At the time, I wondered why these characterizations were even made.  What was so bad about being adopted?

So, what does it mean to be adopted?  One thing I can tell you is that I know nothing different.  From my earliest memories, I have known that I was adopted.   My adoptive parents shared that information with me from the start.  They chose me out of all of the other children in the world.  I was not the only member of my family to be chosen.  My brother was chosen before me, and my cousin was chosen after me.

When I was younger, it never really occurred to me what it would be like not to be chosen; it never occurred to me what it would have been like if I had never been born.

As the reality of my existence has become clearer, I have grappled with what it would have meant not to exist. I was born before the Roe v. Wade decision, and abortion was illegal.  But, abortions could be arranged.  What if I had been aborted?

When thinking about the impact of my non-existence, it’s far reaching.  I mean, my husband would not be married to me, and my three sons would not exist to leave their mark on the world.  I have been a teacher for over 20 years; I would like to think that I have positively impacted many of the hundreds of students that I have taught.  Then, there are the other people in my life: friends, co-workers, acquaintances…they would not know me.

As an adoptee of my generation, there have been other considerations to think about as well.  Why didn’t my birth mother keep me?  Should I try to make contact with her?  What about my birth father?  What was his role in all of this?  Should I make contact with him?  Did he know?  What impact will contacting my birth parents have on my adoptive parents?

I have been blessed to have answers to many of these questions, and may in a future blog address those answers.  For now, what I’m attempting to convey is that this individual has thought extensively about the meaning and implications of my own adoption.

In the process, I have come to the realization that my life is ordained.  God ordained my life.  I am here for a reason. I have a purpose.  As a result of that realization, I have chosen to embrace and LOVE What IS!  After all, how we interpret our circumstances is up to each of us.  There is no other way for me to feel but blessed to have been given life.  There are NO accidents when it comes to life.  No matter what your opinion is of another human being, we are all ordained to be here for such a time as this!

“Blood is Thicker Than Water and Other Misrepresentations of Family Life”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

My son looks nothing like me yet my love for him runs deeper than any blood between us could.

My son looks nothing like me yet my love for him runs deeper than any blood between us could.

I once read an advice columnist’s comments to a gentleman who was concerned about his wife’s preoccupation with having a child, and their struggles to conceive after three years of trying and countless visits to IVF doctors. He said his wife becomes upset when friends become pregnant, is “obsessed with all things ‘baby,’” and is in denial that they simply might just not have kids. The columnist commented that his wife was not in denial, rather in despair. She said his wife is aching to be a mother – and that’s a real ache. She advised the man to get counseling for the couple, as well as to consider adoption. In fact, she said, she was an adoptive mother. The columnist added that there are children in the world who need mothers just as badly as his wife needs to be one. She assured the man that the instant he and his wife hold their baby, the importance of the manner in which the child was delivered will dissolve in tears of joy.

My husband and I had been following the Camelot television series and during one episode, Arthur spoke to a man who was afraid of losing his daughter if she ever discovered that he was not her biological father. When Arthur spoke, my husband and I just looked at each other and smiled – finally, a script writer who truly “gets” adoption, who truly understands that families can be built by choice as well. To the man, Arthur said, “It’s not blood that ties you together; it’s the memories you share. Everything you taught her, everything you gave up for her – it’s your love, that’s what flows through her.”

How a child comes into a family is not as important as the blessing that the child is there. In my life, I have experienced the love of family members with whom I share not one ounce of blood. When I look back on my childhood, I see clearly how many ways those special people were more of a family to me in the true meaning and experience of the word than most of my “blood” relatives. Some people remark that they “don’t see race” as a factor in how they interact with people from ethnicities other than their own. (I laugh heartily when Stephen Colbert humorously states this on his television show – of course we see race!) In the same way, I don’t see how inherited physical and personality traits such as daddy’s eye color, mommy’s nose, and grandpa’s sense of humor are at all relevant in how a family lives and loves together.

Just funnin' with Dad!

Just funnin’ with Dad!

Unknowingly, my mother taught me about the beauty of building a family through adoption. She was an only child and built her family through friends with whom she became close over the years. My aunts and uncles were introduced into my life from those friendship bonds. And guess what? I was none the wiser. There was no talk of a woman not being my “real” aunt, nor lengthy explanations and justifications as to why Mr. and Mrs. X became my grandparents. Two wonderful married couples who had been friends with my parents became my aunts and uncles – Don and Louise, who were my godparents and who have since passed away, and Bob and Nancy, who continue to be such a delightful present in my family’s life.

Two other sets of “relatives” in particular influenced my life in some very profound ways. I have definitely “inherited” my Aunt Mary Alice’s flair for entertaining masses of people in my home without breaking a sweat. Her grace and class, and the way her home was made an open, welcoming haven for traveling family and friends no matter what else she had going on, astounds me. She also imparted to me the importance of moisturizing one’s entire body with lotion daily – clearly a beauty regiment necessity!

I remember my mother once remarked about Mary Alice saying, “She saved my life,” as her eyes welled up with tears. Mary and her husband, Bob, had become my mother’s family when she had none. A blood tie alone to another person does not necessarily make them family.

When my dear Aunt Mary became very ill, I wanted to be present during this difficult time. I wanted to give something back to the people who are forever bound to me through love. As I stayed present with my Aunt Mary while Uncle Bob played cards with his friends and went to the movies, as I helped to feed and dress her, as I looked into her eyes and smiled, I was overcome with emotion. These people had become my true family and I was so much closer to them than many of those who share inherited traits with me. When my aunt finally passed away, my heart broke in places I didn’t know it could – I had lost a big piece of it.

My son playing with his "non-officially" related cousins

My son playing with his “non-officially” related cousins

I had a similar experience growing up with my grandmother and grandfather. Both of my parents’ fathers had died before I was born, and my paternal grandmother passed away after having seen me only once when I was just one year old. My maternal grandmother battled cancer throughout my childhood and passed away when I was in the ninth grade. So the grandparents I refer to were actually our neighbors.

When my mother returned to work, she asked a retired woman in the neighborhood to help with afterschool care for me and my sisters. However, Edna and her husband, Septimus, became so much more – they became our grandmom and grandpop. They became a very special part of my life, sharing everything from school days to birthdays. Septimus passed away when I was a freshman in college and when my beloved grandmother passed away in 2001, I felt as though a piece of my life had died too. I assure you that in all the years I was blessed to have her in my life, her homemade cookies, cakes, and pies tasted no less delicious and her presence in my life was no less special because we were not related by blood.

Now the same need for family must be fulfilled for my son. He too is an only child, and my husband and I are not close with all of our immediate family members. So, we have looked outside of those relationships for aunts, uncles, and cousins. As you can see from the snapshots, my best friends and their families have been very present in my son’s life. He calls them aunts, uncles, and cousins. They are the ones who make the effort to stay in touch across the miles, to send my son special gifts, to visit or host us when we visit them. They are the ones who support us in raising him, uplift us when we experience life’s challenges, and celebrate when we share our joys. They are our family and we treasure them!

Andrew's Aunt Karen and my best friend since the seventh grade

Andrew’s Aunt Karen and my best friend since the seventh grade

Do you have a special person who has become family even though they are not related by blood? I would be interested to hear your story about that treasured relationship!