Posted in Children's Stories, Grandchildren

The Old Gray Mouse

(A Fractured Fairy Tale, Which Sniffy Reads to Twitch)

Sniffy pulled a book off Oma’s shelf. “Would you like to hear a story, Twitch?”

“Sure, which one?” Twitch scooted over to Sniffy so he could see the pictures as he read.

Once upon a time, an old gray mouse lived in the woods. She made friends with a squirrel, a chipmunk and a raccoon.

Twitch smiled. “Those would be great friends!”

“Keep listening. You’ll see if they were.” Sniffy turned the page and continued to read.

One day she had a brilliant idea. She decided to make chocolate chip cookies.

Twitch hopped up, flipped a somersault and sat back beside Sniffy. “I wish I had some chocolate chip cookies. Can we make some, Sniffy?”

“I’ll think about it after we finish this story. Should I keep reading?”

“Yes. I’m sorry, Sniffy, but you made me hungry.”

Sniffy turned another page. But she didn’t have all the ingredients to make them––the cupboard was empty.

“Sounds like our cupboard,” Twitch said. “But go on. What’d she do?”

The old gray mouse asked her friends, “Who will go to the store for me to buy some flour, sugar, and chocolate chips?”

“Who? Me?” the squirrel asked.

“Don’t look at me,” the chipmunk said.

“I’m supposed to be sleeping.” The raccoon yawned.

“Then I’ll walk there myself.” The old gray mouse grabbed her basket and headed for the store.

When she returned, she said, “Okay, I have all the ingredients now. Who will help me make the cookie dough?”

“Who? Me?” the squirrel asked.

“Don’t look at me,” the chipmunk said.

“I’m supposed to be taking my nap.” The raccoon yawned again.

“Then I will.” The old gray mouse pulled a bowl and spoon out of the cupboard. She mixed up all the flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, vanilla and chocolate chips. “Now who will help put the cookies on the pan?”

“Who? Me?” the squirrel asked.

“Don’t look at me,” the chipmunk said.

“It’s way past my bedtime.” The raccoon yawned a third time.

“Oh, well, I’ll do it.” The old gray mouse rolled the dough into balls and put them on the pan.

When she had finished that, she turned on the oven. “Now who will help me bake them?”

“Who? Me?” the squirrel asked.

“Don’t look at me,” the chipmunk said.

By this time the raccoon slept soundly.

“Then I will.” The old gray mouse put the pan into the hot oven. Soon the house smelled like freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. When they had cooled a bit, she placed them on a clean plate. “Now who will help me eat these cookies?”

“I will!” The squirrel hopped over to get one.

“I will!” The chipmunk skittered over to grab one.

The raccoon kept snoring. He didn’t even know the cookies had finished baking.

“Oh, no, you won’t,” the old gray mouse said. “You didn’t help get the ingredients from the store. You didn’t help mix the cookie dough. You didn’t help put them on the pan. And you didn’t help bake them.”

As she said this, five little mice burst through the door and smelled the cookies. “May we please have one, Grandma?”

“You sure can!” She handed one to each of them. “If you finish that one, you can have one more.”

“She’s a good grandmother,” Twitch said.

“Yes, just like Oma,” Sniffy said.

The squirrel and the chipmunk slinked off into the forest, wishing they had helped. Much later, when the raccoon woke up, he felt mighty hungry. He snooped around the old gray mouse’s house, but he couldn’t even find a crumb. The little mice and their grandmother had eaten every one of the chocolate chip cookies. “Maybe I should help her bake them next time,” the raccoon said.

Note: Now take the grandchildren to the kitchen and bake some cookies together!

Posted in Creative Grandparenting

One Brick at a Time

Did you ever have one paragraph of a book jump out at you, giving you immediate direction for the path ahead? That’s what happened to me as I read Dinty W. Moore’s book, Crafting the Personal Essay, a Guide for Writing and Publishing Creative Nonfiction.

Making clay bricks for a new wall:
He says writing a book is like building a clay brick wall. Each story in the book represents one brick. He imagines digging clay out of the ground, forming bricks from it and baking them. He suggests making each one as well as possible and then stacking them off to the side. Soon he has several piles of them, but he doesn’t know for sure what his wall is going look like in the end. (p. 91)

Oma’s Camp “Bricks”
Spurred on by that image, I began making “bricks” for my new book, Creative Grandparenting. The first “brick” will show how I made pajamas for all eight of the grandchildren and myself out of happy face material. I designed a funny instruction booklet to accompany each set.

Back: Caitlin (10), Oma holding Vincent (1), Amanda (8)
Front: Melanie (5), Alyssa (5), Ashley (2), Nicholas (6)
The Happy Face Pajamas (2001)

One brick might be about taking the grandchildren to the ocean; another may tell how I taught them Spanish during one of my “Oma’s Camp” sleepovers.

I’ll show “Oma’s Sewing Camp,” where five grandchildren from ages six to fourteen sewed their own pajama bottoms. At “Oma’s Writing and Illustrator Camp,” I taught them how to write stories and then edited them. I invited a real illustrator to teach them for a day. Those sleepover stories will all go into one pile.


2011 Photo of Oma’s Scribbler Squad at Writer and Illustrator Camp
Alyssa, Ashley, Oma, Vincent, Melanie

There will be a pile of bricks with lists of games we play, music we listen to and fun activities we do, like writing in secret code, going on scavenger hunts and making candy necklaces.

The Mouse “Bricks”
Another pile will contain the mouse stories I’ve written for my grandchildren over the past ten years. Three stuffed toy mice, Sniffy, Nibbles and Twitch, sit on Oma’s shelf. When she’s not looking, they come to life and go on wild adventures together—rafting, fishing and surfing on the ocean. They go trick-or-treating, have a birthday party, and generally cause havoc in their little world. I imagine other grandparents will want to read these stories to their own grandchildren.

Four Mice

Characters in my mouse stories
Nibbles (girl aged 6), Louie (boy aged 3), Twitch (boy aged 4), Sniffy (boy aged 8)

Envisioning the finished “wall”

Making bricks is hard work. It’s messy, it’s exhausting, and it’s discouraging some days. But I envision what a sturdy “wall” it will become when I’ve placed all my “bricks” in position. My critique group will help me improve each story. I’ll let friends read them and see how they respond. Then I’ll rewrite and revise and rewrite some more. My goal is to make each “brick” as perfect as possible before assembling it.

I’ll need help putting my final “wall” together—an editor, a cover designer and a publisher. I hope it will one day be an inspiration to many grandparents and the special little people who have brought so much joy to their lives.