Dear Annie: My sister, "Suzie," has always been a bit of a flower child, and my parents think it's funny. Suzie dropped out of high school to pursue her "career" in something — art, music, dance, yoga, whatever. I usually gave her a place to stay when she got evicted and didn't want our parents to know, which was pretty often.
Suzie and her husband (I'm not sure whether they're legally married) have been better since my nephews were born. What concerns me is that she won't take the kids to the doctor when they get sick. She just gives them some herbal remedy and sends them to bed. The boys aren't very clean, often have the sniffles and are almost always in clothing that's the wrong size. Suzie is homeschooling the boys, even though neither she nor her husband graduated high school. My oldest nephew is 7 and cannot read, count to 10 or say his ABCs.
Suzie insists that the children be fed only vegan and organic products. When the boys stay with us, which is fairly often lately, we feed them healthy balanced meals that they wolf down like they're starving. The oldest boy told me they usually eat oatmeal with some peanut butter in it. I believe both boys are anemic.
The family has, on occasion, lived in their car. Suzie recently said they are going to "live on the road" for a while and the boys will adjust. I think my nephews are being neglected. She's leaving the boys with me for two weeks this summer, and I'm tempted to have Child Protective Services evaluate them. My wife agrees. My parents don't. I'm scared Suzie will bolt with the kids if she gets wind of my suspicions. She's done it before.
I want the best for my nephews. How do I go about it? — W.C.
Dear W.C.: Don't wait until summer. Call Child Protective Services anonymously, and ask them to investigate the home environment now. (You need not inform your parents.) CPS may determine that the kids are in a loving, healthy-enough environment, in which case, please stop trying to wrest control from Suzie, and concentrate instead on making your home a safe, stable place for your nephews. And if CPS determines that the kids need to be removed from Suzie's care, we hope you will offer to take them.
Dear Annie: My wife and I recently went out for dinner with her parents, who are healthy active seniors. Upon being seated, they spent the entire evening commenting on others. Engaging them in conversation was impossible.
Every time we've gone out with her parents, they have complained afterward: The restaurant was too noisy, crowded, hot, cold, drafty, dark, the portions were too small, cold, spicy, the service was slow, the seating was uncomfortable, etc. I don't know why they bother dining out when they never seem to enjoy it.
I find their behavior rude and insulting and have told my wife not to expect my attendance at any future restaurant meals. She thinks I am being unreasonable, that that is just "who they are." I realize they are not going to change, but after nearly 20 years of this, I say count me out. Any suggestions? — At My Wits' End
Dear Wits' End: These are your wife's parents. Please be more tolerant, although you don't need to punish yourself. For your wife's sake, be willing to endure their "company" a few times a year. You can decline the rest of the time.
Dear Annie: Bravo to "Frustrated Viewer in Canada" for complaining about the TV networks playing music over the dialogue and the actors who mumble and talk with their backs to the camera.
Producers might be interested to know that a lot of us have gone back to reading books instead of watching the programs we used to enjoy. — Nancy
Annie's Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please email your questions to [email protected], or write to: Annie's Mailbox, c/o Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254. To find out more about Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.