With the cooler air comes the beginning of the holidays. Since we are Irish--Catholic Jews, we have Rosh Hoshanah, followed by Yom Kippur, Daughter Caroline's birthday, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Daughter Julia's birthday, Christmas, and New Years. Then I have a break until I have to scramble for Valentine's Day.

Since my mother-in-law moved near us a few years ago, she has been hosting many of the holiday meals in her condo. Last Thanksgiving started typically enough. My mother-in-law invited her children, then two people who are practically family, Russell from Australia, and a close friend Sonja, who originally comes from somewhere near Indonesia. Just in our little group, we had much of the globe represented. Right before Thanksgiving, Russell called to say he had forgotten, that he had volunteered to take in some Chinese students from a nearby university for Thanksgiving. Not a problem. We would just have to extend the connected tables into the living room to accommodate everyone.

The first guests arrived about 2 p.m. While my wife and mother-in-law prepared the meal, my sister-in-law walked the dog. At about 3 p.m., my sister-in-law returned with another guest. Someone who lived in the condominium complex. The neighbor was alone this Thanksgiving. Extend the table again.

Immediately after that, the Chinese students and Russell arrived. They did not speak much English. How do you take classes at an English-speaking college without speaking much English? I had a lot of trouble in college and I spoke passable English. We decided to sandwich them between Sonja, who spoke Dutch, and my sister in law who once taught Spanish. That worked quite well from my perspective, but I was on the far side of an extended table.

Then my daughters and my niece decided we should all play charades. Apparently, the Chinese do not have a word for "charades." No matter how loud I shouted it, they did not understand. I don't know exactly how the children became in charge, but they would throw the clues down from the balcony, on post it notes, and we would act them out.

The Chinese students caught the clue "opera." I guess in China their charades allow them to sing. However, in the good ole U.S. of A the actor-outer-person must remain silent. I think they got upset when I called them on it. Apparently, they take their charades personally. We avoided an international incident, but I think they went home very confused about what happens at the typical American Thanksgiving.

Our last gathering at my motherin-law's condo was at Rosh Hoshanah. The children learned about Tashlich, which is the ritual where the previous year's sins are symbolically cast off. Some groups show this by throwing pieces of bread into a river or bay. However, our family celebrates most holidays by throwing post-it-notes off the balcony.

Our group consisted of our family and my wife's cousin's family, which includes twin eight-year-old girls. My mother-in-law tries to make moments like these into "teaching moments." She asked if the kids wanted to do Tashlich and they all agreed. Before we knew it, it morphed into the kids throwing New Year's resolutions on sticky notes off the balcony. It started well. The kids seemed to understand what my mother-in-law was teaching. They were writing things like, "Treat my sister better." Then things deteriorated. The first one to cause us concern was one my wife caught. It said: "If this hits you, you will get freckles." Followed by, "Your feet stink," then, "You have a bald head, you are a freak." The first batch ended with "You are a Cyclops." I started to see my ten-year-old's handwriting in the notes. She explained later that she was just helping them with spelling.

Soon the papers became bigger and were being wadded up and hurled at the adults below. "You have boogers," was followed with, "You have bad teeth." My mother-in-law was confused as to why it went so badly. She found out when she got. "You dip your head in the toilet," and then "Your butt is stuck to a toilet seat." My mother-in-law announced this last Sunday that she would be out of town this Thanksgiving.

Thomas Lawlor lives in Southport with his lovely bride and two daughters. His day job is at M Communications in Stamford. He can be reached at tlawlor@mcommunications.com