Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Today is National Grandparents Day…oh really now?

by Kanesha

Today is Sunday.

For most of us with families (with or without kids), Sunday is our day to do one or more of the following: engage in fellowship, relax, watch sports, do laundry, run errands, and tackle whatever else is still pending on that never-ending to-do list.

And that’s exactly what I was doing today. I was driving around town in my wagon, asking my daughter what  we needed to get done today in order to be prepared for this upcoming school week, telling my youngest to stop kicking the back of my seat, asking hubby “when are your travel dates again?“, and looking for a parking spot in the lot of a big box “buy a bunch of crap” store. I was doing my Sunday stuff.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself as I checked the time on my phone – 45 minutes! We had only been in the store for 45 minutes and we had secured everything on the shopping list. Fantastic!

Then I rounded the corner and walked past the greeting card section, and there it was…a humongous greeting card display for National Grandparents Day. And guess what? Today was the DAY!

WTH?

I told my hubby to take the kids and the shopping cart to the checkout as I stayed behind to investigate said holiday. National Grandparents Day? Come on! We already have birthdays, anniversaries, mothers/fathers day, and an entire list of “real” calendar holidays. Do we need National Grandparents Day too?

I looked through the cards and all of them sucked. They were cheesy and syrupy. Who writes this mess? I stood at that display reading, rolling my eyes, and gagging.

When I caught up to my family at the checkout, I let them know that we’d be having a small celebration for my mother-in-law that would include a six-pack of “high-end” beer, a Red Box DVD, and a homemade card.

"Yes, sweetie, I'm very sure there is a D in grandparents."

The other grandparents (including my own grandmother), who do not live in this state, would be getting a phone call – and that was about all we could pull off.

Hubby rolled his eyes and then chuckled a bit. He was wondering why I was trying so hard. Exactly, why was I trying so hard and why couldn’t I get over myself?

Well, my mother-in-law does a tremendous amount helping us all live the good  (and sane) life. August has been non-stop busy with school, work, and travel schedules. My mother-in-law has had to manage the kids right after school and into the evening. I know that can be exhaustive, not to mention the evening “kid duty” cuts into her free-time and social life. My mother-in-law has also been put in charge of taking the youngest to his newest activity, “herd ball” practice. (Herd ball is what I call soccer practice for preschoolers.)

With all of that, I thought she deserved a mini-celebration to let her know how much we love and appreciate her. My mother-in-law is not overly expressive (in my opinion) but she likes a good celebration from time -to-time. I wasn’t sure how she would receive our lame, but loving attempt at celebrating National Grandparents Day.

Would my mother-in-law love it or look at all of us like we had two heads? Where would our attempt land on the coolness scale?

Her response was somewhere in the middle.

She was gracious and sweet to her grandchildren, as she promptly threw a few bottles of her “high-end” beer in the frig.

My children love and adore their grandparents, the one that lives with us, and the ones that live out-of-state. I think it’s fair to assume that most grandchildren think their grandparents walk on air and are the most super people in the world – at least that’s how I felt about my grandparents.

I don’t mean to imply National Grandparent Day is useless, but hey, school just started back, Labor Day was just here – can I get a few weeks in between holidays and major events?

Delights of multigenerational living: August 2010

Our multigenerational PERK list for August 2010

Kanesha’s Nest

Morning serenades by my little guy. He’s been working on Row Row Row Your Boat with my mother-in-law. My mom bought this piano book.

We often have many impromptu projects. This project involved hubby and our daughter renovating a bike. Good thing my mother-in-law had some Mod Podge on hand to help with the bike decorations.

The little guy is earning his keep. My mother-in-law taught him how to shuck corn and he helped her prepare dinner.

Margot’s Nest

In our multigenerational household, art and trains are a constant.  My mom uneartherd this compact, travel set of watercolors that were MY grandmother’s.  My son’s art is, shockingly, about trains…

And with the help of their grandparents, the kids rearranged and cleaned up their trains
and “learning corner” in the play room

My neighbor Michele – also living in a full nest..

Have you ever noticed that when something changes in your life, you invariably start running into people who have had a similar experience or someone knows someone who has had the same thing happened, etc?  Like attracts Like?  Now, I don’t want to sound new-agey or like a devotee of The Secret, but I have to admit, this is happening to me more and more when I tell people that my parents live with me and my family.  

Case in point, I only found out within the last year that a neighbor down the street, whom I have known for about three years, shares her home with her husband, kids and mom.  See? 

So, in a continuation in our series of conversations with people who live in a multigenerational home, let me share some of the insights on multigenerational living from my friend Michele. 

MICHELE’S NEST: married, two kids, and one husband.  Sounds typical, but she also shares her home with her mom and has been for six years.  This is actually, for her family, also quite typical. 

Michele’s family is of Polish decent and she says that generations living in the same home is the norm.  And in particular, it is the women who take care of the women.  Michele’s mom even said to her not long after Michele had her daughter, “A daughter is your daughter for the rest of your life, a son is your son till he takes a wife.”

HISTORY:  Turns out that Michele’s grandmother moved into her childhood home not long after losing her husband and she recalls with clarity her grandmother cooking and being an part of her adolescence.  

So when Michele and her husband decided to move west, she naturally asked her mom to join them – good thing her husband is a fan of his mother in law.  Her mom, single, was close to retirement age and it “just made sense.” 

UPSIDE:  Michele loves that her kids get more time with their grandmother, but she also appreciates that her kids have learned tolerance for people who are “older.”  They have a meal together about once a week – Michele’s mom still works part-time in the evening and is quite active so she does not feel like her mom is dependent on her. 

Living together is a safety net – Michele knows that in a pinch, her mom will help out with her kids and her mom loves doing it.  This is a recurring comment among the people I know who live in multigenerational homes. 

OCCASIONAL DOWNSIDE – she and her husband cannot really get into arguments – and this can be hard, she says.  She does not feel the freedom to yell and holler – not that she thinks that is a good thing, but she does not want her mom to hear marital disagreements.  (I totally know how she feels!)  

ADVICE:  Be ready to hold your tongue – and realize people do not change.  This is a concept that you might have to explain, and often, to children or your spouse.  If it is your parent, like in both of our cases, we know our parents subtle ways of communication, when they are angry or frustrated, etc.  Kids and our spouses do not have the benefit of years and years of living with our parents and being able to read these signs.  Patience is the key.  

And finally, you must be respectful of your parents’ needs and the choices they make.  Living together does not give either the adult child or the parent the right to interfere with the way in which either chooses to live.

WRAP UP:  After about 40 minutes of talking, it was obvious that there are many similarities between Michele and me – we could have talked for hours about the unique challenges we both face in our homes.  But again and again, both of us returned to the fact that despite these challenges, neither of us would change the fact that we share our home with our parents.

Back to school shopping – pros walk left – amateurs stand right

by Kanesha

I do miss the days when back-to-school prep came after Labor Day, but based on where we live now – we have to be up and running by late August. Oh – it’s thrilling and yet so painful!

I snapped this picture on July 5. Good grief - what an early reminder!

Gearing up for middle school has been fun and busy. Thank goodness my mother-in-law has been an incredible cheerleader.

It was very sweet and extremely cute when my mother-in-law came home one day with some school supplies she had purchased.

My children and I watched her excitement as she showed us her loot and she said,

“It’s that time of year. I love getting new notebooks. Checkout this great pencil box. I can use if for a bunch of things.”

My daughter jumped up to admire and touch the new items. My son grabbed his tiny backpack and said, “I need new stuff too.”

And it was time, time for back-to-school shopping.

Anyone with a preschooler knows they aren’t always the best at running errands – especially errands you want to complete quickly. During dinner on a Thursday night, my hubby slowly leaned across the dinner table and seriously said,

“Look mom, there will be a run on school supply shopping this weekend, so we must go tonight. It’s been a long day, but we need you to watch the little one while we run out. Can you do this?”

My mother-in-law looked at her son directly and immediately nodded in affirmation. I had to keep my composure because the seriousness of this back-to-school discussion was kinda over the top.

And off the three of us went (as the three-year-old wailed from the front porch) to secure the goods for, in my daughter’s words, “the best school year EVER!

The school supply list was humongous! Many of the 40+ items were exotic office supplies in my opinion – things I don’t even have access to as a working professional.

  • 2 packages hole reinforcements
  • 3 pack dry erase markers
  • 2 packages of dividers with pockets (8 count each w/ tabs)
  • USB Flash Drive

And the list goes on…

What happened to the days of loose leaf paper and some pencils? Ok ok,  it’s middle school – so I would add some some pens to the “non-exotic” list.

Not only were we buying supplies for classroom use, we had to purchase locker accessories as well. Interior design for this tiny locker…so many decisions, so little time – it was already 7:30pm.

Hubby and the middle schooler - on task with the mega list

I had to chuckle when I heard one dad say,

“Why are we here shopping? I could easily just get all of this stuff from my office!”

Prior to this shopping adventure, I felt the same way as that dad. I just wanted to buy the pre-packaged school supply kit and get on with it. But the way my multigenerational family approaches school supply shopping is a treat to watch.

My daughter sits at the kitchen table going through the sales papers. My mother-in-law moves between the stove and table to peer over my daughter’s shoulder and point out good deals. Hubby talks about new supplies he wants for himself because new stuff is “so awesome”. My son agrees with everyone and  clearly sates what he’ll take to his school. I sit and watch the frenzy of it all.

I do have to admit, I enjoy observing their excitement and joy for this time of year.

And on my daughter’s first day of school, the annual picture was taken in front of the tree (thanks to my mother-in-law for the quick reminder). My mother-in-law made an incredible breakfast (and good coffee). Wholesome lunches were packed and the new school year began.

I received a call at the end of the school day, from my daughter, and learned that middle school is great, the locker is not so terrifying, and the locker chandelier was a big hit. (WHAT? I bought a locker chandelier? Was that on the list?)

We have one full week of middle school under our belts and a bunch more to go.

The new middle school desk - full of middle school supplies

Our next transitional task…getting ready for preschool to start.

a computer, a placenta and mosquitoes – there is a thread here, I promise….

A recent post on WordPress about the 10 most idiotic parenting products, which included a teddy bear made from a placenta – no, I am not kidding – got me thinking about the crap I bought as a newbie parent (wipe-warmer at the top of the list) and the useless crap I have bought my kids… (too many things to list)

The very next day, my mom said she thought my kids, entering KG and 2nd this fall, would get more use out of her computer than she would and she wanted to move it upstairs.  The placenta post and the computer made me wonder what in the world I did for entertainment when I was little?

So, Sunday night, when we have “family dinner” with my parents, I asked them what I played with when I was little.

As I am 43, it took my mom a while to think back and come up with a list.

Mom recalled that I did not like dolls, Barbie or otherwise.  But I loved to read and draw on my “etch a sketch,” played tons of card and board games like Old Maid and Monopoly, Clue and Battleship, invented elaborate make-believe games with neighborhood pals, and competed in a lot of sports – tennis, swimming, kick-ball and ping-pong.

To which I replied, “but what about when I was really little – too young to walk, barely old enough to crawl?  Did I have an exer-saucer, a kick-n-play, a special red/white/black padded mat to lie on that had a mobile arched over me, an automatic baby swing?”

No, no, no, no and no.  I had a play-pen with some stuffed animals – as did every other child born in 1967.

At the dinner table, in-between bites, my kids were amazed, listening to how I spent my time growing up.  We did not have a Wii, Xbox, computer, or other electronic toys.  We had a relatively small collection of games and toys that were contained in our bedrooms – certainly not a “playroom.”  I am not sure my kids would have really believed of such a simple childhood if their grandmother had not confirmed it.

One of the major benefits of having my parents live in our house is the perspective conversations like this give my kids.  It is important to me that they have some idea of the past – and that they hear about it from their grandparents makes it real to them.  If you are a parent, you know what I am talking about  – the familiar roll of the eyes, telling you, “mom, I am really not listening to you…”  That never happens when my mom tells my kids what’s what.

So, it is entirely appropriate that after dinner my kids asked if they could stay inside and play on the computer.  To which my husband and I responded, “No, go in the backyard and play.”

They obeyed and went to their special tree for the better part of an hour – they continued their make-believe game about Tom and Jerry and my daughter, who is catnip for mosquitoes, came in with several whopper bites.

Now, that sounds familiar – just like when I was a kid…

Multigenerational Living – the family calendar

For any working parent, the issue of time is important. Time to wake up, get to work, make meetings, home for dinner, etc.

Well, for people who are retired, staying on a schedule can be less of an issue.  And when retired people live with those who work, this can be both a blessing and a challenge.

The blessing is that my retired parents have time on their hands to enjoy their grandkids, be present in the moment, and for the most part, not worry about where they need to be.  (Though they remain militant about the evening news – do all people over 65 have to hear every word Brian Williams utters starting at exactly 5:30?)

I marvel at and am grateful for the fact that my dad can sit in the playroom for hours with my son and work on his trains, and that my mom will sit with my daughter as she reads, or bakes with the kids and lets them hold the hand-mixer, measure ingredients, etc.

The challenge can occur when their less rigorous schedule comes in contact with our daily careers.

My husband and I have days that can be a little unpredictable and “on-the-fly” changes to our schedule can be tough on my parents.  Anyone with a 5 and 7 year old knows there is a certain amount of fluidity to any day, but my mom and dad, though they have all the time in the world, appreciate a certain predictability.  They like to know what to expect. (And I fully admit, this is a facet of MY parents, others might be far more free-wheeling.)  I can tell it frustrates them when I call and say I am running late – hell, it frustrates me, too.

The one thing that keeps me sane is our family calendar. I actually love printing it out and giving it to my dad because he will examine it thoroughly and ask questions about deviations to the schedule – “should we get the kids dinner this night?” or “your mom has a doctor’s appt this day so we can’t pick up the kids from school” or “really – you are traveling to the upper peninsula of Michigan for work?”

This seems to be the one tool that puts them at ease – if it is written down, they know what is happening.  In fact, it is not uncommon for my dad to remind me of things on the calendar.

So, as the new school year is approaching, I am getting organized and updating the family calendar – maybe you are, too?  This will, in the end, save everyone a headache and should allow my parents to watch the evening news regularly – for which I can only say – thank goodness – we would all suffer otherwise.  😉

living successfully with my dad means living with lots of golf

For me, a major element in succesful multigenerational living is a clear understanding that there are certain things about my parents that do not, have not, and will not change.  

Case in point – my dad is a life-long, passionate golf aficionado.   

My dad's Father Day dinner - eaten during the final round of the US Open

 

My childhood is peppered with family memories on the links – courses from Arizona to California.     

Today, just like when I was a kid, there are times of the year where my dad spends Thursday through Sunday locked in front of the TV.  He will listen to the scintillating commentary of Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo and Jim Nantz, his favorite golf analysts, lean one way or another in an attempt to help out with a little “body English” of his own on a putt or drive from his favorite player, and provide his own opinions on golf swings, attire of the players and general golf gossip.   

Nearly every day of the year, there are golf tournaments on TV,  but The Masters, US Open, British Open, and PGA Championships the four majors he watches religiously.  During these tournaments, his attention is laser-focused on the flat screen.  

In other words, do not try to talk with my dad when the TV is on – commercials OK,
but not during the coverage, no way.   

Therefore, unlike the other 48 weekends of the year, my children’s wandering downstairs to play with or hang out with my parents is met with less enthusiasm than usual.  Thankfully for my kids, my mom is less interested in golf than my dad!   

It is very similar to when I was a child.  My mom would warn me “this is not the time to ask your father that” during these four sacred events.  I would listen to her, most of the time, but I would push it as far as I could.  She was and still is right – a golf tournament is probably not the time to interact with my dad.   

I happily admit that my father has mellowed with age – he is more likely to let my kids interrupt him, but for the most part, he is the same.  He wants to watch, listen to, and soak up every moment of the action.  And then dissect the action with my brothers.  (Whether there really is action in golf is another subject all together…)   

So if you are contemplating a move to or in with family, one cliché is worth repeating; times may change but people rarely do.