Archive for the ‘Work & Life’ Category

My mother-in-law is a mobile phone paparazzi

by Kanesha

When I’m at work, focused on a task, and forgetting about the outside world, my mobile phone will buzz.

Picture message!

There are other times I’m in a meeting that has gone too long. I’m glazing over and going brain-dead. I’m instantly jolted back to life when my mobile phone buzzes.

Picture message!

My mother-in-law often sends picture messages to me so I can have a quick peek into what my kids are doing while I’m away from them. I love it! I especially love that my mother-in-law initiated this picture-taking practice, about two years ago, without me prompting her to do so.

The pictures allow me to instantly connect with the kid as soon as I enter the house. I can ask them to explain what they were doing when my mother-in-law captured them with her phone.

I think it’s very sweet that my mother-in-law takes the time to snap pictures because she thinks (and actually knows) I will enjoy seeing my kids while I’m busy at work. And yes, I always enjoy it.

Here are my recent favorites:

My mother-in-law and my son were at the library. He picked out this magazine because he’s fascinated with the Eiffel Tower.

Chilly soccer practice

My mother-in-law was picking up the exhausted middle schooler. Look at all that stuff.

My mother-in-law is creating a Halloween costume with my daughter – made of Duck Tape.

To be continued…

My mother-in-law is helping my little artist learn the difference between his right and left hand (instead of the right and wrong hand).


Snail mail in the multigenerational household

“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds” (Herodotus) / USPS

Do you know what time your “snail mail” arrives on Monday – Saturday? Do you know the name of your letter carrier?

No, neither do we.

Delivery of the postal mail is not at all high on our “things to manage and pay attention to” list. But, if you are living in a multigenerational household, you may need to stop, drop, and pay attention to the postal service.

Margot and Kanesha discuss the important role of postal mail in their multigenerational households.

(We don’t get it!)

This video doesn’t exist

After our discussion, we were pleased to learn the U.S. Postal Service recently issued the Mother Teresa stamp – super cool!

We’re actually going to venture into a real post office (and not the local grocery store) to buy these stamps, well…maybe we’ll just order the stamps online (or stop at the ATM).

If nothing else, we will at least learn the names of our letter carriers so we can honor him/her on National Postal Worker Day (July 1). Hey, we’re trying!

Other fun facts of about the USPS:

  • 584 million — average number of mail pieces processed each day
  • 24 million — average number of mail pieces processed each hour
  • 1.25 billion — number of miles driven each year by our letter carriers and truck drivers
  • 10,000 — number of letter carriers who deliver mail entirely on foot
  • Each year, postal employees around the country risk their own safety to save the lives of the customers they serve. In 2009, the Postal Service recognized 202 employee heroes.
  • Most Unusual Delivery Method — mule trains in Arizona. Each mule carries about 130 pounds of mail, food, supplies and furniture down the 8-mile trail to the Havasupai Indians, averaging 41,000 pounds per week.

Multigenerational carpooling- what a blessing!

There are times, as I am sure you could imagine, that living with my parents is a blessing.  And as I am sure you can imagine, there are times when it makes me, well, a little bonkers.    

At school pick up time, especially the beginning of the year – it is always a blessing.   

The assessment days, back to school nights, parent conferences, meetings, school supply shopping, clothes shopping – could the start of the school year get any more time consuming?  There is one thing I never worry about, though, and that is how my kids get home from school.   

The most punctual man on the planet, my father, is in charge of picking up our two kids at the end of the school day.  And come hell or high water or snow storms – he is always there to bring them home.    

I know this because I hear from many of our friends that my dad is consistently the first in the pick-up line – they all know his red SUV and my kids’ teachers tell me he is in the same place, every day, eager for them to come out of class.     

XM Satellite Radio logo, used from 2001-2005

Image via Wikipedia


Here is his M.O. – he gets to school at least 20 minutes ahead of time because he detests waiting in line.  He listens to ESPN radio on XM while he waits, and on occasion, gets a couple of minutes of shut-eye.  (No, talking to him about the fact that he is still waiting in line – just at the front of the line, is meaningless.)      

My husband and I have asked repeatedly if my parents would prefer to set up a carpool for pick up, like the morning drop-off.  The resounding answer is “no.”     

Here is why – my dad LOVES picking up my kids from school.  He enjoys knowing that he is helping out is a very big way but he also gets to hear about their day, and has them all to himself for at least the ride home.  Because as soon as they are home, they play with neighbors, climb trees in the yard, and ride their bikes.  And occasionally, he breaks the rules and takes them for a doughnut.  ARGH!    

On the first day of school, my husband and I were there for drop-off and pick-up.  But from day two on, it has been my dad.  When I asked my dad how the pick-up went for my son on day 2, who had just started Kindergarten, a big smile came over his face.  Here is what he said: “I was waiting right by the kindergarten door and he came out and saw me – and gave me a huge smile!  And you know how I love seeing him smile.  It was just awesome.”    

I would say that it would be a cold day in hell before anyone else gets to pick up my kids from school…  What a blessing!   

First week of work – complete! Totally exhausted and guilt free!

It’s Saturday! Hallelujah!

Last Monday, I returned to work after my four-week July vacation. It was brutal re-entry, but I survived my first week and it was totally guilt free! Monday morning was a “Let’s get Kanesha up and ready” team effort.

Hubby helped me get out of bed so I could go on my morning walk. My daughter and hubby made sweet “back to work” cards for me. Hubby made breakfast for all of us, and a healthy lunch for me. My mother-in-law made some high-octane coffee for my travel mug (no Folgers), and my son did not protest when I left for work. Everything was moving along well.

There is nothing wrong with my job and I enjoy most of it quite a bit. I even have a “newer” job this year and a very long new title. The challenge with me going back to work is that it completely changes, topples, dismantles, upsets, drives (I could keep going)…the flow and balance of  our household.

Our world becomes more structured. More lists and checklists are constructed. Details of schedules and stuff to do have to be minded. The family calendar must be updated and maintained.

I had to laugh at the family calendar last Sunday. I went to look at it and noticed it was STILL on June and had not been updated. I could barely see the calendar on the bulletin board. Why?

Because it was summer.

All of this “back to work” prep could drive any working mother into a tailspin of feeling massive guilt. I refuse to fall back into that line of thinking, especially since I have a well-functioning and supportive multigenerational household.

A few weeks ago, I was reading an issue of Working Mother (at the pool). The article that jumped out at me was Anatomy of Guilt by Ilisa Cohen. The article dissects the various factors and influences that lead working women (not men) to feel guilty about balancing their families, careers and time for themselves.

I used to feel this guilt all the time and it was not good. As the article states, guilt can make you ill. Guilt can tamper with your ability to sleep well. Your weight may fluctuate because the guilt may cause you to over or under-eat. You may become tense which can lead to digestive problems (especially if you are feeling too guilty to make time to get to the gym). It’s hard to focus on things when you are feeling guilty. This is magnified if you are feeling guilty about being a good mother.

I did experience many of these guilt ailments before my mother-in-law moved in with us. I struggled with figuring out how to be super at all the things I was trying to do. I asked my hubby once, before our second child was born, “Do you ever feel guilty about going to work and being away from home?” He looked at me like I asked him if I could take Hugh Jackman as my lover. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but hubby did give me a strange look.

His response, “Why would I feel guilty about going to work? People have to work. That’s just how it is. I’m being productive. Why would I feel guilty?” Hmmm…oh, ok!

Since my mother-in-law has been living with us, I feel like I have a great team for managing a busy, productive, healthy and fun lifestyle. The kids are not over-scheduled. We have dinner together almost every night. If I need to work late, I know the kids are at home with my mother-in-law (and sometimes hubby) having fun and getting their needs met. I do not have to bend my schedule to attend all the during the day school events because my husband, mother-in-law and I rotate our attendance, and we often videotape the events so we’re not missing out.

My son climbed into my lap, last Sunday, and told me he would miss me “gynormously” when I went back to work. (He learned that word watching Charlie and Lola.) That made me feel loved, but not guilty. I reminded him that my mother-in-law had a fun week planned for him and they could call, email and text me if he had something urgent to report while I was at work. He thought that was great and he said he would be waiting for me, on the porch, so he could give me an after work hug. And when I got home, there was my son and mother-in-law, rocking in the rocking chairs and happy to greet me after my first day of work.

One work week done. A bazillion more to go!

Oh, and we updated the calendar. I’m still rearranging that bulletin board…

“Summer, summer, summertime – time to sit back and unwind…”

by Kanesha

I love summer! Warm weather, afternoons at the pool, cook-outs and fruity cocktails – summer is a glorious time of year.

I didn’t always feel this way, not when it came time for my oldest to get out of school.

What was I going to do with her for an entire summer, while I was working full-time and her father was away from us – off doing some Roswell-esque research project?

OK – I’m being a bit dramatic about hubby’s research project, but the point is, he was still gone for 3-to-7 weeks during the summer and for me, managing the summer childcare was a challenge.

Back in the day…

Right after spring break, I would start my internet research, comb the newspapers, talk to friends, pick up Colorado Parent’s Summer Survival Guide (yes, it’s called that!) and keep my eyes and ears open for the best day camps that were ALL DAY, reasonably priced, and would be fun for my daughter. I would build intricate summer matrices that would have my work schedule, hubby’s travel schedule, vacation time, and my daughter’s day camp schedule. It was exhaustive to build and ugly to look at.

Before MIL – WACKY summer schedule

Fast-forward three years…

Build up to summer and my summer schedule are simply glorious now that my MIL lives with us. My daughter and I relish the opportunity to find cool, fun, boutique-like and HALF-DAY camps that cultivate her creative side. We can be picky about the camp themes and cost because she doesn’t have to go to camp every week of the summer. If the roster fills up before we’ve registered, no big deal! And if there is something my daughter wants to do or learn, and we can’t find a camp for it, my MIL will CREATE the camp at home.

Last summer’s “homemade” camps included: Kumihumo, painting with watercolors, making beaded jewelry, origami, and creating a village of Model Magic people.

This year, my daughter selected camps that focused on French, cooking and knitting.

French Language and Cooking camp

It was hard for me to leave my daughter at the French camp the other day because I wanted to stay and play too. But later on that day we cuddled and I got to hear about her adventures, listen to the new French song she learned and sample the hachis Parmentier.

Hubby is away on travel, I’m working and my MIL and I alternate doing the pick-ups and drop-offs. My MIL is planning to do her own baking, tie dye, and knitting camp with my daughter. No stress, no pressure, just leisurely fun.

Fire up that blender!

Happy Memorial Day!

by Kanesha

It’s Memorial Day weekend, and for us, that means the kick-off to our camping season. The three-year-old has been walking around the house for the past two days with his flashlight and headlamp. Both kids have their sleeping bags on the main floor in a big heap so they can read together in what they call their nest.

My *MIL accompanies us on some camping trips, but the Memorial Day/weekend trip is always exclusively for the four of us. It’s our time to bond as a nuclear family and to reflect on our multigenerational “new”clear family. My hubby and I sip our box wine, watch the kids get dirty, enjoy the beautiful landscape and talk about successes and challenges that we’ve all experienced during the academic year (yes – our life is ruled by the academic year).

Photo by Kanesha B. - Maroon Bells 2009

Maroon Bells 2009

For this weekend, we’ll be talking about home improvements and repurposing some space in our house to support our multigenerational household.

Our daughter is moving on to middle school and we want to set up a better study area for her. My MIL has art, sewing and craft projects going on and we want her to be able  to have sufficient craft space in order to leave her in-progress projects set-up. We need to get rid of toys our son has outgrown (where does all that stuff come from!). Hubby and I want to expand the space we have for our workout equipment so that we’ll actually use it – for its intended purpose and not just a drying rack for laundry.

We’ve been reading Dwell and The Family Handyman for ideas and DIY tips. We are excited about  updating our space and having a project to do together. This is also a way for us to celebrate our 3rd multigenerational living anniversary coming up in July!

We wonder what the gift for this 3rd anniversary should be… Maybe we should create a list. Maybe YOU should help us!

Tell us about any home projects you have going on. We’d also like to know what Memorial Day traditions you have.


May 2010 - first camping trip of the season

*(MIL = mother-in-law)

Our new four-legged family member

It was time….I love dogs – always have.  And I had not had a dog in my life for a very long time.  My kids were more than ready for one; a desire fueled by a neighbor who had a new golden retriever puppy.  And Colorado is a such pet-friendly state – nearly every day of the week you can see countless people hiking, jogging, going to soccer and tee-ball games, walking kids to school – all with their dogs.

I wanted a Labrador Retriever, the dog of my youth – yellow, black, chocolate  – didn’t matter.  A little time online and we found a wonderful organization called Mile High Labrador Retriever Mission that helps Labs find new homes – run entirely by volunteers.   We went through an exhaustive adoption process – questions about the size of our house, number of kids and adults living in the home, who would be at home and when, and then I had a 30-minute phone interview.  (BTW, nobody asked me any questions when I decided to have a child!)  And this is where I think we got really lucky – yet another reason that we are glad we live in a multigenerational home.

Turns out, we were approved for a puppy (8 weeks old – is there anything cuter?) so quickly because we have older adults who live with us who do not work – and lots of human contact is very good for a puppy!

But it also turns out that this puppy is probably very good my parents, too.

Pets for the Elderly cites 19 different studies that say a pet in a home is a very good thing for older people; they can help in a variety of ways, including lowering blood pressure, staving off heart disease, providing a reason to exercise, help in making new friends, maintaining a schedule, keeping loneliness at bay, and relieving anxiety.  Not to mention the sheer joy at having a pet who unconditionally loves you and is always happy to see you.  No wonder so many hospitals use dogs as therapy for elders recovering from surgery.

Since we got a male puppy (my son’s choice) my daughter got to name him.  She wanted Coco – as in Coco Chanel. (?????)  She was hell-bent on that name.  So my mom reminded me that Kokopelli, a fertility deity in the Native American culture could also be shortened to Koko.  Kokopelli is also a notorious prankster – seemed to fit well for a lab puppy.

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Koko is 10 weeks old everyone in the family loves him – whether he is curled up in our lap, sitting by our feet or gnawing on the leg of a chair.  Now if I could just get my husband to pick up the poop….