Category Archives: Guest Posts

National Stepfamily Day {guest post}

A glimpse into the life of a multigenerational and blended family.

1 Baby Boomer, 2 Generation Xers, 1 Millennial, 1 Generation Z

stepmother [ˈstɛpˌmʌðə] n: a woman who has married one’s father after the death or divorce of one’s mother

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003

***

August 1999, I officially took on this new title and role as “Stepmother”. My stepchildren were young adults, 18 and 22, and I was a young 27 year old bride.

When I think back, I remember telling my college roommates that I would never date, let alone, marry some one with this type of baggage!  But somehow I found myself dating my distinguished husband for four years clearly aware of what was waiting for me in this new life! Most people would have probably run, if not sprinted, away from a situation like this. But, in hindsight, while it had its challenges it was satisfying and rewarding.  I’m talking about my relationship with my stepchildren. It was easy for us to get along, I believe, because I could relate to them and what they were going through at this stage of their lives.  Also, I never tried to take on the role of their mother.

I must give some credit to my husband and my stepchildren.  I’m sure it was difficult for them to accept me into their family, too. As young adults growing up with their father not only dating, but a much younger women at the time must have taken a lot of maturity.  A lot nosy people would ask questions about how we all got along. We could honestly answer fine! I know that was not the answer that they were expecting but it was the truth.  Over the years, both of my stepchildren have shared their stories, thoughts, and jokes about our relationship and our family.

So let’s fast forward to September 2011, our Stepfamily is truly a Blended Family, now!  My husband and I had a beautiful little girl two years ago and her big brother and sister truly adore her!  With that my daughter and I are in the planning stages for a baby shower for her big sister!

So take a brief moment to envision this family portrait – my distinguished husband; me the young wife; my stepson and his wife; my stepdaughter (expecting in November) and her husband;, and our little girl!  So over the last past 12 years we have cried, laughed, lived and loved as one family!  We’ve never considered anything about our relationship as a “step” anything!

Happy National Stepfamily Day!

-Lora, a (Step)Mother

***

Lora lives in Illinois and is a career educator.

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The Sewing Machine {guest post}

Written by my mother-in-law, G.B.

There have been several.  But they have never been just a machine.  Sometimes they are the means to a dream.  Sometimes they are strongly connected to memories.  And they from been there from childhood. 

My Grandmother’s was a treadle machine.  You didn’t need electricity.  You were the power.  On extended visits during my childhood, doll clothes were made on it.  Or failure was learned there.  It was a diversion between exploring her extensive flower gardens, sitting on the long kitchen counter observing the production of great desserts, or playing in the jewelry box.  And she had vast resources of material.

Another was my Mom’s Kenmore.  It lived in a cabinet in the corner of the dining room.  It didn’t zig.  It didn’t zag.  But it sewed straight back and forth.  There were gadgets in the top drawer to make great buttonholes.

Of the four girls in the family, the oldest and youngest learned to sew.  Sewing was more of necessity then.  The 4-H sewing leader was fantastic.  That machine produced pencil skirts, sheath dresses, jackets and many, many patched jeans and overalls and one wedding dress, 2 bridesmaid dresses. 

A recent catalog advertized patched boyfriend jeans for $99.50.  And I thought , if my mom could have seen that ad.  Her patches were artistic in comparison.  Mom kept a tapestry on it that was a wedding gift in 1941.  That is folded in one of my boxes.

I bought my own portable in 1964.  Portable?  It weighed a ton.  It was not a favorite.  It was replaced by a Bernina in 1974.  It sewed countless sundresses, robes, shirts, costumes,  and quilts.  It passed on in 2005.

Now I only have a light weight portable that zigs and zags and does stretch stitches.  It has sewed matching dresses for granddaughters and robes for all the grandkids.  I made many memory teddy bears and celebration bears and bear playmates on it.  I have not purchased a serger or computerized machine. 

And in my space I also have a very old Singer.  I knew a man who repaired tents in WWII.  He raved about the machine he used and even owned one like it.  I asked him that IF he ever wanted to get rid of it to remember me.  No, but he volunteered to find one like it.  So I have a vintage gear-driven Singer that will sew through anything.  Out of its cabinet it wears a ton.  But it is cute.  It doesn’t zig and doesn’t zag.               

*** 

September 10 is Sewing Machine Day.

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Teddy Bears & Family History {guest post}

Teddy Bear Day is Friday, September 9.

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Teddy Bears , written by my mother-in-law, G.B.

No, I don’t have my childhood teddy bear.  I do have a picture of it.

Years ago I discovered  a great bear pattern using quilted material.  Since then I have made several for children and grandkids.  I experienced great satisfaction making bears for people.  It was hard to believe that within a box of old clothes or old quilts a bear was waiting to be found and given a home. The bear or bears became an essence of their owners. 

I had two old quilts to work with for several sisters.  The grandmothers were represented in two quilts and there were more than two people who wanted a piece of the memories.  And I made 5 or 6 bears.  And I was rewarded with smiles and tears.

There are other stories from other boxes. 

One of the last stories involved my dad’s plaid shirts.  Some were wool.  Some were cotton flannel.  They met the scissors.  And became 3 bears for 3 of his grandsons.  In the pocket of each bear was a playing card because Dad loved to play cards. 

There were bears out of mostly new material for grandkids.  The youngest granddaughter’s needs a trip to the hospital.  Her dad fell asleep on her bear and when she  pulled, the leg started to tear.  Tears followed.  Her bear was made of velvets and corduroy and brocades in all the colors of the rainbow. 

My bear I always associated with my paternal grandfather.  The bear along with a couple of dolls I believe were gifts from him.  Of course the best gift couldn’t be held.  It was riding with him in his 1958 blue Plymouth heading to the farm.  My feet just stuck out over the edge of passenger seat.  Those moments were the essence of pure childhood happiness.  I thought I was the luckiest person in the world.

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Home Alone {in the words of my mother-in-law}

There are times when hubby and I will take our two kids and run off to do something as a nuclear family. Recently, we went up to Vail for a long weekend.

As we were packing up and leaving that day, I looked at my mother-in-law and said, “No wild parties while we are gone.”

We both laughed and she responded, “You never know.”

Then I said, “Well, you should write a post telling all of us what you do when you have the house to yourself.”

So she did.

***

Question:
What do you do when you have the house to yourself? 
I guess that is like ‘I am home alone.’  Oh my. 
Answers:
1.  I get out the welcome mat for The cat in the hat, Thing 1, Thing 2, and of course, Good Dog Carl.  Their mission should they choose to come is to tidy the four-year-old’s toys, books, markers, crayons, trains, and train tracks.  And cars and trucks and balls.
2.  Then any form of a schedule is shredded.  Get up whenever, go to sleep whenever. Well you get the whenever picture.
3.  And in and out whenever too.
4.  Watch something besides Dora, Diego, Dinosaur Train.  I have already what I learned from Curious George memorized.  Hurray!  Adult stuff.
5.  Create larger chunks for time for reading and making.
6.  Of course, exercise. 

Anything not covered in the above 6 statements is in the black hole of home alone, never to escape. 

What is your favorite thing(s) to do when you are home alone? (Keep it clean, people!)

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Sew a Seam and Find your Peace. {guest post}

By Janet Reep Morgan

When I turned 31, I cried.  I thought I would lose my vitality and youth.  Now, as I’m knocking on 40′s door, I see age as a wonderful journey to be embraced.

I’ve been told that I’m “not quite right” and seem to have a broken brain-mouth filter.  Embarrassing myself by saying things aloud (that others think quietly to themselves) occurs less often, yet, still to an extreme my grandmother would have exclaimed, “Lawdy mercy child! Use some sense.”  At least with Twitter, Facebook and blogs I possess the ability to proofread and ponder before hitting Send or Enter.

As a child, Mama cringed when the pastor asked us children, “Are you afraid of anything?”

I exclaimed, “My Mama is afraid of rats in the chicken house. She screams like this….”

My parents rolled their eyes, shook their heads and covered their faces… for years to come.  At 28, I gained 2 teenage stepsons and quickly learned that my empty threat of “If you two don’t stop it…” backfired with their exclamation, “Mommy, Mommy don’t beat us again.” When I said, “I am not your mother…” they rolled on the ground at the Grand Canyon National Park and screamed, “that’s not what the blood tests showed… why are you treating us this way?“  Crawling under a rock seemed like the best idea.

Then and now, I learned the practice of 3 P’s: Patience, Persistence and Pharmacology.

When the boys moved out of the house, my husband and I imagined an empty nest.  Then, on February 4th, we moved my octegenarian mother-in-law in to live with us; she thinks we’re just visiting.  She and I forged a blunt, reciprocal, respectful relationship after only a few…weeks.. and I found my breaking point.  I highly recommend marriage counseling to anyone entering the caregiving process.  Taking care of another human being in addition to your marriage is a labor of love.  You must take care of yourselves and your marriage so that you can even entertain the idea of caring for another human being.

At the age of 85, my mother-in-law (aka Mother) says things that make me laugh.  I also cringe the way that my late Mama (rest her soul) must have cringed when I told her secret fear of rats during the children’s sermon so long ago.

Last week, sitting at the ophthalmologist with my mother-in-law, an armed guard led a shackled convicted felon into the exam room and Mother mumbled, “convict” and I patted her hand.  A few minutes later, I walked Mother to another exam room and the clinician said, “now, you be nice.“  Mother replied, “I’m nice.  Where do you want me to sit?

Dr. H walked into the examination room introduced himself and Mother turned on the charm.  We feared she would say something about his skin color.  Dr. H treated Mother like she was his only patient for the day.  A few hours later, after Mother settled at home with a glass of water on her favorite sofa, she said, “Those people have to be perfect.

I asked, “Which people?

Well, if they’re the ones I’m thinking of… black doctors.  They worked so hard to get to where they are, they can’t afford to make mistakes.

I replied, “Mother, did you mind seeing a black doctor?  I see a black doctor and she’s wonderful.

Mother said, “No, I don’t care what color they are.  I thought segregation was stupid in the first place.

We told her she would have to return for a follow-up visit and she said, “Never. But I guess it’s a sensible thing to do because I don’t have a death wish.

In this world, some are blessed with their own children, either biological or adopted.  I am blessed with 2 grown stepsons (yes, they made it to adulthood) and three godchildren by three different mothers and fathers. I am also blessed to care for those aging members of my family when necessary.   They become my children.  Each time I think my heart will break, a new seam is sewn by grace and I find my soul at peace.

So, the next time that you seem to be at your wits’ end by the comments of your own children, sew a seam and find your peace.

Be blessed,

Janet

***

When Janet isn’t scouting the house for her mother-in-law’s teeth, the and her husband Jim entertain their two hybrid dogs… BiBi (a senior toothless Cairn-mix) and Scooby (the Maltese-rescue).  Calling North Carolina home, Janet is a full-time datagoddess and sanity-checker for many… promoter of volunteerism, upcycling and ragpicking to artwork.

All rights reserved – for publication on itsafullnest and raisedbyavillage.com

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“Multigenerational living has always appealed to me…” {guest post}

by Ashley Coombe

The idea of multigenerational living has always appealed to me. I am very attracted to the concept of many people working together for the good of one household, so my parents and I have often discussed the idea. Two years ago, it became a reality after my parents returned from a trip to an Indian orphanage. They came home feeling like they had too much room in their house, and offered to let us live there with them for a year to pay off debt. We accepted, and a week later we were living with them!

We agreed to discuss the possibility of making the arrangement long term, or even permanent, after one year. When we sat down to discuss it, we each admitted the benefits of living in a multigenerational arrangement far outweighed the small sacrifices we each made. We made the choice to co-purchase the home and raise our kids in a home with their grandparents.

How do we make it work?

None of us are very good at setting rules and sticking with them long term (made obvious by our tendency to eat poorly!). While we initially set boundaries when we moved in, things change so quickly in our household the “rules” have to change quickly as well. For example, we originally set that I would have the washer and dryer during the week, and my mom could use it on the weekends since she works during the week. Then, as my parents began traveling a great deal on the weekends, that no longer worked for them. Initially, we planned on switching off making meals every other night. That plan didn’t work out either. Instead of having meetings constantly to revise our set up, we try to follow three simple rules.

  1. Be A Blessing to the Others in the Household. We each try to go above and beyond respecting – instead we try to be a blessing to each other. If respecting someone means rinsing off your dishes when you are done with them, being a blessing to them means rinsing theirs off too, and emptying the dishwasher while you are standing there.
  2. Give Others the Benefit of the Doubt. Obviously, there are going to be times when you walk into the house and none of the dishes are done. Give others in the household the benefit of the doubt that they likely tried to get the dishes done but something got in the way. Then be a blessing to them and do the dishes J
  3. Bring your strengths to the table, and cover up for others’ shortfalls. Each of us in the household has specific strengths, and some glaring weaknesses. My strength is organization, so I tend to put groceries away and organize them. My husband’s strength is getting us all motivated, so we utterly rely on him to get us moving to do the yard work on Saturdays instead of putting it off one more week. My dad is amazing with technology, so he updates all of our computers and keeps us in the know about new television advancements (we just put a new apple tv in our room!). My mom is amazing at finding deals online, so when we need something for the house, she hops on eBay or Amazon and finds the perfect item for a great price. Rather than getting frustrated that someone is not helping enough in one area, we realize that we each have varying strengths, and we pick up each other’s slack in those areas. Then we are more apt to give grace in an area of weakness!

No matter the boundaries we set, from who does the grocery shopping to when we shower, as long as we’re working to be a blessing to each other, giving each other the benefit of the doubt and focusing on the strengths we each bring to the table, we are able to make the household work smoothly.

The Benefits of Living in a Multigenerational Household are Amazing.

During our one-year discussion, each one of us mentioned how much we had grown during our time living together. Learning to live with in-laws isn’t all that different than initially learning to live with a spouse, and the experience stretches you as a person in ways you couldn’t have imagined previously. I am less easily irritated, more patient, more forgiving, and have fewer pet peeves. My living situation has made it imperative that I grow in those ways!

My mom mentioned this week that she no longer feels as though relationships are as fragile as she once believed. We’ve worked so hard to honor each other as adults (very different than when we lived together when I was a teenager!) and worked through so many small issues that she knows our relationships can weather the storms of daily life without leaving scars. She wasn’t sure of that before!

The biggest benefit of living together has been the affect on my children. They have the opportunity to have the kind deep relationships that only come from living together day in and day out with adults other than just their mom and dad. They have adults other than us that they have to obey and respect, and get to trust and spend time with. They see us respecting our elders, just the way we expect them to respect us. It’s been so valuable for their growth as well!

My dad and my husband have become very close friends, and always have another guy to watch sports, work on cars, smoke cigars, and discuss guy stuff with. My mom and I often cook dinner and talk about our days together, a memory I will always cherish. Obviously, the financial benefits are huge, and our kids have all kinds of opportunities they would not otherwise, from family trips to martial arts.  Dan and I are able to go out on date nights after we put the kids to bed any night we want.

Actually, now that I think about it the biggest benefit is definitely sleeping in on Saturdays J My daughters are early risers, and so is my dad. Instead of waking us up now, they go downstairs. He makes them hot tea, and they all go out on the porch and watch the sunrise together under a bundle of blankets. We get to sleep until at least seven o’clock every Saturday! (Our definition of sleeping in has changed a little since we’ve had kids…)

It takes a lot of work to live with three generations, just as any relationship takes a lot of work, but we have absolutely enjoyed our time together, and look forward to making many more years of multigenerational living work for us!

***

Ashley Coombe is a full time stay at home mom who has the awesome benefit of living with her parents. She has three little girls, Emma (5), Sophia (4) and Olivia (9 months) and runs an online boutique, TheShoppingBoutique.com. You can read her blog and more about her experience at AshleyBCoombe.com.
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