Category Archives: Interviews

Empowering Caregivers {interview with Gail R. Mitchell}

I was talking with a great friend about balancing work and family, having time to nurture your creative side, and how to approach the delicate subject of caring for your parents as they age.

At this moment, neither of us is in a caregiving position for our parents or in-laws, but we know that as the years go by, this topic will become our reality.

My friend was clear and very serious when she said, “My focus is and will always be on my husband and children. I do not want to think about my parents getting older or in an ailing way. I do not have that nurturing chip for older people, and I feel kinda bad about that, but I’m being honest.

Ok, that’s one approach.

I respected my friend’s honesty about being a future caregiver for her parents and I was surprised she was thinking she would be opting out of caring for them as they aged. I guess as an only child, I never thought I would have a choice whether to care for my parents, or not, when they need me to step up to that task.

My friend has two siblings and maybe she’ll put the two of them in the driver’s seat when it’s time to care for their parents.

This exchange got me to thinking about caregiving and I was fortunate to be able to discuss this topic with Gail R. Mitchell. Gail is the founder of Empowering Caregivers, as well as an artist and a fascinating lady. We had a great time discussing the topic of caregiving.

For me, talking with Gail felt like I was chatting with a close girlfriend. She was generous with her time and I learned a lot during our discussion.

What are you doing in San Miguel de Allende right now? I’m so jealous. I did some of my field work, for my graduate studies, in San Miguel. 

I’m working on ceramics.  This led me to work on Crystal Illumination art and Crystal Lumière.

Where can I see some of your artwork?

Check out my websites – Crystalilluminationart.com, crystallumiere.com or Gailrmitchell.com. For me, art is healing. I’m at the time in my life where I want to continue to heal and inspire, in addition to making a difference in ending suffering.

That sounds amazing, Gail. What made you create Empowering Caregivers?

I took care of my husband in the 80s, and two friends dying of AIDS. I began meditating to deal with the stress. I moved back to New York, from Arizona, when my father was diagnosed with cancer.

I immediately fell into the support role for both my parents, and my father was sick for two years. I used journaling to capture my thoughts. I did this every day.  In 1995, there was not enough information around caregiving. There were “how-to” books, but the direct experiences of caregiving and the various dysfunctions were not addressed in these books. This lack of resources motivated me to develop a website to support others. I wanted my site to offer spiritual, emotional, and mental support because most of the other caregiving sites had an academic focus with a lot of stats.

I founded the National Organization for Empowering Caregivers and it closed after about nine years so I could move on to a different chapter in my life.

I know Empowering Caregivers is an older site, but it does provide a warm fuzzy feel, and it is still thriving. It has seen over 12 million visitors from over 200 countries. It’s an incredible support and resource for caregivers and most of all a labor of love.

You have a lot of great information on the site, if someone is new to the site, where should they start?

Checking out the caregiving articles is a great place to start. There is a directory of areas readers can explore. The categories also help to organize the information for easy navigation.

There are excellent resources from various caregiving experts and contributors with lots of points of views. The forums are interesting. Right now, people don’t actively participate, but they are lurking and reading the information. There is a great value in reading other’s experiences to heal yourself, and to learn and grow.

Journaling can provide a space and place to release negative thoughts into the pages. The exercises are really good because caregivers are often in isolation with too much time alone to focus on negative thoughts. Many times challenging situations can be resolved via journaling. It’s extremely cathartic and allows you release your thoughts so they don’t build out of proportion.

Caregivers are afraid to reach out for support and let others know they are vulnerable. People mask their vulnerability because they don’t want to upset others. Caregiving is an emotional roller coaster and caregivers blame themselves for a lot and struggle to release control. It is ok to release and cry. Caregivers need to remember this.

Many caregivers who do reach out for support don’t receive it because people who have not been caregivers don’t know how to deal with it – or how to offer support. Most of them are in denial about helping those in need because they haven’t walked in a caregiver’s shoes. The only people who really understand are other caregivers going through it and some professionals.

The internet is a great resource to lessen isolation. It can serve as an incredible healing tool and can be a life support and life saver for caregivers. It’s important to find a community of other caregivers because people who have not been in this situation don’t want to deal with death, dying or poor health – they can’t cope.

Caregivers forget to make time and space to take care of themselves and to heal. Caregivers need support in prioritizing self-care time when they are not exhausted.

When people hear caregiver, they often think of caring for young children or older adults with failing health – help us better understand who falls into the caregiver category.

There are the sandwich caregivers – who are taking care of kids, spouse and their elderly parent. Anyone on this list can be ill – which is very difficult for sandwich caregivers.

What are you currently reading?

No time to read right now, I’m just doing research. When I do read, I’m not reading caregiver books. I’m reading books that are spiritual in nature.

I’m at the point in my life where I have the chance to reinvent myself and move on with my life. I have spent so much time in my personal and professional life focused on caregiving – it’s time for something different.

What is your 6 word memoir in regards to being an effective caregiver?

Knowledge.  Forgiveness.  Love.  Gratitude.  Mindfulness. Surrender.

Anything else to share?

It’s easier to care for others than it is to care for ourselves. If we gave ourselves 50% of the love and care – that we give to our loved ones – we’d be in much better shape.

Be open, clear, transparent, and talk about caregiving decisions as early as possible.

As a caregiver, get out of your ego as much as possible. Be clear about your needs and don’t try to predict the needs of those you are caring for.

We put such pressure on ourselves over things we do not have control over. Death will come and we don’t go a minute before it’s our time. We lose site of the spiritual side to strengthen us. We get caught up in the drama of the caregiving and forget about the compassion within this important work.

Thank you, Gail.

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Summer gardens and zucchini {A chat with author, Tina Dozauer-Ray}

Tina, it’s so great to be able to talk with you.

My mother-in-law took my daughter to our local library when you were doing a book signing and reading your book, Too Many Zucchini for Zachary Beany. We fell in love with the story instantly. My mother-in-law loved that the Grandmother was a major character in the story.

What inspired you to write this story?


I learned to garden with my mother in Iowa, and I have always found gardening to be a great comfort and joy to me.  When I became a mother, I wanted to share this with my children and would bring the babies out to the garden with me.  Later, they began to “help” with planting and weeding, and then they started their own projects, like our ongoing “biggest pumpkin challenge.” (Each year we beat our own record.)

I wanted to share the delight of growing one’s own food with children, and I came up with the idea of writing a children’s book which included a packet of seeds.  I thought kids would be much more likely to share Zachary Beany’s gardening adventures if the seeds were right there for them, ready to plant. The “problem” of surplus zucchini is legendary in the Midwest, so I thought that would be a good theme.

I wanted the book to contain projects that the readers could do themselves, like making zucchini sculptures and zucchini bread, so I included our family zucchini bread recipe.

I made my mother the main adult figure because she inspired me to learn to garden, and I love the influence she has had on my kids over the years. I love the idea of the older generations passing on their wisdom to our media-drenched young ones.

My 11-year-old son has a cooking app on his iPod…and then there’s that farm game on Facebook…someone needs to show our kids how we do this stuff “old school!”

I love what you are saying. I love watching my kids sit at the feet of my mother-in-law and learn how to create and make things with their hands and imaginations. I’m learning a lot from her too.

How long did it take you to write and publish your book?

The process was relatively quick.  My son, Toby, was excited about the idea of my writing a book and posted an “idea sheet” on the kitchen wall so that family members could write down ideas for the book, specifically things that you can make with zucchini.  I used a lot of his ideas, like the helicopter and rocket, which were passions of his at the time.  We have made each one of the creations shown in the book!

Idea sheet, that’s fabulous!

Once I got the idea, the process went pretty quickly.  I probably had my draft final draft written in a month.  I shopped around for a print-on-demand publisher that was willing to deal with my seeds, which very few were willing to do.  I have never shopped the book to a traditional publisher, although it’s been on my to-do list ever since.  I wanted to the book to be out, with the seeds, as soon as possible.  I knew that if I was lucky enough for a standard publisher to pick up my book, it would probably take years for the book to come out, and probably without the seeds, which, to me, were the key to the reader’s experience.

I shopped the internet for an illustrator, settling on Bonnie LeMaire, a whimsical artist from Canada.  It was fun to go back and forth with ideas, pointing out things like “we have to replace the lilacs in that picture with sunflowers, because the lilacs wouldn’t be blooming anymore.”

I can’t remember exactly how long the publishing process took; I’m guessing about 6 months?  I went with Lifevest Publishing in Centennial, Colorado, which has since gone out of business since the original owner died unexpectedly, and then the economy didn’t exactly help the new managers.

So, I’m thinking I had a book in my hands about 6 months after I started writing.

Your process is super helpful. I’m thinking about writing a book with a friend of mine who has a granny nanny.

What has been the response, from your readers, about the organic zucchini seeds you include with the book?

Most people love the seeds. I do, however, get the feeling that some parents wish the seeds weren’t there, because the adults feel “stuck” having to do some gardening they’d rather not do otherwise.  The books that reach these homes are the ones that need the seeds the most!  Even apartment dwellers can fill a great big pot with dirt and set it on their back stoop.

You are so right! Your book has us planting a garden this year, and I not have a green thumb.

Have you had any funny adventures growing zucchini?

I really do enjoy the ridiculous size the zucchini can reach if you don’t catch them in time, and the crazy shapes they can grow into… My favorite zucchini creation was made by my husband and son after the book was published.  I had a booth at the Louisville (Colorado) farmer’s market, and they came down later rolling a zucchini tractor they’d made.  It was awesome:  big wheels they’d borrowed from another toy and a little Fisher Price farmer perched proudly in a little seat they’d hollowed out in the zucchini.  It was a huge hit with the kids at the market who would come by and play with it.

That sounds cool.

My mother-in-law makes the best chocolate zucchini cake. You provide the recipe for Nana’s Special Zucchini Bread at the end of the story. What other baked goods or dishes do you like to make with zucchini?

Who doesn’t love fried food?  I think my family’s favorite way to eat the zucchini (mine, at least,) is to dip slices in egg and panko crumbs, and fry it.  Then you can do “zucchini parmesan” and layer it with cheese and tomato sauce.  Yum!

Yum! I’m a big fan of fried food.

Barbara Kingsolver has a chapter in her book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” called “Zucchini Larceny.”  She has two zucchini recipes in it:  ”Disappearing Zucchini Orzo,” which is delicious (basically zucchini, cheese, and pasta,) and “Zucchini Chocolate Chip cookies.”  I have not tried the cookies, but it’s on my list for this summer.

I’ll be adding those recipes to my list as well.

We planted our first garden this year, any gardening tips to share?

My biggest challenges have been “the two w’s”:  water and weeds.

I am very stingy with water, and I have no irrigation system for our garden or enormous yard.  Adding a bunch of composted horse manure before planting helps the soil hold water, as well as enriching it. The compost also makes a great mulch to prevent evaporation from the soil below, and then I might add wood chips on top of that, with maybe a layer of cardboard or newspaper in between.  If I’m really feeling ambitious (and mad at the weeds) I’ll do weed fabric under the wood chips

Wow!

We have a horrendous bindweed problem in our yard, and we don’t use any herbicides or pesticides.  So, I end up digging a ton of bindweed roots up every year, just to have them come back a few weeks later from the evil “mother root” many feet below.  Mulching does help with this, but this year I’m trying another technique:  bind weed “mites” imported from elsewhere in Colorado that eat nothing but bindweed (we hope.)

The extension service bags them up and sells them to folks trying to get a handle on their bindweed problem.  You get little pieces of “infected” bindweed to wrap around your own bindweed.  The mites are supposed to spread and weaken the plant over time.  It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s supposed to make that noxious weed more manageable.

So, my number one tip for Colorado gardening?  Mulch, mulch, mulch!

All of that made my head spin a bit. You may need to lead a workshop for us gardening amateurs.

Can you tell us a little about your upcoming book?

I found self-publishing my book to be a great deal of fun, but, unfortunately, quite expensive, especially commissioning the artwork.  I had hoped to sell more books on a website I had built. It has a link for buying the book that I’m embarrassed to say no longer works, since the publishing company went out of business.  I’m on the fence between hiring someone to fix this and just taking down the website.  It’s so darned cute, though, so there it sits in limbo…

So, I don’t think I would seriously start my next book unless I managed to shop Zachary Beany to a regular publisher.  I teach at two local middle schools and have two children, and I don’t have the time right now to work on another book unless it would make money for our family.

That being said, my next book would most like feature giant pumpkins!

Just FYI, the book is hard to find now, since the print-on-demand company went out of business.  I think Boulder Bookstore might still have it, and the Book Cellar in Louisville, maybe Grandrabbits.  The most sure-fire (and cheapest) way to get it is to drop me an email and arrange to buy one from me personally.

Thanks, Tina.

***

Tina Dozauer-Ray grew up gardening on a farm in southern Iowa. Some of her earliest memories are of her mother’s rambling fruit and vegetable gardens: she still vividly remembers catching a fat bumble bee on a chive blossom with her bare hands and getting stung! She also remembers the rare taste of golden raspberries and fresh Concord grapes, still warm from the sun. Read more…

Too Many Zucchini for Zachary Beany can be purchased on Amazon or by contacting Tina directly.

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Granny Nanny’s Lullaby {a chat with Nancy Shapiro-Swern}

Kanesha had a chance to talk with Nancy Shapiro-Swern about her gorgeous lullabies, upcoming book, and fantastic work as a granny nanny.

***

Nancy, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you about Granny Nanny’s Lullaby and your new book “The Adventures of Granny Nanny in: Zzzzz’s please!

How exciting!

I think all versions of Granny Nanny’s Lullaby are soothing. Your voice is beautiful. What inspired you to write and create Granny Nanny’s Lullaby?

I was inspired to create my lullaby as I held my first grandchild in my arms and rocked him to sleep.  It stirred within me such emotion and love.   When Aidan was old enough to talk he requested it and then one day his best friend slept over and the two of them started humming it when we are out during the day and that is when I created the entire melody and words.

That sounds magical.

It can be a challenge getting little ones to take naps or go to bed. What pearls of wisdom can you share about making bedtime less traumatic for kids, parents, and grandparents?

Bedtime can definitely be a challenge for many children as well as parents and grandparents.  “One more glass of water, one more kiss and hug, one more …..” I think it is important for parents to have a structured night time ritual which you really try and keep.

What I recommend is to make bedtime fun but yet help the child unwind.  Get them in bed, tuck them in, dim the lights and start to read a story or play lullabies for them on a CD player which should last at least 20 minutes with a variety of music.  My grandson loves Kumbaya (besides my lullaby) and he automatically starts to relax and drift off to dreamland quickly.

One more recommendation that worked with my daughters when they were small was singing together at bedtime.  We would have our routine of 3-4 songs and once we finished them they were more prepared to go to sleep.  And no sugar after dinner!

I’m so happy to hear about your use of music with your children and grandson. Music is very important in our multigenerational household, and we often use it to set the mood or tone for my children.

My mother-in-law lives with us and she provides a large amount of childcare for my two children. How often are you in the caregiver role for your grandchildren?

I have had a significant role as a caregiver for my older grandson and now I have an 8 month old grandson from my other daughter and I find that I am involved more and more in his life and assisting my daughter as much as I can.  My work day is very hectic but I do have flexibility working from home and so I juggle a lot to make both of my daughters’ lives easier as well as enjoying my time with the grandkids.  It is now more of a balancing act since I have two daughters with children that need me to help them frequently.

Yes, we parents can for sure use the extra help from a grandparent. I swear by it!

Do your grandchildren ask you to sing to them?

Aidan still asks me to sing to him at night and I do as well as have him listen to tapes.  We sing in the car often.  He loves his Disney radio and when I do recognize a song you will hear the two of us singing very loudly not worrying who might be listening :)

I love it. My mother-in-law likes to expose my kids to music she loves, and they sing a lot in the car. Currently my kids are enjoying Bob Dylan.

Tell us about your new book. What motivated you to pursue this project?

I have just completed my first book in the series called “The Adventures of Granny Nanny in:  Zzzz’s please!” which is a story based on my song “Granny Nanny’s Lullaby” in English and Spanish.

Granny Nanny moves into a new neighborhood and very quickly discovers that the street is full of very tired children, as well as the cats, dogs, bugs, even the birds. Granny Nanny comes to the rescue bringing special surprises that changes everyone in some way.  A surprise friendship between Granny Nanny, Max, and the young boy who lives next door ensues.

Granny Nanny is a youthful, vivacious, baby boomer and gets her feathers ruffled when Max calls her old.  “Old? You calling me old Max?” Wait right here she tells him as she quickly comes back in her purple roller skates, the most amazing that Max has ever seen.  “One, two, three” and the race is on between them.

Hmmm….. who is the winner?

Hint:  Granny Nanny is a former roller skating champion.

That’s so awesome! The look” of being a baby boomer is so diverse. How great that you are highlighting this in your story.

What do your children and grandchildren think about Max and Granny Nanny?

My daughters enjoy the relationship between Granny Nanny and Max.  It does show that friendship comes in different sizes, shapes, races, ages which my children have always experienced and it has been an important part of their own childhood experience.  Aidan gets a BIG kick out of Max racing Granny Nanny and he finds their friendship believable and desirable.  I am sure since Aidan and I are very close so he identifies easily with the storyline.

If you had to provide the top five “must-dos” to be an amazing grandparent, what would they be?

The top five “must dos” to be an amazing grandparent is the following in my opinion:

  1. Listen when they talk.
  2. Watch what they do.
  3. Praise them whenever you can and it’s “real” praise.
  4. Spend a lot of time with them and help them identify their strengths.
  5. BE THEIR BIGGEST FAN!

Anything else to share?

I would emphasize being their biggest fan, having them know they can come to you with any and all of their worries, and keep in close and steady contact with them.  If they don’t live close by, make sure you pick up the telephone and call them often.  Even texting is a great way to stay connected.  Writing notes and letters on the computer often.  If you live close by make sure you go to their school activities, concerts, and ballgames.  Take them to the park, to the zoo, the beach, even for a hike or walk.  Let them know how much you love them.

Thank you, Nancy! I look forward to adding your book to our summer reading list!

***

Nancy Shapiro-Swern, otherwise known as Granny Nanny, was born in New York but was raised in Los Angeles where she currently resides with her husband and family (two grown daughters and two grandsons).

Granny Nanny was inspired by her grandson Aidan who was having a difficult time going to sleep (until the lullaby).

Granny Nanny is currently working on a book series with the lullaby, a plush toy series and other wonderful products to help children look forward to dreamland.

The Adventures of Granny Nanny in Zzzz’s please!” will be  an e-book that will be available in August on the Nook, Ipad and Kindle. At the end of the book it will play the Granny Nanny Lullaby in English and Spanish.

sleeping baby image
 

Nancy, thank you for this opportunity to talk to you about Granny Nanny’s Lullaby and your new book “The Adventures of Granny Nanny in: Zzzzz’s please!”

How exciting!

I think all versions of Granny Nanny’s Lullaby are soothing. Your voice is beautiful. What inspired you to write and create Granny Nanny’s Lullaby?

I was inspired to create my lullaby as I held my first grandchild in my arms and rocked him to sleep.  It stirred within me such emotion and love.   When Aidan was old enough to talk he requested it and then one day his best friend slept over and the two of them started humming it when we are out during the day and that is when I created the entire melody and words.

That sounds magical.

It can be a challenge getting little ones to take naps or go to bed. What pearls of wisdom can you share about making bedtime less traumatic for kids, parents, and grandparents?

Bedtime can definitely be a challenge for many children as well as parents and grandparents.  “One more glass of water, one more kiss and hug, one more …..”    I think it is important for parents to have a structured night time ritual which you really try and keep.

What I recommend is to make bedtime fun but yet help the child unwind.  Get them in bed, tuck them in, dim the lights and start to read a story or play lullabies for them on a CD player which should last at least 20 minutes with a variety of music.  My grandson loves Kumbaya (besides my lullaby) and he automatically starts to relax and drift off to dreamland quickly.

One more recommendation that worked with my daughters when they were small was singing together at bedtime.  We would have our routine of 3-4 songs and once we finished them they were more prepared to go to sleep.  And no sugar after dinner!

I’m so happy to hear about your use of music with your children and grandson. Music is very important in our multigenerational household, and we often use it to set the mood or tone for my children. T

My mother-in-law lives with us and she provides a large amount of childcare for my two children. How often are you in the caregiver role for your grandchildren?

I have had a significant role as a caregiver for my older grandson and now I have an 8 month old grandson from my other daughter and I find that I am involved more and more in his life and assisting my daughter as much as I can.  My work day is very hectic but I do have flexibility working from home and so I juggle a lot to make both of my daughters’ lives easier as well as enjoying my time with the grandkids.  It is now more of a balancing act since I have two daughters with children that need me to help them frequently.

Yes, we parents can for sure use the extra help from a grandparent. I swear by it!

Do your grandchildren ask you to sing to them?

Aidan still asks me to sing to him at night and I do as well as have him listen to tapes.  We sing in the car often.  He loves his Disney radio and when I do recognize a song you will hear the two of us singing very loudly not worrying who might be listening :)

I love it. My mother-in-law likes to expose my kids to music she loves, and they sing a lot in the car. Currently my kids are enjoying Bob Dylan.

Tell us about your new book. What motivated you to pursue this project?

I have just completed my first book in the series called “The Adventures of Granny Nanny in:  Zzzz’s please!” which is a story based on my song “Granny Nanny’s Lullaby” in English and Spanish.

Granny Nanny moves into a new neighborhood and very quickly discovers that the street is full of very tired children, as well as the cats, dogs, bugs, even the birds. Granny Nanny comes to the rescue bringing special surprises that changes everyone in some way.  A surprise friendship between Granny Nanny, Max, and the young boy who lives next door ensues.

Granny Nanny is a youthful, vivacious, baby boomer and gets her feathers ruffled when Max calls her old.  “Old? You calling me old Max?” Wait right here she tells him as she quickly comes back in her purple roller skates, the most amazing that Max has ever seen.  “One, two, three” and the race is on between them.  Hmmm….. who is the winner?  Hint:  Granny Nanny is a former roller skating champion.

That’s so awesome! The “look” of being a baby boomer is so diverse. How great that you are highlighting this in your story.

What do your children and grandchildren think about Max and Granny Nanny?

My daughters enjoy the relationship between Granny Nanny and Max.  It does show that friendship comes in different sizes, shapes, races, ages which my children have always experienced and it has been an important part of their own childhood experience.  Aidan gets a BIG kick out of Max racing Granny Nanny and he finds their friendship believable and desirable.  I am sure since Aidan and I are very close so he identifies easily with the storyline.

If you had to provide the top five “must-dos” to be an amazing grandparent, what would they be?

The top five “must dos” to be an amazing grandparent is the following in my opinion:

Listen when they talk.

Watch what they do.

Praise them whenever you can and it’s “real” praise.

Spend a lot of time with them and help them identify their strengths.

BE THEIR BIGGEST FAN!

Anything else to share?

I would emphasize being their biggest fan, having them know they can come to you with any and all of their worries, and keep in close and steady contact with them.  If they don’t live close by, make sure you pick up the telephone and call them often.  Even texting is a great way to stay connected.  Writing notes and letters on the computer often.  If you live close by make sure you go to their school activities, concerts, and ballgames.  Take them to the park, to the zoo, the beach, even for a hike or walk.  Let them know how much you love them.

Thank you, Nancy! I look forward to adding your book to our summer reading list!

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Granny Nanny News: an interview with Granny-nanny Judi

What a treat it was for me to connect with Judi, the creator of Granny Nanny News.

Granny Nanny News is a fun, informative, and interactive site for multigenerational families, childcare givers who happen to be grandparents, and anyone who appreciates a funny story about family dynamics. There are various resources available on Judi’s site too.

Thank you, Judi, for taking time to talk with me. What encouraged you to create Granny Nanny News?

Being granny-nanny in charge of a new grandson is an emotional experience. This new career-after-retirement is more satisfying than I can express, and my over-the-moon love more compelling than I could have anticipated; yet the challenges can be surprising and the conflicting feelings unexpected. Given all the emotion involved and the fact that I love to write, it was natural for me to reach out to others in the same position; hence, my blog.

“Over-the-moon love”, yes, I hear many grandparents talk about their grandchildren that way. What inspires your writing and how do you select your blog post topics?

Inspiration comes mainly in the form of two amazing grandsons born within 10 days of each other – one baby born to my daughter and my son-in-law (to whom I’m the granny-nanny), the other to my son and daughter-in-law (to whom I wish I were the granny-nanny – distance being the obstacle). I could write about them every day if I let myself. But I feel that as a blogger I have a responsibility to inform as well as express, so I try to do both.

I am big on reading; and reading also inspires. I keep up with the latest news and include them as tweets on a sidebar. Sometimes those tweets become topics for posts – especially when they are timely. In addition, because reading is so important and takes up a good part of the day with my grandson, reviewing books that are age appropriate is another part of the blog.

What types of responses or feedback do you receive from other grandparents working as “grandparent nannies”?

The world has become smaller, more inviting, more comforting, as comments and feedback have flown through the blogosphere and landed on my site. From Utah to Texas, to California, to New Zealand, I found others expressing my own thoughts better than I could myself. I also found grandparents who need a great deal more support than I do; those who are raising grandchildren alone and those who have sacrificed an enormous amount of their own comfort and well being in order to be there for their grandchildren. I ache to help them but console myself that communication may be enough for the moment.

I think you are doing a great job in communicating with your audience.

How did you approach your daughter or your husband about becoming a granny-nanny?

Actually, the idea was probably a bit of a bribe on my part. My daughter and son-in-law were living and working in Pittsburgh when she became pregnant. Although they always intended to come back home (it was part of their marriage contract!) I enticed them to come back when the baby was born by offering my services. Neither one wanted to put their new baby in day care, so I knew it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

That is wonderful you were available to offer your services. My mother-in-law threw out her offer to be our granny-nanny in a casual phone call and then the ball got rolling.

How does your son feel about your granny-nanny role with your daughter’s family?

That is such a good question. My husband and I always try to be equally available to both of our children, but in this case it was beyond our control – our son and daughter-in-law knew their decision to move far away would negate our ability to help with childcare. Even so, in the beginning my son had a hard time reconciling my granny-nanny position with my daughter – and, he still might.

That’s a “silent challenge” in our nest too.

We know this and bend over backwards to make up for it because we know it’s an emotional reaction, not a logical one. We love both grandsons beyond measure and we never cease to tell both children so. We visit Ryan as often as we can and if some time goes by, there is, thankfully, Skype and the iphone. In addition, long before I made the commitment to my daughter, my son asked if I would be his office manager one or two days a week at his satellite dental office nearby (not to mention taking and making calls as office manager Monday thru Friday). It required learning a whole new set of skills. So, in my non-retirement retirement my commitment to my children is just about as equal as it can get.

Go you!

When your husband and you decided to take on this care-giving role, were there any health or stamina considerations?

We are still functioning at a fairly high level physically and mentally, so we didn’t think it would be a big problem for us. That said, we did opt for the two of us to take on the job, since we could alternate the responsibilities.

How do you negotiate the care-giving responsibilities with the other set of grandparents?

Because the other set of grandparents lives about 300 miles away, when they come in to visit they want to have all the time they can with their grandson, so negotiating responsibilities is not even an issue.

How are you compensated when caring for your grandchild?

My daughter and son-in-law provide us with the necessary meals while we are at her home.  They have also been very generous in terms of gift-giving. We have only recently spoken about monetary compensation since I may need to go back to work to supplement our retirement income. They objected and said they would rather pay me than have to bring in a stranger to take my place. The discussion continues. We do feel rather uncomfortable taking money from our children, but it may be necessary.

I can see that being uncomfortable – as far as negotiating this – but I love that we can compensate my mother-in-law for her hard and good work with our  children.

The top 5 benefits of being a granny-nanny

  1. It’s like being in heaven. There is no other feeling quite like it – except having a baby of your own.
  2. Your grandchild really gets to know and love you..
  3. You get a chance to correct mistakes you made as a parent
  4. You are helping your children immensely – so important in this day and age when two parents are needed to keep a roof over their heads.
  5. I used to think being a grandparent would make me feel really old; well being a granny-nanny actually makes me feel like I’m twenty-five again.

The top 5 drawbacks of being a granny-nanny

  1. Your time is not your own while you are the care-giver, so you do need to set limits on days and hours.
  2. It might be boring at times, but if you are creative in the realm of “activities,” it needn’t be.
  3. You need to have lots of energy (but it can be good for weight loss).
  4. There can be some parental jealousy since sometimes the grandchild will look to the granny-nanny for what would ordinarily be parental approval and support. I found this to be true – especially before age one. That said, I don’t believe it is a long-lasting situation.
  5. There may be “lively discussions” with your children over feeding, TV and other house rules. Ideally, these should be worked out before the baby arrives; though it is not always possible to anticipate situations that will arise.

Anything else to add:

Grandparents and granny-nannies need to remember that the new parents are most likely unsure of themselves. It is therefore not helpful to give advice with an air of authority or to give unsolicited advice. And, finally, when it comes to “house rules;” unless there is some really good health-related reason not to, the parents’ wishes need to be respected.

Thank you for sharing your wisdom, Judi!

Be sure to check out Saying Yes to Granny-Nannyhood if you are thinking about becoming a childcare giver to your grandchild/ren.

 

 

 

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The Granny Nanny: An interview with Lois Young-Tulin, Ph.D

Dr. Young-Tulin was gracious enough to spend some time with me as I talked about her role and book about being a granny nanny.

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I was very excited to find out about your book and I have read most of it. It’s perfect for a multigenerational family or anyone considering this family set-up. Can you tell us why you decided to write The Granny Nanny guidebook?

I decided to write The Granny Nanny when I first learned that I was going to be a grandmother and I knew that I wanted to be a hands-on, involved grandmother.  Although I had a career and busy life, I consciously decided to schedule consistent times to be an active part of my grandchild’s life. I knew that parenting norms had changed since I was a mother, and I wanted to learn more about the “new” rules of childcare.

I feel so grateful my mother-in-law came to live with us when my husband and I were expecting our second child. She offered to come help us with childcare and we opened the doors to our home. How did you decide to become a granny nanny for your grandchildren?

Both my son and daughter-in-law worked, and they needed someone to babysit. I knew that becoming a granny nanny would be a help to the parents; thus, I and the other grandmother arranged to alternate babysitting days. It was an amazing decision, and during the first 3 years of my grandson’s life, my grandson and I established a very close and loving bond.

That sounds wonderful.

I’m an only child and my husband has an older sister and a twin brother. His twin brother seemed the most upset about their mother (my mother-in-law) relocating to move-in with us because the twin brother wasn’t consulted. What were your other children’s reactions to you helping your older son (and his family) with their first baby?

My other children’s reactions were very positive, and they were reassured that I would do the same for any children they may have. Lo and behind, when my second son and his wife had a baby, I went to New York once a week where they lived and babysat and was an active granny nanny once again.

You are amazing!

You mentioned your maternal grandmother lived with you while you were growing up. What was that like?

It had its ups and downs. My maternal grandmother’s presence was a chance for my sister and me to bond with our grandmother and learn about our family history. On the other hand, her presence in our everyday lives at times created tension between my parents – - the proverbial mother-in-law syndrome.

Got it.

It is true that parenting has changed a lot and continues to evolve. My husband and I spend a lot of time having discussions (talking it out) with our children instead of just demanding they do something. I know this was an adjustment in parenting for my mother-in-law.

What was the largest (or oddest) parenting adjustment you had to make when you started caring for your grandson?

A lot of the parenting rules had changed such as babies sleeping on their backs, car seats and better safety rules. Once I learned the improved safety rules, it was a breeze. I always made it a point to abide by the parents’ rules, even if they differed from those rules I had followed as a parent.  Time out was a new concept for me as the grandchildren got a little older. Old familiar “Sesame Street” was still around, so some things hadn’t changed.

That’s so funny you mention the time-out. My mother-in-law was resistant to time-outs, initially.

Things can get tricky with a granny nanny when it comes to compensation. My husband and I did not want any issues in this department so we pay my mother-in-law a monthly stipend. How are you compensated when caring for your grandchildren?

My compensation was love and lots of hugs and kisses.  When I would arrive to babysit, the babies instant recognition of me and the smiles were compensation enough. I also felt good about helping out my sons and daughters-in-law and making their lives easier.

That made me smile when you said that.


Did you have to consider any health or physical limitations when you took on the role of being a granny nanny?

My biggest limitation was my spinal stenosis, which sometimes limited my ability to climb up and down stairs once my sons moved to houses. Other than that, I did fine at playgrounds and playing on the floor with them.

What are the top five benefits of being a granny nanny?

  1. Bonding with my grandchildren.
  2. Enriching my life and my grandchildren’s lives and having fun together.
  3. Being a grandmother is a chance to nurture again and to even do it better.
  4. The sense of continuity for me and for my grandchildren making a difference in their lives.
  5. Becoming even closer with my son and daughters-in-law by being a consistent part of their lives.

What are the top five drawbacks of being a granny nanny?

  1. Learning to keep your mouth shut is paramount. Even if I disagree with how they might parent, I had to learn to say nothing.
  2. Being a granny nanny takes consistency and commitment. This may mean missing a lunch out with friends because I promised to babysit.
  3. When my son moved to Florida, I missed my grandson and had a difficult adjustment to not seeing him regularly after 3 years of babysitting twice a week.
  4. The maternal grandmother is naturally closer to the baby’s mother. As the paternal grandmother I had to establish a relationship with my daughter-in-law and accept the fact that she is in the habit of calling her mother daily and confiding more in her.
  5. I’m careful not to interfere and to be respectful of the parents. As the paternal grandmother, I know that I have to be careful of what I say to my daughter-in-law.

I love what you said about the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship. (When can you come over for wine to hang with my mother-in-law and me?)

Anything else to add?

Grandmothers have been given a unique opportunity to enrich your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren, and their entire extended families. Make some conscious decisions, make some focused time, and give unselfishly of your love.

Thank you, Lois.


 

 

 

Learn more about Lois Young-Tulin, Ph.D.

You can purchase The Granny Nanny guidebook at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Images:  Dr. Young-Tulin, The Granny Nanny, Grandma Snuggle, Swimming, Reading
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Reflections: Moving back in with mom

My mother was instrumental in connecting me with Sharron for this interview about multigenerational living. (Thanks mom!) As I’ve said before, it is a thrill for me to connect with other multigenerational families who have a full-time or temporary multigenerational household.

I was honored to talk with Sharron and I learned a lot.  We discussed multigenerational living, shifts in views about the construct of a family, and how to keep love at the top of the priority list.

Who’s in your multigenerational nest?

Sharron – 63 (single mother)

Daughter – 41

Son – 30

Granddaughter – 22 (daughter’s daughter)

Granddaughter – 2.5 (son’s daughter)

How long have you had your multigenerational nest?

Since 2006

My daughter left the country and was in and out of the house on leave. My oldest granddaughter would come in and out on college breaks. She is 22 now and lives in Florida.

My daughter returned to the United States in May 2010 and has been living full-time with me.

My son returned home, to my house, in September 2010. He was living in Florida before that.

How did your adult kids approach you about moving back in?

My daughter’s tour was ending and she expressed interest in wanting to come home. She asked me if it was OK and we continued to talk about it prior to her returning in May 2010.

My daughter was not going to have her own place in Arizona, so moving back to Wisconsin, to live with me, seemed like the best next option. My daughter was traveling back-and-forth for about six months. She was job hunting and my house (in Wisconsin) was her home base.

I liked the idea of her returning home and I was looking forward to it.

What about your son? How was the moving back process for him?

My son had been out of work since 2008. I had encouraged him to move back home so that he didn’t have to struggle. My daughter and I had been contributing, periodically, to his day-to-day living expenses. I thought it would be better and easier if he came back home and would live with us.

He was resistant to this and he refused my offer for a while. He was living with friends and trying to make this work because he did not want to move back in with his mother.

In June 2010, a high school/college friend of my son’s told him about a construction job opportunity. The job was in Wisconsin and would involve my son helping out the friend’s brother with a construction business. I thought this was ideal.

My son came to live with me for about a week and then the job opportunity turned into a six month gig. This changed the amount of time my son would be living with me. The added complexity and bonus was my son would move back in and his 2.5-year-old daughter would be coming with him. The plan was for my youngest granddaughter to live with us for about a month and a half.

Wow. That’s a lot of changes all at once. Seems like your nest filled up quickly.

Yes. There were a lot of quick changes.

Why has it been meaningful for all of you to share a multigenerational home?

As a single parent, I remember how hard it was for me to raise my children, by myself, without close proximity of my family.

I look at our multigenerational household as an opportunity to get to know my kids as adults. It’s nice to see their transformation from children to adulthood. The conversations we have are different. We discuss politics and world events, which allows me to learn about what interests them.

Living with my children now allows me to play an advisory and guiding role. I can continue to encourage my children to have spiritual life to support their day-to-day living. Religious health is a strong family value for us.

What are the advantages of multigenerational living for your family?

We have a really good time.  Unfortunately I have been experiencing some health issues. My children have stepped up and supported me in my recovery.

My daughter does the laundry and all the grocery shopping, which is great because I’ve never enjoyed grocery shopping. My son does what I call the “heavy stuff” like vacuuming, mopping, and moving things out of the basement. The basement has been a cluttered area for about 4-to-8 years due to storage challenges, but now that’s being remedied.

What is the funniest thing that has happened in your multigenerational household?

It’s funny how territorial you become about living space. I was using all of the closets when I was living by myself. All of a sudden, I had to get rid of stuff and create room for my children. This forced me to do a bunch of cleaning and purging.

Then my kids were playfully arguing over which room was theirs; it was funny and not at all serious. My oldest granddaughter had her own room at my house. My daughter got the larger bedroom because she moved back first. When my son returned home, there was a bit of jealousy and discussions around who had naming rights over which rooms. It was interesting to watch.

I totally get that. Sometimes it’s hard to shift your thinking about something that was clearly yours at some point in your life.

Are there disadvantages to having a multigenerational household?

You have to constantly be aware of discretion and wearing appropriate clothes at all times.

Exactly! I’m using my robe more than ever.

Since I have an older home, there is only one full-bath and a half bath. There is only one bathroom with a shower, so initially we had shower traffic jams. My kids tend to take longer showers and spend a long time primping in the bathroom. This can sometimes make things tense.

So far privacy has not been a major issue. We are all grown-ups so we respect each other’s privacy.

How does your multigenerational household handle finances?

Fortunately this was not an issue for us and things fell into my place.

My daughter and oldest granddaughter are both in school. My daughter started buying groceries and toiletries as her contribution to our multigenerational family.

My son, when he returned to live with me, had just gotten a job after a two year search. I knew he wouldn’t have a lot of money to throw around so I offered to pay for daycare initially, for my youngest granddaughter. Our agreement was that I would help with daycare payments until he was able to figure out another option. Since my youngest granddaughter will not live with us full-time, I knew my financial contribution to daycare would be temporary.

My son is still taking care of some expenses in Georgia, so I have to be creative and think of other ways he can contribute to our multigenerational household. This is a work in progress.

My multigenerational family typically eats dinner together Monday through Friday? How does this work for your household?

Everyone is busy in our multigenerational family and no one really has the time to cook a big meal.  Everyone is on their own during the week and on Saturday, when things are at a slower pace, we may have breakfast together.

We do enjoy having a nice Sunday meal together after church. This works well for us.

Do you have any tips and/or advice you’d like to share with others who may be considering a multigenerational living arrangement?

1.      Realize your children are adults and you can’t govern their lives.

2.      They are your roommates now – even though there is a relational relationship.

3.      Your grown-up children will come and go as they please.

4.      When your adult children are moving back in, you are not getting your kids back. You’re getting grown-ups back who happen to be your children.

5.      Don’t plan your life around your adult kids. You need to have your own schedule.

6.      Make sure you have our own social outlets so you are not relying on your adult children to play that role.

7.      Being together and hanging out should not be obligatory.

8.      You, as the parent, cannot push your own values onto your adult children. You have to trust the way you raised them and be comfortable with that.

9.      Make sure everyone is respectful.

Anything else you’d like to share?

I can say it has been a joy. I truly believe it had been a Godsend to have my adult children living with me. Overall my health has not been great and this has been exhausting. My kids are so helpful and they look after me. It’s a joy to see my kids caring for me and being concerned about my welfare. I’m proud of the people they’ve become.

Thank you, Sharron, for your interview and supporting it’s a full nest.

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