Category Archives: Tools

Daily adventures

You know when you have kids – and then you start to see the world in a completely different light? You start noticing things that once seemed simple – but when pointed out to you – by your child – become magnificent? A young finger points something out and you’re like, “Whoa! Yes, that is totally amazing. I should pay better attention.”

If you answered “yes” or “well, kinda” – that’s how living in a multigenerational household is – times 1000. We got five people, 3 generations (maybe 4 with my kids’ age gap), 3 females, 2 males, different ethnicities…and the list could go on. The perspectives, thought processes, lenses, personalities, and ways of doing things are like “whoa!”

We can either self-combust, daily, because that is a lot to navigate as things swirl. Or – we can treat this like an invitation to a daily adventure.

For the most part, we chose the latter.

We’ve decided to use the various lenses as opportunities to:

Learn – there are a bazillion teachable moments. These moments can be heartbreaking, tragic, exhilarating, or moving. The point is – there is always something to learn. I see this as a mega bonus in the adventure of multigenerational living.

Appreciate Time – everyone in this multigenerational nest is aging by the second, minute, hour, day, month…and on it goes. Instead of focusing on the next milestone, we become very present and conscious about mini-milestones that help us reflect and appreciate the current spot each one of is in. With five people observing time – the speed at which time flies is ever present in how we choose to move forward and continue to connect.

Create – the talents, gifts, strengths, interest in our multigenerational family vary so much. I think we could easily go to our separate corners of the house, hole up, and create some brilliant and stunning masterpieces. But, since we are communal group – we tend to become involved in each other’s creations so we can share time, nurture relationships, laugh, play, and marvel at the end results.

Fire Your Representative – if a multigenerational household is to be successful, then only the real players are allowed. The fake-self or representative will need to be evicted – or run off in extreme cases. Inauthenticity has no place in a multigenerational home because lenses will malfunction and become warped.

Soul Search – multigenerational living is not for the faint of heart. If you can’t tap deep within and tackle any limiting beliefs that surface – then multigenerational living will suck. If you search your soul, get clear with who you are, own your own sh*t and then tackle it – you should be OK.

Go on Daily Adventures – we love to get out and explore. With the multiple generations – there is always something a few family members have seen, done, or experienced – that needs to be shared with other family member. So…we go and do it, again. We set goals to have a certain number of whole family adventures, small group adventures, and individual adventures. Our dinner table serves as the platform for each multigenerational contributor to share ahas, reflections, wonderings, and joy.

The daily adventure my mother-in-law and son went on, this week was spent trying out the public bus and light rail. Doesn’t sound like a big deal – but when they both shared the experience – through their individual lenses – I felt their happiness and excitement.  They could barely contain themselves.

How do you go on daily adventures?

How do you marvel at and appreciate the little things?



Happy Pre-Friday, IAFN Readers!

So I kicked off today with all my cylinders firing.

Before 10am – and still in my PJs – I was able to:

  • Email with hubby (ME: “Oh? You’ll be back home from work travel, today? OK!”)
  • Get the kids up and ready for school
  • Hand them off to my mother-in-law for the hearty breakfast she prepared
  • Tackle the dreadful car/drop-off line
  • Have a “oh no she didn’t” chat with my cousin
  • Tackle two loads of laundry
  • Find crazy stuff in the washer

  • Pack for an upcoming business trip
  • Listen to my mother-in-law excitedly describe her soon to be launched “granny nanny for hire” business
  • Do some social media stuff
  • Write my Circle of 10 eLetter
  • Watch GMA

Sound like a lot?

Yes, I’m thinking I’ll be napping by noon. – but only after my daily walk.

This is how I am right before I go on work travel. I have to get sh*t done. I want the house tidy, laundry done, loose ends snipped, and my mind decluttered once I make it to the airport.

My mother-in-law was tidying up the main floor of our multigenerational nest because she recognizes when I go into this pre-travel mode. She gets me.

Truth be told – I don’t always get the house in “travel  shape”. I often run out of time, steam, or motivation. I used to be jammed up about that, but no longer.

Why – because it’s my own quirky rule – and I can break it whenever I choose. My mother-in-law helped me see this, too. She avails herself so I can lean on her when the rules are so loud – they are turning me into a witch…because who wants to live with a witchy woman, wife, mother, daugther-in-law, and taskmaster? (that’s rhetorical)

My mother-in-law and I will have a long or short chat about my quirky rules – and then we come up with a simple action plan. The plan may involve us divvying up stuff, skipping items, delaying tasks, or just having a drink and hoping it’ll take care of itself.

Today’s “get ready for work travel” rules involved doing the best I could and as much as I could in my PJs.

And with my rule breaking self – I sat down and watched ALL of GMA (did you see that CRAZY alligator story) while sipping my coffee and thinking about how to help my mother-in-law market her “granny nanny for hire” empire.

Speaking of GMA, empires, grandmothers, and multigenerational stuff…I loved this 4 generation picture of Susan Lucci and her family.

What travel quirk(s) do you have? Do you give yourself a pass or permission to switch it up?

Susan Lucci Picture



During one of my recent presentations on Grandparents as Caregivers, I discussed ways to turn power struggles, between parents and grandparents, into empowering alliances.

As parents, we all have skills, values, ideas, and a vision we bring to the table. When parents elect to invite grandparents to be caregiving partners – or when grandparents elect to step up and in as caregiving partners – the skills, values, ideas, and visions can create a deluge of over-the-topness.

The parents and grandparents love and are committed to the child/children in these caregiving situations, but without the proper strategy or plan – the caregiving ideals become too concentrated causing parents and grandparents to dig their heels in and hoard power or control.

Parents and grandparents have to be open and honest about the way they envision and see their caregiving partnership playing out. They have to be willing to own and express their apprehensions about joining this caregiving partnership. They also have to be clear on how their needs mesh with that of the parents, grandparents, and the child/children.

This may sound scary, complicated, and un-fun – but it doesn’t have to be.  We all know parenting can be challenging and rewarding. When parents and grandparents are empowered in this caregiving partnership, their collaborative efforts can inspire and motivate each other. They can tap into their inner wisdom and share ideas from a place of openness and love – instead of from a place of power and control. The caregiving partners can tap into their unique energy to positively impact the daily life of the child/children – as well benefiting from the byproducts of teamwork (between the parents and grandparents) as they grown, learn, and nurture their connection to the child/children.

In order for empowering alliances to work effectively, the following should be in place:

Set some norms.  No one likes to be blindsided when they are in a caregiving partnership. Creating norms for communication, scheduling, compensation…and whatever criteria you need on your list, should be established right away. The list of norms does not have to be long. The norms have to be specific and doable. They need to empower the caregiving partners to be safe while building and nurturing the empowering alliance.

Be clear about roles and responsibilities. The worse thing caregiving partners can do is be well intentioned while tripping over each other and then wondering what happened.  Make a list of what the partners feel are their best parenting/caregiving talents and strategies.  Decide which talents and strategies are needed at the time – for the caregivers and the needs/age of the child/children . Then create a roles and responsibilities checklist or poster.

Meet regularly. Meetings can be face-to-face, conference all style, or virtual (email, skype, etc.). Select what works best for your caregiving partnership.

In our multigenerational nest, we have a caregiving partnership meeting 1-to-2 times a month (2 times when things are bit busier and more likely to cause a rift). Our meetings involve hubby, my mother-in-law, and me. They take place after dinner and don’t involve my children. We discuss upcoming events, needs, and any changes we need to make to keep things flowing smoothly. If there are any conflicts or grumblings – based on our norms – we have agreed to speak in “I” statements and then work to find a solution to the grumbling. We don’t focus on who caused it – we focus on how the grumbling surfaced and what to do to alleviate it.

Cross train. In some caregiving partnerships, you may have 2 parents and 2 grandparents – or 1 parent and 4 grandparents – or 2 parents and 1 grandparent. The point is, the make-up of who is on your caregiving team can look a variety of ways. Based on this, it is important the caregiving team members know and understand the roles of all the caregiving partners. Leave room to create ways for information flow and caregiving apprenticing to take place. This will keep the caregiving team functioning well and the empowering alliance will grow stronger.

Celebrate often. Caregiving is not always easy. It’s also not always easy for parents to share their parenting role or for grandparents to rethink their parenting role. As you develop and build your empowering alliance – celebrate small and large successes. Acknowledge what is working and thank each other for a job well done. Celebrate what makes your caregiving partnership unique and vibrant. Notice the daily joys and empowerment that radiates through your caregiving partnership.

How have you built an empowering alliance in your caregiving situation?

I’d love to hear your ideas and tips.


photo credit


Projecting your issues

Ah, a family wedding.

We haven’t had one in some years and I was very excited about this one.

You see, hubby’s cousin is getting married. She was the flower girl in our wedding, and now our son will serve as the ring bearer. What a beautiful tradition and circle of growth being witnessed this weekend.

My mother-in-law created a beautiful pillow for my son to carry. When I was married, my mother-in-law made my wedding dress, her own dress, and the flower girl’s dress (the cousin getting married today). Again, I’m filled with warmth, love, and overwhelm as I am a member of this amazing family and feel honored to witness this blessed union.

Weddings are like that. They call to mind what binds us and makes us a family. It makes us reflect on love, falling in love, and self-love. It brings out the best of us as we rally around the happy couple…but then there are the moments of projection when family members come together – and things start to swirl.

Projection comes up a lot at major family events because people are not always self-aware. They deny what is living and breathing on the inside of them and they do not take responsibility for their behavior or feelings. Unresolved feelings, hurt, and pain can lie dormant inside of us. Even though it is dormant, it is still dormant and festering.

When a major family event comes up, someone can consciously or unconsciously trigger an unresolved issue and before a person even realizes it, a fast moving lava flow of negative energy, barbed words, hurtful attacks, and downright meanness can erupt.

I have not seen any of this unfold at this family wedding, but I have heard the initial volcanic seeds being planted. A comment about someone’s weight. A side remark about physical fitness. The refusal to acknowledge a current accomplishment. A moment of antisocial behavior to put others in their place.

This is how it can all start, fester, and then erupt.

If you have a family event coming up and you know (but may not willingly want to acknowledge) you have some unresolved family issues – use the following steps to take care of yourself and to avoid projection:

Make a list of things that may be bothering you about going to the family event. Be clear, detailed and specific. This list is for your own eyes only.

Think about words, interactions, or triggers that might set you off. Examine your thoughts here and find out where the hurt lies.

Stop judging yourself and start to heal. We cannot change the past but we can craft the future. Treat yourself with kindness and move toward healing and transformation because you want and deserve it. You’re not trying to please others.

Practice having a conversation with a family member who pushes your buttons. You can do this alone or with a person you trust. When you feel yourself getting heated, during this practice session, breathe. Stop and think if the conversation is really about you – or if the other person/family member is projecting.

Practice kindness. Search your heart and think about how you like to receive kindness. Practice giving that kindness to yourself. This will help you be ready, with an open heart, to give this kindness to your family members – even if they are projecting.

What other tips do you have to avoid projecting unresolved issues on others? How do you handle family events that may have a toxic undertone?


French Kids Eat Everything

Have you heard about this book, French Kids Eat Everything: How Our Family Moved to France, Cured Picky Eating, Banned Snacking, and Discovered 10 Simple Rules for Raising Happy, Healthy Eaters by Karen Le Billon? (Yes, mega long title.)

My mother-in-law and I had a field day about this topic and the author.

So…you have to be French in order for your kids not to be picky eaters?

We think not!

I’ve been parenting since 1999. My mother-in-law has been at it since 1973…and probably a bit earlier since she’s the oldest of 4 other siblings.

Even though we are both fascinated with the French language, French culture, and French cuisine – we do not think  the French parenting style is the only way to cure picky eating.

Here’s why…

We do not make food a big deal in our multigenerational nest. Even with my youngest following an avoidance diet due to his allergies – we don’t make eating dramatic, drawn out, or adversarial – between the grownups and the kids.

The two kids are involved in grocery  shopping, couponing, cookbook browsing, and cooking the meals. They see food as a way to be together with the family, nourish their bodies, travel to different countries (right at our dinner table) and try something different.

We have not had any issues about eating fruits and vegetables because our approach to food – overall – is about healthy eating.

I think back to last night’s dinner…the kids were arguing over who got to eat the last Brussels sprout. On a different night – the broccoli (or “trees” as my youngest calls it) was devoured so quickly, my mother-in-law realized she should have cooked more.

When my kids were able to move to solids, when they were babies, hubby made their baby food and it was vegetable based. There were no issues there – except the clean up of smooshed squash or smeared sweet potatoes (to name a few veggies).

When my oldest was about four-years-old, our family was invited to a dinner party. My friend called ahead and asked what she could prepare that was “kid friendly”. I promptly informed her we did not make separate meals for our daughter.

At the time we would take a portion of certain foods out of the batch so it wasn’t too spicy for her – but it was still the same meal.

My friend was surprised and shocked. She said she had been cooking specialized meals for her four kids, her husband, and herself for over 15 years.

I’m sorry, but I think that’s nuts, and I don’t have the time or patience to do that.

I think Karen Le Billon, the author, offers some good tips about helping kids develop a positive relationship with food – but she’s not saying anything earth shattering or new.

In all honestly, I think she learned more about her role in being in the parenting driver’s seat – in working with and raising her own children – than about picky eating and the French.

Parents should be the guides for their children, model healthy eating habits, and discuss ways to try out new things. I’m not sure why Karen Le Billon seemed so fascinated by this. It’s what parents, French or otherwise, do.

For our multigenerational nest, we have the following food expectations:

  • Select healthy snacks. (The fruit bowl, on our counter, is always full.)
  • Be gracious to the person who prepared the meal.
  • The food that is prepared is all that is available to eat.
  • Make sure the food items are “Kingston friendly”. (That’s for my son with the food allergies.)
  • Try a little of everything.

 How do you handle picky eating? As Karen Le Billon asserts, do you think the French are the go-to culture to cure picky eating?


Engagement rings

Once again, I was indulging in reality TV and watching the Real Housewives of Atlanta. Typically I’m folding laundry while watching said show, but not last night. I was lying back with a bowl of popcorn in my lap – and getting my junk TV fix. (In my defense – I had been to the water park earlier in the day with my multigenerational gang – so this was my time out.)

Hubby (yes, he was watching, too) and I were thrilled to see Sheree and Damon bonding and working together to plan for a Sheree’s daughter, Tierra, to become engaged to Damon. I was particularly impressed with Damon’s openness about his feelings toward Tierra, how he needed help in planning a proposal to remember, and how he was trying to make sure he and Sheree were in good standing. Damon even mentioned speaking with Tierra’s stepfather – which in my multigenerational and blended family world gets all the “works for me” check boxes marked off.

Through my lens as a coach, wife, and daughter-in-law – I was thinking Damon was setting a great foundation for:

Just when I was having a mental multigenerational lovefest while watching this show, Sheree’s comments about Damon working overtime to buy an engagement ring Tierra deserves threw a mental monkey wrench in the initial positivity I observed. I could see Sheree instantly tearing down the in-law foundation Damon was trying to build.

Many couples become engaged and talking about finances is often shoved to the side because they want this time to be euphoric, happy, and carefree. The engaged couple wants to focus on their love and fun – and that’s all good and dandy – until the reality of  the “this is so awesome” phase fades.

Sheree, in my opinion, missed the perfect opportunity to step-up and nurture this soon-to-be engaged couple. I would have hoped Sheree would have talked with Damon and said something along the lines of:

  • It’s great you have a set budget for the ring.
  • I agree these rings are expensive. Let me use my stylish eye to help you find a ring that is beautiful and fits your budget.
  • It’s important that Tierra and you don’t acquire more debt as a couple – considering you (Damon) have to pay back your 40K in your college investment.
  • No, it does not matter how large my engagement ring was when I was previously married.
  • I appreciate, greatly, being included in this process. I hope you (Damon) and I will continue to build our relationship.
  • I also hope to be a positive advocate and nurturer for your relationship with Tierra.

Now, I’m not saying Sheree needed to have the prefect words – but she needed to not be so self-absorbed. She should have focused on her daughter and Damon – not how the size of the ring should look to outsiders.

I’m giving Sheree 2 multigenerational stars. There is work to be done!

Hey Sheree! Feel free to give me a call. I have some coaching slots, on in-law dynamics, open.


(At the end of the 3.25.12 episode of the Real Housewives of Atlanta , Damon decided not to propose to Tierra. Hmmm…)