Jeannie Bruenning Author

Lucky or Unlucky? | Prickly Pear

I spent time imagining what this new living arrangement would be like, being in the same house that our youngest grand daughter would learn to walk in, she’ll go to her first day of kindergarten from this house and some day move out. I’ve tried to picture how having a space like this is going to make the holidays different. I’ve tried to calculate what Oktoberfest, Purim and Passover might look like?

It was never our intention to have regular family meals but in our first week of being here, Megan’s mom and grand-mother brought us two meals which were wonderful and allowed us to stop unpacking and gather around the table for dinner. Then we had a pizza night, a Megan’s Cooking!! night and Liams Surprise Dinner night and soon we were checking with each other about what we should do for dinner.

While the ten of us sit around the table enjoying the meal, the kids talk about their school day and the adults about what’s the next project. It didn’t take long to realize that this time of the day provides an abundance of unexpected fun. Amelia can now join in as she can sit in a high chair. She laughs at us and we laugh at her and when we forget that she is the center of the universe, she squeals and let’s us know we’re ignoring her. Emery comments on the spiciness of the food and Liam usually has made desert for us to enjoy later. 

Our kitchen/dinning room is almost a third of the size of the entire house. In fact, it’s almost the same size of the condo we owned in Chicago. It has 2 refrigerators, a new sparkling oven, a table that seats 12 and is becoming the hub. The place we gather to eat and drink and stay connected. 

The other night Austyn read a short story that Emery had written. The assignment was to write about a time when you felt lucky or unlucky. This is her story…

I feel lucky for living in this house.

We live on a hill and have more space to play and walk around.

It is beautiful.

We can see lots of things like hills, palm trees and lots of sky.

I am lucky.

That night we all realized just a little bit more how lucky we are.

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Make it Amazing! | Prickly Pear


Today I repurposed a Jade plant. It’s most likely the largest succulent plant I have every seen. It took hours to thin it down and load it in my new Gorilla Wagon, the coolest wagon in the world! 

I took my awesome wagon down the hill to replant the pieces I had removed and trimmed. I dug small holes, gathered two or three stems and carefully placed them in their new home, patted the soil back around them and with each new planting said, “Today, I give you new life…make it amazing!”

We’ve had a lot of comments about this multi-generational living thing. Many who think it’s wonderful. Others who wish they could do the same. Some who want to movie in with us. And several who say, “I couldn’t live with my kids.” 

I get it. Jeff and I would have said the same thing a few years ago. But our kids have been through real life. They have had trauma, pain, difficulties, success and they made it through. If we were really faced with the situation of having to choose who we’d be stuck on a deserted island with, it would be our kids…including their spouses.

“I couldn’t live with my parents. They are too controlling,” is another reason we hear of this impossibility. If you’re in your twenties and figuring out life, you most likely shouldn’t be living with your parents. But usually, I’m not talking to 20 somethings, rather, forty and fifty year olds. 

Why as parents is there the need to control our kids? The common commands that are barked out such as, “It’s my way or the highway!” or “If you live under my roof…” or the tough love thing that says, “Live my way if you want my approval!” are the acceptable ways of raising kids – even when they are adults. As parents, why is raising obedient children the focus over raising kids to become amazing adults who know how to control their own lives?

One reason our multi-generational adventure is working is because this isn’t Jeff and my house. It’s truly our house. Our son-in-law and daughter-in-law have as much ownership as we do. I love that! I love watching them making decisions. I love having them take control. 

In twenty years when my newly planted succulents have spread across the bottom of the hill and have made a new amazing life for themselves, we will be watching the next generation of adults making choices, a new generation of toddlers figuring out life and I hope I’m still saying, “Today, I give you new life…make it amazing!”

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A Few Too Many

When you put three households together you quickly figure out where everyone has spent their money. We have a dozen bikes, this is more than the amount of people residing in our home. It’s also about 11 more than get used.  We have 3 jeeps, 2 sedans and a Subaru in the driveway, and yes, they all get used regularly. We have 2 TVs in the storage room since every room that could possibly contain a television has one.

We did realize that the kitchen is one of all of our favorite places. We have 4 food processors, 3 blenders, 4 crock pots and more spices than Trader Joe’s. In fact, we tossed out 1/2 of the spices and still have too many. 

Not only do we have the supplies and equipment to prepare mega meals, we have enough dishes, glasses and silverware to set a table for 50 with complete place settings.  

If you are having difficulty envisioning this, here’s some images…



Prickly Pear

Just in case we decide to open a meat market, we’re set with carving utensils…


Spices anyone?

Prickly Pear spaces

Best of all we have our very own greenhouse, minus the house. There are citrus, avocado, and almond trees, succulents, and starter plants for our garden. In the multitude of citrus trees there isn’t one lime tree on the lot. This clearly means we aren’t done, who doesn’t need limes?


Best of all, a few years back Jeff and I took all the grandkids to a local store to buy baby succulents to be planted in the “Neenee Garden”. Each succulent has been cared for and some have grown so large they required a house of their own. The rest of the collection have been cohabitating in this, now over-grown, planter. The “Neenee Garden” is coming soon.



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The Walk | Prickly Pear

Our hacienda is one long ranch style house. At some point the owner turned a two car garage into more living space which makes it feel extra long. We do a lot of walking in here because if you want to talk to someone on the other end of the house, you either call them or walk over to them.  Amelia and I were making that walk the other afternoon. We started at their end of the house cause a new diaper was required. As we made the trip back down the hallway I was amused by the story that was being written at that moment.  From the next room, Sage, her friend Ethan and Raun were putting together Sage’s new furniture. The music was playing something I had never heard and couldn’t really understand but they were enjoying it.

The walk at Prickly Pear

A few steps further we found Emery hanging out with her favorite friends in all the world – the Pokemans – who have their own special form of music.

Outside of her door, Sir Winston was finishing up a peanut butter jar.

As we passed through the kitchen, Liam was busy making desert for dinner. And just past the kitchen, Jeff and Austyn were singing songs from The Greatest Showman and The Waitress.  Amelia and I enter our living room and saw Uncle Brian trimming the pepper tree. Then we stood in the bay window and watched for mom to come up the hill in her purple jeep and made our own music. The walk from one end of the house to the other is a walk I now take intentionally and every time I get more excited about the life stories that are being written.

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The Oven Night | Prickly Pear

We seem to be having a lot of these breathless adventures…

Do you remember that night after we moved into the hacienda when we were all out doing things separately and suddenly our phones began to beep because Brian and Austyn found a new oven that was a floor model and had been marked down from $1400 to $850 and they were asking if we all wanted to go in on it and 60 text messages later we all decided it was a good idea so Brian said he could fit it in the Subaru and when he went to check out was told that the floor model had been marked down to $499 back in November but no one had changed the sign so it had been sitting on the Costco sales floor for four months waiting for us – us the people who just moved into a big blue house on the hill and are trying something called generational living and we love it so far except for the smell of what we believe was a rotting carcass in the kitchen and had been unable to locate it but now we were forced to pull the old oven out and when we did found lots of grease and dirt but no creature which didn’t stop Jeff and Austyn from putting on gloves and bleaching every surface that could reach including the nob to the exhaust fan and when the new oven was put in place we were all amazed that it had two ovens, a top and bottom, and came with a big orange warning sign that the oven could tip over if a baby were to crawl into it but we knew if a baby were to crawl into the over there would be greater danger than it tipping over – and now the kitchen smelled like bleach and a rotting carcass so we pulled the refrigerator out because it was leaning backwards and there it was, a small four legged critter lying lifeless which we removed and used more bleach and then felt the need to use this opportunity to remove the magnetic knife holder from the wall which was being held up with six inch screws and a bolts on the other end which wasn’t the reason the refrigerator leaned backwards but non the less seemed odd –  once the carcass was removed and the refrigerator was replaced we celebrated because our refrigerator didn’t lean any longer and the kitchen didn’t smell like rotting carcass and best of all, Brian looked up our oven on his phone and it retailed for $1700 which we had just purchased for $499 and best, best of all…it’s blue inside…that was a great night!!  


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Writer, Author and Coach. Jeannie started a publishing comapny in 2009 called A Silver Thread. Resides in a small beach town on the Central Coast of California and has a passion for people and stories. Click here to learn more.

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