“Work goes faster if we work together,” said Vanessa Kaiser (10) of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. “And if we all work together, we have time to play together.” Last summer Vanessa’s family had job cards that told each person what his job assignment for the week was. The jobs were changed weekly—except for the job of tending Katelyn (1). That job goes to whomever Katelyn is happiest with each day.
Each child has his favorite jobs. Vanessa likes to vacuum the stairs, iron, and take care of the family’s two dogs, Cotton and Sandy. Jessica (12) likes to cook and tend Katelyn. Jonathan (8) prefers dusting, and Kenneth (5) vacuuming. Mostly they like to get their work done so that they can play.
Last winter they built an ice rink in their backyard. First they packed the snow down with a toboggan; then they sprinkled the snow with water to form layers of ice. When the ice was thick enough, they went skating. But soon they learned to use their slippery slide as a luge run. Sliding down it on a rubber mat, they’d fly across the iced backyard into a soft snowbank.
The family has a “basement business” to make money for a “magnificent” vacation. They make personalized boot clips (used to clip pairs of boots together so that they don’t get separated) and magnets out of plastic tiles. Jonathan and Kenneth peel the protective coating off the tiles and brush them clean. Mom, Jessica, and Vanessa engrave the tiles with people’s names or initials, bevel the edges to make them smooth, then bend the tiles to make boot clips or attach magnets to the tiles’ backs.
In all things the Kaiser family works together. Their father, Walter, owns a photo finishing lab. Their mother, Nancy, helps with the bookwork, and the children help clean the office. Then Dad helps out at home. “Whenever Mom says there’s nothing in the house to fix for dinner, Dad somehow finds a way to make a wonderful dinner. He’s a great cook,” Vanessa said.
Vanessa loves talking to Jessica about things that Jessica has already done. For instance, last winter Vanessa went to Winter Camp, a winter survival training course held in February for all fifth graders. Before she went, Jessica told her all about how fun it was to build “quinzhee” shelters out of snow and to play the survival games. It made Vanessa really excited about going and helped her not be nervous about the unknown.
Jonathan likes to play with Vanessa because she’ll take the time to work on his projects with him. Jonathan loves to build and create things. Vanessa’s favorite project with Jonathan was building a tricky course, much like a miniature golf course, out of Legos and Zaks and then blowing balls of crumpled up facial tissue through the maze of paths.
Sometimes after a hard day, Vanessa will go to her room and find her bed turned down and a note on her pillow. It will be from Kenneth. “He’ll print some letters on it and tell me that it says ‘I love you. You have been so nice to me today.’ ” It means a lot to Vanessa.
But Kenneth isn’t the only one who writes secret notes to make others feel better. “I do bookwork for my husband,” said Mom. “When it’s payroll, I have a busy, long night. But sometimes when I go down to my work after the kids have gone to bed, I find nice notes that Vanessa has left for me.”
Vanessa sets an example not only at home, but at school too. One day her class was drinking something that is against the Word of Wisdom. Vanessa passed it up and politely explained why she couldn’t drink it. Another time she told some children who were using bad language on the playground that she didn’t like those words and that they upset her. The other children respected her feelings and stopped using the offensive language.
Recycling has also become one of Vanessa’s major concerns. After her class did a project on it, Vanessa helped her family become involved. “Now every time I want to throw something away,” her mother said, “she says, ‘I can recycle that at school.’ ”
“If we don’t do something now,” said Vanessa, “we’ll have so much garbage that we won’t know what to do with it.”
Vanessa is a joy to her family and friends, and they bring her joy too.