Unsung Heroes in Our Home

We have almost reached our three week mark in our new normal.  Admittedly, we have all had a little bit of looming fear about how all of the changes would affect us on a daily basis.  Overall though we have not had any major issues.  The kids seem to understand the way things work and are adjusting and are truly enjoying spending time together.  I keep waiting for a blow up, but none have occurred…YET.

While we all seem to be adjusting well (even Silky), there are some unsung heroes who may be having a harder time:

The poor dishwasher is working itself to death with the amount of cups we go through.

The poor dishwasher is working itself to death with the amount of cups we go through.

The kids have apparently gone CUP CRAZY.  Every day there are a million cups all over the house.  They use cups like they use toilet paper – use it once and then go get a new one.  It is exhausting!  My poor dishwasher has never gotten as much use as it gets now.  I think that I used to run in once every few days, but now it is getting run nightly because it is filled to the top.

The washer and dryer have never seen this much action....

The washer and dryer have never seen this much action….

Laundry.  I don’t even know where to start.  Thankfully Joe is the laundry guy because if you know me at all then you know I HATE LAUNDRY.  Before we got married, I would wait and do laundry about once a week.  It would be about five loads, but I would knock it all out in one day.  We ALWAYS had dirty clothes.  With Joe in the house, we NEVER have dirty clothes.  I heard one of my kids a couple of nights ago say, “This is already clean? I wore it yesterday!”  They have never heard of such a thing!!! Joe does at least one load a night, so the washing machine is taking a beating.  Joe pointed out that his excessive use of the washing machine was positive in other ways too though because no snake would want to be in the basement since there is finally movement down there!

We need to place bets on how long this bad boy will hold up!!!

We need to place bets on how long this bad boy will hold up!!!

Six people taking a shower puts a lot more work on our friend the hot water heater.  We try to be nice to it by getting the girls to shower at night and the boys to shower in the morning.  Throw in there any days where Joe and I workout and then we may take more than one shower a day.  Plus it has to work in cahoots with the dishwasher and the washing machine!  I am praying it will hold out for us and not give up.

While I am dreading to see our first electric bill with everyone in the house, I am so happy that we are all adjusting so well.  I had a bad day at work yesterday and was in a terrible mood when I drove up our driveway.  The boys were outside playing and both yelled hello to me.  I got two good hugs and went inside.  Once inside I got two more hugs from the girls and a hug and kiss from Joe.  By the time I had finished preparing dinner, I was smiling and laughing.  Just being in the presence of all four of our happy kids and feeling so loved by my husband, I had forgotten about my day and was focusing on what is truly important – OUR FAMILY.

The appliances are just collateral damage of having a home full of kids and love… and the appliances can be easily replaced.

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This Blog is Not for the Faint of Heart…

This blog post is rather morbid. and will probably be perceived as depressing – especially by those who love me dearly.  I am contemplating how I can convince my sweet husband and my parents not to read this.  I know it will make Joe sad because he doesn’t like thinking about all of the years I spent while waiting for him.  He doesn’t like to think of me as being afraid or sad.  But this is the truth, whether everyone enjoys hearing it or not.

A couple of weeks ago a single mother was murdered overnight while her 8 year old slept.  It was a random act of violence by three young people who were apparently looking to rob the home.  I’m not sure what happened, but we do know that the young mother was killed.

http://www.wral.com/three-charged-with-murder-in-north-raleigh-mom-s-death/12471595/

I ride by the scene of the crime daily because it is so near my home.  The part that haunts me every time I ride by is that her 8 year old daughter walked in her mother’s room the next morning to find her mother covered in blood and dead.  She went to find help for her mother, but obviously there was nothing that could be done. 

She can never “un-see” that. 

As a mother, it makes my heart ache terribly to think that this innocent child will never be able to erase what she faced that morning.  She probably woke up wondering why her mom had not come to wake her up for school yet.  Maybe she was hungry… maybe she wasn’t sure what to wear….  But now she will live the rest of her life with that vision.  I remember things from when I was 8 years old and I had a pretty simple childhood, so I am sure she will not forget something this horrific.

As a single mother for as long as I was, my heart aches to think how something like this really is possible.  Admittedly, I had that fear over the years that something would happen to me while I was asleep.  It wasn’t really that I worried about something happening TO ME, but I worried about my kids having to find me in whatever state I may be in.

Again, I recognize how awfully morbid this is, but it is a reality.  After I fainted last year, I was terrified that something was wrong with me.  They told me all of what it “could be,” but nothing was every really diagnosed.  The uncertainty of it all – not knowing what had really happened and worrying whether it would happen again – caused me a great deal of anxiety.

After I fainted, I woke up face down on the driveway in a pool of my own blood and walked inside to see one side of my face was barely recognizable and I was bleeding terribly. It makes me sad to think about my daughter’s face when she came down the hall looking for me and found me crying in the bathroom.  I know with certainty that she will never forget that moment. 

Following that day, I had an irrational fear that something could happen to me.  My feeling of invincibility was erased.  I faced a terrible Catch-22 of which would be worse – something happening while the kids were there to find me (and possibly help me by calling 911) or something happening while they were gone so they would not have to remember me like that (even if no one found me for days). 

Yes, it’s embarrassing to admit that I have had these thoughts over the years.  It sounds like I have watched extremely too much of the Lifetime Movie Network.  But I thought I should discuss it because I want other single mothers to know that this kind of fear is absolutely normal.  I talked to other single moms who also thought along these lines, even if it’s hard to admit. I almost decided not to post this, but the way that each friend looked at me while I discussed it made me realize that although no one likes to talk about it, it is obviously a fear that is felt by most.  As I said in a previous blog, sometimes the knowledge that we are not alone is enough to help us face our fears.  Knowing others think the same way can help us to not think we are crazy. 

One thing that I found to bring peace of mind to me was having a system in place of friends and/or family who check up on each other.  Whenever I know a friend is alone for the weekend, I always invite her over or call her to check on her.  My mother has always been the number one person to do this to me. Over the years, every weekend that I did not have the kids, my mother would call on Saturday morning and Sunday morning just to “check in.”  If I didn’t answer, she would leave messages and progressively the messages would get more frantic.  I would call her back as quickly as I could to ease her mind.  Those calls were comforting to both of us. 

The day after Joe and I got married my mother sent me an email that read, “I’ve been thinking all day that I don’t have to worry about you……..like I have for the last 8 years.  Now I have Joe to take care of you…” 

Those fears are finally gone… for both of us. 

It’s such a blessing how one man can come into my life and add so much comfort and peace and love and happiness.  Those nights of fear and loneliness are gone.  I thank God for bringing Joe to take care of us. It’s not that I believe that Joe can protect me from every bad thing that could happen to me, but I take comfort in knowing that IF something bad happens to me, at least Joe would do everything in his power to protect my children from being a witness to it. 

There are some things that children just don’t need to see…

Many Moving Parts in our Unconventional Family

This morning is a perfect example of how co-parenting SHOULD look.  As I was walking into work this morning, I was thinking about how thankful I am since the morning went so smoothly, because after sleeping in a little longer than I should have I wasn’t sure it would go well at all.  There were many moving parts, but now that I am sitting at my desk drinking another cup of coffee I feel such peace and happiness… and marvel at what we all do to put the kids first.

Joe’s kids spent last night with their mom, but since he volunteered to carpool for his daughter’s chorus rehearsal, he had to be in Wake Forest at 7:45am anyway.  So he offered to pick his kids up and take them to school as well.  His ex had appointments this morning, so it worked out well for both of them.  He got to spend time with his kids for a few minutes before school and she got to work.

My daughter spent last night with her dad, but she had an orthodontist appointment at 8am, so her stepmom brought her to our house at 7:30am.  That in itself is a bigger deal than it sounds since they live in Zebulon and we live in downtown Raleigh.  My son yelled up to me while I was getting ready, “Amy wants to know if she can take me to school?”  I ran down the stairs to find them standing in the kitchen next to a sweet note from Joe by a full pot of coffee.  He had even fixed lunch for my son before he left early this morning!  Only two weeks in and he is proving to be such a good stepdad to my kids.

I told Amy that I would love for her to take my son to school since I had not even finished getting ready and my daughter’s appointment was in 20 minutes.  So my son finished his breakfast and they headed out the door.  Her willingness to take him to school (and her desire to spend a few minutes with him on the drive there) made me smile.

Now don’t get me wrong, I would have MADE it work, because that’s what I do.  I could have dropped my daughter at the orthodontist and then taken my son to school and then gone back to the orthodontist (and we would have all been stressed out at the end)… but thankfully I didn’t HAVE to.  That simple offer by their stepmom to take my son to school gave me time to finish getting ready and we still got to the orthodontist five minutes early.

It was a great morning… Joe got to take his kids to school.  His ex got more time to get ready for her appointments.  My son got to school early, which is apparently a big deal to a middle school boy.  My daughter got to her orthodontist appointment early without the stress of rushing around late.  Their stepmom got to spend time with my son and got to work early.  I got to have a stress-free morning with a hot cup of coffee, a sweet note from my hubby, and smiles and hugs from my babies.

There were many moving parts, and what a blessing to us all… and smiles all around as we all got to enjoy the morning doing what we love.  We may not look like other families, but we are all a family just the same.

Errrrrrybody Wants To Get Paid…

They complain there are no jobs out there. Then they are finally given jobs and they perform slovenly on the job, but still expect to get paid. They bitch, moan and complain about the working conditions and the boss. They continue to do pretty much nothing, but still expect to get everything. Then they decide they aren’t getting paid enough to do nothing, because someone else is getting paid more – even if that person does more work and comes to work more often.

Errrrrrybody wants to get paid….

It’s exhausting… and although it sounds like it came directly off Fox News, it didn’t. It’s chores and allowance in the DeLoach home.

I have been attempting to institute a chores and allowance policy in my home for some time now. Unfortunately it had not come to fruition before the merging of the homes. So now it’s double the trouble as everyone tries to find their place in our new normal.

And finding a place in the new normal is even harder than you would imagine… for instance, sitting down for dinner last week we heard, “But that’s where I ALWAYS sit…” Fighting ensued and we had to assign seats at the dinner table. In the car on the way to the lake the other day we had an issue with the mi-fi. Everyone wanted to use the wi-fi, but Joe’s mi-fi only allows for five devices to connect at once. Between us all we have two ipads, two ipad minis, and four iphones… so someone will always be left out. How do we decide who gets to connect?

Trying to find their place in our new normal…

Chores are a whole other issue… with six people in the house now there is more mess, but there are also more people to actually do things to keep the mess from accumulating. But how do you teach old dogs new tricks????

After doing everything in the house on my own for the past nine years, I realize now the disservice I did for myself by not getting my children to do more things on their own. I have always encouraged independence and they have been able to fix their own breakfast or pack their own lunch for years, but I have never made them do even the simplest of housekeeping. Maybe that was my way of trying not to rock the boat since they have already been through so much… who knows? But for some reason I have never insisted on putting their clothes in the hamper or putting their glasses in the dishwasher. I was the phantom cleaner who would sneak into their rooms in the dark of night and pick clothes off the floor and take glasses to the sink. As a result, I have never given any type of allowance, but they are getting older now — they want MONEY.

It’s more of a challenge than you would think to assign out specific tasks when you have different family members who are in different homes part of the time… Do my children get more since they are here more days of the week? What expectations are family-wide and what expectations are specific to each child? It is starting to look like my son will be in charge of the trash cans and recycle bins – getting them to the street and back on Tuesdays since Joe’s son is not with us on Tuesdays. Joe’s son will be in charge of getting the trash and recycling TO the cans outside when he is home. My daughter is responsible for getting the mail and feeding the cat food and water. Joe’s daughter is responsible for getting the newspaper and feeding the cat milk. They are all expected to sort their dirty clothes, make their beds and keep their junk out of the common areas of the house.

I cannot begin to express just how wonderful it feels to have help around the house. Overall life in general feels so much better when things in the house are put in their proper place. That’s something I am not accustomed to because when I was the only one doing anything, nothing really ever found its place. Not because I was lazy, but because one person doing everything in a house this big means that not much was getting done.

If you are newly separated or divorced, I encourage you right now to teach your children basic housekeeping skills – no matter what their ages. I have been doing everything alone for so long that I didn’t know what it felt like to actually have help. And it feels GOOD. It’s amazing how cleaning doesn’t seem like quite the tedious chore when you have someone helping you.

So give them jobs. And set up expectations of how those jobs will be done. Reduce wages for jobs that are not done well or if too much supervision is needed for the job to be done. No entitlements and guarantees… no bailouts. We aren’t going to encourage a culture of dependency. We are creating the opportunity and we will reward hard work and saving.

Ok, so now I sound like Fox News again…

We Love Being Home Base…

Our kids are going to eat us out of house and home… Now that Joe and I are married, we have four kids under the same roof a lot of the time. I used to go to Costco once a month, but now we are finding that we reach a “dire need” status within a week of the last trip. We easily go through three half-gallons of milk and two loaves of bread in a week. Lately we have noticed when it comes time to make lunches in the morning that the snack food is depleting fast.

Last week I came home from work and started getting dinner ready. When I went to throw something in the kitchen trashcan, I was AMAZED at how many snack wrappers were in there – chips, fruit roll ups, Oreos, Babybel Cheese, a box of chocolate milk. Basically everything I send to lunch with the kids was in the waste basket and my son had not even been home from school for two hours.

As I was sitting there in awe over how much he had eaten that afternoon, it hit me…. My son has at least two boys who walk home with him every afternoon. They hang out for a little while and shoot hoops or go fishing before their parents pick them up. No wonder I feel like we never have any food — I have three or more teenage boys at my house every day after a long day of school!

I sat my son down and told him that from now on the pre-packaged snacks were for lunchboxes only and that while I did not mind his friends coming over every day that I could not afford to feed them all. My son was NOT HAPPY.

The next afternoon I came home to find a mess on the sunporch – Doritos packages and blue Gatorades. I asked the sitter where the boys were and she told me they went fishing and added, “And Jed’s mom came to get him but then left without him for some reason. Weird.” Joe walked in at that moment and I glared at him, “Can you believe this??? I told him YESTERDAY that I do not want to feed all of his friends every day and look what I walk into????” All the while I was pointing at the junk food wrappers scattered on my sunporch.

Joe looked at me and said, “Baby, I don’t think we had any Doritos or blue Gatorades… they must have brought them from school.” I was so confused, so I called my son from the fishing pond and asked him to come home. When he walked in I said, “Look at this mess! And where did this food come from???”

My son said, “We called Jed’s mom and asked her to bring snacks over since you said we can’t eat our food anymore. So she brought us some snacks.” My mouth dropped open due to my immediate embarrassment and my unexpected pride at the boys’ initiative. He then hit me with, “I mean, what were we SUPPOSED to do mom???”

Joe and I laughed so hard thinking about what my friend Jamie must have thought when the boys called and said I would no longer feed them… I explained to my boy that I meant they could not eat the pre-packaged snack foods, but if they wanted to have Spagettios or Hot Pockets or Easy Mac, then that was fine. He seemed to feel much better about them being allowed to eat SOMETHING at least.

The thing is that we love being the home where all the kids want to be. At least when the kids are congregated at our house we know they are being supervised and we have more control over what they are doing. At this age, the boys especially can really get into trouble when left unattended, so I love that the boys all like to come over and go fishing at the neighbor’s pond or walk down to play basketball at the elementary school down the street. I love that our house is their home base.

I guess if I want to continue to be the home that the kids like to hang out in then I better start going to Costco more often to have better snack foods. I would hate to lose them over some Cheez-its (or lack thereof)………

My Eccentricity Part Deux – Feather Boas

As if I needed to prove my eccentricity any further – I LOVE BOAS.

I have incorporated a boa into every Halloween costume I have worn for years.  The Halloween before last I was the Black Swan (which was a much more interesting concept when my friend Mary Charles was going to be the White Swan, but she became ‘Sweet As Pie’ at the last minute, so I was the lone black swan – very fitting at the time I might add).  I made my costume the night before the party after going to a painting class where there was quite a bit of wine consumed.  So picture me cutting up a boa and sewing feathery pieces all over a leotard after consuming quite a bit of wine (and no, the consumption did not stop because I was home).

There were black feathers behind me like bread crumbs all night in case I got lost.

There were black feathers behind me like bread crumbs all night in case I got lost.

I think I broke three needles on my sewing machine and my house looked like a black bird was murdered in it, but the costume was a wild success!  My housekeeper told me months later that she was still finding black feathers in the house.

And boas are only one of the many things that I enjoy doing that would make me eccentric… I once vacuumed my house wearing a tiara and a mink stole.  Of course I realize that sentence would have been much more interesting to my male readers if I had ended it with ONLY, but I’m not going to lie… I mean, I had on my sweat pants and t-shirt under it.  A true southern woman would not be caught dead in a tiara and mink stole alone.

I wonder if this eccentricity will continue now that Joe and I are married.  I’m thinking it’s the perfect ingredient to keep our relationship interesting…..

Crazy Flags Flying…

There is so much crazy out there…  Go out on a Thursday night to an upscale bar in North Hills and you will more than likely encounter one or two people with a crazy flag.  They may not be flying it at that particular moment, but if you spend even a few minutes talking to them you quickly see that they definitely have one.

I’m fairly certain that every woman has a crazy flag.   I define a “crazy flag” as having a propensity to behave in an irrational way – which pretty much defines every day of my life.  All women at certain times of the month have that propensity – some more so than others.

Some women are much better at hiding their crazy flag.  I have a “friend” (and, yes, I am using that term very loosely) who comes across as being such a nice and genuine person, but the minute the person she is speaking to turns their back, she talks bad about them.   I know that with as much as she talks about other people that she definitely talks about me when I walk out of the room.  Her crazy flag goes up and down like the tide, but she is smart enough to know how to hide it.  I am wondering when her new husband will find her collection of crazy flags she keeps locked in her basement, because it is only a matter of time before she lets down her guard and waves her crazy flags for everyone to see.

I can think of a few times where I have flown my crazy flag and flown it high and proud.  But, in my defense, I had to bring it out as a result of the enormous crazy that surrounded me.  WHEN IN CRAZY TOWN DO AS THE CRAZIES DO.

If you know me personally, then you know that my favorite insult about someone is to say, “She is just plain CRAZY.”  My definition of “just plain crazy” is when you have the ability to hurt others with your irrational behavior.  I can think of a few friends on Facebook who I am certain are just plain crazy and their erratic behavior affects those around them.

On the other hand, I am the kind of person who enjoys just being silly.  I like to dance in my kitchen while cooking dinner and I like to wear whatever is easiest to put on to go get the paper in the morning – doesn’t everyone wear Ugg boots and a faux fur coat over their nightie to walk down their driveway in the morning?  That’s not crazy — I prefer to call it “eccentric.”

I can honestly say that my favorite part of my eccentricity is that my children are so understanding about it.  My son is in middle-school and as a result is much more sensitive to what others think, but when it comes to me he doesn’t seem to notice.  If anything, he seems to appreciate it.

I can walk out to the car to take him to school with a hoodie sweatshirt over my nightgown with my Uggs and a scarf on and he will look at me, smile and shake his head without saying a word.  Maybe he is trying to teach me like a parent tries to teach a child… maybe he thinks I’m rebelling and he wants to ignore my rebellion in hopes that it will go away.

If that’s the case, the poor kid should give up… He is stuck with me forever.

We’re Not Broken… Just Different

My children are so blessed. Cynics may say, “How in the world are they blessed when they come from a broken home? How is THAT a blessing?”

First, we may have what some call a “broken home,” but we do not have a broken family. Their dad is remarried and they have a great stepmom and an adorable little sister.  Since I just got remarried, they now have a wonderful stepdad and a new brother and sister.  We are not broken… we are still a family.  ALL OF US – we just look different than other families.

And we DO look different than other families. We even look different than most divorced families. We don’t meet in the Kangaroo parking lot to “exchange” our children. Their dad is welcome in our home just as I am welcome in their home with their dad. My ex will walk right in the house and go up to see the kids in their rooms and I feel no need to follow him.  We don’t sit across the gym from each other at school functions… we often save seats for each other or sit near each other so that our children will only have to look in one direction. We have only one birthday party for each child and every member of the family (from both sides) is invited. We want our children to be well adjusted and know how loved they are by all of us. After football games we all go out to dinner together and it’s wonderful to see how happy the kids are when they have their mom, dad, stepmom and stepdad breaking bread together peacefully.

There have been plenty of times when I did not want to have to see my ex-husband.  I admit that.  There were times when things were so contentious that it was easier to just avoid him.  But for our kids we have always faked it.  Even if we had an email war all morning over something, we would still smile in front of the kids at the school play to reassure THEM.  We are the adults… we can handle the stress, but the kids should not have to know anything about it.

I am so thankful that my children have not allowed my divorce to define who they are. They have recognized from an early age how lucky they are to have so many people from both sides of their family who love them very much.  I’m not saying it is always easy and I’m definitely not saying it has always gone smoothly. Those who are in the midst of a heartbreaking divorce can at least have peace knowing that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. The problem is so many parents fail to see what they need to do to reach that light.

FOCUS ON THE KIDS. We are adults and we will get through all the drama and heartbreak. It’s not our first rodeo. We have been hurt before. The children are the ones who need us to step out of the dark and SHINE.  If parents focus inwardly on their own depression and bitterness, then the children suffer.  They are acutely aware of our weaknesses and depression and it immediately puts them in a caretaker position, which is not healthy for a child.  They feel like you NEED them and so they may have anxiety when they go to the other parent’s house or they may feel like they have to sit with you at events because you can’t “handle being alone.”  Our children do not need the extra pressures that come along with that!

This is the time when they should be chasing fireflies and fishing and dancing to their own music. They should NOT be put in the middle of a bitter fight between their parents. Even if you think they aren’t aware of what is going on because you don’t fight in front of them, THEY KNOW. They know that things are not ok. They know everything is different. They know they can’t talk about certain things because it would be too upsetting to you… And they internalize everything. If there is ever a time that they need their parents to work together it is when they are at their most vulnerable point. They have already lost enough, so why rob them of everything? After all, you cannot be a good parent and be selfish at the same time – whether you are divorced or not. Learn to let go and focus on the kids. One day they will thank you.

It is clear to my children that we may not have been able to make our marriage work, but we will do whatever it takes to work together for the benefit of our kids. I overheard my twelve year old talking to a friend one day about his friend’s parents getting divorced. The other child asked Warren if his dad and I were friends. Warren said, “I wouldn’t say they are friends, but they are always nice to each other.” That is exactly right. We may not be friends, but we are working hard together to make sure that our children are able to enjoy their childhoods.

It takes a while to reach the point where we are – if people are even able to reach that point.  I see Joe struggle with it daily because he wants so much to be in the same place – he recognizes how good it would be for his kids.  We can work toward it, but it cannot happen overnight.

The fact of the matter is this: How could it be bad for children to know non-stop, every day, no matter who they are with at that moment, that they are loved by everyone?  How could it be bad for a child to know that you encourage them to love their other parent and that it’s okay with you if they miss their other parent?  Why not encourage the kids to call the other parent… and pump the kids up to have a good time when they are with the other parent… and show the kids love by getting along with the other parent even if you don’t want to? THAT would be the true blessing for everyone involved.

And then you can proclaim that your family is not broken either… just different.

**** This is a reworked blog that I previously published on October 3, 2012****

Hope for My Single Friends

I got a text from a dear friend last night who has been divorced as long as I have.  Over the years we have both dated our fair share of losers.  She was excited to tell me about the new guy she has been seeing.  Her text said, “He literally makes me think, ‘This is why I have been alone so long. I have been waiting for him.’”

Her text made my heart skip a beat because when Joe and I got married last week, the minister actually said that in our ceremony.  He said something along the lines of, “Valerie knows the reason she has been single so long is simple… she was waiting for Joe.”

Our wedding day....

Our wedding day….

And that is absolutely TRUE.

After separating almost nine years ago, I started going to see a therapist to help me know how to best get my kids through the divorce.   He was fabulous and after about six months of talking solely about the kids, we dove into dating.

He told me that I needed to make a list of all of the qualities that I wanted in a husband and to list them from most important to least important.  He said that while I will never find a man who has all of the qualities I desire, I can weigh the qualities he has to see if he is worth my time.  He may have the top two and not any more.  That would probably not be worth it.  Or he could have ten of the middle qualities… and I would have to decide if that is enough.

I went home and I made that list.  I used that list throughout my tenure as a single mom.  And it was ridiculous how few men had enough qualities on my list to make them worthy of my time…

Let me stick this plug in for marriage, because I can say without a doubt that until you have experienced the pure misery of the dating scene post-20’s, then you could erroneously believe that the grass is greener single.  Trust me when I say the grass is NOT greener as a single mom.  Because I was single so long I seemed to always be the “go to” who my friends would call when they were contemplating separating.   They would try to justify their reasoning to me when I would tell them how hard being a single mom is.  I cannot even tell you how often I heard, “He doesn’t do anything anyway, so I am basically a single mom.”

Every time I heard that statement I wanted to punch something.  It is NOT the same.  That’s like a fellow law student (I think she was maybe 22 and I was a 36 year old single mother of two) who said to me once, “I know what your life is like.  I have a dog.”  <insert incredulous, jaw on the ground look here> Really?  It was all I could do not to roundhouse kick her to the side of the head.

So with that being said, NO…. having a husband who is not home a lot is NOT the same as being a single mom.  You have another income in the house (even if he is not there) and you can get up and go work out in the morning while everyone is asleep or go to the grocery store after everyone goes to bed at night.  And no, having every other weekend “off” does not make the two weeks straight with kids any easier.

And the slim pickings in the dating scene when you are divorced is the icing on the pile of manure.  I went out with all different kinds of men to sample the waters – a nice divorced father, a med student, a rich guy who thought his money made him thirty years younger, a bar owner, quite a few 40 year olds who had never been married (which is a WHOLE OTHER blog topic I can reserve for later), and a football coach.  While some may judge me for dating a lot, I wanted to see what was out there so that I could know exactly what I wanted and exactly what I did NOT want in a man.  I also think it is important to date while single because even if nothing comes out of the date, he may have a friend who he could introduce you to!

But after being single for a lot of years, you start to wear blinders… you start to justify dating someone who is not really future material because you feel like you’ve been single too long.  You begin to look past major character flaws because you want to be hopeful.  You go out with someone you shouldn’t go out with because you think, “Well maybe I’ve been too picky.”   And most importantly, you forget about the importance of your list.

I had tucked my list away and pretty much given up on it when Joe entered the picture.  We had gone to high school together twenty years earlier and reconnected on Facebook.  We went to have lunch and immediately began spending as much time together as we were able.  I thought he was too good to be true… so I pulled out my list.

Joe had absolutely every quality.  Every single one.

After nine years of absolute misery and heart break in the dating scene, I found someone who had ALL of the qualities on my list.  I am so thankful for every broken road that led me here.  Neither one of us proclaims to be perfect, but we are definitely perfect for each other.  It may have taken many years in the desert to get us here, but we have arrived and it sure does feel good…

And I know in my heart that this was His plan all along.

Someone has definitely being watching out for me...

Someone has definitely being watching out for me…

Breakdown in Aisle 10

Major milestone in the DeLoach home – we have officially been married over a week and we have made it with relatively few tears from anyone.  While that may (and, well, will most likely) change today when I limit snack intake after school (look for that blog coming soon!), we are grasping this victory.  Our focus with all four kids is simple:

HONEST COMMUNICATION.

Our first official (as a married family) family meeting is going to be this weekend.   The kids know the routine although the boys resist it like the plague.  We sit down and we essentially “air our grievances.”  If there is anything that is not going right or that someone thinks needs to be done differently, then the family meeting is the time to discuss it.  It’s important to both of us that there be no fear in expressing your thoughts.  We don’t want the kids to keep quiet about something because they fear our reaction.

The girls approach this airing of grievances a little differently than the boys… “Uh, I really don’t like it when you sing in the car. I’m not saying you sing bad, I just like to hear the real song.”  Not really what our goal is in having a family meeting, but it makes us proud that the girls can discuss things in a non-threatening way.

Joe and I also strive for complete and honest open communication.  Last night at the grocery store we had a disagreement over the cost of waffles… I protested that the waffles were regular price UNLESS you bought the whole Meal Saver Deal and Joe said that they were 2 for $4.00 despite the deal.  Right there in the frozen food section we almost got in our first fight – over Eggo’s waffles.  He told me I was wrong……………………

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Ok, if you know me AT ALL, you know that it does not go over well when you tell me I am wrong.  Many of you have at one time (or 20) in your life seen me immediately glaze over and then completely shut down…. well, that’s pretty much what went down in aisle 10 at the Harris Teeter last night.  I walked around the rest of the grocery trip in a zombie-like haze.

As we were driving home (after a couple of unsuccessful attempts to kiss me), Joe said, “You said you wanted me to always tell you what I thought.  You said you never wanted me to go along with something just to keep the peace.  So I didn’t.”

Wow… my own words back to haunt me.  We have always talked about things that did not work in our first marriages that we never want to do again… and one of those things is the fear of expressing an opinion because your throat might get ripped out.  Once that realization hit me, I was instantly overwhelmed with love for him.  I most certainly do NOT want him to go along just to keep the peace.  That is not US at ALL.  Our relationship has a firm foundation in honesty, no matter how brutal.  Our children have even seen that honesty in action and hopefully are learning from it every day.  No fear in our home.  Only love and forgiveness and understanding.

So our plan is to keep that same honest communication that we find so important in our relationship as a priority with our kids.  The excuse that they are afraid to disappoint us is just not an acceptable reason to lie.  Lying for any reason will not be accepted (even though one of our friends informed us that all teenagers are LIARS… and there is nothing we can do about it except expect lies when they open their mouths).  Honesty first.  It saves a lot of anxiety and disappointment in the future.

And the next time Joe is honest with me when I don’t want him to be – about a new hair cut or a new outfit – then I will have to remember that honest communication is what has gotten us through the first eight days and it is what will get us through the next 40+ years.