Our Weekend Off?

The first few years of my children’s lives I couldn’t take my eyes off of them for a second.  My entire life revolved around chasing behind them nonstop – whether at the beach, the park or my home.  We all know the feeling of uneasiness a parent feels when the house is quiet.  There is comfort in hearing your children banging around or laughing because you know exactly where they are and what they are doing.   When there is quiet you fear that you will walk into a room with a 4 year old with scissors and very little hair left or a pretty new scribbled mural on the wall.

My sweet boy at the beach...

My sweet boy at the beach…

Then my children reached an amazing stage of independence.  I called it the “gliding stage” to my friends.  I could read magazines on the beach while they played in the shallow water and I could enjoy our time together in the afternoon after school because there were not any serious organized sports team practices.  They could get up in the morning and fix their own breakfast while I showered without any fear on my part that the house would burn to the ground.  This stage felt so good that I foolishly believed it would last… until we hit the next stage.

As kids grow, so do their extracurricular activities.   We went from lazy afternoons of playing in the yard to detailed, color-coded calendar days and constant emails between their stepmom and me about carpooling.   Acting classes, basketball practices, piano lessons, running groups… we have something scheduled every day.  Throw into the mix that my son’s AAU basketball team practices 30 minutes away three days a week (with practice ending at 9pm!) and you quickly see that our family time is now spent in the car.  So I’m back to chasing my kids around nonstop, but in a different way.  They still crave the independence they have learned, but I have to shuttle them around.

Piano recitals are so much fun...

Piano recitals are so much fun…

That's my boy!  We have AAU tournaments most weekends...

That’s my boy! We have AAU tournaments most weekends…

When I was newly divorced and in that non-stop chasing stage, my kids would go see their dad every other weekend out of town and I would absolutely bask in the nothingness I could do ALL WEEKEND.  Times change and kids grow.  Now that I live close to my ex, Joe and I have the weekend without kids and don’t have time to even breathe.

Someone asked me yesterday as I was getting off the elevator on my way home from work, “Do you have any big plans this weekend?”  And I quickly responded with, “No! We got married last weekend, so this weekend is going to be very quiet thankfully…” As I was speaking I thought of something and had to add to that, “Well, I have to take my daughter to piano tonight before I take her to her dad…. and my son has three basketball games tomorrow in an AAU tournament… well, my daughter has a piano recital tomorrow night… and my step-kids have a piano recital on Sunday… and we are teaching Sunday School.”

She is so talented... she has wont the mile run in First in Fitness Wake County for three years straight.

She is so talented… she has won the mile run in First in Fitness Wake County for three years straight.

When I got into my car I had to just sit still for a moment… as I came to the realization that it may be some of the only quiet time I get all weekend.  So to those people who think that divorced parents “get every other weekend off,” I say you are terribly wrong.  Any mother worth a grain of salt wants to be at their children’s events – even if it’s not “her weekend” with the kids.

If you think that Joe and I are laying around all weekend eating bon-bons and watching movies, all I can say is I WISH…  We will be running around all weekend cheering on the four people we love best in this world.  We don’t want to miss a thing – no matter who they are with for the weekend.

Joe and me at an early morning basketball game at the Y... and it was "our weekend off."

Joe and me at an early morning basketball game at the Y… and it was “our weekend off.”

The beauty of it all is the kids will never forget it and they will benefit from our consistency.  They all four know that we want to be there to support them at every single game, performance, and recital.  Is it always the most convenient thing for us? No.  But you cannot possibly be a good parent if you are selfish.  I’m proud of the fact that my children can look in the stands and see their mother, their stepfather, their stepmother and various grandparents – all sitting together in solidarity to support the one thing we all have in common… our unconditional love for our kids.

If you need me this weekend, call my cell.  I probably won’t answer.  I’ll be busy supporting my children & step-children – enjoying every chaotic second of my “weekend off.”

Structure Brings Peace

While everyone else in the family is adjusting well with the new changes since our wedding last weekend, my nerves are not…

My good friends know that I have always had anxiety issues.  I tend to worry about things that do not need to be worried about and my thoughts get consumed with things I need to forget.  I have worked hard over the years to calm my anxious heart.

My happy place bring peace to my heart.

My happy place brings peace to my heart.

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Though an army besiege me, my heart shall not fear; though war break out against me, even then, I will still be confident. (Psalm 27: 1, 3)

My anxiety does not spring from doubt, but it comes from change… If you have anxiety you know that your life works much better when you have a routine.  I am calmed and find peace through predictability.  My calendar is color coded and detailed.  Joe knows that when we are going somewhere I have to know exactly what time we are leaving the house.  I will be ready at that exact moment.  Some would find all of the planning and organizing to be maddening, but for a person who has anxiety…

STRUCTURE BRINGS PEACE.

There is no doubt that this change in my life is GOOD CHANGE… but Joe coughed two nights ago after I had fallen asleep and I leapt out of the bed like I was going to shield my flock from who knows what.  After sleeping the last nine years with one ear always listening for the killers trying to get in I just can’t change overnight!  I have been the protector of my children (although we know who the real protector is), so it is hard to give over the reigns to Joe to be the protector.  Thankfully I have faith in the man he is and I know that he will take over that position with great pride.

Most importantly, the thing that brings me the greatest peace is God… I have spent a lot of time in prayer over the last week.  Praying that He will keep His hand on us throughout this process… praying that He will keep happiness in the hearts of the children… praying that He will be ever-present in our marriage.  And I have had to pray at night for him to slow my mind so that I can fall asleep… Joe held me last night as we prayed together and I fell asleep within seconds.  There are no coincidences.

The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them. (Psalm 145: 18-19)

With each passing day I am feeling stronger and more at ease – accepting our new normal step by step.  Maybe next week when Joe walks up behind me in the kitchen while I am making my coffee I won’t jump out of my skin when I turn around and he is there…

Until that day I will remember:

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)

I find peace in our unconditional love.

I find peace in our unconditional love.

It’s Like Summer Camp, But NOT….

I certainly do not profess to be an expert at blending families, nor do I claim to even be semi-pro; however, I believe there is comfort when you are going through a new experience in knowing that someone else has walked that road before.  It’s comforting to know that you are not alone… someone else has done it and has come out at the end of the tunnel (relatively) unscathed.

I DO feel like a professional in single motherhood.  After being a single mother of two amazingly strong children for almost nine years, I had gotten the routine down to a science.  I went through all of the stages that single moms go through – the highs and lows, the strength in independence and the depression in loneliness, the happiness my ex moved on and the disbelief he had done so, the joy in knowing my kids had a stepmom who is good to them and the helplessness in knowing my kids had a stepmom who was with them when I was not.  I had times of almost an inner joy explosion (or so it felt at the time) when I walked around my house that my two kids and I moved into and I recognized that it was MINE… and that there would be no anger and insults in my house.  And I had times of crying myself to sleep at night because I felt despondent in the dating scene (hanging out in bars with my girlfriends, online dating, church singles classes) and knew with absolute assurance that I would never meet the right man for my children and me.  All that changed…

My children playing in our new yard on the first day in our new home.  They were 4 1/2 and 18 months.

My children playing in our new yard on the first day in our new home. They were 4 1/2 and 18 months.

My same "babies" on our wedding day.  They are now 13 and 10.

My same “babies” on our wedding day. They are now 13 and 10.

A week ago tomorrow I married my forever love.  It’s not the fairy tale you envision as a child since Prince Charming never came riding up on his steed with two kids on ponies in tow.  There was no fanfare and there was no ball… we were married on our church land in the woods with only our immediate family present.  And it was more than I could have ever dreamed.  The next night we spent our first night in our home as a family.  This is where the true fun begins…

Our wedding day!

Our wedding day!

This was the first time we had all been under one roof together overnight.  Both Joe and I felt strongly about not sleeping over with our kids.  They had been through enough trauma in divorce to push adult issues on them.  Because I had been divorced for many years, we did introduce Joe to my kids pretty early on.  My kids were not at the impressionable stage where they are possessive over their mom and resentful of anyone new… they were DYING for me to meet someone.  My sweet girl asked me one day, “Mom, are you EVER going to get married?” to which I replied, “ I WAS married once honey…” and she looked at me incredulously and said, “TO WHO???”  Shocking, but true.  She was so young when her dad and I got a divorce that she had always known Dad and Amy together and always known me, well, single.

Joe and I waited to introduce me to his kids until we were absolutely sure that they were ready and that we had a future together.  So after about five months, I met his kids.  We took it slowly and I did everything in my power to not infringe on their time with their dad.  He has 50/50 custody of his kids, so we spent our time together when he did not have them.  We barely even talked on the phone if he had his kids and they were awake… it was important to us that they not feel like I was stepping on their toes.  They knew I had kids, but we did not introduce them for another month.  The anticipation and excitement of meeting each other was more than they could all handle, but they enjoyed hearing stories about the other kids.  We eased into it one night by having Joe and his kids to dinner.  It was like a homecoming…  The kids got along fabulously and although we have had minor hiccups they have accepted each other with open arms.  I think the way we handled everything from the beginning has helped us get to where we are today.

I truly believe that too many single parents try to force their new love onto their kids before they are all ready.  Having a new love interest is exciting and you want to share everything you can with that person, but your kids are the ones who have the true potential of being hurt.  As a parent, you don’t have the luxury of thinking selfishly.  It’s all about the kids…  And in beginning a blended family, if the kids ain’t happy, then nobody’s happy!!!  Too many parents forget that.  Joe’s kids have asked us why we waited to tell them about us, but when you are honest with children and tell them that you were merely trying to protect their hearts, they respect that.

Back to the present… so our first night together went off without a hitch!  Well, with only a few minor issues…

We have room at my house, so Joe and his kids are moving in with us.  We are going to have to do some maneuvering so that our home becomes OUR home – changing rooms, giving things to Good Will, etc.  Until then the kids are sharing one bathroom – yes, four kids and ONE bathroom.

“What is this??? Summer Camp?” My son asked (quite loudly) on Night #1 when we told the kids that they will have times when they need to take their showers.  The funny part about his response is that he takes a shower at the same time every single morning ANYWAY, so it absolutely does not affect him… but as he said, “Mom, you and I both KNOW that one day I may oversleep and miss my shower time…”  Like a typical teenager, he doesn’t mind taking a shower at the same time every day, but when someone says he HAS to take a shower at the same time every day it becomes a deal breaker.  One week in and he is still asking how long we have to have this “summer camp shower schedule,” but he’s asking the wrong person because I LOVE SUMMER CAMP.

Camp is fun!!!!!

Camp is fun!!!!!

And if the blending of our families can feel like summer camp every day, then SIGN ME UP!!!!  We are not foolish enough to think that it will always be flowers and unicorns and happiness, but we are smart enough to know that we can do this!  We have four absolutely fabulous and resilient kids between us who thrive daily in our love and laughter and smiles.  They come in for a group hug when they see us hugging in the kitchen.  They laugh at us when they see us kissing in the family room.  They dance with us when they catch us dancing while cooking dinner.  And at the end of the day, if we can all sit around the dinner table together thanking God for the amazing day and for abundantly blessing our new family, then I think our new normal is the healing we all need in our lives…

…and maybe more families should go to “summer camp.”