Runnin’ Errands With My Mom!

Another blog I follow, Bonding a Blended Family, posted a hilarious video today… I am STILL laughing.  Of course my kids are 14, 13, 11, and 10, so they choose NOT to run errands with this mom……  I cannot even imagine asking my boys to go to the salon with me.  My son would never speak to me again! hahahaha…. Good stuff.

HAPPY FRIDAY!!!!!!

Check it out!    Friday Funnies – Running Errands With My Mom

 

8 Lbs. Later………..

As promised last week, I want to devote Thursdays to ANYTHING FOOD!!!  I am finding that food is something that occupies much more of my time now (with four kids and a husband) than it did with just two kids and me.  The kids alone go through a half gallon of milk PER DAY!  Not to mention the amount of lunch foods and snacks we have to have on hand to keep the masses satisfied.

I love a schedule.  So now I am trying to plan our menu for the week by what we can get at Costco and then try to spread the food out so that it makes more than one meal.  For example, a copy of this week’s dinner schedule is below:

I'm pretty sure I gained at least 8 lbs this week... YUM-O

I’m pretty sure I gained at least 8 lbs this week… YUM-O

What my goal was this week was to make all of our meals out of one whole chicken and two pounds of ground beef.  It worked out perfectly and kept this week at a relatively gentle punch to the pocketbook.

This is tough for me because I am sharing a lot of my favorite top secret recipes here… so ENJOY!

Sunday Night: Roasted Chicken, Upside Down Baked Potatoes and Wedge Salad

I LOVE the Pioneer Woman.  A while back (I even start talking like her when I think about her) I watched her roast a chicken on her show and couldn’t wait to try it.  That time finally came on Sunday!  It is a fairly simple recipe and it was very good (how could anything with that much butter NOT be good).

Photo credit: The Pioneer Woman

Photo credit: The Pioneer Woman

I highly recommend it because the flavor was heavenly and although I usually don’t eat chicken skin, the skin was crisp and yummy.  Save the chicken carcass and any stock that remains in the pan.

Another fav of mine is Pinterest.  Although it seems a lot of the recipes on Pinterest I have tried have not met my high expectations of the food I cook, I decided to try the Parmesan Upside Down Baked Potatoes.  Holy Cow.  Yes, the potatoes are essentially fried in parmesan and butter.

How could this be bad???

How could this be bad???

This will definitely go down as a recipe we will make again because it was simple and everyone enjoyed it.  My daughter, who is a bacon aficionado like the rest of our family, said it could only be made better if bacon was sprinkled at the bottom of the baking dish too.

OH MY YUM.

Finally, we had a wedge salad with crumbled bacon, blue cheese and tomatoes.  I used my homemade blue cheese dressing, which is actually the recipe of my ex-husband’s grandmother from whom I have gotten many share-worthy recipes.  This blue cheese dressing is a mix of ranch and blue cheese and is good on anything!

photo(33)

Monday Night: Chicken & Pastry, Fruit

Chicken & Pastry is the perfect thing to have the night after doing the roasted chicken because no matter what anyone tells you, the secret to the best Chicken & Pastry is flavorful chicken broth.  My favorite way to do it is to make the broth the night before when roasting the chicken and put it in the fridge.  That way you can take it out the next night and scoop out the fat that forms on top.

So many people spend so much money buying chicken broth, but I like to throw the carcass of the roasted chicken in a pot and add some or all of the following: onions, carrots, fresh parsley, fresh thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper.  Pour a whole lot of water in and bring to a boil.  Once that simmers for about 4 hours, you have an amazingly flavorful chicken broth.

A recent chicken broth creation session

A recent chicken broth creation session

Once you have that ready, you can strain it and make your chicken & pastry.

We are partial to the Anne’s Dumplings because they are just like Gran used to make, but without the flour and rolling pin and MESS!  Plus, they are out of Ayden, NC… and since Heritage Plank Floors is also in Ayden, my logical assumption is that EVERYTHING that comes out of Ayden, NC is good.

And there are always leftovers for days and days!

And there are always leftovers for days and days!

Just follow the instructions on the package and you have an amazing pot of Chicken & Pastry!!  We cut up fresh fruit as a refreshing side.

Tuesday Night: Meatloaf, Mac & Cheese, Green Bean Casserole

This may be my favorite menu EVER.  I have never been a fan of meatloaf, but I sure do love this meatloaf.  And the mac and cheese Joe makes is to DIE FOR and makes a TON.  And I can say with 100% certainty that you won’t find a green bean casserole better than this one!

I found this meatloaf recipe from an ANCIENT cookbook that belonged to my grandmother before she died.  The meatloaf has a great flavor, but the sauce is exceptionally tasty.

Keep reapplying juices and sauce throughout the cooking... AMAZING

Keep reapplying juices and sauce throughout the cooking… AMAZING

The recipe calls for 1 ½ lbs of beef, but there were only four of us eating on Tuesday so we made it with 1 lb and cut everything else down a little accordingly.  I am not very proficient at actually following recipes to the letter anyway.

photo(34)This mac & cheese is also wonderful.  Joe has been making this mac and cheese since we met.  I love coming home from work to find this waiting for me:

He really loves me.

He really loves me.

He apparently got the recipe from a friend at church.  It makes an entire baking dish and we have discovered that we always have enough leftover after one night to make Noodley Boogley the next night!

IMG_3321

Joe uses cheddar cheese in place of the pepper jack, but I am sure that kick would taste good!!

Finally, the crown jewel of all of my recipes is Grandma’s Green Bean Casserole!!! I make it to take to any party where a casserole of some sort is requested.  I brought it to my office for a baby shower one day and had to send the recipe out to about 10 different co-workers.  People are fooled by the crushed up Ritz crackers on top and the corn mixed in, but it is indeed green bean casserole.

Print this, cut it out, make copies, share with friends.  It's THAT good.

Print this, cut it out, make copies, share with friends. It’s THAT good.

The kids would eat this every day if I would make it.

Wednesday Night: Noodley Boogley

This recipe was given its name by my mother when I was growing up.  As far as I can tell by doing a quick Google search, this is not a well-known recipe and is evidently just the name my mother made up one night.  It’s my son’s favorite dinner and he requests it nonstop.

It’s fitting that I don’t really have any kind of formal recipe for this.  If you know my mother, then you understand.

I use the leftover mac & cheese from the night before and add extra pasta so there is enough to fill a baking dish.  I make a spaghetti sauce by sautéeing onion and garlic and green pepper and then pour a bottle of marinara over it and simmer.  Once I brown the 1 lb. of meat, then I mix the meat in with the spaghetti sauce.  I think mix it together with the noodles and top with a heap of cheddar cheese.

The kids treat me like I have discovered a cure of cancer when I make this.  They truly think it’s the greatest thing ever.  We didn’t serve I with anything last night because Joe cooked it and then went to softball and by the time I got home with the girls from soccer I was too tired to make anything else!

I hope you have enjoyed a glimpse at our week’s dinners and I would love for you to share any of your “go-to” weekday recipes that go together from one day to another.  I know people who make beef stew and then use the leftover to make vegetable beef soup to freeze, etc.  Please share your recipes for all of us to enjoy as well.

Best Ride of My Life…

Do you ever find yourself contemplating what your “ideal life” would be like?  If you could write your own script… if you could plan out your days until the end… how would they go?  It’s overwhelming to think that this is our only chance to get it right!  Do you want to live out the remainder of your days mourning what might have been if you had done things differently?  Do you want to have regrets?

My ideal world involves water... lots and lots of water.

My ideal world involves water… lots and lots of water.

This “ideal life” has been on my mind a lot lately because I am just so darn happy!!!

As I have written before, January of 2012 I fainted in my driveway and woke up in a big pool of my own blood – with loose teeth and terrible road rash completely covering the left side of my face.  I was asked continuously for a few weeks, “Were you in a car accident?”   Since then though, my life has made a 180.

Within a couple of months of my “accident” I had reconnected with Joe, who had dated one of my best friends in high school.  A girl who I was terribly jealous of because she was so cute and she was dating him.  I feel like even though we are now married I still refer to him by his first and last name, because that was how everyone talked about him when we were admiring our friend Julie’s amazing luck with guys.

Happy days.....

Happy days…..

Soon after reconnecting with Joe I was offered a job working at the office where I had been an extern during my law school days.  It was a raise in pay with better hours and in a work environment that I was seeking.  It was perfect for me!

The next thing I knew I was married to a man whose number one goal in life is to be the best husband and father that he can be.  I am married to a man who knows firsthand that marriage is hard work so he is willing to work even harder at our relationship because neither one of us will ever go down the divorce road again.  We talk about absolutely everything because we both know that secrets and lying are detrimental to a marriage.  Even when disagreements happen, which they do, we are thankful for the broken road that has brought us back together and we are thankful for the failures we have experienced because they have made us even better for each other.

So a few days ago I had a random thought…  What if this is not real?  What if I have never woken up after I fainted and am actually laying in a hospital room somewhere in a coma?  Could it be that I am living in some sort of idyllic world that I have created in my head?

Am I in the middle of my own Bobby Ewing dream sequence?????

I love my job and I have the most amazing friends.  I am now married to the most absolutely dashingly handsome man who is definitely not perfect (who is?) but who is perfect FOR ME.  My kids are thriving and I now am blessed with two amazing step-children who get along great with my two kids and who I love as my own.  I finally have my soccer player that I have always wanted in my step-daughter and my own daughter is going to dip her toes in the soccer water at practice this afternoon!!! It seems like there are just blessings all around me and sometimes I feel like I need to pinch myself to see if it’s real.  I would never have believed in January of 2012 that it was possible to find all of the love and happiness that I have found.

And I have reconnected with my love of writing.  Thanks to Joe’s encouragement, I am now blogging (as much as I can) and have started building quite a following.  I am brainstorming daily about what kind of book I want to write.  As a child I always said I would be published before I die.

With all that being said, I would not be where I am without all of my friends and supporters.  THANK YOU for being there for me consistently.  With all of your support, I will have that book written sooner rather than later.

I just pray that I don’t wake up from this coma… because this is the best ride of my life.

(And I may have just come up with another book idea.)

Survival of the Fittest – Single Motherhood

While I am trying to get into a regular routine for the fall, I think I am going to try to devote Tuesday’s blog to answering questions that are presented by my readers.  Let’s hope I can get into the swing of life soon, because today is day two of school and I already feel like I have been railroaded!

First day of school - 8th grade & 5th grade

First day of school – 8th grade & 5th grade

Ironically enough, the topic I chose for today (fitting for this time of year) is:

Organizational Tips for the Single Mom

I sat down to write the outline for this blog and it was absolutely the easiest topic on which I have ever brainstormed.  After being a single mom for almost nine years, I have plenty of tips and ideas on how to improve the quality of life for not only you, but the people around you.

1) Don’t Put Off What You Can Do Today!

That is very self explanatory, but essential when you are a single mom.  If you put one thing off, then with certainty there will be four more things piled on the list before tomorrow.  So as soon as a permission slip comes in, fill it out and have your child put it right back into their folder and write the field trip in your calendar.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I have forgotten to write something in my calendar and had to fly in a panic the morning of the field trip to take a lunch bag to school before the bus leaves.  All of that anxiety can be avoided if you just followed the simple procedure – sign, give to child, write in calendar.  Which brings me to my next tip:

2) Make Your Calendar Your Best Friend.

My ex, his wife, my husband and our kids all have access to the same Google Calendar, so although I prefer to have a hand written calendar that I can look at, I always enter dates into the Google Calendar so my ex can stay on top of events even when the kids are not with him.  I compare my calendars weekly to make sure they are both up to date.  Having both allows me to schedule an appointment at the dentist even if I don’t have my hard calendar in my purse.

It’s also helpful because it can help put the responsibility into the hands of your ex to stay on top of what is going on.   When we were first separated and the kids and I were living over an hour away from my ex, I tried to send him weekly emails about what was going on with the kids and what activities they had and when.  My daughter was too young to have phone conversations, so I would be her voice in letting him know what we had going on.  It was and still is important to him to be an active daily presence in my kids’ lives even when he cannot be with them.

Early in my tenure as a single mom, I was not very good with being on time and keeping track of appointments.  Honestly, my ex had spent so many years staying on top of me about where I needed to be and when that I don’t think I was really prepared for having to keep everything in order alone.  It was tough, but once I realized the importance of organization, it made life much easier on all of us.  And once I learned the stress it caused my kids to be late for school or their activities, it made my children much happier.

3) Don’t Commit to Something Just Because it Sounds Good.

This is actually a big deal.  It may not sound like it, but if your child sees a commercial for the Circus and you say, “We should go to that,” you are setting yourself up for torment.  I used to say that a lot to my kids, “We should go on a cruise” or “I’ll take you there someday.”  In my mind, I was telling them how everything was going to be great in our life someday.  I was convincing MYSELF that things would be better.  Sadly enough though I now realize I was getting the kids excited about things that would never come to fruition.

My advice to every single mom is this: Unless you KNOW that you are going to do something, even something as small as going to the park on Saturday, then DON’T COMMIT.  It is disappointing to the kids and it will be death of you while the kids attack you with a barrage of questions on when you might go and where and how and with whom…..

What works best for me now that my kids are older is to say, “I will think about it, but I cannot possibly commit to that right now.”  My kids know that if I say that, then there is a possibility, but only if they BACK OFF.  Because they know that if it’s a NO, then I will say NO.

4) Learn to Say NO!!!

Let’s practice that right now… “NO!”  I don’t just mean to your kids… I mean to ANYONE and EVERYONE who wants more from you than you have to give.  I hate to say it, but I had to resign myself to the fact that being a room mom or hosting book club in my child’s class two afternoons a week was better left to the many stay at home moms who had kids in my child’s class.  It’s hard enough to be a mom, but throw a full-time job (where you are the only source of income for your household) and there are just not enough hours of the day to be Super Mom and volunteer nonstop.

The key to learning to say no is to also learn that you cannot beat yourself up over it.  I desperately WANTED to be the mom who could help dish out food in the cafeteria or do the cash register at the Book Fair, but it just didn’t fit with my work schedule.  I have always done my best to help with field trips here or there or special parties, but even that can be draining on your work hours and your finances when living on a budget.

So learn to say no and focus on your kids in other ways.  They won’t doubt your love and will understand if you explain that you cannot get off work, but will take him/her to ice cream after dinner.  Quality time is the most important way we can say yes to our kids.

5) Delegate, Delegate, Delegate!

I have always been TERRIBLE at asking for help.  It was like asking for help was admitting some perceived shortcoming.  I learned over the years that there are SO MANY PEOPLE out there who are willing to help you if you allow them.  Being afraid to ask or feeling like you are needy is completely in your brain and you need to figure out how to deal with it.  I don’t know how I would have survived the years as a single mom without the help of my parents, my friends and even my ex and his wife.

It took many years to get there, but I finally over the last couple of years got to the comfort level where I could ask my ex if he could take the kids if I had an event or if I just needed a break.  I think it was a paranoia for years that he would in some way “use it against me” if I asked him for help.  The truth of the matter is he was just happy to get some extra time with the kids.

Another form of delegation is getting the kids to carry more weight around the house.  I have a couple of single mom friends who still do everything they did for their kids before their divorce although they are no longer stay at home moms.  One of my best friends actually gets up and blow dries her daughter’s hair every morning.  Another one of my friends gets up early, gets ready and then fixes elaborate breakfasts for her kids.  My children learned how to fix their own breakfasts at a VERY early age.  I would be busy getting ready for work, so my kids had to gain an independence earlier than some.  They would get up, get ready, pack bookbags, fix and eat their own breakfasts, brush their teeth and be ready when I came downstairs.

Again, it is guilt that keeps too many mothers from allowing their kids to do for themselves, but THEY NEED TO LEARN INDEPENDENCE!!!!

I have struggled a little with Joe on this topic because he is accustomed to doing EVERYTHING for his kids – laying out and ironing clothes, fixing breakfast, pouring milk, etc.  I have had to ask him NOT to do all of that for my kids because I am proud of how independent they are and I don’t want to take that away from them.

6) FIND TIME FOR YOURSELF………………………………….

This is the biggie of all biggies…. because it’s nearly impossible, but it must be done if you are to have any sanity.  My kids went to their dad every other weekend for the first four years after our divorce.  So my alone time was few and far between.  They were so young though that I could get a sitter after putting them to bed and meet up with friends for a while.  At their age now I could not do that because they are up too late (and I’m older and couldn’t handle going out so late on a work night!).  But there are plenty of ways you can be good to yourself so that you can be the best you that you can be.

I think after divorce we try to recreate ourselves.  If we initiated the divorce then we want to prove that we are better than we were before.  It seems that most of my friends who have gone through divorces follow the textbook divorce routine.  They exercise when they don’t have the kids so they lose a lot of weight.  They try to do what they can to improve their physical appearance – change their hairstyle, wear more make-up, get manicures and pedicures.  All of this is just part of the rite of passage and is probably needed by women as a way to build self-esteem during a time of very low self-esteem.  I’m not saying that you should run out and schedule work to be done, but you need to TAKE CARE OF YOU!!!!

The truth is that if you cannot take care of yourself, then you are of no use to anyone else.  Including your children.  So do what you can to take care of you, including moving past the anger to enjoy your new freedom.  Focusing on the future will allow you to stay positive and HOPEFUL.

And who can’t benefit from a little hope?

Tasty Thursday – Tomato Basil Pasta

One Pot Pasta

One Pot Pasta – after cooking

My passion for cooking is widely known by my friends.  Even throughout the years when it was just the three of us, I loved to cook as many nights a week as I was able.  Now don’t get me wrong, I love to go out for sushi, but most nights I just want to enjoy the quiet cooking process with some music and a glass of wine.  Over the years I have become quite proficient in cooking for three people.

Things are different now since 50% of the time I am cooking for six people instead of three.  I was never good at portions to begin with and now I am just wayyyyy off.  I am, however, learning certain recipes that will feed us all with little left over.

I have a recipe book I keep on my computer that I keep updated with all of my favorite recipes (yes, please refer to yesterday’s blog about my need for structure) and I am constantly adding new recipes to it if they are a wild success with my husband and my kids.

Last night I tried the “Tomato Basil Pasta” that has been circulating Facebook and Pinterest.  It is a one pot pasta that is supposed to be ready in less than 30 minutes.  Recipe below:

photo(22)
I am known for my inability to follow even the simplest recipe.  I tweak and twist and change until the recipe is my own – so much so that when I give people recipes they complain that it doesn’t taste the same because I change everything so much as I am cooking.

For this recipe, I only changed a little.  I used 2 tsp of the minced jarred garlic instead of fresh garlic and I sauteed the onion before I put it in the pot.  I like onions to be cooked really well, so I rarely put raw onion in anything.

What it looked like when it was ready to cook!

What it looked like when it was ready to cook!

Joe sauteed some shrimp as well to put on top of the pasta which was a highly recommended upgrade to this pasta.

The kids complained about it being a little too spicy, so I may use 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes next time to appease them, but other than that I think this is a great recipe and will easily feed our party of six.  We served it with a little fresh pineapple on the side (which was perfect to convince the kids it wasn’t too terribly spicy) and a LOT of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

If you have any “go-to” recipes that you want to share, please do!  I am always looking for new recipes.  I am going to try to post a new recipe every Thursday as part of my “Tasty Thursday” blog.  I will work on taking better pictures for the next one…. Enjoy!!!

One of My Biggest Weaknesses May Actually Be One of My Biggest Strengths

I think my biggest weakness is that I require structure and routine.  And when I say “require,” I mean CANNOT survive without it.  Like EVER.

As much as I would like everyone to believe that I am a free-spirit, someone who can hop on a jet on a whim and travel wherever the hot deals will take me, I’m just not.  I thrive on predictability.  I like deadlines and schedules and consistency.  My favorite time of the year?  When the new calendars come out and I can start filling each box in with all of our “stuff.”  My second favorite time of the year? Back to school.

When I was a first year law student at the ripe age of 35, my young classmates looked over my shoulder in awe at my calendar.  One of the 22 year old guys behind me said incredulously, “Is your calendar (cough, cough) COLOR CODED?”

Yes, I am THAT girl.

And now that I have two more kids and a husband to keep track of, my obsessive need for planning and scheduling is in overdrive.  This whole fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants summer may work for some people, but I am craving order and structure.  Chaos makes me want to run and hide.  It’s especially daunting right now since two kids are back in school but the other two are still living the carefree life of summer.

Yeah, I even have a copy of the tide chart when I go to the beach.  Predictability...

Yeah, I even have a copy of the tide chart when I go to the beach. Predictability…

I just want life to get back to normal.  Is that too much to ask???

If you’re an anxious person, then you know what I am talking about.  Predictability and structure and guidelines are what get you through the day.  I have been like this since I was a child.  All of my friends went to Camp Seafarer and loved it, but I went to Camp Thunderbird.  At Thunderbird, you were given a schedule and they would tell you when you were supposed to move to the next activity.  I thrived in that environment!  One summer I decided to try Seafarer since it was closer to home and all of my friends went there.  Seafarer, however, did not have the schedule.  I was let loose and could do whatever activity I enjoyed.  I was a wreck.  I didn’t know where to go and I absolutely floundered.  I couldn’t wait to get back to Camp Thunderbird the following summer.

My first summer at Camp Thunderbird

My first summer at Camp Thunderbird

In high school, my roommate at boarding school can confirm that I was up until the wee hours of the night before a big paper was due, typing in the closet on my word processor.  I would still be working on the paper right up until class time and then I would turn it in and get a good grade.  If I attempted to write the paper well before it was due, then I could not focus.  I needed the impending deadline to make myself get it done.

As an adult, I see this anxiousness come out when I do not have a plan.  My mood is much better when there is a weekly menu and I would never in my life go to the grocery store without a list.  I plan dinner parties or invite people over because that’s the best way to make me clean the house (gotta have that deadline!).  As I have written previously, Joe knows that I need to know what time we are leaving the house, whether it’s for church or dinner or heading out of town on a trip.  If I don’t have a schedule to work with, then I cannot possibly be ready on time.  The absolute worst thing to say to me if you want something done is, “Just get to it when you can…”  Because if I do not have a timeline, then it likely will not get done.

Weekly menu...

Weekly menu…

Over time though, I have learned that this structure I require is not always a bad thing.  Although I often consider it a weakness, structure doesn’t have to be oppressive.  There is a great sense of security that comes from a structured environment.  There is little “unknown,” and it’s the “unknown” that can cause a great deal of anxiety for a person like me.

In January of 2012, I fainted in my driveway.  When I say the word “faint” you may envision me crumbling to the ground, but that would be far from reality.  I fell like a tree and my face was the only thing to break my fall – not my body or my shoulder – MY FACE.  Straight into the pavement.  I looked like someone had dragged me behind a car.  The doctors ran all sorts of tests from MRI’s to CAT Scans to blood tests, but they never definitively could say why I fainted.  As a result, the next few months of my life were truly my rock bottom.  I lived every minute of every day afraid that I may faint again.  Driving on the highway was terrible because I feared I would faint while driving and wreck.  I had terrible anxiety during that time period all due to the “unknown.”

The unknown can be an exceptionally scary thing to face.  For kids, the unknowns associated with the divorce of their parents can send them into a tailspin.  This structure and routine that I have often viewed as my weakness can actually be a strength when viewed as a way to help people through situations where there is an unknown factor.  For example, structure and routine can give children the ability to structure their own lives.  If they know what is going to happen next, then they can take ownership of their schedule.  It can become their own.

Having something that is their own can certainly be a major achievement when the chaos of divorce takes over in a family.  We have found that in our home having regular routines – dinner together at the table, homework, calling their other parent, bedtime – gives the children confidence in what comes next.  It’s like giving a three year old the countdown at the park, “We are leaving in TEN minutes,” “We are leaving in FIVE minutes,” “Wrap it up, we are leaving in one minute.”  It helps to eliminate the stress of the unexpected.  Children from an early age show that they respond better when they understand what is going to happen next.  If you walk up to a three year old and say, “We are leaving the park NOW,” then you will be dragging a kicking and screaming child to the car.

I’m hoping that my need for structure and routine will be a comfort to all four of our kids as we transition into our new normal.  Knowing what to expect and knowing what will happen next gives them less to worry about in an already stressful time.  Our predictability can make them feel loved without fear of any more loss.  We eliminate the unknowns and just focus on our family.

Maybe what I perceive as one of my biggest weaknesses can actually be my biggest strength in parenting our kids.

Be a Follower….

Dear loyal friends, family, lurkers and fans…

Three months ago I decided to close my old blog, “Life’s a Beach,” which was about my life as a single mother and transitioned to my new blog, “Life in a Blender,” which is about my life in a blended family.  I have truly enjoyed all of the support of my readers and I welcome your messages and comments.  My goal is to be an inspiration to others who may face the same issues that I have faced in the many facets of my life – divorce, single motherhood, remarriage.

WordPress shows me (as the admin for the page) how my readers are finding the blog and it appears there are those of you who actually daily go to Yahoo or Google and search for my blog by my name and/or the blog name.

The simplest thing to do is to “follow” my blog by clicking on the “follow” box in the bottom right hand corner of this page.  The following pops up:

CaptureAll you have to do is enter your email address and click “sign me up” and you will receive an email each time I post a blog.

My blog will be sent directly to your email address!!! No more searching.  No more checking in to see if I have posted.  You will receive it with no trouble for you.  Then you can read it or delete it.  Up to you.

Trust me, I know how busy life can be.  This is just one way to save you a few minutes in your busy day.  I usually say be a leader, but in this case… be a follower.

xoxo, me

P.S.  Check me out on FB too:  Life in a Blender

 

The Name is Not the Only Change…

I have been married for over three months now and I have finally gotten my name changed on about half of the things that need to be changed.  This name change stuff is exhausting.  I swore I would never change it again after I went back to my maiden name in 2009.

But here I am.  With a new last name.

Always-remember-there-was-nothing-worth-sharing-like-the-love-that-let-us-share-our-name

After my divorce, I wanted to change back to my maiden name but my kids didn’t support it.  So for five years I kept my married last name when my maiden name would have probably helped my success in business in my hometown.  Once I got into law school, I approached my kids again about changing my name.  My ex-husband had remarried so I told my kids, “There is a Mrs. Ramsey now… and it is not me.”  At that point, they agreed to the change and I went through the laborious process of changing my name on everything.  I even had to throw out my monogrammed bags and towels.

Now, over three months after getting married, I am still struggling with saying my new last name.  I actually have to pause and think when I sign my name.  I guess the fluid signature will come someday – until then I have a stutter in my signature.

The name change is not the only thing I am having to get used to.  We have been without children since last Friday night so we have taken advantage of many date nights since then.  Monday night we decided to meet for dinner and drinks after Joe’s softball game.  I got to the restaurant before him and got seated.  The waiter asked who I was waiting for and I said, “Joe…… well, my husband.”  It was an awkward moment because I am just not used to saying “my husband.”  The funny part about it was that when Joe got there he laughed and told me, “It was funny saying I was meeting my wife.  I still can’t believe it.”

Talking about the kids has also become more challenging.  I have four kids now.   It is no longer “Joe’s kids” and “my kids” – they are “our kids.”  I am making a true effort to get this straight because it’s important to both Joe and me that we are no longer “us” and “them.”   It’s “we” now.

I can’t believe it either.  I can’t believe how blessed we are to have this new amazing party of six.  I can’t believe that for the first time in my life (other than my parents, of course) I have someone who wants to take care of me.  Someone who wakes up in the morning and wants to get me coffee, offers to iron anything for me to wear to work, and cooks us breakfast.  He is a caretaker and it is the most comforting feeling in the world to know that I am no longer alone.

I cried a few nights ago watching one of my new guilty pleasures, Tyler Perry’s The Haves and the Have Nots.  The matriarch of the Haves has cancer and was talking about being alone.  I had this overwhelming feeling of sadness for her because I have been there.  I remember the hopeless feeling of worrying if something happened to me while my kids were gone then no one would know for days on end.  I know how bad alone can feel when you don’t want to be there.

With all that being said, it has been an amazing three months.  I cannot wait to spend the rest of our lives together and I cannot wait to have a whole house of grandkids around (not anytime soon, of course).  It’s still shocking to believe that I now share the name of the guy who dated my best friend in high school.  I would have never believed this 23 years ago, but I am so thankful that God has brought us back together.

While it may be tough getting my name changed on everything, I am proud of my new last name and am so thankful for the man who gave it to me.

Discipline in a Blended Family

I solicited help on some blog topics and got so many great ideas that I have had trouble deciding what to write first!  Thank you to everyone who contributed.  Your continued support inspires me daily to keep doing what I love.

I thought the best way to do this would be in Q & A format and just answer a question or two at a time.  If you think of more questions, I welcome them.  I enjoy being challenged.

1) Who should the disciplinarian be with the kids and what role should the step-parent play in discipline, if any?

If there is one thing that I have learned from talking to my remarried friends or from reading the abundance of books I have read about successful step-families, it is that no two step-families are alike.  So just because something works for one family does not mean it will work for another.  It is truly dependent on the bonds that have been formed between the step-parent and the step-children.

One of the best Christian books I read about step-families said that the parent should be the disciplinarian at first while the step-parent should play a role similar to a babysitter.  As the bond between the step-kids and the step-parent grows, then the step-parent can gradually pick up more of a parental role when it comes to discipline.  I agree with that completely, but our family has proven to be a little different.

I am very proud of the way Joe and I introduced our families.  Since I had been divorced for many years when he came into our lives, he was pretty much incorporated in our family early on.  My children were more than ready for me to meet a nice man, so they were encouraging and happy from the beginning.  I truly believe that they knew from the start that Joe was good for me and for US as a family.  The kids would actually tell me how much nicer I was because of Joe.  Anytime I would do something extra nice for the kids, my son would say, “Did Joe tell you to do that?”

We waited much longer to bring his kids into the fold.  Joe’s kids did not have the time under their belt that my kids did.  We felt they needed more time to heal and adjust before throwing my kids and me in the mix.  After about six months together, we decided to introduce everyone.  From the start, I made it clear that I would not infringe on Joe’s time with his kids.  His kids came first and they knew that.  I did not want them to perceive me as a threat to their time with their dad.  It was hard, because I wanted to be with the man I loved, but I knew that the kids needed to have time to acclimate.  It has been smooth sailing every since.

You have to give them the time to get used to you so they can know you are not a threat to come between them and their dad.  Our kids have done a very good job at bonding and I think it is clear they have even formed an allegiance AGAINST US, but they are happy and that is all that really matters to me.  And this instant trust and strong relationship that we formed has allowed Joe and me to discipline more than I think would be recommended in new marriages.

Since we have four kids who match up – two boys 13 & 14 and two girls 10 & 11 – disciplining has been easy because anytime I have needed to discipline thus far, it has been to discipline both boys or both girls.  So I can discipline my step-child ALONG WITH my child.  Thankfully so far we have not had any major issues that we have had to handle, but the kids have seemed receptive to this because they see that they all four are disciplined the same.  However, if Joe is home, then I will usually tell him what I think and let him handle it with my step-kids and he seems to do the same thing vice-versa.  So even though we both feel comfortable with our disciplinarian roles, we also know when to back off and let the other one handle it.

As I have said before, our home is about open communication in every way, so we encourage the kids to talk to us if they feel that something is not working and so far things have been going well.  All four of our kids were begging us to get married, so there was no resistance from them regarding having a new step-parent in the home.  I feel certain if there is any resistance, then any disciplinarian role should be brought into play very slowly.

It’s also important to be very clear with expectations.  This is exceptionally important in our home right now because my birth kids are on summer break from school and my step-kids are already back in school.  As a result, my step-kids have to go to bed around 9:30pm while my daughter is up until 10:30pm and my son gets to stay up until midnight.  Surprisingly enough they have not struggled like I expected.  I feel certain that is because my step-kids are smart enough to know that the tables will turn in a month or so when they have track-out.

We tried to set them up for success by letting them know that the rules do not always apply the same to every person and that’s just the way it is.

LIFE IS NOT ALWAYS FAIR.

This was important to us because when we got married my kids quickly realized that Joe is a little more strict than I am.  For example, Joe had always taken his son’s phone and plugged it in another room at night.  My son has always plugged his phone into his alarm clock at night.  One of the first nights we were all together Joe walked into the boys’ room and said, “Let me have your phone” to his son.  The next day my son told me, “When Joe came in and asked for his phone, I was really worried.  I thought he was getting ready to ask me for mine too.”  I explained to him that we were going to do our best to keep the rules that we had in place before marriage.  I think this approach has been comforting to the kids.

Again, let me reiterate that every single family is different and just because this is working for our family does not mean it will work with yours.  In reality, there is no guarantee this will work for our family next week!  Just like in a first marriage family, we are all constantly evolving and growing and we have to do what we can to respect each other while we do so.