If You Were A GOOD Mom, You Would Be Sad…

At the beginning of every summer I feel such a loss in my heart when the “summer schedule” begins because the kids spend every other week with their dad. As you all know, I thrive on schedules and I feel comfort in predictability, so the change is tough on me. That first week (or even two) when the kids are gone, I withdraw. Everything makes me sad and I crave to talk to them nonstop. At the beginning of this summer, I was driving alone down the road listening to my Broadway Show Tunes (as “ALWAYSSSSS” the kids say) and the song “Learn To Live Without” came on. Although it is written about divorce, I fell all to pieces. Here’s the song:

Sadly, the sentiments are the same for me in the summer… I have to learn to live without.

The funny part of it is that I don’t just miss the good stuff about the kids… I also miss the not-so-great stuff. Sure, I come home to an empty house without 5 gabillion plates and cups in the sink, but it doesn’t bring happiness to see the shiny silver at the bottom of the sink (I know?!?! I didn’t know it was shiny silver either!!!!). I miss the smell of Axe body spray in an attempt to cover up that someone REALLY needs a shower. I miss the piles of dirty clothes (even the inside-out Nike Elite socks that I have to reach my hands into to turn right side out). I miss walking up the stairs and feeling a little panic at the overwhelming smell of nail polish remover.

My first few weeks of summer are spent in mourning. I don’t know why I let the change affect me like I do, but it just happens. I have no control over it and all I can say is, “BLESS JOE’S SWEET HEART” for having to deal with me.

Then something changes.

I come home one day to an empty sink and rather than feel an emptiness, I smile. Not in a “I wish life was like this every single day!” kind of way, but in a “I can handle having no real worries for short periods at a time.”  My life goes from learning to live without them to hopping in the car on a Friday and heading out of town while knowing the kids are all taken care of.

Picture me riding down the road singing this song (bizarre video, but the song is amazing):

Last week, I received an email from a reader who is also in a blended family. Her letter said:

Hey lady!!! I have a good idea for a blog…. Hopefully I’m not the only one who feels this way. We have had all 5 kids for over a week together straight. Which we love every second of it! Then today when they all went to different homes, the feeling was such relief. Even though I miss them terribly it’s wonderful to sit down and eat without dealing with teenagers or take a walk, etc. Just wondered if that feeling was just me…. Am I alone with this?? Now I always miss them but….. It is a positive to having another house for your children to go to!

And she is right! There is a sense of relief when you come home to an empty, CLEAN house. There is peace in knowing that when you walk in the door from work you won’t be bombarded with questions – “Can we go to the mall?” “What time will dinner be ready?” “If I finish my homework, can I go fishing?” “Can we paint?” “I’m starving, can I have a bowl of cereal since dinner isn’t ready?” For me, I like that I don’t have to rush home from work, so I can go do things that make me happy. While the kids were gone last week, I went to dinner with my sister-in-law at my favorite restaurant, then went to the library and walked around looking at books until they closed. (I must be maturing if I am closing down a library instead of a bar!) It’s just nice to be able to do what you love without having to worry about the kids.

BUT THEN THE GUILT HITS.

My friend’s email hinted on this “Mother’s Guilt.” It is real. We have been trained (and our kids encourage this way of thinking) to think that we should be home and feel sad when our kids aren’t around. Joe and I went to the beach a couple of weeks ago without the kids and one of them said, “Why do you always go to the beach without us?” IT WAS OUR FIRST TRIP OF THE SUMMER WITHOUT THEM, but that one question made me feel guilty for going without them.

Let me say it loudly, YOU SHOULD NOT FEEL GUILTY FOR ENJOYING YOUR TIME WITHOUT THE KIDS WHEN THEY ARE WITH THEIR OTHER PARENT!!!! Being a mother is tough, so if you want to spend the entire Saturday in bed reading a book while your kids are at their dad’s house, then DO IT.  If you want to take a trip with your husband to New York, then DO IT.  I feel strongly that if you focus all of your energy on your children while they are with you, then you have earned the right to live your life to the fullest when they are not with you.

To stave off the guilt, I make sure to focus 100% on my kids when they are with me. When one of them speaks to me, I make sure to turn toward them and look them straight in the face. We wonder why kids always have their noses in their electronics… it’s because that’s what they see their parents doing! I also make sure to work extra hours when they are away so that I don’t have to work as much when they are with me. I understand mothers who feel guilt if they are always doing their own thing when the kids are gone, so then they have to work nonstop while the kids are with them. They don’t get to spend any quality time with their kids! That would make me feel horribly guilty too! If you do everything in your power so the kids know, wholeheartedly, that they are your priority, then you can feel free to enjoy a little quiet time away from them.

You don’t have to be sad to be a good mom. Don’t let that mother’s guilt fool you into thinking that way.

Plus, we all know that in another couple of days…. THINGS WILL BE RIGHT BACK TO NORMAL.

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“YOU Are My Priority!” – Words Every Child Deserves To Hear

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We live in Raleigh, but two kids go to school in Wake Forest. One goes to school in Raleigh. One goes to school in Wendell.  I work in downtown Raleigh and Joe works in Cary. Whew….

I ordered my first Mom Agenda yesterday and I am now anxiously wishing away July so I can start using it daily.  With four kids, I have exhausted all ideas on how to keep my calendar organized.  I have used first initials and I have color codes.  I have tried online calendars and paper calendars.  I have found that I do much better with a paper calendar where I can see everything laid out at once.  I still use my shared Google calendar so that my ex, his wife, Joe and I can all be on the same page, but I am hoping this Mom Agenda will dramatically change my life!  It has been tough enough with four kids in general, but this school year is bringing about massive change for our party of six.

Two kids are in year-round schools, so they started back this week.  One is in high school and one is in middle school.   The other two are on a traditional calendar, so they will go back at the end of August.  Our life will be rocked at that time… because all four kids will be at different schools.

Yes, you read that right… four kids at four different schools.  Schools located in three different cities/towns.  I’m wondering how Joe and I will be able to keep our jobs and still get kids to and from school every day.  Not to mention all of the activities that two high schoolers and two middle schoolers have. (Why have I chosen at this time to quit drinking?)

People ask me on a regular basis how in the world we do it with four kids and different custody schedules.  I usually can answer them easily because we have just made it work.  I have got NO WORDS right now.

Until the school years are both in full swing, I am completely unsure how we will get everything done.  Hiring help is usually easy, but not when you live in Raleigh and you are asking them to drive out to Wake Forest and Zebulon.  That’s not an appealing job prospect for a college girl.  Our last sitter leased her car, so that extra mileage was a big deal.

This should be an interesting year and I am honestly tired just thinking about it, but THIS IS IT!  THIS IS LIFE!!!  Our boys only have four years left before they head out of our nest for college.  The girls will be following shortly behind them.

I want to remember every second of this.  We know we are blessed beyond measure to have found each other after all of these years and even more so because our children all love each other so much.  Not everyone gets the chance that we have to spend the rest of our lives with the true love of our life.  So until that day, when the last child hugs us goodbye and walks to her packed car, our focus is on loving our kids and making them our #1 priority in life.

I said that to Crawford while we were on our family vacation to Disney World.  She was feeling sick and so we went to sit down while the rest of the kids rode rides with Joe.  She said, “I’m sorry you are missing the ride because of me” and I replied, “Honey, you are my priority.”  The look on her face said it all.  THAT is what our kids need to hear.  They need to know that THEY are our priority.

Joe will be driving forty minutes to Wake Forest to get the kids to two different schools three days a week and then driving another forty minutes to get to work.  I will be driving thirty minutes out to Johnston County to take one child to school and then driving back in to Raleigh to take the other child to school before driving to work.  Not to mention Warren’s basketball and workouts, Will’s cross country and basketball, Hattie’s soccer and horseback riding, and Crawford’s track, piano, and basketball.

Joe and I will be driving all over Wake/Johnston counties for the next four years, but we will be doing it with a heart full of love and a smile on our faces.  The next four plus years our babies are our PRIORITY.   Does anything else really matter?  No.

Summer Vacation in a Blended Family

Summer is upon us!! In a blended family, summer presents an assortment of planning issues and hurt feelings. It’s tough enough in a divorced family to deal with scheduling issues, but throw another family in the mix and you feel like burning your calendar in the backyard fire pit rather than trying to work them out.

As we were working out custody schedules this summer, it turned out that we would not have my step kids with us on our planned family vacation to Myrtle Beach. The vacation had to be a specific week because we were planning it to coincide with a basketball tournament we would already be participating in. Of course I was not too happy to learn that two of our kids would not be on our family vacation! So I swung into action…

I found out we would have my step kids the week after school got out for my kids, so I started planning. I wanted to do something not too crazy, but fun…. something where we could really have family time… but everyone would enjoy it. I wanted to go somewhere we could drive… Yeah, we went to Disney World.

Thankfully my ex-husband gave up his first week with the kids after school got out so that we could throw all six of us in the Suburban and head south. For weeks before the trip I was convinced I had lost my mind. As I booked dinner reservations and Fast Pass reservations I started to second guess myself.

Disney World in JUNE? It may be hot as the devil! Making an 8+ hour drive with four complaining kids? Not even frequent stops to Cracker Barrel would help the misery! Not to mention to save money I booked a two bedroom condo, so I was fearful the kids would fight incessantly the entire trip.

A week before we left I received a call to confirm my reservations and they had us booked in a two bedroom condo with one master bedroom and one bedroom with a queen bed. I had a meltdown. I tearfully explained to her that I have four kids and that I couldn’t possibly survive the week under that duress. I didn’t think there was enough wine in the state of Florida to get me through!!! She was very kind and upgraded us at no extra cost to a three bedroom condo for our stay. I knew at that moment that everything would be just fine.

And it was PERFECT.

The drive to Orlando was uneventful. We left at 5am, so everyone except Joe slept until we were almost halfway through the trip. Once we got there we were excited to find a gorgeous condo and we went straight for the pool.

Since my step-kids had never been to Disney World before, I wanted them to get a taste of it before we went to the Magic Kingdom the next day, so I booked dinner at the Polynesian resort for the night we arrived in Orlando. I am SO GLAD I did… We had a great dinner and then we rode the boat ferry to the Magic Kingdom and back (while watching the electric water parade). The fireworks started as soon as we docked back at the Polynesian, so we watched them from the dock. After the fireworks were over, we settled into a beach chair on the beach and watched my favorite Disney movie, Tangled, on the big screen on the beach.

I think the excitement and joy of that first night set the tone for the entire trip. It didn’t hurt that we had awesome Fast Pass reservations, plus kids who all like the same rides, and did I mention the weather was actually 15 degrees lower in Orlando that week than it was back home in Raleigh? My step-son even got to celebrate his 15th birthday at the Magic Kingdom. He was wished “HAPPY BIRTHDAY” by pretty much every Disney employee on that day! (I will post more about his birthday dinner soon… it was a HOOT!)

Blended families often face difficulties in scheduling. The key is to not let the bumps in the road cause you to give up. You have to deal with the disappointment and roll with it. In this case, we rolled with it and ended up having the trip of a lifetime with our family. Flexibility is key when in our situation. Since my children’s father gave up his time for us to take the kids to Disney World, I am giving him back that time at the end of the summer so that HE can take them to Disney World.

It’s all about give and take… flexibility… and communication. Who is the winner in this situation? THE KIDS. And that’s all that matters. (Plus I still get to take the kids to Myrtle Beach for the week for the basketball tournament… so I guess I win too. 🙂 )

Please Vote – Top Step-Parent Blogs

I received an email today that my website has been chosen as one of the Top 50 Step-Parent Blogs for 2014.   I can’t even begin to describe how flattered I am!!

Recognition on a job well done means so much when I work so hard to write about topics and situations that so many of us experience.  Being a stepmom has been more gratifying that I could have ever imagined because I now have two more kids who I love as if they were my own.

There are more laughs, there is more love, and there is so much more happiness.

I am thankful for my family and I am thankful that you all enjoy reading about our adventures in our blended family.

Val

Dear Parents, Are You Tired Of Being Tired? Amen.

A slightly edited version of this blog was published today on Huffington Post Parents.

My face felt tight from a mixture of sticky old sunscreen and dried sweat.  Admittedly there was an unpleasant scent that surrounded me of which I was embarrassed.  Or at least I would have been embarrassed if I weren’t so damn tired.  I had spent most of my day outside at a school track meet which took many more hours than I had planned in my schedule.  And because of this poor planning on my part, I was also completely inappropriately dressed in a long skirt and a jeans jacket.  Sure, I could have removed the jeans jacket, but because of the Spanx tank top I was wearing under it, it would have been frowned upon by the other parents for sure.  Pasty white, untoned arms with a crazy tight tank (showing all kinds of curves and edges I don’t want anyone in public to see)? No thank you.

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It was worth it to see her run her 5:50 mile (personal best) at 11 years old.

So I did as we parents do every year at this time and I suffered through it (and, uh, sweat through my clothes in the process).  We spend hours out at the ball fields, in hot gyms, at field days, or at end of the year parties.  Those of us who work outside of the home leave the comforts of our air conditioned offices to stand out in the sun for hours before returning to work for a few more hours.  All the time feeling guilty because, after forgetting to bring a folding chair for the hundreth time, we realize just how much we would rather be anywhere but there.

It’s the time of year where parents are just exhausted.  And this week has been, well, even more exhausting-er than normal.

My normal annoyingly positive attitude is not sure how to handle the never-before-thought negative thoughts brewing inside my head this week.  My mind went into defense mechanism mode yesterday afternoon.  Seriously.  It just SHUT DOWN and I actually said to myself, “Thank God tomorrow is Friday.”  And it was only TUESDAY.  Nice coping mechanism, self, but just saying it doesn’t make it a reality.

My reality this week was spending most of the day on Monday with my kids and my ex-husband’s family at the visitation/funeral/burial of my children’s great uncle.  Divorce may be a divisive factor in our lives, but death brings us all back together.  It was a wonderful service for a man who had such a servant’s heart.  He was always there for anyone in need.  He was one of those people who just made you feel good by being around him.  As Maya Angelou said:

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#TRUTH

The funeral on Monday was emotionally exhausting and then Tuesday was physically exhausting.  I went to work for a few hours, then went to my daughter’s track meet for a few hours, then went by my attorney’s office to sign some paperwork, then went BACK to work for a few hours, then raced home to get my daughter’s basketball clothes/shoes and pick up my son, so we could race over to pick up my daughter from piano.  She changed in the car as we raced to basketball practice.  When the kids got out of the car to go into basketball practice, I realized it was the first silence I had experienced all day.  And it was after 6pm.

So what did I do with my free time?  I opened my brief case and pulled out some work.  <sigh>

Joe called to talk about dinner plans.  I guess I was a tad short with him because he said, “What’s wrong, honey?” I felt like I let all of the air out of my lungs as I said,

“I’M JUST….. SO……….. TIRED.  And I’m just so tired of being tired.”  

Catching some quick Z's after practice...

Catching some quick Z’s after practice…

It’s that time of year again.  The time of year where we all just do whatever we can to get by.  Jen Hatmaker’s blog that went viral last year, Worst End Of School Year Mom Ever, was absolutely the best verbalization of this feeling that we all feel every single year at this time.  We are just sick and tired of being sick and tired, so we just EXIST.  It’s that “existence” that is so hard for someone who takes pride in being on top of everything.  Instead of being my normal prepared self, I find myself wishing away time – praying for a little bit of something… something that I haven’t felt since last summer.  FREEDOM.

And I don’t mean freedom away from the kids, necessarily… I mean freedom to just NOT DO. 

We go, go, go, go all the days.  Our schedules are marked on and highlighted and color-coded as we race from one activity to the next or divide and conquer while kids have different activities in totally different cities.  We make it happen because like Maya Angelou said, we want our kids to remember how our dedication made them feel.

Children don’t feel love through the thousands of dollars worth of shoes you buy them or the expensive camps you send them to.  They feel love when they are out on the court and they look to the sidelines and see you give them a thumbs up.  They feel love when they fall on the field and they hear your familiar gasp from the sidelines as you say a quick prayer to God to make sure your child gets back up.  They feel love when they see you with flowers in the audience after a piano recital.  They feel love just spending time with you.  But most importantly, they will remember how your love and dedication in their lives made them feel.

It’s YOUR TIME they need the most. It’s that simple.

The best thing we can do for our kids and for ourselves is to get a quick re-charge.  Like when your AC stops blowing cold air and you need to re-charge the freon… we go so hard for so long that we just start blowing hot air all around.  And when we are blowing hot air around, we are of no use to anyone.  Especially our kids.

And right now I feel like I am blowing hot air EVERYWHERE…

This weekend we have no basketball tournaments and no plans.  I am already scheduling in my calendar (WITH A SHARPIE) the 12 hours of sleep I want to get on Friday night.  I may not even get out of my nightgown on Saturday THANK-YOU-VERY-MUCH!  Visions of kids laughing by the fire pit while watching outdoor movies are floating around incessantly in my head.  And I know that after having a restful weekend I will be back to the Val who everyone knows and loves, not the Val that everyone hides from because she may burn a hole through you with her exhausted/angry glare.  Not the mom with the ultra-short fuse.

I know that once I get my refresher weekend that I will again be the kind of person who encourages people… the kind of person who makes people smile and whose energy makes others feel good. That is the real Val.

THAT is how I want to be remembered.  

 

 

Blending A Family: Even When It’s Easy, It’s Still Hard

980510_554786311250296_1012210023_oThis was originally posted today on CarolinaParent.com.  Please go to their site and read the blog written by Carolina Parent editor, Odile Fredericks, titled “Seeking Help for Traumatic Teen years.”

It’s hard to believe that our new party of six is almost a year old., Overwhelmingly, it has gone a lot smoother than I expected. Our fears before May 11, 2013, were that the kids would not get along or that they would have adjustment problems. I was particularly concerned that my two kids would have trouble sharing me after having me to themselves for over eight years, and I was concerned that Joe’s kids would view me as a threat to their loyalty to their mother.

After almost a year I can proudly say that neither of those fears came to fruition. Comparatively speaking to other nightmare unions you hear about, it’s been relatively easy. There has been very little fighting between the kids. Joe and I have only had one true argument that was completely blended family related, but that argument helped us remember that we are a team … our marriage is a priority. The past year has mostly been filled with good memories and fun times.

At the same time, it has been the hardest year of my life.

There has been more of so much in my life. More time planning and scheduling of our lives. More laundry to be done on a daily basis. More money spent on food and vacations and activities. More activities to attend. More arguments to diffuse, and more people to tuck in bed. More people to love, and more people to discipline. Did I mention more laundry? Overall, there is just more to fit in an already short week while taking into account an ever revolving door as I coordinate different custody schedules and different school schedules with different activity schedules.

I have to begin preparing for the following week before the current week is even complete, and planning my schedule is much more complex that it sounds. I have to sit down and make sure my schedule is in line with the Google calendar that my ex-husband and I share with the kids. I usually have to email their dad and their stepmom to see what else needs to go on the calendar for that week and to make sure there is not a change in the calendar that needs to be made. I then have to email my babysitter to let her know her responsibilities for the week and then take that same email, change the font to red, and superimpose my husband’s responsibilities into the email before sending that on to him. Even writing the process for planning is exhausting, which makes it no wonder why the two ladies in the Target line early Sunday morning looked at me with such pity when I said, “I have four kids.”

While there has been more, it also feels like there has been less of some things. Less time to focus on our relationship as a couple, and less time to focus on our individual relationships with each child. Less privacy and less alone time (something I crave at times). Less free time to just relax, and less time to focus on hobbies (it’s hard to go to the gym when you have three kids at practices in different locations on the same afternoon).

It also seems like there is less respect for others as each of us has tried to find our own place in our new family. This has been especially trying with two of the kids being teenage boys. It’s hard to know if some behavior is due to the change in our family structure or the change in hormones. Either way, it’s a constant work in progress to stay on top of and eliminate selfishness.

There are no easy roles in a blended family. We the parents are typically the bad guys, but what I have learned over the past year is that the strength in our relationship is what will bring us through this. Even parents who are still together can vouch that the teenage years are tough on everyone. Just like in those families, we will get through it together as husband and wife. It has become clear that not everyone is going to be happy all the time, but we must treat each other with respect and kindness so we can pull through these years relatively unscathed.

Growing together as a blended family has not been without its drama and difficulties, but the power struggles we face are helping us to become even closer as a family. Each day we are all finding our place, and I just know that the best is yet to come.

Lesson From The Wave

 

Durham Bulls

The Durham Bulls had their opening night last night and it was so much fun! We only had two of our kids, so we had a smaller crew than normal, but it was a great time.  The sounds, the sights, the smells… and a W for the Bulls!!!! We have mini-season tickets, but since this game wasn’t included in our package we sat in the outfield.  I can say one thing with certainty, there was a lot of interesting people-watching going on!  I like our regular seats better because there aren’t many people in front of us, which allows me to focus my attention on the actual game rather than the people around me.

Hattie really wanted to get the wave going, so she was thrilled when a boy sitting near us decided to take matters into his own hands.  We always participate in the wave, but it was fun to see it close up from the start.

When the wave starts, you only have a small group of people who stand up, wave their arms and yell.  Each time they start the wave, it goes a little farther.  Then a little farther… until you have this:

This made me think about the snowball effect of negativity in divorce.  It may start out small with you nitpicking small transgressions you feel your ex is guilty of doing, but it can quickly get out of control with you becoming obsessed with bringing everything that you think he/she is doing wrong to light.  Usually this is actually done with good intentions.

This constant barrage of insignificant transgressions will only cause you to be miserable as you perceive the transgressions as personal attacks on you.  And one thing I have learned for sure in my life is that if I let things bother me based on the actions of other people, I am letting them win.  Not only that, but I am miserable while they continue to be happy.

I explained this concept to one of my girls the other day when she was talking about something that someone did that “made her angry.”  I told her that she couldn’t let someone else’s actions make her feel bad.  She has to choose to let it go (yes, that was my motto well before Frozen came out).  My example to her was, “You are going to make yourself miserable thinking about it while she could be having the happiest, best day of her life!”  Her response was, “Not if I tell her how it makes me feel.” And I said, “But she may not care, so it will make you feel even worse.”  LET IT GO…

In divorce, we have to learn to let things go that we may not want to let go and we need to choose our battles.  You and your ex are not going to agree on things.  Take that to the bank.  But you have to choose to let things go so that you can be happy and move on with your life.  You have to stop the wave before it takes off and focus on your own happiness.

I often admit my own inadequacies when I write, which is what a lot of people say they enjoy about my blog… and I do admit that I remember the days when I used to email my ex about things that my kids would tell me as soon as they came back from his home.  I remember being infuriated with him and I remember him saying (a phrase I heard often that would only infuriate me more), “Per usual you don’t know what you are talking about.”  Ouch… I had verbalized in bullet points my argument based on something the kids told me and I got… gulp, THAT.

It took a while, but after being blown off enough in my quest to be heard by him I realized it wasn’t worth the energy or the anger.  I was furious and he couldn’t care less about how I felt.  What was the point??? I felt bad and he probably didn’t think another thought about it.

If you know someone who is in the throes of divorce, don’t be a negative advocate who only fans the flames of anger by telling them things you hear or encouraging them to “teach him/her a thing or two.”  The best friend you can be would be to encourage them to move along… transcend…. choose their battles... let it go.  If you can help them refocus and remember the good that has come, then maybe they can stop focusing on the negative.  You can help them stop the wave of negativity that has taken over their lives.  Change is very difficult, so they will need your support.

I need to change my eating habits, so I would appreciate some support on that if you’re in the helping mood…

Yep... lunch today. Eeek.

Yep… lunch today. Eeek.

 

 

Dear Summer, BRING IT.

I’ve always heard that things have to get worse before they can get better.   If that’s the case, then I have never been more ready for the “BETTER” to arrive.  As you most likely read in my post, I’m Wearing Mascara Again, I have been dealing with some life changing situations that have been very difficult for me emotionally.  Add to that sick kids who brought home some sort of plague-like respiratory virus that has put me to bed since last Monday and you can understand why I have been a little MIA as of late.

I’m beginning to think that winter is just not my best time of the year.  It seems that every winter something has happened that has caused me to wish and crave for the spring/summer.  Two years ago I fainted in my driveway in January and felt like I had hit rock bottom, then Joe and I reconnected in March and, well, here we are.

As I said in the Divorce Care Package feature on The Huffington Post Divorce site, the beach is my “happy place” that helped me for years as I was struggling with my divorce.  Since then it has become the place where Joe and I were able to build our relationship.  Every weekend we didn’t have kids, we headed to the beach.  Since I feel the most peace and happiness at the beach, it only makes sense that I relate those same happy feelings with summertime.

This winter has had its share of troubling issues.  Things have come to light in different aspects of my life that have been difficult for me to process and understand.  We have also just changed up our custody schedule so that my kids are now spending 50/50 with both their dad and me.  While I think this change will be positive for them (or I would have never agreed to it), they have been primarily with me for almost ten years now.  Change can be a good thing, but it’s not always easy to swallow when it means less time with your kids.  Thankfully I will still see them every day since they will come home from school to my house like normal and we stay in close contact even when they are with their dad.

That change affects us all because now my schedule is all crazy mixed up… and you guys KNOW how I feel about the importance of an organized schedule!!!!!  Now all of a sudden we have Monday nights with no kids, Tuesday nights with my kids, Wednesday night with my step-kids, and Thursday night with all four kids together.  This makes dinner planning a little different, but it’s nothing I can’t handle once I get used to the new way.

Emotionally I have been okay with this, although I have been struggling a little with the fact that my son and my step-son will be finished with middle school and will be going to high school in a few short months.  I may or may not have cried the entire way home from high school orientation (and proceeded to sign the boys up to attend a study skills boot camp one Saturday because I was scared straight about how intense high school can be).  And before I could even wrap my brain around the fact that they will both be in driver’s ed before I can possibly accept it, my son blindsided me.

My son has decided that he wants to go to high school out where his dad lives.  That may not seem like a big change, but I live in the heart of the city and their dad lives on a farm 25 minutes out in the country.  It has been a great experience for the kids to have the best of both worlds, but it blew me away that he wants to leave his friends to go out to school where he knows no one.  While my first instinct was to put my foot down and disallow it, I immediately felt a tremendous amount of pride at the job that his father and I have done.

How impressive that my 14 year old was brave enough to talk to me about something that you know could not have been easy for him.  He was very non-emotional and just discussed it with me.  While I admittedly didn’t handle it with as much grace as he, I was impressed with his candor and his strength in sharing his desires.  I may not agree with him, but I am going to stand behind him.  I would much rather he try it out and see how he does, then prohibit it and leave him resentful that I wouldn’t allow it.

Maybe it was my weakened immune system due to the stress of visiting schools and making major decisions, but last week I was hit by a truck.  At least it felt like a truck, but it was a potent kid virus.  I have literally been in bed since last Monday.  Needless to say, being sick makes me emotional and since I was ALREADY emotional, the past week has been a beast.

The one redeeming factor of the week was dragging myself out of bed on Saturday night to take the kids and grandmothers to our favorite Japanese restaurant to celebrate birthdays.  Although I couldn’t eat much since the smells were so potent, it was wonderful to be in the land of the living again… and even more wonderful to surprise all four kids with our planned trip to Disneyworld in June!  Seeing their excitement and knowing that summer will be here before we know it has lifted me out of the emotional fog I have been in.

Now I can go back to focusing on the important things in life.  No, NOT FACEBOOK (I gave up FB for Lent).

FAMILY.

I want to spend every second I can breathing in every moment of my kids.  It makes my heart ache to think about only having four more years with our boys under our protective wings, so instead I am going to focus every ounce of my energy on enjoying every second with them until then.   I want to stop worrying about the small stuff.  I want to laugh at their silly jokes and enjoy them harassing each other in the car.  I want to try to remember every second, because I have learned to accept that there aren’t that many before they are out of our nest.

 

 

 

 

Divorce Care Package – Huffington Post Divorce

Posted today on Huffington Post Divorce.

If there’s ever a time you need a little distraction in your life, it’s during the divorce process. That’s why we launched our Divorce Care Package series. With each post, we’ll show you what things — books, movies, recipes — helped others relieve stress in the midst of divorce, in the hopes that a few of their picks will serve you well, too. Want to share what got you through your divorce? Email us at divorce@huffingtonpost.com or tweet @HuffPost Divorce

These days, writer Valerie DeLoach is happily remarried and busy blogging about blended family on her site, Life In A Blender. But for a long time before that, she was a divorced mom of two figuring out how to get her bearings after years of being married.

“What really got me through my divorce is hope,” she told us. “Not necessarily hope to find a man, but hope that the everything is going to be okay. Although I stayed a single mom for almost nine years, I knew that God had a plan for me that would be extraordinary. I was right!”

Below, DeLoach shares a few things that inspired her to move forward after her divorce, from a much-needed trip to New Orleans, to a sticky note that told her everything she needed to know about co-parenting with her ex.

Why ‘Choose Your Battles’ Became My Rallying Cry After Divorce

Sharing Toothbrushes & Whatnot…

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Our kids – LOVE THEM

We have survived almost ten months now as a newly blended family with little to no internal friction.  A couple of small bumps in the road, but no devastating crashes.  Pretty good for having a house with two teenage boys and two pre-teen girls who live in pretty close quarters.

Who wouldn't want to hang out in this room all the time????

Who wouldn’t want to hang out in this room all the time????

I won’t say “tight quarters” because although the boys share a room and the girls share a room, they are unquestionably large rooms.  The girls have two double beds in their room and still have plenty of extra room to lounge around and watch tv or play games.  The boys have bunk beds with a sofa and coffee table set up in their room – the perfect Xbox set-up for teen boys.  So they are definitely not suffering in any sense.

They do, however, all have to share the jack & jill bathroom that is between their rooms.

Four kids. Two sinks.  That wouldn’t seem like a big deal, but it also means four kids and four toothbrushes.  Recipe for disaster… Last week one of the kids was brushing their teeth (I will be vague so no one feels like they are being made fun of).  Another child also went to brush teeth and was confused when their toothbrush wasn’t where it was supposed to be.  It was quickly realized it was because the other child was using it to brush their teeth!! Ewwwwwww.  Everyone was REALLY grossed out and I ended up having to give new toothbrushes to pretty much everyone in the house JUST IN CASE.

Four kids. One toilet.  Thankfully this hasn’t been a big deal because two of our kids leave for school just as the other two are waking up, so different wake times usually mean different potty times.  There are the occasions where I wake to hear quiet footsteps on the hardwood floors in our bedroom and see one of the kids standing near the bed with a deer in headlights expression.  I then hear the whisper, “There’s someone in our bathroom.  Can I use yours?”  We are still trying to figure out why they don’t just go downstairs to another bathroom, but whatever.

Four kids. One shower.  Fifty thousand towels.  I kid you not, THEY GO THROUGH SOME TOWELS.  We recently picked up 18 towels at one time.  18 towels between four kids.  And Joe, the obsessive laundry guy (THANK GOD), does laundry pretty much every single day, so they were towels accumulated over just a few days.  One of the kids said, “I don’t like to reuse towels because I always think someone else used the towel after me. That’s gross.”  Ironically, that was the same child who had someone else’s toothbrush in their mouth.  Nice try.

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I’m a smart girl…

Being the problem solver I am, I resolved the “towel drama” by pulling out my old Bernina embroidery machine and each child now has two personalized towels to use each week.  They are responsible for hanging them up and no one is allowed to use anyone else’s towel.   It’s been working beautifully for a few weeks now!

Overall, the blended family experience for us all has been wildly successful.  Sure we have had to institute more rules in the house – with double the family, there becomes double the responsibility.  Everyone must carry their own weight, which has been a struggle for one child specifically.   We’ve instituted allowance, but rather than be happy that they now get paid in addition to the new rules, they are mad at how we “handle their money.”  Huh.  We also have more activities with four kids, so we all go to more stuff now… which again can be a major source of angst for a teenage boy who is all about his own wants and needs.  So we are working on it.  Considering it hasn’t even been a year yet, we are doing just fine. It’s constant give and take… and I know that someday the kids will realize just how good we have it.

I’m thankful for every second we have with each of them because it won’t be long before they are driving and out the door…  I may be a hot mess heap of hysteria at that time, so I will enjoy every single second of toothbrush/bathroom/towel drama until that day.  Then Joe and I will sit in our rocking chairs on the porch in New Bern looking out over the river and we will laugh remembering how much fun each and every day was with our party of six.