My 30 Day Journey…

Let me preface this by saying this blog is really REAL. I’m being more honest than I would probably like to be on the Wide World Web, but here it goes…

Life has always had its ups and downs for me. Some people erroneously believe that just because I smile all of the time that it means I am happy all the time. That’s just wrong. Even yesterday as I was driving through one of the worst downpours I have ever driven through, my daughter said, “Why are you smiling?” It’s just what I do.

While things have indeed been pretty much idyllic since March of 2012 when Joe and I reconnected through Facebook, my life is far from smooth sailing. As I have said over and over, thankfully our relationship is solid and even through everything I encounter, Joe is always my beacon through the fog. However, nothing prepared me for last April when I pulled into my driveway and my son said, “Mom, can I talk to you about something?” My innocent reply was, “Of course you can, baby…”

He proceeded to explain to me the reasons why he felt he should go to high school where his dad lives and why he should spend more time with his dad. Needless to say I was blindsided and didn’t handle that moment with the grace and fruit of the spirit like I would have liked. After going to visit the school and sitting down with his dad, I did the most selfless thing I think I have ever done in my life and I said, “I’ll support whatever your decision is, but please know your father and I won’t judge you if you decide you didn’t make the right decision.”

Tears soon followed for me… and they were UGLY tears. I remember sitting on the side of my bed as I was supposed to be getting ready to go to dinner with Joe. I couldn’t stop crying. Just when I thought I had pulled myself together, I would sit back down and heave some more. I called my doctor the next day and he put me on Lexapro. It quickly turned everything around for me. I was able to handle the outside stress a lot better, but I unfortunately found out that with the happy feelings that had returned, I was also steadily gaining weight. Because I had knee surgery a few months prior (right after my 40th birthday!!), exercise was still a challenge.  Plus the Lexapro made me so sleepy. Or at least I thought it was the Lexapro. I went for my physical and discovered that my thyroid was underactive.

It was January when I started seeing old friends from high school who were having success on a Nutritional Cleansing System. I listened as one friend told me about it and I thought it was too good to be true and too expensive. I had done Weight Watchers online for a couple of months but had only continued to gain weight, so I went to see a Nutritionist so I could try to lose on my own without spending the money. We did a metabolic test and she told me that my metabolism is fast and that I actually burn more calories in a resting state than the average woman. She told me how many calories to have to lose weight and she guided me on my food choices. I thought for sure counting my calories and exercising would do the trick, but I admittedly was still adjusting my calories so I could have a couple of glasses of wine at night at dinner (my biggest meal of the day). The scale kept creeping up…

IMG_4747In March I decided enough was enough. My friend Julie, who I have not seen since high school, started telling me all about this system. It again sounded too good to be true, but the more we talked I found out that I knew a lot of people who were using Isagenix. They all looked great and sang praises on Facebook of how good they felt and how amazing the products were. I was SUCH A SKEPTIC! I told Julie that I felt like she was trying to make me join a cult. I honestly thought that I would enroll and they would give me pages of quotes to use and things to say because it just seemed impossible that everyone I know REALLY likes the products this much. She kept contacting me about it until I finally realized that 1) I am clearly having no success losing the weight on my own, 2) I’m tired of being tired, 3) I have nothing to lose since you can get a refund if you are not happy with the product anytime in the first 30 days.

So I ordered the 30 day system.  Best decision for me I have made in a long time…

I couldn’t wait to receive my order and it felt like Christmas when that huge box full of goodies arrived. Julie and I talked (because since she enrolled me, she is my “Coach”) and she walked me through the products and explained day by day what I would be doing. She asked if I would be interested in sharing the products with others and I told her point blank, “I WILL NOT share this with anyone unless I learn on my own it’s the real deal. If it indeed does everything that you say it does, then I will shout it from the Facebook mountaintop!!”

Day 1 went well. I LOVED the taste of the shakes and I liked how the Ionix Supreme made me forget that I was giving up two of my loves in life… COFFEE & WINE. I had 1/4 cup of raw almonds as a mid-morning snack and had a yummy 400-600 calorie snack of chicken, brown rice, and a side salad. For an afternoon snack I had some fruit and low fat cheese, then had another shake for dinner. I went to bed completely satisfied and feeling great. Day 2 was pretty rough due to caffeine withdrawals, but I made it through by drinking over 100 ounces of water (you must drink at least half of your weight in ounces of water, so I drank even more). Day 3 was also rough because I could barely keep my eyes open. I literally thought I was going to fall asleep while sitting straight up in front of my computer at work. Again, I drank a ton of water and went to bed early. Then the strangest thing happened… I woke up at 5:45am the next morning and felt ready for my day.

You need to understand that I do not usually like to see the light of day, well, before there is light… I have always required over 8 hours of sleep and it was a struggle DAILY to wake up before 7:15am. I also noticed that I was already losing weight and feeling leaner – in FOUR DAYS. I couldn’t believe it. By day 5 I realized that this stuff was like the magic elixir for all that had been ailing me!!!!  That’s when I decided I would start telling people about it.

Ten days in I was down 9 lbs and 7.5 inches. And it only continued to get better and better. Even though it’s not recommended that you weigh yourself regularly (actually a lot of people recommend throwing the scale away all together since it’s about transforming your body with lean muscle), I was so excited to see the scale going down every day. I couldn’t believe I had been so worried about the money when, on day 14, I decided to add up how much I spent on restaurants, wine, and groceries in the two weeks prior to starting Isagenix and how much I spent the two weeks since I started.  I had already saved $257 in two weeks! Not to mention that my friends were really seeing a difference and I had already starting enrolling friends to join in my journey. I signed up four friends and made enough money to cover the first 30 days. Not only was I eating for free, but I was SAVING money!!

The success continued and I started seeing that not only did I have more energy when I woke up around 6am every morning, but my workouts started improving drastically. I have even started running again! I saw my mom the other day for the first time in a couple of weeks and she couldn’t believe how radiant my skin looks. In addition to all of these amazing benefits, I have even noticed my lips seem plumper?!?!? WHAT?????

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I am proud to say that I have been proven wrong. This is not a cult… it is an amazing nutritional system that has truly changed my life. I am NOT starving. I am consuming between 1400-1500 calories a day between two snacks (sometimes three if my workout it hard or if I workout more than once) and one healthy meal. I feel like I can accomplish so much more because of the tremendous energy this system gives me (I have anxiety and am very sensitive to the jitters, so I can tell you that what I am experiencing is energy not nervousness). As of today, only 30 days after I started, I have lost 13 pounds and 15.5 inches. That’s fantastic since I didn’t have much to lose. And today, on day 30, I ran for 35 minutes with my daughter and even did 4 X 100m sprints!!!!

Due to my success and my belief in the products, I have decided to continue using Isagenix and am even getting my family to join the fun. That’s the beauty of these products, you can use them however you need to. I know people who are doing the program to lose weight. I know some who are doing it to gain weight. I have a friend who wants to do it because she feels like she doesn’t get proper nutrition since she is always chasing around her 1 year old. My kids are all athletes, so they can drink the shakes as extra protein after a workout. My husband has even decided to try it. Everyone close to me sees what a change it is making in my life and they want a part of it.

Not only am I continuing to use Isagenix, but I am able to enroll anyone who is interested. If you can convince two friends to sign up with you, then you can start out instantly making money. So not only are you getting healthy, but you are starting your own business which can be whatever you make it. This is not a pyramid scheme, it is network marketing with a well laid out compensation plan. It’s not about who gets in first, because you are able to earn more money that someone who came in a year before you if you dedicate yourself to sharing the product with others.

I am so excited about the changes Isagenix has brought into my life – the energy, the weight loss, the calm way I approach stressors now. I’m even in the process of weaning off my medicine so I can live medicine free! I haven’t even missed the other things that I had to give up and I have replaced them with such healthy habits. I have become so much smarter with my food choices. The kicker is that I went to see my Nutritionist the other day and following my appointment she sent me a recap which said, “Continue the Isagenix regimen.” I am excited to know that she is endorsing my lifestyle change!

Spicy shrimp on a sweet potato with brussels sprouts! I love planning my meals!!!

Spicy shrimp on a sweet potato with brussels sprouts! I love planning my meals!!!

If you are interested, there is a ton of info on the internet… While some of it may be negative, all I can say is that it is clearly working for me!!!! If you are interested in learning more, please email me at ournewpartyofsix@gmail.com and we can arrange a time to talk. My website is http://valeriedeloach.isagenix.com, but please talk to me to enroll to ensure you get the best deal in case there are any promotions!!!

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Shake It Off…

With four kids between the ages of 11 and 15, we hear a lot of “he said/she said” drama. In the day of Instagram and Facebook and SnapChat, our kids are constantly looking for ways to embarrass each other (and me). I always have to be on my game because at any given time one of them may snap a pic of me to send to 10 of their friends just to be funny. I’ve gotten so good at turning away quickly that there are probably millions of pictures floating around in the internet cloud of “deleted SnapChat pics” (sure… they just disappear into thin air, never to be seen again…) that look just like this:

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This need for kids to embarrass others is a common theme that we see throughout adolescence. A girl may be upset that the boy she likes doesn’t like her… but likes one of her friends. She then goes to their other friends and tells lies and ugly secrets about that friend to get the other girls not to like her and in hopes that the boy will hear the gossip and not like her too. I could give about twenty-five examples from my own childhood of that scenario playing out play by play. The friend who the boy liked gets rejected and ridiculed by all of the girls for no reason whatsoever except that she was unfortunate enough to be liked by the wrong boy.

My favorite thing to tell our kids when I hear about this kind of situation is “SHAKE IT OFF.” I can turn on the Taylor Swift song below and we can dance until we forget what was upsetting.

That seems to work for them (for now) although I realize that as the girls get into their teens it will be a lot more hurtful and harder to move past. The alienation that can happen with teenaged girls can be devastating. I have a couple of friends who still talk about that alienation and how it affected them for years.

Yesterday I heard some gossip about me that was absolute lies. I called one of my best friends who is the best sounding board of reason that I know and I said, “I know I shouldn’t care, but I am so upset that a lot of people may hear this and it is just so far from the truth! What if people believe it and don’t like me??” She said, “If you know in your heart that you have done nothing wrong, then you have to move on. If you did do something wrong, then you have to own it and apologize and then move on.” She added that real friends will talk to me before coming to any conclusions. While I know that is true, why is it so hard to swallow?

How can we teach our children to move on after having their feelings hurt when it’s almost impossible to do as an adult??? Even when we know in our hearts that we have done nothing wrong?

I saw this on another friend’s Facebook page this morning and I knew I had to include it:

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The whole world would be a better place if we all truly tried to get along rather than hold grudges and try to make others look bad. It’s not healthy for anyone to be in a war. If you know in your heart that you are saying things that are true and right and just, then you are on the right path. As Shel Silverstein said above, when we are all happy and silly and love each other, then EVERYONE WINS.

My favorite Bible verse says,

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

My goal is to shake off the gossip and focus on my amazing family. I have a husband who is not perfect, but he is perfect for me and I love him with all of my heart. I’m so proud of the communication we share and the dedication he shows to our relationship and to our family. There is not doubt we will have the best time growing old together. Most importantly, I am proud of the Christian man he is and what a good role model and father he is to our kids. We have four funny, beautiful, smart kids who make us so proud every single day. I have some of the best friends a girl could ask for who know that I would never be malicious and unkind. I have the most supportive and loving family who is always behind me 100%.

The next time my girls come to me about unkind words being said about them, I am going to encourage them to think of all of the excellent and praiseworthy things in their lives. Make a list if they need to, and pray over everything on the list. When we focus on what we have to be thankful for, then everything else is petty and insignificant.

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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Facebook Fatigue Syndrome

“Keeping up with the Joneses” used to be a simple idiom. People would use the phrase to refer to the desire to accumulate material possessions. Social status was measured by how much one had or collected. Inability to “Keep up with the Joneses” would cause major dissatisfaction in the lives of those striving to have more and be more than their neighbors and friends.

It was simple back in those days because we didn’t have the internet or social media. We could only see a limited amount of friends daily, so our desire to “keep up” would be based on who we encountered regularly.

My how times have changed…

We now have Facebook where people can post pictures of their gorgeous beach homes with their perfect view of the sunset from the front porch overlooking the ocean. New status updates pop up every minute with friends sharing how happy they are in their job, with their marriage, or with their best friends. Profile pictures show gloriously happy, beautiful people enjoying life.

And you aren’t……

Their kids are more successful than yours. Their Mother’s Day present was more thoughtful than yours. Their husband loves them more than yours loves you. Their clothes fit better on their perfectly sculpted (“I work out more than you”) bodies. They spend more time on vacations than you and they do AMAZING things like go cave diving and drink fruity cocktails with sweat perfectly beaded up on the glass (while you are stuck in your office with no windows).

Our focus becomes on how much better their lives are than ours, which is just another complicated example of “Keeping up with the Joneses.” Depression sets in as you wonder what you are doing wrong and why you can’t have all the wonderful things that they have. I have actually been told by a friend that she had to take a break from Facebook because it was making her feel too bad about her own life.  She was suffering from what so many people suffer these days – Facebook Fatigue Syndrome.

“Keeping up with the Joneses” isn’t the same as it was many years ago… I think that now it is not a desire to have the material possessions of others as much as it is to have the same happiness that it APPEARS they have while looking through the lens of Facebook or Instagram.  Add into that Etsy & Pinterest and the envy is to possess the creativity of others.

People fail to realize that Facebook is just a simple way for someone to paint the picture of their life that they want others to see. It’s not necessarily reality. A lot of times it is obvious to me when a friend is trying too hard to stress to others how great his/her life is. Other times I may see a friend who posts an anniversary picture with her husband telling how lucky she is (when everyone knows he has been having an affair with a co-worker for the past two years and she has been fighting for her marriage). Sure, we see the big 51′ Jarrett Bay they just bought, but do we see the massive debt they accumulated just to get it or that the purchase of the boat has caused the couple to discuss divorce?  We see a friend our age who looks so amazingly beautiful in her pictures, but we don’t think about the amount of money she has spent at her plastic surgeon or what filters she used when she edited the photos.

Try to remember that you can’t take every post and picture on Facebook at face value. This realization that people view Facebook as some sort of “Stepford Wives” look at our friends has made me want to talk to my daughters about the importance of viewing themselves as individuals without comparing themselves to others. We want our children to grow up with a healthy self-esteem, but then we turn around and continually compare ourselves to others and focus on our own inadequacies.

If you have found that you suffer from Facebook Fatigue Syndrome, try to remember that someone may appear to live a life of perfection on the outside, but you don’t know anything about their internal struggles. As I have heard my entire life, if we take all of my problems and your problems and put them in a pile, I will quickly take my own back… Be thankful for what you have and focus on being the best that YOU can be.

This is my tough love for Tuesday… a little bit of positive thinking (albeit a tad harsh) to get your focus in the right place.

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My Mid-Years Resolutions

I’ve had an emotionally exhausting and extremely frustrating week.  I can’t help but think that I should have better control over my emotions.  While I’ve always had a little bit of “firecracker” in me, I have really become devastated this week about things that maybe I should have handled better.

As a result, these “spells” I have suffered from have made me want to do things to improve myself.  My hope is that if I know that I am doing the best that I can, then I won’t let other people’s feelings and actions affect me quite like I have been affected this week.

IF I AM THE BEST ME THAT I CAN BE, THEN THAT’S THE BEST I CAN DO.

Although most people make New Years’ resolutions, I have decided to make some Mid-Years’ resolutions.  Starting today, June 1st, I am going to work harder than ever to be the best Valerie that I can be.

1) I will be a better friend.

I have over 1300 friends on Facebook, but I can count on two hands the people who are my TRUE friends.  The rest seem to be “surface” friends.  I am going to decide which relationships I need to truly nurture and I am going to do everything in my power to be the best friend I can be to those people.  While I don’t really know what that will entail, I know that I will no longer waste time on people who don’t spend time on me and I will honor and value and spend time on those who are my true friends.

2) I will be a better daughter.

Again, not sure exactly how to do this, but I will do everything in my power to honor and respect both of my parents and my mother-in-laws.  I want them to know that I value their opinions and I will work hard to make sure they never feel that I am dismissing them in any way.

3) I will exercise regularly.

I don’t only want to be the best me I can be in my relationships, but I want to be in the best physical shape I can be.  As I approach 40 in a few short months, I want to be able to be confident that I am taking care of myself.  I want to be around to share as many years as possible with my handsome husband, so my goal is to exercise a little bit every day.  I even started the 30 day Ab Challenge!  Lord help me!

4) I will watch what I put in my stomach.

There is so much talk about how wheat/gluten is a poison in your body.  I have decided that I want to try to go gluten/wheat free for a couple of weeks and see how it feels.  It is worth a try! When you look at ingredients in processed foods, you can’t help but question what in the hell you are eating anyway.

5) I will be a better mother.

I have been yelling a lot lately.  A lot.  About stupid things.  I have always been a yeller, but lately it just feels like I fly off the handle about everything.  My goal for the rest of 2014 is to savor every moment.  It’s to recognize that they are kids and to LET THEM BE KIDS.  I won’t get mad if they are pushing me to get something they want, because that’s their job.  I won’t take it personally when they complain about our rules, because it would be unnatural for them NOT to complain about them.  I will hug them more, love them more, and enjoy them more… every single day.

6) I will be a better writer.

I LOVE to write.  It makes me a better person to get my thoughts on paper and to share those thoughts with others.  My writing is not only a ministry to other people going through similar things, but it is therapy for my own soul as I work through my thoughts and feelings.  My husband is very aware of this and whenever I am in a particularly difficult mood he will say, “Honey, let me take care of this… you need to go write.”  My goal is to make a topic calendar and to stick to it.  I will have a specific topic chosen for each day and when that day rolls around, then I will sit down and write.  I know how important schedules are in my life, so it would only make sense that I would plan out my writing like I plan out everything else.

7) I will be the best wife I can be.

Finally, and most importantly, I will be the best wife I can be.  Everyone who is close to me recognizes how blessed I am to have finally found the man who loves me more than his own life.  Because of that awareness, they are all quick to tell me that I need to do everything in my power to keep him!  Even last night my brother said, “You need to make sure Joe is good.  You have to keep him happy before anyone else.”  And that’s true.  My focus needs to be on making sure that he knows each and every day how much I love and respect him.  I need to allow him to be the spiritual leader in our home so that we can be the best US that we can be.  As I heard at a wedding this weekend, a successful relationship is not about loving each other more than ourselves… it’s about loving US more than anything else.

And I do love US.

Hope the second half of 2014 is wildly successful for you.  Remember… you don’t have to wait until New Years to make resolutions for change.  We can change ourselves anytime we choose.  Tomorrow is a new day.

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.

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.

Essential Organizational Skills for the Single Mom

Published originally today on the Huffington Post:

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.

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 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. 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 it is. 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 the 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 want more from you than you have to give. 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. Learn to say no and focus on your kids in other ways. 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. Another important form of delegation is getting the kids to carry more weight around the house. Moms often resist this because of the mother’s guilt they carry due to the divorce.

6) Take Care of 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. There are plenty of ways you can be good to yourself so that you can be the best you that you can be — physically and emotionally.

It seems that most of my friends who have gone through divorces follow the textbook divorce routine. They try to do what they can to improve their physical appearance — lose weight, change their hairstyle, wear more make-up, get plastic surgery. 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.

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 seeking professional help if you are having trouble moving past the anger. Focusing on the future rather than the past will allow you to stay positive and hopeful.

And who can’t benefit from a little hope?