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.

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There Is No “Step” In My Love For Her…

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I stayed up long after my family went to bed last night just so I could decorate the kitchen for Valentine’s Day.  We have been snowed in here in North Carolina since Tuesday, so I had to think of a homemade way to tell my family just how much they mean to me on this special day.

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They ARE my life… nothing else matters.

I made a heart for each person in my family and I wrote all the things that I love about them.  On Joe’s, I wrote a letter telling him all of the many reasons I love him.  This is the heart I made for my daughter Crawford:

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So many people have a cynical view of Valentine’s Day, but even though I have spent most of my life not celebrating it with a “Valentine,” I see it as such a joyous celebration of love and life.  It’s a day that makes me want to be even kinder to everyone I encounter – whether it be at work or Starbucks.  No matter who you are, you know that it feels good to be loved.

When my husband walked out of the bedroom this morning, I literally popped up in bed with a smile.  I can’t explain the joy I felt just knowing that he would feel loved when he walked into the kitchen and saw his heart.  I reached over and read an email telling me about the death of my friend’s husband who has been fighting cancer.

My heart fell… and it fell far.

What a juxtaposition of feelings I was feeling.  The joy of love and life.  The sadness of loss and death.  All within a few moments.  My sweet husband brought me breakfast in bed soon after and all I could do was think about my friend losing her husband… on Valentine’s Day.  It certainly set the stage for a pretty sad day.

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He loves me…

It was slow moving this morning as I got ready for work.  I started letting everything bother me.  I got sad thinking about not having my daughter and son with me on Valentine’s Day.  Silly, I know.  It’s not like it’s a “major holiday,” but I was disappointed just the same. My heart was feeling very weighted down.

Then my sweet step-daughter came skipping into my bathroom and said, “Do you want to dress up with me today?”  She wanted to wear a heart bathrobe and a pink hairbow to go to work with me.  In a quick dismissal I said, “It’s a place of business, so we need to look nice.”  As she walked out of the room looking disappointed, I decided in that moment that I couldn’t let the bad news ruin my entire day.  I needed to live my day to the fullest and do whatever I could to make the day a little better for someone, ANYONE, else.

So Hattie and I headed in to work and she said, “Since I am not at school today and can’t tell all my classmates Happy Valentine’s Day, I am going to tell everyone I see Happy Valentine’s Day from this point on…”

And she did.

For the rest of the day, that sweet girl said “Happy Valentine’s Day” to EVERYONE she encountered.  One of my co-workers took her down to get cupcakes for the office and she said it to every person in the cafe (including my boss – who she didn’t know was my boss).

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Yummy cupcakes from Cafe Carolina

When we left work, she spoke to every person we passed on the way to the car.  Once in the car, she yelled out the window to people on the side of the road and people pumping gas.  She said it to the homeless man sitting alone in the corner at Starbucks.  She said it to the old couple getting in their car next to us.  Here is a quick video I took: http://youtu.be/jQJrw8OAFso.

She had said she would stop once she got to 30, but once she got to 30 she said, “You know how sometimes you have extra valentines, so you give those out too?  I’m going for the extra.”

SHE MADE MY DAY.  And not to mention she made the day of numerous people all over Raleigh.  And all by showing just a little bit of kindness and a smile.  And that’s what Valentine’s Day is all about.  It’s not about romantic love.  It’s about showing those around us love and by showing those we love just how much we love them.  THAT is what it’s all about.  It’s about making others feel good.  It’s about spending time when people. It’s about telling our family and friends WHY we love them.

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My valentine for my dashingly handsome husband….

Tonight at dinner, when my step-daughter said to my husband, “We had the best day ever,” I realized just how much joy she brought to my day.  And then she looked at me and said, “I have a poem for you for Valentine’s Day: Roses are red, violets are blue, Yes I have a big smile, but you do too.”

Yes, sweet girl.  I do tonight and it is because of you…

I Love Being A Mom – Even in Winter Storm Pax

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No one is playing basketball today!

This has been one of the longest weeks that I can remember… and it’s not over.

Those close to me know that I am a very anxious person at times.  It’s not something I am plagued with full-time, but often situations that are out of my control are very difficult for me to handle.  This week’s weather left so many uncertainties that I was an absolute trainwreck.

My husband was in Greensboro for work and two of my kids had to get from their mom’s house to our house and the other two had to leave our house to go to their dad’s house.  Mind you, Greensboro is about an hour and a half away and both of our exes live about thirty minutes from our house.

Add in the potential for “debilitating,” “crippling,” and “devastating” weather (thankyouverymuch for that national news) in the south and it’s a recipe for a mom meltdown.  We are just not equipped for this kind of weather – physically or emotionally – so my anxiety has been in hyper-drive.

As a mother, one of the hardest things about my divorce has been letting go of the kids when they go to their dad’s house.  It’s not that I doubt him in any way, because I know they are well taken care of and that he makes good decisions.  My problem is I am not there to hold their hands.  I’m not there to clean scrapes or kiss bruises or wipe tears away.

Now that my kids are older, that fear is more related to safety issues beyond my control.  So this week, the potential weather had me in a frenzy with all of the “what ifs.”

What if I go in to work and the kids get out of school and I can’t get home to them?  What if Joe goes to Greensboro and can’t get home to us?  What if I need to go get two of our kids from their mom and I can’t drive in the snow?  What if they are pulled on the back of the four wheeler at their dad’s and hit a tree?  What if their step-mom gets stuck in traffic taking them out to their house and they are in danger and I can’t get to them?  What if the power goes out for days and I run out of fire wood and Joe is still not home?  What if the water stops working? What if… what if… what if…

If you have anxiety, then you know that all of that was running through my head AT THE SAME TIME last night while I was trying to fall asleep.  I think it was close to 2am before my brain finally gave me a rest and I fell asleep.

I woke up this morning still feeling anxious until I got a text from Joe that he had gotten up and driven back to Raleigh at 5:15am to avoid any bad weather.  He said he was going to pick up the two kids with their mom and would be home.  I instantly felt an overwhelming sense of relief. That was a major weight off my shoulders.  I had been an absolute basket-case worrying about Joe driving back in the bad weather just one day after out 9th month as husband and wife.

Thankfully, I brought my laptop home and had my calls forwarded, so I was able to work from home and didn’t have to worry about leaving my kids alone.  That is such a blessing on days like today because I was able to work all morning in my bathrobe and know my kids were safe and not alone.

I can’t explain the peace I felt in my heart when my husband and two kids came walking in the door this morning.  It’s that amazing feeling like a part of your heart that has been missing is back.  Slowly but surely I felt peace returning in my chaotic brain.  My children were picked up by their stemom and driven out to their dad’s house.  The snow had just started and I was a keyed up mess for the entire 30 minute trip until I got the text that they were home safely.  At that point, the snow was falling steadily and hard.  The news soon after started to show people deserting their cars on snow covered roads.

My entire family was where they were supposed to be and safe, so I did what any mom would do… I took a nap.  And it was such a good one. I slept hard and woke up to a beautiful snow falling out the windows by the sofa.  What did I do next?  I mixed a little drink and took a long hot shower… and then painted my toenails.  We cooked a nice dinner and ate together as a family (minus two).

Unless you are a mother, you cannot possibly understand the realm of emotions I have felt today – fear, hope, worry, love, relief, peace.  I have hugged all four of my kids a little harder today.  I have snuggled with my husband while watching the weather. I talked to my kids earlier at their dad’s house and was relieved to hear their voices (again).  I’m so thankful that they enjoy talking to me and telling me all about their day because I just can’t get enough of them.  I hung up with an “I love you so very much” and a smile… My cup has runneth over with love today as I have dealt with my fears and seen God take over and keep everyone safe.  It was one of those days where if I could actually hear God speak, then I am pretty sure he said, “Val, chill out… I got this.”

And then just to ease my stress even more, I got the call from work that our office is closed tomorrow.   That means when I climb into bed with my handsome husband in a few minutes, I can sleep well knowing that even if the power goes out or if the ice storm really does cause damage, we are safe at home… together.

The house is quiet right now, but I am not lonely.  My husband may be asleep in his recliner and two of our kids may be snoozing away already upstairs, but my heart is happy just because being a mom has to be the scariest but most rewarding job I have ever had in my life.  I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

We Can Get Through Anything Together

As published today by Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/valerie-deloach/blended-families-we-can-get-through-anything_b_4557028.html

Our party of six had our first family drama this week.  I’m proud to proclaim that it took almost eight months of marriage before it happened (which admittedly is MUCH LONGER than I expected it to take with four kids in the house).  Joe was picking the boys up from youth group when the girls got dropped off from church.  I was cooking dinner and it was a seemingly peaceful Sunday evening – the proverbial calm before the storm.

It was one of those times when I was happily humming and doing what I love to do best when one of the girls came in the kitchen crying… and all hell broke loose.  Apparently one of the girls overheard the other saying ugly things about her while they were at church.  Another friend was involved who apparently stirred the pot a little too.  As a result, my step-daughter was saying that her mom would come get her and my daughter was refusing to discuss it.

And Joe was not home… so I was left to handle it alone.  While my negotiation skills and people skills serve me well in all areas of business, they are no match for two upset preteen girls.  Although Joe was not there, I knew it had to be handled and that I was the mother in the home.  I knew where to turn… I prayed.

I prayed for strength and knowledge.  I prayed for the strong foundation of love that these girls clearly have.  I prayed that the right words would come to me.  I prayed that I would remain unbiased and not be too hard on either one of them.  I prayed that God would be with us.  Then I called them downstairs for dinner.

Of course they were none too happy because I made them sit in their regular seats at the table (next to each other) although no one else was at the table.  And then I began, “I know neither one of you wants to talk about this and I am not going to make you… but I am going to make you sit here and listen to me.”  The words just flowed from my heart… about love and forgiveness and family.  I stressed the importance of communication and how no matter how uncomfortable it may be to communicate it is worthwhile to avoid situations like this.   How if things are not discussed, then they can build up inside.

My daughter said, “But it’s HARD to tell someone something when you know it’s going to upset them.  You’re an adult. It’s easier for you.”

Boy was she wrong.  It is not easier as an adult.  Even with Joe, my soul mate, it’s hard to broach sensitive subjects.  My heart beats fast and I get the nervous sweats, but once I get it out, I feel so much better.  Holding it in and trying to just move on will not help the situation improve in any way.  That’s the very thing that ends friendships and leads to the demise of marriages.

It’s especially hard to broach difficult subjects in co-parenting situations when you feel very strongly about something and want to discuss it with the other parent.  This is someone to whom you no longer have emotional ties but you would like to have a heart to heart about your children.  You have to take a leap of faith when trying to discuss the topic since while seeking honest communication, you may instead get chastized or ignored completely.

Silly girls on the day they became SISTERS.

Silly girls on the day they became SISTERS almost 8 months ago.  They wanted in on the marriage action so they re-enacted Joe proposing.

Thankfully, since we consistently encourage open communication in our home, the girls calmly took over and talked about what happened.  They semi-apologized (enough for me to be satisfied for the moment anyway) and went their separate ways for a while.  Joe got home and I was snuggling with my step-daughter on the sofa.  We all chatted a little and then my daughter came downstairs and snuggled up on the couch with us.  They exchanged what this time seemed to be heartfelt apologies and the night seemed to end on a positive note.

While I know this is just the tip of the iceberg with two girls who are quickly approaching their teens, I am very proud of how they handled the first true controversy in our home.  My step-daughter had the initial “flight” feeling, but we stressed that no matter what happens in our home, we can get through it as a family.  Neither girl will be allowed to run away from problems.  We are teaching our children to face their fears and any controversies.  We are raising strong leaders, not quitters who place blame on others.

Last night while the girls were sprawled out on the floor in front of the fire in their jammies watching a movie, giggling and being silly, I made eye contact with my amazingly handsome husband and we just smiled at each other.  Our hearts were filled with joy and my husband even commented on how he didn’t want the night to end.  We were witnessing firsthand the forgiveness of siblings and the strength of their love.

First lesson taught and it was a success.  Our family is strong.  Family comes first.  Friends are fleeting but siblings are forever.  No one in your life will have your back like your siblings will.  No running away from controversy.  We face any adversity life may throw our way (no matter how uncomfortable it may be).  And we learn from it and grow closer in the process.

We can get through anything TOGETHER.

Our Marriage is More Important Than The Number…

Life in a blended family can sometimes get quite chaotic.  As always, last week we had a revolving door of children.  With two pre-teen girls and two teen boys, everyone had their own agenda for Halloween and it did not include hanging out with us.  After letting everyone do their own thing for a while – stepkids went trick-or-treating at their mom’s house, my daughter went with friends in our neighborhood and my son went to a Halloween party – we reconvened and ended the night as a family.  Our first Halloween as a blended family ended up being a success!  Touch and go at points due to insanity caused by overload of sugar on the brain in the teen boys, but we made it.

And I was exhausted.

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Answer to my prayers…

My amazingly handsome husband always knows me better than I know myself and he knows that my writing has had to be last on my priority list lately, so he surprised me with a weekend in a cabin at Fairy Stone State Park in Virginia.  He claimed it was my “writer’s retreat.”  It was so much more than that.

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My writing corner in the cabin

Marriage in and of itself is challenging.  You must be proactive to keep the marriage healthy.  This can be even more challenging in a second marriage because there are so many divisive elements between mine, his, ours and theirs.  As I have said before, there are plenty of people who are somehow invested in your family and some of them are pulling against you.  Because of this, the divorce rate is even higher than in first marriages.  You have to be committed to your marriage and to making it work… and sometimes a trip away is the perfect catalyst for a happy couple.

It’s the first weekend that I can remember when we had no kids and no kids’ activities – no piano recitals or soccer tournaments or races.  And as always, God’s timing was perfect.  Right here before our six month mark of marriage, we were able to renew our relationship by just focusing on us.

Joe planned everything perfectly... all the way down to bring his own dish detergent!

Joe planned everything perfectly… all the way down to bringing his own dish detergent!

While we love our children more than anything, it was nice to be in a cabin without having to worry about where the kids were.  No arguments over which bedroom is for the boys and which is for the girls.  No one saying, “I’m hungry” or “I’m bored” every twenty minutes throughout the day.

Well, maybe he didn't think of EVERYTHING, but I enjoyed drinking wine from a plastic gravy boat! :)

Well, maybe he didn’t think of EVERYTHING, but I enjoyed drinking wine from a plastic gravy boat! 🙂

There are some times more than others when I am exceptionally aware of how lucky I am to have Joe.  Last weekend was one of those times.  He planned it all out and truly did everything in his power to make sure I was able to relax and write.  God knew what he was doing when he kept me single for eight years before reconnecting me with Joe – I was waiting for him.  And there is one thing last weekend has proven to me with absolute certainty… I can’t wait to grow old with this man.

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Can it get any better?

I am an extrovert who thrives on being surrounded by laughter and excitement, so the fact that I can spend an entire weekend with no television, no cell service, and no other human being and love him even more than I did before we left, says a LOT.  It helps support the fact that I have married the man I am supposed to spend the remainder of my days with.  We can enjoy each other in every moment – dancing in front of the fire, walking in the woods, cooking steaks on the grill, rocking on the front porch, napping in the afternoon – just because we can.

Of course we got home to about 10 tons of laundry that needed to be done (including 20 towels… yes, 20 TOWELS) and today I have gotten the call from school that my daughter has a fever and then I got a text from my son telling me that he has a horrific headache.  So it’s back to reality.

I am thankful for the renewal weekend though and it has proven to me the importance of us taking the time to focus on ourselves every once in a while.  We are committed to not be one of the statistics, no matter who is pulling against us.  Our children will see what a real marriage looks like when they look at us and for that I am proud.  It may be a “second marriage,” but it’s our “forever marriage,” which is much more important than any number.

Stop and Smell The Roses…

I was in the shower last night when my husband walked into the bathroom and simply said, “Steve is dead.”

My mind raced as I tried to quickly figure out who in the world he could be talking about.  Then it hit me.  He was talking about “Steve the Stink Bug” who the girls brought in as a pet about two weeks ago.  I must say that Steve lived about 10 days longer than I had originally expected (or hoped for that matter).

As I finished my shower, I thought about how although the girls only had Steve in their lives for two weeks, they enjoyed every minute of him.  They built Steve a home in a hermit crab cage with sticks and leaves and water in a bottle cap.  When my step-daughter returned from her mom’s house, the first thing she did was check on Steve.  They were so concerned about his living conditions and his health.  His life was fleeting, but they enjoyed him the short time he was around.

Children are so much better than adults at just enjoying the moment.  All you have to do is watch them running on the beach to realize that.  They are running carefree in the sand while we are sitting in the beach chair worried about sharks and jellyfish and sunburn and drowning in the undertow.  A perfect example of this juxtaposition is feeding seagulls.  I have threatened my children since they were old enough to understand that if they do not bury any leftover bread crust or Pringles on the beach, then I will be furious.  I cannot stand seagulls.  I think they are rats that fly… but the kids get so much joy out of throwing bread in the air for them to catch.

Whether it’s a jar full of fireflies, which you know will all be dead by morning, or a goldfish won at the fair who doesn’t stand a fighting chance to make it more than 48 hours.  Or a stink bug found in the backyard.  They relish in the moment.  Children know how to stop and smell the roses.

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My handsome boy smelling Dandy’s roses…

Adults have a harder time with this enjoyment of the here and now because we know what is to come.  It’s like the fleeting moments when you realize that it has been a few days since there has been any drama with your ex.  There have been no emails or phone calls or text messages to speak of.  He/she may even be pleasant in your presence.

Rather than enjoy the moment, we tend to focus on the negative and wonder what Summons we may get served next or how he/she is manipulating us in some way.  Instead, we should be celebrating the quiet time when we don’t have to have daily talks with our friends or family about any of the crazy going on.  Trust me, they probably get tired of hearing it!  When you are immersed in craziness, it is a relief to be removed from it, even for just a few days.

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Kids see Steve… Adults see a STINK BUG.

Many of my friends have expressed their concern to me when their exes all of a sudden seemed to “get over it.”  Their exes were combative and bitter and angry while trying to keep any semblance of control over them by not agreeing to anything even if it is something clearly in the best interests of the children… but one day it stopped.  And that sudden calmness made my friends anything but calm.  They confessed to losing sleep at night expecting a lawsuit or child support reduction, when all it turned out to be was their ex-husbands had started dating someone new.  Rather than enjoy that brief time of peace though, they found themselves anxious.

We need to try to be more like the children.  When things start going well with your ex, don’t just assume the worst.  Maybe he/she has met someone who can take the heat off of you for a while.  Revel in it!  Enjoy it!  Your kids will be better off with BOTH of their parents happy.  Trust me when I say that your ex finding a relationship can be the best thing for your relationship with your ex!

I’m going to try to enjoy the little things more often without worrying about what is to come.  I’m going to stop and smell the roses… and be thankful for any little bit of peace I am given.  If we are overwhelmingly grateful for the little things, then just think about how exciting the big things will be???????

I may even feed the seagulls the next time we hit the beach.  Nahhh…….

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One of my favorite paintings by Sandy Vincent – click on it to like her Facebook page

What Co-Parenting SHOULD Look Like

It’s a typical Friday morning and Johnny wakes up to the sound of his alarm clock.  After getting dressed, he goes to the kitchen where his dad is up already packing lunches and his stepmom is making eggs and bacon for breakfast.  His step-brother comes in and pushes him jokingly – teasing him about a girl.  Smiles abound.

Johnny’s dad reminds Johnny, “It’s your weekend with your mom, so if you have anything you want to take, you need to throw it in a bag now.  She is picking you up from school, but we will see you tonight at your brother’s baseball game.”  They load up the car and head to school.

Three class periods into school, Johnny realizes he forgot his lunch.  He calls his dad, but his dad works too far away from the school to get there quickly.  Johnny’s dad texts mom, “J forgot his lunch.  Do you have time to run something to him?”  After a minute or two his phone buzzes and Johnny’s mom says, “I can head there in a few minutes.  No problem.”

At the end of school, Johnny and his brother walk out to see their mother’s smiling face in the carpool line.  They haven’t seen her since they went to school Wednesday morning, but they have spoken to her each day and talked about their schoolwork and their after school activities.  She has been a consistent part of their days even though they have not physically been in her custody.  That contact is encouraged on both sides.

On the way home from school, dad texts Johnny saying, “How was your big science test?”  So Johnny calls dad and proudly tells him about how well he did on his test.  His dad tells him, “Tell your brother I love him and I will see y’all at the game.”

Later, when they pull up to baseball, their mother pulls into the spot next to their dad’s truck.  Johnny’s brother runs to join his team while Johnny and his mother look for a place to sit.  They see Johnny’s dad, his wife and Johnny’s step-siblings, so they go sit by them so that Johnny can sit with his whole family without feeling the anxiety of trying to decide who to sit with.  They all laugh and joke and cheer on the team.

While this whole scenario may seem too unrealistic to you, it is absolutely possible and in the best interests of all of the children involved.  As you know, this could have gone completely differently with only a few small changes.

When Johnny walked into the kitchen first thing in the morning, his father could have said, “You’re going to your mom’s tonight, but don’t take anything to that black hole, because nothing EVER comes back.” His stepmom would then hug him and say, “I love you Johnny.  Sorry I can’t come to the game tonight, but you know how your mom gets…”  Johnny would start his day feeling torn between his parents.

When Johnny realized he had forgotten his lunch, his call to his dad could have been brutal.  His dad could have breathed hard and chastised him for causing trouble.  It could then spawn a cruel text exchange between Johnny’s mom and dad as they argue over who will take the lunch – reminding each other of past ineptitudes and transgressions and fueling more anger for future arguments.

On the way home from school, when dad texts Johnny, his mom (still angry over the lunch exchange) could say, “Why is HE texting you?  You have been with him for the past two days.  Can’t you focus on us when you are actually with ME?”  Johnny would feel terribly guilty for loving his father and would not feel comfortable calling because he wouldn’t want to upset his mom.

At the game, Johnny would have anxiety deciding who he should sit with.  His brother would have to search the crowd twice to find his parents since they try to stay as far away from each other as possible.

Johnny’s day could go one of two ways and all too often parents poison their children and burden them with undue anxiety solely based on their anger toward their ex-spouse.  It’s clear that everyone in the second scenario is angry.  The worst part is the overwhelming anxiety that Johnny feels all because of his parents’ behavior.

WE control how our children survive following a divorce.   You may call your friends and complain about how hard your divorce is, but the only true victims in divorce are the children.  They didn’t ask for it and they are completely out of control.

There is no winner in this situation, but the one true consolation prize you can give your children is to be the best co-parents that you can be.

Life Got in the Way!!!

I am not one to ever wish time away.  As a matter of fact, I often have that feeling of wanting to freeze time.  I look in the mirror every morning (well, after I put on my glasses so I can SEE myself) and wonder where this 39 year woman has come from?  I feel like I was 29 just yesterday… but ten years have just FLOWN by.

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29 years young at the beach with my babies

And the kids???  How in the world have they gotten to be so OLD?  My youngest child, who I feel like was born YESTERDAY, started cotillion a couple of weeks ago and is almost as tall as I am already! I feel like the past 10 years have just been a blur, so I now find myself just staring at her (which makes her terribly uncomfortable, by the way).  I crave the moments we can spend together.  I LOVE Tuesdays because it is the one night that I can focus all of my attention on her since the other children are all with their other parent.  We can get sushi and just catch up on life…

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On her way to her first 5th grade cotillion!

My first born is a full blown teenager now.  He is growing every single day and will pass me in the next week (if he hasn’t already today).  He is filled with that teenage angst and wants to argue with every single thing I say (while showing me how cut his abs are, of course), but I am still proud of him in everything he does.  Even when he talks incessantly about things that I have absolutely no interest in!  Some days he seems to put forth effort into his schoolwork and some days he absolutely couldn’t care any less about it.  I try my best to be encouraging when he does well.

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Throughout the years of their childhood I have often wanted to just yell, “STOP GROWING, NOW!!!!!!!”  I have wanted to just freeze time so that I could enjoy that moment forever.  Admittedly though, I am ready and willing to close the book on the last month of my life.  September 23rd was my birthday, which seems to be when everything peaked.  It has been DOWNHILL ever since.

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My birthday celebration with my kids and three of my nephews… happy thoughts.

Since then, we have had strep throat, lice, unknown stomach pains (that still are not resolved), meetings about educational “issues” (results coming soon) and a spot cut from my temple (still waiting on biopsy results).   I had a friend who had to have surgery on her wrist (so I cooked dinner for her family) and my son had a friend who unexpectedly lost his father.  I ran the Bull City 5 Miler only two days after suffering a stomach virus and now two days later I am still having trouble walking (mental note: don’t run 5 miles when you haven’t even hit the pavement in a month).  I know I looked like some sort of fool trying to walk down the stairs of my parking garage coming to work this morning.  And there is no telling what kinds of germs I picked up since I had to use the nasty handrails in a stairwell that more often than not smells like the pee of the local homeless people.

Lately I have been able to relate to the new song, “Wake Me Up” by Avicii.  The video is below:

The song begins with him talking about how he feels his way through the darkness.  I too feel like I am “feeling my way through the darkness, guided by a beating heart.”  The darkness is this new life as a blended family and just the fact that life is passing by so quickly.  My sweet husband is so helpful in every single way and I can see how it pains him to see me struggle with my emotions.

I love our life and I love our kids, but I find myself in a constant state of worry over all of our kids because I want everything to go well for them.  I am not the kind of person who will blindly walk through life and project my happiness on those around me.  Instead I spend my time worrying that others are NOT as happy as I.  So on top of the external pressures of the past month, I have also been putting a tremendous burden on myself to make sure everything is going well for the rest of the family.  The death of my friend’s husband has also caused me to fear the loss of Joe.  It took us 20 years to reconnect and I am counting on at least 30 more years of newlywed bliss with him.  That has been weighing heavily on my heart.

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Immediately following our 5 Mile race on Sunday… we can run together to stay healthy!!!

As with everything in life, I know that these crazy emotions will rise and fall like the tides I love so dearly at the coast.  I know that this too shall pass.

I think the problem I am having right now though is that I do want to savor and enjoy every single second of this life with my handsome husband and our amazing kids, but lately life has dealt me some pretty crappy cards.  And it upsets me tremendously when I don’t know how to handle what is put on my plate.  I remember my grandmother saying, “I know the Good Lord won’t give me more than I can handle, but I sure wish he didn’t have so much faith in me.”  Amen. And AMEN.

The song continues with, “I can’t tell where the journey will end, but I know where to start.”   I know that I need to start TODAY.  I need to focus on the good and not let the insignificant, petty things in my life affect who I am and how people know me.  I am proud of the fact that I have an annoyingly positive attitude.  I love that my friends know if they are having a bad day they can call me and I will make them laugh.  I love that if either of my girls are feeling down, they know I am a few steps away with a big hug to help make things better.  We don’t know where this journey will end, but we must make the most of each and every day before it’s too late.

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25 sittin’ on 25 mil….

The next couple of stanzas of the song really make me think of my years as a single mom.  I let life with my children pass me by because I was so busy focused on making money and trying to meet someone.  Although I had friends who tried to tell me that I needed to prioritize, I thought I had all of the answers so I ignored them.  I tried to “carry the weight of the world” because I had too much pride to just ask for help.  Most importantly, I was looking so hard for something but in the meantime didn’t realize that I was lost to myself.  I needed to be happy with ME before I could be happy with anyone else.

“Wake me up when it’s all over.  When I’m wiser and I’m older.  All those times I was finding myself, I didn’t know I was lost.”  It’s unusual for me to feel this way, but I sometimes find myself at a loss – not knowing how to deal with my son or not knowing if the lice will come back or trying not to let ex-drama affect me.  Not to mention that all of this chaos in my life has prohibited me from doing the one thing that I truly love – writing.

So starting RIGHT NOW… I am going to do three things daily to get me out of this funk:

1) Smile and focus on the here and now.  I’m not going to let the actions of others bring me down.  I will see those actions for what they are – sad attempts to take away the happiness I have in my life.  I am going to spend every second I can with my kids so their memories of their childhoods are of US and not things I gave them.  I’m not going to worry about them anymore, I am merely going to do everything in my power to make sure they communicate with us if something needs to be changed.

2) Write, write and write some more (daily)!!!!  I have always been best when it comes to getting my thoughts and feelings on paper.  Sometimes I have trouble expressing myself verbally, but if I sit down at my laptop then I can write for days on end.

3) Take care of ME.  I need to exercise daily, take my vitamins and drink lots of water.  It’s hard to feel down when you are at your best!!!  Plus, taking care of myself will hopefully ensure many, many more happy years with Joe and our kids (and future grandkids).

With all that being said, sorry for my little break in blogging… LIFE GOT IN THE WAY.  But I’m awake now and am thankful for every minute of every day (and have two more blogs ready to post!!!!).

Fall in the South

There is just something about Fall in the South….

It’s the smell in the air when the weather is cool at night, but still scorching most days.  The kind of weather where you thinks it’s an awesome idea to wear your riding boots to work, but regret it terribly when your feet are on fire when you walk two blocks to lunch.

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It’s the sounds of college football and tailgating at the crack-o-dawn for an evening game – with mimosas, screwdrivers, sausage balls, low country boil – but then not making it to the game because you were “over-served” with booze or food, or both… WHO CARES?!?

I JUST LOVE FALL…. I mean, absolutely, hard core love love love it.  I know it can bring about those pesky welcome back to school lice and the ragweed is enough to make your head want to explode, but the absolute fantabulousness of the season completely outweighs the negative.

I know that a lot of people love fall for football and cool weather and changing leaves, but here are some special things about fall that are important to me.

Watching the Gamecocks play outside in my Jadeveon Clowney jersey!

Watching the Gamecocks play outside in my Jadeveon Clowney jersey!

I figured it was appropriate to choose my 7 favorite things since my favorite South Carolina Gamecock football player wears the #7 jersey!

1) Salted Caramel Mocha from Starbucks

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I love my extra hot Salted Caramel Mocha!

They’re back!!!!  Have you ever in your life wondered what it would taste like to melt a candy bar in a mug, spray whipped cream on top and sprinkle it with salt?

WONDER NO MORE.

I’m telling you this is the richest, most heavenly drink I have ever had in my entire life.  Sure, it may have more calories and fat grams than the USDA recommends for, well, like A LIFETIME… but HOLY HELL.  Worth every pound you pack on.

Do you think it’s a coincidence that Starbucks sends me a “free drink” card for my birthday?  And it’s in September?  Nope.  They love me.

2) My Ever-changing Seasonal Wine Selection

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As the weather changes, so does my taste in wine.  I spend all spring and summer craving the crisp, light taste of my favorite St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc.  I CANNOT GET ENOUGH.

But as soon as the weather begins to cool at night, I want something with a little more weight… a little more substance.  I start craving a nice Chardonnay.  And let me tell you something!  After a whole summer of drinking Sauvignon Blanc or Prosecco, Chardonnay tastes like drinking butter.   Thick and creamy butter…  But it is thick and creamy butter that keeps me warm!

I may even take a chance and drink some Pinot Noir during the Fall.  It just feels right.

3) Fall Comfort Food

As if I need to remind you all, I LOVE FOOD.  There are some foods that just taste better in the Fall.  They fill your belly with all kinds of hot yumminess – which is why I think we wear so much clothes in the Winter.  It’s God’s way of apologizing to us for letting us eat so much good food that we gained 15 pounds in the Fall.  We then have to work our bottoms off (LITERALLY) all Spring to get ready for bathing suit weather!

These are two of my favorite dishes to cook and they compliment each other beautifully.  I have even combined the recipes and made a Black-eyed Pea and Collard soup (I personally think it was even better than what they sell at Whole Foods).  These two pots cooking are black-eyed peas with sausage and collard greens with ham hocks.

Just beginning to cook...

Just beginning to cook…

4) Tacky Yard Decor

It just would be Fall in the South without yard decor galore!!!  Hay stacks and pumpkins and Mums out the wazoo.  And if you are lucky enough, you can actually find Mums in the colors of your favorite football team!  Double points for that score!

It looks like Fall threw up in my car...

It looks like Fall threw up in my car…

In the South, we love a “vignette.”  It’s even just fun to say.  All around the inside of our homes we have vignettes – in the parlor, in the formal living room, in the formal dining room.  We love a little vignette.  During the Fall, we have a change to do small vignettes in our yard.  A little vignette of Fall around the light post out front, another little vignette by the back door.

5) Sun Porch Weather!!!!!

My sun porch is absolutely amazing.  For like two months a year.  Seriously, it is a great room – very relaxing and calming with a ton of windows that look out into the yard.  The problem is the sun porch has its own AC unit, which doesn’t work.  So the room is not functional for a majority of the year in North Carolina.  It could be useable in the winter, but the heat out there is electric and it does a MAJOR NUMBER on my power bill.

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Seriously, how could you NOT love this room???

I plan to enjoy the porch for the next month until it gets too cold to sit out there.  Tonight, my sweet husband even offered to bring the big screen TV onto the sun porch so I could enjoy three of my FAVORITE things – the sun porch, wine and football.

He sure does love me….

It’s also an amazing place to write.  Even in this large home, I have a hard time finding my quiet space.  But this porch has become a little piece of solitude for me.  And Lord knows I need some solitude every once in a while.   It seems like over the past month it has been ONE THING AFTER ANOTHER.

6) Camellias

A close sixth would be the flower that I literally squealed about when I drove up the driveway today.  CAMELLIAS!!!  I live in a sixty year old home with a yard FULL of magnolia trees, camellia bushes, and azaleas.  And every fall I get so excited about the camellias blooming.

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A pretty bloom in my driveway

Although the blooms don’t last long, they are still a POP of color that is fun to have inside the house.

7) HOT CHOCOLATE STANDS!!!!

All summer long we have lemonade stand after lemonade stand.  The girls make a killing because they wait until they know the men are leaving the golf course for the afternoon and they strike while it’s hot.  They have learned the art of negotiation and sales so that when a customer pulls up and asks how much it is for a cup of lemonade, they say, “You name your price.”  The person ends up giving them a LOT MORE than $.50!

But during the Fall, we like to get wrapped up in our warm clothes and UGGs and sell hot chocolate as the golfers are GOING to play golf.  I thought it was a questionable concept before we did it for the first time, but then I realized that it was really working for them!

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My daughter (on the right) and her best friend selling hot chocolate and cookies on a crisp, Fall day!

And if you click on the picture above, please notice my amazing fall vignette around the lamp post in the front yard… Yep, hay, pumpkins and mums!!!

So there you have it… my seven unconventional favorite things about Fall in the South.

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*** Edit – I have had some people email me regarding the recipes I use for my black-eyes peas and collards.  I have not found anything better than Emeril’s Smoked Sausage and Black-Eyed Peas.  ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!! And some people are scared of collards because they think they stink up the house, but I use the Magnolia’s restaurant (in yummy Charleston, SC) collard green recipe.  I think it’s the vinegar or cooking them in chicken broth that makes them taste heavenly and they DO NOT stink up my house!  I highly recommend the Magnolia’s cookbook also…

This is HOME.

It has been a tough week for me… and I AM TIRED.  And it’s only Wednesday.  I think we all experience these back to school blues to an extent.  We crave the structure and routine that starting school brings, but it takes a few weeks to really get back in the swing of it all.

 

Considering it is “Hump Day” (which by the way, if you have not seen the Hump Day Geico commercial above, you have GOT to see it to get a laugh), I thought it appropriate to write about the lows and highs of my week thus far.  The ups AND the downs…

This week definitely started out with a low.  TWO WORDS – head lice.   My sweet daughter had her obligatory case of “welcome back to school” head lice.  My heart again goes out to her stepmom because it was once again discovered while she was at her dad’s house for the weekend, so I only had to deal with the stuff at our house and not the actual creepy crawlies…

So my weekend was spent washing sheets and pillowcases, bagging up stuffed animals from her bed, boiling brushes, etc.  Thankfully I am very OCD when it comes to sharing any kind of hair stuff (since this has become the norm once a year in our house) so it appears for now that the rest of us are clean.

But WHAT IS IT ABOUT LICE that make everyone itch like crazy just talking about them?????  I have not stopped itching since she made the call to me to tell me that they had found a bug.  BLAHHHHHHHHH… We were sitting up at North Hills watching a Johnny Cash Tribute Band when she called me and my friends who were with us can tell you that I went downhill FAST.  I hate that I have such a weak stomach that the mere discussion of lice made us have to cut our night short.

And then we had to send the dreaded text to Joe’s ex to make sure everyone there was clean, which they thankfully were.  Then I had to call her best friends’ moms and tell them so they could check their girls (always a FUN call to make) and email the teacher so she could send a letter home with everyone.  I also had to go to Ulta and buy some lice repellant shampoo.  Hey, ANYTHING like that is worth a try!!!!

With that being said, it infuriates me that obviously she got it from somewhere and if other parents knew their child had lice and didn’t report it, then it is just NOT OK.  Checking their hair is not something I do daily, but apparently I need to make it a part of my routine.  Thankfully, it appears we have it taken care of… and I will re-treat her hair on Friday and continue to check her hair daily.

On Monday, my son had to go to the dentist and have four permanent teeth extracted so that he can get his braces put on next week.  He has my teeth (bless his sweet heart) and since his teeth are so big his poor mouth just can’t hold them all!  I had a headache all day Monday worrying about his anxiety over going to the dentist.  It’s hard to know that our children are upset and know that there really is nothing that we can do about it.

I had to miss work on Tuesday because he was so swollen and still had quite a bit of pain when he woke up (not to mention the bloody mess he left behind on his pillow).  Right before he went to bed on Monday he also pulled his final baby molar out – so he lost FIVE TEETH!!!  That is a crazy amount of teeth to lose in one day.

I found myself feeling bad for being so concerned with my daughter’s head lice and my son’s teeth since the daughter of one of my best friends from growing up was in an accident this past weekend and fractured her skull.  Worrying about lice when your friend is worrying that her daughter won’t wake up makes you feel quite silly.

Please please please warn your children that they can get hurt for their inattention.  Children these days are so glued to their phones that they can find them in the hospital just like my friend’s daughter.  She was on a golf cart and was looking at her phone.  I assume the driver made a sudden move that she was unprepared for and she fell out head first and fractured her skull.  Thank the Lord her prognosis is good now and she is recovering, but with any brain injury it will be a long road ahead for them all.

There have been some high notes in my week as well and I need to remember Philippians 4:8 (the verse read at our wedding day four months ago today), “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”  Rather than be consumed with head lice and dry socket I need to think about all of the good we have had happen this week.

My mother came to visit yesterday which was a major bright spot in the week!!!  She came to town and walked my daughter home from school and went with us to piano practice while Joe went to my step-daughter’s choral performance.  We then did a girls only dinner at our favorite sushi restaurant (think, “where everybody knows your name….”).  We love it there because the sushi is good and they know what we want without us having to order.

After dinner, my daughter went to her room to do her homework and mom, Joe and I sat on the sun porch (my favorite room in the house) and drank wine and laughed for hours.  It was so refreshing to have her here.  I often wish that we lived close again.  When I lived in Greenville it was so nice to be able to drive across town for a quick dinner with my parents.  It’s important to me that my kids spend as much time with their grandparents as they can.  They are blessed with many wonderful grandparents and they can learn so much from each one of them.

Our kids are each a blessing in their own way also.  I am amazed every day by all four of them.  My son is such a loyal and honest young man.  I am so proud of his dedication to working out two hours a day, while making sure to finish his homework first.  It blows my mind that we don’t have to hang over him to make sure he does what he is supposed to do.  He does it because he is supposed to.  My step-son is such a kind-hearted soul.  He wants everyone to be happy and he tries to make sure that he doesn’t do anything to cause anyone to be unhappy.  He’s so extremely talented as well.  He has just recently started playing the piano at my house and I am so impressed by his amazing talent.   My daughter is so crazy tall and athletic.  She can truly excel at any sport that she puts her mind to and really seems to enjoy it.  She is also a talented piano player and is loved by everyone in her class.  She impresses me with her strength and her ability to ignore negativity thrown her way.  That will be a huge asset as she grows into a teenager.  Finally, my sweet step-daughter.  She is so focused when it comes to her homework.  It’s so nice to have a child who sits to do her work and just knocks it out without having to be put back on task.  She is very talented at singing and seems to get better all the time.  She is a definite leader and will no doubt do great things as an adult.  She will MAKE things happen.

And the biggest blessing of all to me is my handsome husband Joe.  He works so hard in every way to make me a priority and is quick to jump to my defense in any situation.  He is also my biggest cheerleader and he encourages me to do what I love – write a novel, coach soccer, spend time with my friends and family.

I have to keep my focus on him whenever I have a week like I have had.  He is my North Star.  He is my home.

When we started dating we marveled at how often the idea of “home” would come up – in church, on the radio, through Joe’s stepdad in his advanced Parkinson’s disease.  Because we grew up in the same hometown, we couldn’t ignore the fact that we had the same home. Greenville, NC was “home.”

But we quickly realized that the “home” we were hearing about went much deeper than our hometown.  Our “home” is together.  It’s no coincidence that we both wept a little when the offering song at church this past Sunday was, “This is Home.”  We know where we belong… and I am so thankful to have him as my HOME.

“And I got my heart set on what happens next
I’ve got my eyes wide, it’s not over yet
We are miracles
And we’re not alone

Yeah, this is home
Now I’m finally where I belong, where I belong
Yeah, this is home
I’ve been searching for a place of my own
Now I’ve found it, maybe, this is home
Yeah, this is home”

– Switchfoot