Be a Follower….

Dear loyal friends, family, lurkers and fans…

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

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

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

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

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

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

xoxo, me

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

 

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No More Practice Games… We Are In The Big Leagues Now

This is going to sound pretty conceited, but I admit that when I first got separated I thought a fabulous man would swoop in and take me away pretty quickly.

I mean, I’m Valerie….

Yeah, that was nine years ago… and I just got married in May.  I spent over a quarter of my life as a single mom.

I did not envision my ex getting involved and married before me.  I did not envision failed relationships, heartbreak and lies.  I did not envision lonely nights when I cried because I thought I would never meet someone worthwhile for my kids and me.  After a while I was hardened to the whole process and just resigned myself to the fact that I probably would never get married.  I convinced myself I was better alone so that I could just focus on my kids.

Then came Joe… and here I am.

Through it all though, there was ONE THING I was sure of…  When people would ask me, “Do you think you will ever get married again?”  I would answer with, “I’m not sure if I’ll ever get married again, but I KNOW with certainty that I won’t ever get divorced again.”

Now, more than ever, I am determined to never get divorced again.  Joe and I agree that it is not even an option.  Of course it’s easy to say that now since we are still very much in the “honeymoon stage” of marriage, but this resolve has forced me to think about things that I am doing differently this time to make sure we don’t end up as just another statistic.

That’s the beauty of remarriage.  This is our chance to get it right! We can both look at our first marriages as practice runs that have made us all the better for the real thing.  We have learned from our past relationships and have a fresh outlook and a positive energy for our new relationship.  We can look at our past and know what we will never accept going forward and we know that we will do whatever we have to do to make it work.

After thinking about this all weekend at the lake, I came up with the top five things that we are focusing on to beat the odds of second marriages to ensure that this is our “forever marriage.”  Tonight I will share the first two…

1) Communication – I have talked about this in numerous blogs already, but it is truly the foundation of our relationship.  When Joe and I first started dating, he quickly realized what a straight shooter I am.  I am not a score keeper… I don’t hold grudges and then throw them back in your face later.  I feel something, so I say it.  Some people don’t like that, but it is how I am.  I remember sitting in Starbucks one morning and we were talking about how much we joke.  Sometimes we joke so much that it is hard to tell when we are being serious… So we adopted a “safe word” that we still use today.  It’s a word we can say that will immediately alert the other that this is a moment to listen without judgment.

Communication skills, or lack thereof, can be the downfall of a marriage.  We have learned from our past relationships that we can have a stronger family and a healthier relationship when everyone knows that they can share their true feelings.  We are constantly encouraging the kids to say what they truly feel rather than just regurgitating what they THINK we want to hear.  We want our children to be leaders and we want them to be able to respectfully speak their minds without fear of judgment.

So we have adopted a “safe word” with the kids too.  We want them to be able to say the safe word and everyone understands that it means, “Look, I’m going out on a limb to say this and you may resent me for it, but it is important to me.”  It has helped us all work through issues as they arise when we can actually talk and discover what is really important in the situation.

I have also been working on communicating with my stepkids without Joe present.  Little moments like when everyone else runs to the bathroom and it’s just my stepson and me… or when my stepdaughter and I drive home alone from basketball.  I use that as my time to build trust and communication with them.  I have told them both numerous times that I can be their biggest advocate with their dad if they talk to me.   We are all doing what we can to work on our communication.

2) Releasing Control – This has been tough for me because I have been flying solo for so long that I am very much accustomed to being in complete control.  Now that I have six schedules all on one calendar, I am realizing that there are too many variables to have complete control.  Especially right now since Joe’s two kids are back in school and my two kids are still on our summer custody schedule.  Our custody schedule is like a revolving door of kids shuffling in and out of the building.  Throw in basketball camp and beach trips and it’s hard to even find one night when we will all be under the same roof.  Because of this, I have had to go with the flow a little more than I am comfortable…but I am learning.

I’ve also had to release a little control when it comes to timing.  I am used to doing everything on “my time.”  Leaving town for vacation or going to a Durham Bulls game, I like to know exactly what time we need to leave and I will have everyone out the door at that time.  I like to follow a schedule, so I won’t just say we are leaving at 9pm and then not be ready.  That’s just not my thing.  They are apparently not accustomed to my “departure nazi” status, but if you want to see me in full swing, tell me the boat is leaving the dock at a certain time.  I don’t play games when it comes to going out on the boat.

I’ve had to ease up a bit because Joe’s kids aren’t used to my need to be out the door on time.  If Joe says we need to be in the car at 9:20am so we can get to church on time, then I will be standing at the back door yelling at everyone at 9:15am.  I have not always been like this… when I first got divorced I did EVERYTHING on “Val Time.”  If I felt like taking the kids to school 20 minutes late so I could sleep in, then I did.  I was tired of being told what to do and I guess I rebelled.  Over the years though I have grown to resent being late.  The kids know the anxiety it causes me, so they are ready to go when I say we are going somewhere.  I have had to let go of some of this control because my stepkids haven’t learned to follow my time warnings quite yet – but they will.

Another thing I have had to release control of is doing everything for myself.  After years of getting up and making my own coffee and washing all the clothes and fixing meals and doing the dishes, I am just not used to allowing someone else to help me.  In the past, if I wanted it done, then I had to do it.  Period.  So it has been an adjustment for me to LET Joe HELP ME…  Sounds crazy, but I resisted at first even small things like picking one child up so I could take the other somewhere else.  He is so kind and so thoughtful and wants so much to make my life easier, but I would resist and still try to prove to him and myself that I could still take care of everything on my own.

It’s babysteps, but I am learning to let go of control… and it really is a relief.

More to come tomorrow…….

Happy begets happy begets happy……..

My son’s AAU basketball team is playing is the Nationals this week in Myrtle Beach.  If there has ever been a time that I felt compassion (or should I say sympathy?) for my ex, it would be right now.  He has the team staying at his house all week… a whole house of loud, excited, stinky 8th grade boys.

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Did I mention they’ll be playing basketball every day?  And they’re stinky????

They truly are a great group of boys and no doubt this week will be something they will remember for the rest of their lives.  I commend Les for making memories for these boys.  I have already said a prayer for him this morning.

Yes, I pray for my ex.  That is a foreign thought to a lot of people who have gone through a divorce, but it’s something I try to do daily.  Along with praying for my husband’s ex and even the future spouses of our children.  They are all part of my daily prayer.

Why do I pray for my ex?  Because he is the father of my children.  Praying for him is praying for my children.  I could never wish any ill on him because that would be harmful to my babies.  As I have told my kids many times over the years, we may not have been able to make our marriage work, but I love him regardless because he gave me those two amazing children.

Some people wish the past never happened, but I can never question why my past happened when I look at my babies.

The thing that matters the most now is how we all handle the present.

It is so important to children for their parents to get along – even after divorce.  Too many parents are self-consumed and too busy licking their own wounds to realize this.  Over the years I have had many children tell me exactly how they feel about this.  I don’t just mean my own children and stepchildren, although they have all four at different times talked to me about this.  Friends of my children have commented on it.   I even had a stranger say something to me while playing with my kids on the beach.  She said, “That’s my dad over there.  My mom is not here.  They can’t even be near each other…”  Her sweet little eyes showed exactly how that made her feel.

How often do you hear a child say, “I wish my parents would stop being so nice to each other… she really should do things to punish him more”??????

And being nice is certainly not always easy.  I had a friend call me yesterday because she wanted to talk about her ex and a situation involving her child.  It was heartbreaking because it involves a very serious issue that she doesn’t know how to address.  Her relationship has been so good with her ex for years that she doesn’t know how to handle it because she doesn’t want to destroy the good will they have worked so hard to establish.   I sadly had no answers for her, but I listened and tried to give my thoughts.

Even through a situation that was causing her a lot of angst, she was still trying to focus on how to keep her relationship good with her ex because she recognizes how important the co-parenting relationship is – even when the other parent is not really carrying their weight.

So why do some parents attempt to sabotage any relationship they have with their ex?  One of my friends is a divorced dad and his kids live in another state.  His ex won’t let him talk to the kids when they are with her and she sometimes doesn’t even bring them when it’s his weekend to have the kids.  He is having to pay an attorney to try to modify his Custody Agreement just so he can talk to and see his kids.  In attempt to punish him, she is causing great harm to her children.

It is shocking to hear how many stories people tell me about fathers who WANT to have an active role in the lives of their children on a daily basis but are denied this opportunity by the mother.  Considering the statistics of what happens to children (especially daughters) who do not have an active father, you would think these mothers would be thankful to have a dad who cares.  It seems like in the news the assumption is that all dads are every other weekend dads and that is all they even care to be.  THAT IS FALSE.

I have numerous friends on Facebook who are newly divorced who have 50/50 custody of their kids.  That is not something that was prevalent when I got divorced nine years ago.  Fathers are taking a stand to have a more active role in the lives of their children after divorce and I commend them.  As I have said many times in the past, my ex plays a very active role in the lives of my kids by talking to them at least twice a day and never going more than a day without seeing them.

I am so thankful that if my son is being disrespectful, I can call his father and say, “Guess what your son just said to me????” and hand my son the phone.  I have faith in knowing that my ex will support me and take care of the situation just like if he were actually here.

When I tell new people how active my ex is they often comment on how that seems “excessive.”  My response is always, “If we were still married then he would have more contact with his kids than that.  So why should I deny my kids their father if he truly desires to still be a daily part of their lives?  Would I say it is excessive if it was my son’s best friend calling twice a day?  No.  So why should it matter how much they talk to their dad?”

I am not saying that this kind of contact is for everyone, but it works for us.   My children are well adjusted and happy.  I have never heard them complain about having to talk to their dad too much.  It’s just our way of life and it is definitely in the best interest of my kids. 

Their dad is happy because he has a daily role in the lives of our kids even when they are not spending the night at his house.  Because of that, my relationship with my ex is better because I am not robbing his kids from him on a daily basis, so I am happy.  And because our relationship is good, my kids are happy.

Happy begets happy begets happy.  I pray that continues…

…for the kids.

Selfishness in Divorce…

On Monday I noticed the attorney in the office across the hall was making a lot of questionable noises in her throat – hacking sounds to be exact.  On Tuesday I asked her if she was feeling better and she said, “I went to a concert this weekend and I think my throat is just messed up from it.” (uh huh…)

Also on Tuesday I noticed my sweet husband Joe was making the same noises.  He started blowing his nose a lot that night and when I asked him about it he said, “My allergies are flaring up.”  His son came home on Wednesday and was also coughing – “Allergies.” (uh huh…)

All week I have been surrounded by hacking and sniffing and coughing and snoring… by people who claim to not be sick.

I convinced myself yesterday that I was beginning to feel a little iffy, so I made a trip to the CVS next door to my office.  For the record, I should not be allowed to go to the drug store when I am feeling a little under the weather.  Apparently my mind convinces me that my body will feel better if I consume every bit of junk food possible.

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I am hoping that the Emergen-C will do its magic and I won’t end up like this:

ImageWhy is it that people have such a hard time admitting that they are sick?  We work so hard to convince ourselves that what we want to believe is true that we fail to actually see the truth.  This is not just related to sickness.  We do this is multiple areas of our lives.

Parents going through divorce are exceptionally bad at admitting the truth.  So many parents claim to know what is best for their children, but they are merely reflecting what is best for themselves.  Divorce is capable of producing such a detrimental selfishness.  Otherwise normal parents can behave in such an alarming way – allowing their children to get away with murder because they don’t want to ever be the bad guy, talking bad about the other parent but convincing themselves it’s not harmful “because it’s the truth,” saying no to activities that the children want to participate in because it takes away from their time, not letting the kids talk to the other parent.

My personal favorite (and I have heard this one A LOT) is keeping the kids away from the other parent because “things are so contentious between us that it would be harmful for them to be around us together.”  Because it’s impossible for an adult to act like an adult at a birthday party for the children?!?!?! GROW UP!! How hard is it to fake a smile for an hour to show solidarity in support of your children?  It’s about THEM, not YOU.

When you fail to admit that you are indeed sick, then you risk putting everyone around you in danger of getting sick.  And if we fail to recognize the truth in the situation as parents in a divorce, then we are putting our children in danger.  They need both parents.  And they need both parents to be mentally capable of putting their best interests in the forefront.  We need to try to make our children the priority – not our own comfort, not our own ego.  This is a harsh statement, but I firmly believe it is abusive to your children if you fail to put them first.  Sadly, some people are just not capable of that and only see the divorce as a competition between parents.  The children will see right through it and it will backfire.  As they grow up, they will love, respect and admire the parent who puts them first.

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That’s one of the many things about their childhood that our children will never forget.

Unsung Heroes in Our Home

We have almost reached our three week mark in our new normal.  Admittedly, we have all had a little bit of looming fear about how all of the changes would affect us on a daily basis.  Overall though we have not had any major issues.  The kids seem to understand the way things work and are adjusting and are truly enjoying spending time together.  I keep waiting for a blow up, but none have occurred…YET.

While we all seem to be adjusting well (even Silky), there are some unsung heroes who may be having a harder time:

The poor dishwasher is working itself to death with the amount of cups we go through.

The poor dishwasher is working itself to death with the amount of cups we go through.

The kids have apparently gone CUP CRAZY.  Every day there are a million cups all over the house.  They use cups like they use toilet paper – use it once and then go get a new one.  It is exhausting!  My poor dishwasher has never gotten as much use as it gets now.  I think that I used to run in once every few days, but now it is getting run nightly because it is filled to the top.

The washer and dryer have never seen this much action....

The washer and dryer have never seen this much action….

Laundry.  I don’t even know where to start.  Thankfully Joe is the laundry guy because if you know me at all then you know I HATE LAUNDRY.  Before we got married, I would wait and do laundry about once a week.  It would be about five loads, but I would knock it all out in one day.  We ALWAYS had dirty clothes.  With Joe in the house, we NEVER have dirty clothes.  I heard one of my kids a couple of nights ago say, “This is already clean? I wore it yesterday!”  They have never heard of such a thing!!! Joe does at least one load a night, so the washing machine is taking a beating.  Joe pointed out that his excessive use of the washing machine was positive in other ways too though because no snake would want to be in the basement since there is finally movement down there!

We need to place bets on how long this bad boy will hold up!!!

We need to place bets on how long this bad boy will hold up!!!

Six people taking a shower puts a lot more work on our friend the hot water heater.  We try to be nice to it by getting the girls to shower at night and the boys to shower in the morning.  Throw in there any days where Joe and I workout and then we may take more than one shower a day.  Plus it has to work in cahoots with the dishwasher and the washing machine!  I am praying it will hold out for us and not give up.

While I am dreading to see our first electric bill with everyone in the house, I am so happy that we are all adjusting so well.  I had a bad day at work yesterday and was in a terrible mood when I drove up our driveway.  The boys were outside playing and both yelled hello to me.  I got two good hugs and went inside.  Once inside I got two more hugs from the girls and a hug and kiss from Joe.  By the time I had finished preparing dinner, I was smiling and laughing.  Just being in the presence of all four of our happy kids and feeling so loved by my husband, I had forgotten about my day and was focusing on what is truly important – OUR FAMILY.

The appliances are just collateral damage of having a home full of kids and love… and the appliances can be easily replaced.

Errrrrrybody Wants To Get Paid…

They complain there are no jobs out there. Then they are finally given jobs and they perform slovenly on the job, but still expect to get paid. They bitch, moan and complain about the working conditions and the boss. They continue to do pretty much nothing, but still expect to get everything. Then they decide they aren’t getting paid enough to do nothing, because someone else is getting paid more – even if that person does more work and comes to work more often.

Errrrrrybody wants to get paid….

It’s exhausting… and although it sounds like it came directly off Fox News, it didn’t. It’s chores and allowance in the DeLoach home.

I have been attempting to institute a chores and allowance policy in my home for some time now. Unfortunately it had not come to fruition before the merging of the homes. So now it’s double the trouble as everyone tries to find their place in our new normal.

And finding a place in the new normal is even harder than you would imagine… for instance, sitting down for dinner last week we heard, “But that’s where I ALWAYS sit…” Fighting ensued and we had to assign seats at the dinner table. In the car on the way to the lake the other day we had an issue with the mi-fi. Everyone wanted to use the wi-fi, but Joe’s mi-fi only allows for five devices to connect at once. Between us all we have two ipads, two ipad minis, and four iphones… so someone will always be left out. How do we decide who gets to connect?

Trying to find their place in our new normal…

Chores are a whole other issue… with six people in the house now there is more mess, but there are also more people to actually do things to keep the mess from accumulating. But how do you teach old dogs new tricks????

After doing everything in the house on my own for the past nine years, I realize now the disservice I did for myself by not getting my children to do more things on their own. I have always encouraged independence and they have been able to fix their own breakfast or pack their own lunch for years, but I have never made them do even the simplest of housekeeping. Maybe that was my way of trying not to rock the boat since they have already been through so much… who knows? But for some reason I have never insisted on putting their clothes in the hamper or putting their glasses in the dishwasher. I was the phantom cleaner who would sneak into their rooms in the dark of night and pick clothes off the floor and take glasses to the sink. As a result, I have never given any type of allowance, but they are getting older now — they want MONEY.

It’s more of a challenge than you would think to assign out specific tasks when you have different family members who are in different homes part of the time… Do my children get more since they are here more days of the week? What expectations are family-wide and what expectations are specific to each child? It is starting to look like my son will be in charge of the trash cans and recycle bins – getting them to the street and back on Tuesdays since Joe’s son is not with us on Tuesdays. Joe’s son will be in charge of getting the trash and recycling TO the cans outside when he is home. My daughter is responsible for getting the mail and feeding the cat food and water. Joe’s daughter is responsible for getting the newspaper and feeding the cat milk. They are all expected to sort their dirty clothes, make their beds and keep their junk out of the common areas of the house.

I cannot begin to express just how wonderful it feels to have help around the house. Overall life in general feels so much better when things in the house are put in their proper place. That’s something I am not accustomed to because when I was the only one doing anything, nothing really ever found its place. Not because I was lazy, but because one person doing everything in a house this big means that not much was getting done.

If you are newly separated or divorced, I encourage you right now to teach your children basic housekeeping skills – no matter what their ages. I have been doing everything alone for so long that I didn’t know what it felt like to actually have help. And it feels GOOD. It’s amazing how cleaning doesn’t seem like quite the tedious chore when you have someone helping you.

So give them jobs. And set up expectations of how those jobs will be done. Reduce wages for jobs that are not done well or if too much supervision is needed for the job to be done. No entitlements and guarantees… no bailouts. We aren’t going to encourage a culture of dependency. We are creating the opportunity and we will reward hard work and saving.

Ok, so now I sound like Fox News again…

We’re Not Broken… Just Different

My children are so blessed. Cynics may say, “How in the world are they blessed when they come from a broken home? How is THAT a blessing?”

First, we may have what some call a “broken home,” but we do not have a broken family. Their dad is remarried and they have a great stepmom and an adorable little sister.  Since I just got remarried, they now have a wonderful stepdad and a new brother and sister.  We are not broken… we are still a family.  ALL OF US – we just look different than other families.

And we DO look different than other families. We even look different than most divorced families. We don’t meet in the Kangaroo parking lot to “exchange” our children. Their dad is welcome in our home just as I am welcome in their home with their dad. My ex will walk right in the house and go up to see the kids in their rooms and I feel no need to follow him.  We don’t sit across the gym from each other at school functions… we often save seats for each other or sit near each other so that our children will only have to look in one direction. We have only one birthday party for each child and every member of the family (from both sides) is invited. We want our children to be well adjusted and know how loved they are by all of us. After football games we all go out to dinner together and it’s wonderful to see how happy the kids are when they have their mom, dad, stepmom and stepdad breaking bread together peacefully.

There have been plenty of times when I did not want to have to see my ex-husband.  I admit that.  There were times when things were so contentious that it was easier to just avoid him.  But for our kids we have always faked it.  Even if we had an email war all morning over something, we would still smile in front of the kids at the school play to reassure THEM.  We are the adults… we can handle the stress, but the kids should not have to know anything about it.

I am so thankful that my children have not allowed my divorce to define who they are. They have recognized from an early age how lucky they are to have so many people from both sides of their family who love them very much.  I’m not saying it is always easy and I’m definitely not saying it has always gone smoothly. Those who are in the midst of a heartbreaking divorce can at least have peace knowing that there IS light at the end of the tunnel. The problem is so many parents fail to see what they need to do to reach that light.

FOCUS ON THE KIDS. We are adults and we will get through all the drama and heartbreak. It’s not our first rodeo. We have been hurt before. The children are the ones who need us to step out of the dark and SHINE.  If parents focus inwardly on their own depression and bitterness, then the children suffer.  They are acutely aware of our weaknesses and depression and it immediately puts them in a caretaker position, which is not healthy for a child.  They feel like you NEED them and so they may have anxiety when they go to the other parent’s house or they may feel like they have to sit with you at events because you can’t “handle being alone.”  Our children do not need the extra pressures that come along with that!

This is the time when they should be chasing fireflies and fishing and dancing to their own music. They should NOT be put in the middle of a bitter fight between their parents. Even if you think they aren’t aware of what is going on because you don’t fight in front of them, THEY KNOW. They know that things are not ok. They know everything is different. They know they can’t talk about certain things because it would be too upsetting to you… And they internalize everything. If there is ever a time that they need their parents to work together it is when they are at their most vulnerable point. They have already lost enough, so why rob them of everything? After all, you cannot be a good parent and be selfish at the same time – whether you are divorced or not. Learn to let go and focus on the kids. One day they will thank you.

It is clear to my children that we may not have been able to make our marriage work, but we will do whatever it takes to work together for the benefit of our kids. I overheard my twelve year old talking to a friend one day about his friend’s parents getting divorced. The other child asked Warren if his dad and I were friends. Warren said, “I wouldn’t say they are friends, but they are always nice to each other.” That is exactly right. We may not be friends, but we are working hard together to make sure that our children are able to enjoy their childhoods.

It takes a while to reach the point where we are – if people are even able to reach that point.  I see Joe struggle with it daily because he wants so much to be in the same place – he recognizes how good it would be for his kids.  We can work toward it, but it cannot happen overnight.

The fact of the matter is this: How could it be bad for children to know non-stop, every day, no matter who they are with at that moment, that they are loved by everyone?  How could it be bad for a child to know that you encourage them to love their other parent and that it’s okay with you if they miss their other parent?  Why not encourage the kids to call the other parent… and pump the kids up to have a good time when they are with the other parent… and show the kids love by getting along with the other parent even if you don’t want to? THAT would be the true blessing for everyone involved.

And then you can proclaim that your family is not broken either… just different.

**** This is a reworked blog that I previously published on October 3, 2012****

It’s Like Summer Camp, But NOT….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our wedding day!

Our wedding day!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Camp is fun!!!!!

Camp is fun!!!!!

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

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