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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year - Same Me!

It's a new year, but I'm not miraculously different because the calendar changed.  I'm going to keep up with some things I like and evaluate how change the things I don't.  As always, my real reset comes with my birthday which happens in February.

It's hard to label a year good or bad because when looking back there have been both in every year that I have lived.  I suppose simply having the chance to experience another year is the good thing and blessing in itself.  Mostly, 2018 is year I will remember with fondness.

Here are a few thoughts to remind myself as I take on another year, although I usually wait till February for my actual goals.

What is working?
Grocery online ordering and pickup has actually changed my life.

Stashing cash for short term goals is keeping me from spending what I have allocated elsewhere.  I love knowing the cash is there for bigger expenses that I know are coming.

Therapy when things get challenging has helped me know I'm okay.  It gives me a place to voice the darker things that I sometimes want to deny and yet know there is a way through them.

More intentional time off work including family vacation, visits to family who live far away, girlfriend time and days off coinciding with school breaks.  I feel like I'm maximizing the time I do have, even though it never feels like enough.

What is not working?
Extreme drive-times with three kiddos at three different schools.  I have attempted a car pool, but nothing has worked.  I don't know the solution, but I need to be in the car for fewer hours each day.

Often I stress over things that I cannot control: other peoples' emotions, decisions and consequences.  I'm working to let these things go and channel that angst into prayer, learning what I can from it, then refocusing my attention.

Overconsumption of screen time is another thing NOT working and I'm being intentional about

Something old, Something new, Something borrowed...
Something old that I still love: Ponytails
Something new I will try this year: Strength Training
Borrowing from my sister, Relationships over Rules.
Something blue: Need new jeans

I'll be thinking of specific ways to keep these priorities in the next year.

What I'm looking forward to in 2019:
A big birthday: Mr. Wonderful turns 5-0!  We hope to take a trip together to celebrate.

My firstborn will get his driving permit and begin the right of passage of learning to drive.  Oh my.

My youngest will end elementary school and with it a whole season of my life seems to pass.  I'll never be mother to littles again.  Middle School seems so big.

Our oldest will be off on her own in a new city and I hope to take all three of mine for a visit.

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Our Christmas season has been just lovely.  I'm grateful for the way our family can come together and be intentional about celebrating Christ's arrival.

Mr. Wonderful and I drove through the mountains on Christmas morning, there was snow on the high elevations and I was tempted to go further!

We had a yummy lunch with special friends ...

Then we were ready to gather with our children.

(He made me this candle - it smells SO good)

Sugar cookies are one of my favorite things.

We get to spend time with family near and far - our Christmas isn't done.  May you keep the spirit of Christmas all year long!

Friday, December 7, 2018

Why I Love This Wonderful Life! (Blended, Steps & Bios)

Recently I was asked by someone who reads the blog and hears some of what I say about the challenges of blended family life whether I was happy with my choice to remarry and blend our family.  My heart was so sad that my representation left her questioning my satisfaction.  Marrying Mr. Wonderful is one of the very best decisions I have ever made!  I am thankful for our family for so many reasons.

1. We are a living example of how God brings something beautiful out of heartache.

2. Our children have an expanded idea of life - it isn't perfect and that's okay. 

3. Each of us have a larger sense of gratitude.  We have lived through more difficult times and are grateful to come through better.

4. We accept faults with grace. We try to view others with compassion when someone is having a hard day, or week.

5. I see Mr. Wonderful choose us, every single day.  This is such a beautiful gift and one I do not take for granted. 

For these and so many reasons that I cannot even number, I'm thankful every single day for our beautifully imperfect family!  I never want others to wonder whether I think it is worth it - a thousand times, Yes!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

You're Not Too Late

All around I am watching the holiday decorations appear on streets, in stores and even through the windows of many homes.  On social media I see many of my friends already have their Christmas tree shining in their living room.  It's lovely and gets me excited for the season!

I'm still looking at fall foliage - both outside and inside my windows.  A little part of me feels panicked that I'm somehow behind and missing an invisible deadline!

Maybe you feel the same way about something.  It seems like everyone else has beat you to the goal.  Is it even worth the effort when it all feels like a game of catch-up?

Yes!  Enjoy this moment just as it is - for me, that means a harvest themed Thanksgiving with lots of gravy.  I don't know what it means for you, but you know exactly what you need to shift your focus from scarcity to gratefulness.

I've put up a page with articles on holiday issues - we have a lot of them in modern family life.  I hope your season is filled with joy!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

The Frightful Switching Hour

Most mothers recall the "Witching Hour" between dinner and bedtime during those toddler years.  Little ones are tired, but mama doesn't want to wake at 5:00 am, so it's a little early for official bedtime.  Thus begins the witching hour: where we try to entertain, but they are just fussy, easily frustrated and extra tired.  We are also at the end our days, depleted of reserves and often simply worn down.

Ten + years later, I see the same sense of anxiety as we approach the "Switching Hour" in our post-divorce normal life.  My three children don't have the normalcy of having all their possessions in one place or sleeping in the same bed every night.  While they are excited to spend time with dad, it means saying goodbye to mom and their family here.  I'm sure they face emotional conflict when they return to me. 

Eight years after the divorce, I still get weepy.  No longer am I tender for my own sake, the divorce is part of my past.  But it is part of my children's lives everyday.  It will be a part for years to come.  It is a pain that I cannot erase.  Questions like, "Where will I go for college breaks?"  "Who should we spend Thanksgiving with this year?"  "Are we all going to Mom's for Christmas?  Dad's?" 

I am confident that each one is resilient and strong.  They will survive this and as parents we are doing our best to ensure they aren't hindered.  But no wonder those transition days are tough.  I witness the tension, the struggle and the insecurity as they try to anticipate what they might need or want during the days away.  The mental list of things they need to remember to bring is a drain on their brain power.  The emotional drain is a challenge as they say goodbye, hello and are expected to quickly acclimate to a different environment.

It's a downer when your favorite hat is in another car during crazy hat day at school.  It's hard to remember to bring the gear for spirit day from one home to another.  My children don't always know if a parent has signed the permission slip or paid fees.  The reality of children switching between homes is not easy.

If you have someone in your life who lives in this reality, be gentle with him or her.  Try to accommodate for the extra number of goodbyes experienced by the child each week.  When difficulties arise on transition days, respond with calm instead of frustration.   With the current cultural standard for children to move between two homes, this is the norm for so many.  I don't think we fully understand the sacrifices they are making for our shortcomings.

Since it is our reality, I'm doing this:

1) Making sure my children know they have access to mom and dad whenever they need or want.

2) Keeping those transition days low-key.  We try not to plan for big outings or events (although this is more and more challenging as they get older and their schedules are more full).

3) Providing as much as possible in both homes - duplicates when needed.  I don't want them to have to "pack" or remember to bring toiletries, pajamas or other basics.

4) When I get a text or a call asking me to bring something forgotten, I'll do it. 

5) Respond with compassion instead of frustration during those difficult hours of transition.  I will be the stable, consistent and predictable adult regardless of his/her outbursts or anxiety.

These children are such unique individuals.  My heart beats for their success and joy in life.  I want to help each one navigate the difficulties that come with our family dynamic.  I will send them off with a smile and security that they can handle the challenges they are facing. 

Further Reading: The Huge Challenge Faced by Children of Divorce

Friday, September 28, 2018

What I'm Saying to My Son About the Kavanaugh Hearings

You can bet that my bright high school guy is aware of the happenings regarding Supreme Court Justice Candidate, Brett Kavanaugh.  He has opinions.  My job is to help him see the greater implications and how he can apply lessons to his own life.

We can't know the truth of the matter, but "How do you think you can avoid being accused of something you didn't do?"  I asked my son.  "I can't," was his quick reply.  "Even in school, rumors spread so quickly.  If 5,000 people already believe, it really doesn't matter if it's true."

Wow.  He already feels the weight of presumed guilt.  We talked more about living a life of integrity, character being his only true ally.  We identified the importance of guarding against being alone with someone who could lie.  I talked about how essential it is to remain sober - alcohol and drugs can open the door for too many questions.

Our conversation wasn't about whether we believe Kavanaugh or the accusers. We may never know what may or may not have happened.  Perceptions are often more important than reality.  I think it is brave for any woman to stand up and state when she is assaulted.  I think it is sad for any man to be falsely accused.  We have no way to determine the facts and so this is a no-win situation.

To my son, I can only hope that you remember this moment and live far within the boundaries of integrity.  Someday you may run for office or run a store, you may stand on an assembly line or in a pulpit.  I reminded you this morning that how you choose to behave matters, even now.  Your character and reputation are being built today.

I've learned that the truth does eventually come into the light.  We cannot rush the process.  I've witnessed twisted accusations against my father, that were ultimately dismissed as someone with their own agenda.  I know the pain it causes the individual, as well as the family.  I am also a woman who was silent about assault in my own past.  I understand the hesitation to share - we almost wish it would just go away.  I have been accused and I have been assaulted.  

I pray my daughters and my sons are never placed in either position.

Updated to add: I asked my son to read this prior to posting and make sure he was comfortable with me quoting him...he assures me he is not "feeling the weight of presumed guilt."

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Flourishing in Fall

We are easing into fall and making plans for family gatherings and time together.  The return to school was dreadful this year because I loved the laid back summer schedule and time to just doesn't happen often when our schedules get too full.  I really grieved the slower pace of our summer days.

Thankfully, I've turned the corner and am catching little moments among the busy times to spend time with my people.  Guess what?  My youngest still loves when I read aloud to him.  I've struggled to get him interested in reading lately, but now he asks almost daily.

My older son played golf for the high school team and it was so fun to witness him as he expanded his experience.  He is thriving in high school - he is maturing so well and I'm deeply proud of him!

My daughter is smack in the middle of Middle School Madness.  We still spend lots of time together and her ambition is inspiring.  It's been kind of amazing to watch her trying so hard to grow up.  It's a season on such changes for her.

My step daughters are also doing well.  Mr. Wonderful just crossed the mountains to visit his youngest at college this weekend.  We marvel at the world of college students, so much has changed from our time at university.

Leading our pack of children is our recent college graduate.  We are enjoying a season of her being home while she determines her next steps following college graduation.  She has high aspirations and I can't wait to see where she will land (we are seriously hoping it is somewhere nearby!).

Mr. Wonderful is fully immersed in work - which isn't always fun.  I'm so thankful for the way he provides for our family, works hard and exerts so much energy into his customers.  We are thankful for our snippets of time throughout the week to squeeze in a meal out or time to crash at home together.

Fall brings all the cozy back to our home and our location in East Tennessee truly shines best this time of year.  We love the leaves, the cooler temperatures and the excuse to enjoy a blanket or two.

If you're still peeking in on us, thank you for reading!  I'm on Instagram, too!