Monday, July 21, 2014

The First Year

Tonight I will celebrate one year of marriage with Mr. Wonderful.
It feels like our lives have been intertwined for so much longer,
and I cannot overstate the benefits of marrying my very best friend.
He is the one I want to turn to when life gets a good or a bad way.  He reminds me of God's goodness and faithfulness and creates a deep security in me.  He loves me well and provides the support and freedom to be my best self.  He is more than I dared to hope for in a lifelong companion.

We are young, as far as relationships go.  Yet one of the best part of dating in mid-life is that you really know yourself.  You know what you like, what you do and don't care about and you know what you need.  I think we both did the work to learn what was right and what went wrong in our first marriages to make the best choice this time.  And so, while our relationship is young, we benefit from years of maturity as individuals that make our relationship so rich.

This has been a year of learning to cook enough at mealtimes to feed seven people.  We have tried to balance speaking up to help each other and stepping back to allow freedom for trial and error.  We have both had vehicle blunders, and our schedules have been stretched to the max.  As a big blended family we have visited the pumpkin patch, hung our stockings together, hiked and gone to the beach.  We have celebrated birthdays and first dates.  Our washing machine has held on through hundreds of cycles.

Sometimes we divide and spend time in our original nuclear forms. We honor the people and paths that brought us to where we are today.  Not one person in our home would have, or could have, imagined what this family would like like five years ago.  I'm so thankful that God had this in store and that we each trusted Him in our own journey to this day.

We can only credit Him with crazy-romantic-unpredictable-wonderful story that is our family!  If you can't imagine a life better than where you are today, I would encourage you that is okay.  What God plans is so much more - He is with you!

"Not For a Moment"

You were reaching through the storm 
Walking on the water 
Even when I could not see 
In the middle of it all 
When I thought You were a thousand miles away 
Not for a moment did You forsake me 
Not for a moment did You forsake me 

After all You are constant 
After all You are only good 
After all You are sovereign 
Not for a moment will You forsake me 
Not for a moment will You forsake me 

You were singing in the dark 
Whispering Your promise 
Even when I could not hear 
I was held in Your arms 
Carried for a thousand miles to show 
Not for a moment did You forsake me 

And every step every breath you are there 
Every tear every cry every prayer 
In my hurt at my worst 
When my world falls down 
Not for a moment will You forsake me 
Even in the dark 
Even when it's hard 
You will never leave me 
After all 

Not for a moment will You forsake me.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Who Is My Neighbor?

Last year I moved from the cookie-cutter suburb to the city (Granted, Knoxville isn't the same kind of city as NYC).  I have three elementary aged children and I very much miss my community in the burb!  My ten year old could ride his bike anywhere in the neighborhood and be secure, I could tell him what time to be home and not worry (too much). My six and eight year old children could practice their newer bike independence on our cul-de-sac in complete safety. Most of all, I miss the ever-present neighbors who were also school mates and moms and friends. I was a single mother, in those days, and I never once mowed my own grass! We car pooled to school, we shared sugar and sorrows, and we lifted each other in difficult days.

This week marks one year since my move. I have not found that kind of community here in the city. I moved because I got married, which is a wonderful joy and we needed this time to acclimate as a new blended family. However, even though I may not have been able to fully engage, I haven't even witnessed the kind of support network we left behind - at church, on our street, or anywhere! It makes me very sad.

When we try to connect with school mates, schedules and logistics make it tough. When I try to connect at church, the moms are more concerned with their gluten-free diets and home schooling agendas. It is my prayer that the Lord leads us to others who are seeking community as we are.
I miss the suburbs.  This year, I'm going to be intentional about getting to know my physical neighbors and establish a connection of neighborly community with others.  I haven't gone the extra mile to reach out, so now it is time!  What can we do to connect with those in our circles?  Do you find it challenging to find connection?  Is this a city vs. suburb thing?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Road Trip Survival with Multiple Children

Taken on a seven hour road trip this May - we're all smiling!
So far this year, we have made three road trip of 7 + way.  That's a lot of car time for active children, ages 10 and under.  It's a lot of togetherness, sitting still and waiting.  I must say that it has gotten easier as they get older and can understand this necessary part of arriving at our destination, but it is still a daunting challenge to face.  Here are some tricks that work for us:

  • Frame the Road trip.  I start talking about our "Big Adventure" and the "Long Journey" in a positive light, weeks before we depart. A good attitude (mine included) is essential.  I let them know I need their help to make the trip a pleasant one.
  • Each child packs their own bag of activities.  My children are age six, eight and ten, but we've been doing this for several years.  Every little one has their own treasures and they like to choose what gets to go with them on their adventure.  Nevertheless, I have one who would pack the whole room!  So each child has a tote bag and can only bring what fits in the tote, including their lovey/stuffed animal.
  • Provide some surprises.  I have my own tote of treasures which I can pass out at opportune times.  These include snacks/treats, crafts, books, arts supplies and sometimes a movie.
  • Make use of media.  When I was a little girl, a movie in the car was impossible, but today it's almost standard.  We have an in-vehicle DVD system that easily turns the back seat into a theatre.  In addition, tablet devices like our Kindle Fire, iPad or even a laptop allow for individual viewing.  If you choose these, be sure to have charging devices on hand.  We borrow so that each child has their own Nintendo DS for trips and can share games.  It helps that I don't normally allow screens in the car, so this creates a bit of novelty for our long trips.
  • Snack with discernment.  I learned the hard way that all snacks are not equal.  Crackers and cookies crumble and leave us with a mess to endure the rest of the trip.  As a general rule, we don't eat in our vehicle, but for long road trips I will offer Tic-Tacs (my children like orange), Twizzlers or M & M's.  These are don't easily melt and are a special treat that each child can then treasure in the famous tote!  We like to keep water bottles available, but limit the sipping.
  • Be willing to make pit stops.  Road warriors don't get any trophies and can make the trip miserable for the travelers.  When someone needs to go, just take a break.  Have everyone take a break.  Encourage all the riders to exit the vehicle and walk around for a bit.  Notice the strange items available at the gas station or break for a quick meal.  I like to find a restaurant with a playground or a gas station with some grassy space for running.  Use the stop as a time to get some movement and exercise - this helps for the driver, too!
  • Declare some quiet time.  It's easy to get overstimulated, I sure do.  I like to declare quiet time and turn off (or down) the music, require no talking and just let the silence allow some restful space in my brain.  It may only last ten minutes (can I get twenty?), but it helps reset the tone, calm all riders and break up the cacophony of noise.  
  • Stage the arrival.  I never let them know that we are getting closer until we are within a half hour of arrival.  When the inevitable question comes, "How much longer?"  I always answer, "We still have a long way to go," or "Still hours away."  Then suddenly the answer shifts to, "It's time to get excited, we will be there soon."  My riders then get engaged in noticing that we have made progress and the last half hour quickly zooms to arrival.  
Long car rides are not my favorite thing.  Sometimes, I think I get more fussy than the children!  But when family lives far and summer provides vacation times, they are a necessary part of our lives.  After many years, these are little things that make things go more smoothly for us.  What tricks work for you?  Do you have any road trips this summer?  What makes a long trip for you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Summer Rhythm

We just rounded the curve of our summer halfway point: Six weeks past and five weeks left.  I purchased the first of our "Back to School" supply list in order to break up the expense of preparing five children for the accoutrements of their next year.  Our summer began with our first ever blended family vacation.  The next two weeks we had lots of little people at home along with a new-to-us babysitter while Mr. Wonderful worked from his home office.  The older girls began summer jobs and volunteering and their own set of social activities.  There was quite a bit of adjusting to do by all of us.

Thankfully, our summer sitter has learned our weird ways and we are all enjoying lingering evenings and later mornings.  We've accomplished a few hikes, installed a garden, visited with both sets of grandparents, frequented the pool and the park, watched lots of movies and are filling out our summer reading lists.  It's a nice pace for me.  I know when the time comes, I will appreciate the routine of school, but I'm loving this summer rhythm.  It is a more relaxed pace than I have enjoyed recently.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

TBT Stories: July 4, 2012

By the summer of 2012, Mr. Wonderful and I were convinced we wanted to spend our lives together.  We had been dating for almost a year, and our children had met each other.  I had spent time with his girls, he had spent time with my children and yet we hadn't all spent much time together as a party of seven.  This was the summer Mr. Wonderful initiated our families beginning to really function together.  Other than going out to eat and hanging out in our homes, this was our first big outing: The July 4 Celebration at World's Fair Park.  (more photos of the day on that link).

I remember carrying water and blankets onto the crowded lawn.  Once we got settled, we all chose various vendors for our meal and brought the food back to our blanket.  It was a fun, pleasant night.

It was the first of many new traditions for our blended family.  I'm glad we took the chance!  I'm thankful for the steady, intentional way Mr. Wonderful included our children in the blending of our lives.

I'm linking up with The Mom Creative and her Throwback Thursday Stories Series.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Appreciating Stillness

My little children are visiting my parents this week and being incredibly spoiled by Nana and Papa.  It's been so quiet around our home!  It's been a few days and I'm missing them like crazy.  I've tended the garden and changed all the sheets and added some work responsibility and, well just sat around a bunch.  I've been sitting on the patio swing.  I've been lounging on the bed.  I've been sprawled out on the sofa and plopped in the office chair opposite Mr. Wonderful.  Honestly, this week is more of a vacation that our trip last month.

At first, I felt uncomfortable with the stillness. It sought to fill the time with catch-up chores, laundry, etc.  But even in these tasks, the quietness and lack of interruptions allow space for focus.  I have found time to connect with my own heart.  I am in a season of life where much of my energy is spent caring for others: the calendar, meals, activities and interests of others take precedent for now.  I'm grateful for a week without so many demands and highly aware that it will soon be back to the normal flourish of life.

Have you had any rest in your summer schedule?  Does your family divide at all through the summer months?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Children of Divorce

Recently a video was flaming through the internet called The Child of Divorce.  Because I am mother and step mother to five children that have divorce as part of their family history, I watched,  I was interested.  Basically, it was a verbal letter written from the point of view of a child of divorce.  It was clearly painful, and there is much pain in divorce.  However, it left a terrible taste in my mouth because it ended without any hope - as if the divorce doomed this child to a hopeless, sad and unhappy future.

I think we need be very cautious and not allow shame or regret dominate the conversation regarding children of divorce.  It's not the way God intended families to work, but there aren't a lot of things in our fallen world that still function the way God intended.  Intact first-families also create cycles of negative behavior, dysfunctional relationships and false realities.  It is easy to blame all woes an adult will face on the divorce, but we know God overcomes evil and will do so in our families.  The trials we face are the ways He reveals our dependence on Himself, whether children of original families or not.  Knowing these specific fears, hurts and relationship challenges allows me to focus my energy on the needs my children will have.  Every child will face issues in their life - I have a head start and know some of what ours will need to deal with.  That makes a good starting point for a healthy emotional life.

If you read here often, you know that I am not "The Christian Divorce Advocate."  I believe divorce is only a viable option in extreme circumstances and efforts to salvage the marriage have been attempted over time.  I do not think it is an 'easy out' for dissatisfied spouses.  I do believe children have the deepest and most ongoing sacrifices.  But the tone of many is to discard these children as unable to thrive because of divorce.  We need few labels and less judgement.

I don't want the divorce to be what defines my family (more about that here) I do believe God heals fully and will fill in the gaps where we have fallen short.  This is not a rant - I genuinely believe we need to shift the conversation regarding children of divorce.  Sometimes they are treated as if they are plagued, doomed and destined for failure.  I don't believe it.

Do you instantly label, define or judge others based on their family background?  It's so easy to do - I'm working hard to change the stigma!