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Friday, July 20, 2018

Five Things I've Learned in Five Years of {Re}Marriage


We are celebrating this week - Five years of marriage!  It doesn't sound like a whole lot, but I think we are officially out of the "Newlywed" category.  Thankfully, there were no big surprises when I married Mr. Wonderful.  We took the time to know each other well and that paid off.  Still, I have learned a lot about family (blended and traditional), myself and the ones I love.  I'm confident that there is still a great deal to learn, but today I'm sharing five things from the first five years.

Blending is hard.  Complicated. Most people don't get it, even the close friends and extended family.  Unless you have lived with and experienced the combining of two full households, there is no way to understand the layered complexity. Because it's tough, I've learned to let go of some control and to let the outcomes happen as they will.

I cannot manage the emotions of others. I spent much of my first year of marriage consumed by how everyone else in the house was feeling:  Are my children adjusting alright?  Do they feel conflicted? How are the teenage girls feeling with us in their space?  Can I move that picture on the wall?  Does anyone feel attached to this dish?  Is my new husband getting enough attention?  Am I doing this right?  It was all-consuming and so exhausting.  Slowly I learned to communicate, to connect and to do my best and trust others with their own feelings.  Yes, there are conflicts when bringing two homes together (merging kitchen items of two homes alone is a huge task), but when we do it together, we each have a chance to demonstrate selflessness and resilience.

It's essential to seek the greatest common good and exercise selflessness.  Mr. Wonderful articulated it early that we will both be defensive for our biokids.  The most challenging decisions are the ones that benefit one set while feeling detrimental to the others.  When we acknowledge our intrinsic bias, it helps to take feelings out of the decision-making and be objective about what is truly best for all of us.  Whether it's bedroom capacity, budget limitations, noise and clutter or meal-planning we attempt to aim for the greater common good.

It is essential to live in the moment. The past is part of us and being aware of our stories helps to inform our present.  When I jump to conclusions with Mr. Wonderful based on experience in a prior relationship I am applying a mask over the individual he is.  When he assumes things about me that were true of his previous relationship, he is usually wrong.  Once more, communication has been the key to unlocking our present reality and knowing each other even better. 

I can trust my husband. Time and again I have witnessed that my husband is trustworthy.  I cannot describe the true soul-peace that is found in knowing and resting in his love, protection and care for me and our children.  In him I have a safe place to fall and a partner for times whether good or bad.

Above all, two are better than one when both are first surrendered to the Lord.  It's worth is to work through difficulty and join together for common goals.  Remarriage isn't the road for everyone and we were both enjoying our lives as singles.  Yet I am confident that God brought us together and has blessed our family.  I am so grateful for my step daughters and for my husband.  I wish the same for all who are on the same path.

Are you considering remarriage?  What excites you about the prospect?  What are your fears?  How long have you been married?





Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Fruit of Friendship


God brought us together in this dorm at
Liberty University.
We had our annual college girlfriend gathering this month and it was so refreshing for my soul.  We were just girls when we met nearly 25 years ago!  Now there is so much history among us and we have had front row seats to the major issues of life: marriage, parenthood, loss, infertility, betrayals, divorce, job loss, financial strain, promotions and seasons changing.  One of our group is sending her own son off to college this fall, and we are witnessing yet a new season.  Another is facing serious illness of a close relative.  I am privileged to travel these unknown roads together with my dearest friends.

I never guessed that we would remain close, and it's an even greater surprise that we have not only remained in contact, but grown so much closer through sharing these years intentionally.  It really hasn't happened on accident but by design as we have been willing to share, engage and make time for one another.  We live on opposite sides of the county, separated by time zones, marital status, job requirements, family demands and more.

This year, we were missing one.  Her absence was felt intensely by the rest of us.  Even though she probably will never know, her presence was still with us as we sensed what she might do our say.  Our hearts were with her as she journeys through her own path right now...we continually included her in conversation and spirit.  I like to think it would be the same for any one of us not able to be present in body one year.

The lasting friendships from college are more than worth the tuition that I paid to attend.  If I could guarantee the same kind of friendship for my own daughters and sons, it would be worth loans and more.  Having such history and support is the fruit of putting in years together: time, effort, intention.  It doesn't happen without awkwardness or expense and yet this kind of friendship is worth it all.

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2012

2011

2010

2009

2007

2005


Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Togetherness on Vacation


Our annual vacation was especially treasured this year because our whole crew was able to participate.  This entire summer feels like a significant time for our family to enjoy being together as there are unknowns in the coming season.  Our oldest child graduated from college this year and will soon enter the workforce, where schedules and limited vacation days will curtail our travel together.


Like all families, blended families have
seasons of joy and of difficulty.  For that
reason, getting away to celebrate our
"togetherness" is important.  I love these
people will my whole heart.  Living with
each one gives me insight and
understanding that I wouldn't have in any
other way.  Time away from the normal
demands and routines allows us to connect,
laugh and make memories that continue to
mesh our family into a solid unit.
Our week started with Father's Day!  I'm so grateful for Mr. Wonderful and the father is is to his daughters, the father-figure he is to our other three.  It's complicated at times, but I see how he continues to step in as a role model, provider and leader in our home.  We're so lucky!  Yes, we Went to see "The Incredibles 2" - loved it!

The girls rose early for sunrise on the beach.  It's a magical time.

   

Bicycles are a big part of our fun.


In a blended family, we balance combining our family with a little bit of 
honoring the original family, too.

Beach Babe and the Stepmom

The boys and I loved our day in Savannah.

Gymnastics on the Beach

Mini-Golf night is always a fun favorite.

This was his hole-in-one pose!

This was our fifth time to go to Hilton Head as a family. They have grown so much!

2018
Hilton Head Island- June, 2014


 The time on the beach is my favorite!  



Annual Gator Pose - 2018
First Year They went to Hilton Head - 2014, Same Gator!
Pool Fun!






Wednesday, May 30, 2018

What Summer Looks Like in Our Crazy Life


We seek hikes and waterfalls.
There are so many ways to do summer.  I'm sharing the way we are doing it this year because I like to get ideas from others.  It's not the only way, or even the best way - it's what works for us.  All our family members are home this summer and Mr. Wonderful and I still have to report to our jobs each workday.  So we have to make a plan.

We maintain a loose schedule and yet work to keep a rhythm.  Cycles of waking, lounging, work and play are woven into they day.  At ages 10, 12 and 14, my children are good at following a schedule including some chores each day.  They can accomplish light lunch preparations and be responsible to maintain general order.  We are working respect and responsibility as character traits this summer.

As part of our normal routine, the children spend time each week at their father's house.  This gives them a change of scenery and additional activities to enjoy.  There are also trips planned: scout camp, beach vacation, a week with grandparents, church camp and vacation with their dad.  All in all, each will be gone four weeks this summer and will break up the monotony.

As a working mom, I struggled with what to do during summer.  I fondly remember "boring" summers where my thrill was watching game shows and riding my bike to a friend's house.  I wanted my children to have the same carefree summer, but had to keep my job.  So, I've hired a babysitter to come to our home each summer since they were tiny.  Nowdays, they are technically old enough to be home alone, but I didn't want there to be zero supervision.  So, for the past few summers, we have hired a "Mother's Helper" for 2-3 days a week

Adventures in Babysitting
Her main job is to keep them active and busy, off of the electronics.  Together they will swim, visit museums, go to the mountains, enjoy snow cones and look for new things to do.  My children adore Ms. Angelica and look forward to the days we have her.

Pool Time!






Our oldest one is all graduated and settled back home.  She'll be seeking her entrance into the workforce and we are soaking up the days we have her back.  The younger step daughter is home for the summer, too.  She's already working, house-sitting and keeping busy.  It's fun to have the activity of college-age girls back at home.

There are seven of us at home with multiple schedules, activities and plans.

Our house is full for the first time in a while.  It's going to be a bit of a whirlwind, I fear, and at the same time a summer of memories.  I hope we get to enjoy meals with seven places around the table, laughter, new games, connection and memories.  In my heart, I feel this is snapshot of our family that we will all look back upon with fondness.  If so, I'll consider it a success, indeed.

Keep it Simple

Friday, May 25, 2018

Proud Mom Moment

(That's him in the middle.)
This week, I attended "Awards Day" at the elementary school.  My little guy earned zero academic awards.  He didn't get a sports trophy or win the art contest.  The "Singing Eagle" award didn't appeal to his skill set.  He got a certificate of citizenship for good behavior, along with all the others who didn't get suspended, but he wasn't really honored in any tangible way.

I noticed how so many of his peers gather around him.  He is well-liked and a wonderful class mate.  His teacher knows he will follow instructions and participate in class.  He is kind, dependable, respectful and responsible.  I was so touched to read the notes left in his class memory book.  Yes, he was voted "best dressed" because of his propensity to dressing with style, but so many also said he was a good friend, a good listener and someone they can talk with.

I could not be more proud of my son.  I love him exactly the way he is today and wish I could freeze time at this age.  He has one more year of elementary school and I'm trying to savor it as the season slips away.  Until then, bring on the summer days!
 
Because he likes to dress nice.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Today's Gift

My mother once wrote in a note or card that she "Didn't know it then, but she was living the best days of her life."  She was referencing the days when she was at home full time with my sister and me, and then the years where we were busy in school, bringing friends home and keeping her on her toes with all the activities.  What caught me by surprised was that she "didn't know it then."

It makes me catch my breath to wonder - what if I'm living my best days right now?   I know I will look back on them fondly and think of these moments of chaos with tenderness.  Already I can think back to the baby-years and see them with much more precious perspective.  Some days I get lost in old photographs.  I notice the softness of baby skin, the piles of mess in the background, the smoother skin on my own face.  I look for clues of days gone by in the toys and the furniture at the edges of the focused subject.  I remember the slower pace of life then, even if the cycles of eat, play, sleep, clean were never ending.  The truth is, those cycles did end and new cycles have taken their place.

The very nature of life is ever-changing and forward-moving.  This school year will end and the next one will be different.  We don't notice the subtle changes from one day to another and yet they happen ,and all at once a season has changed.  The light shines from another angle.  The colors have shifted. What I loved about one season (hello - afternoon nap time was a real gem!) morphs into something new to love about a new season (hi, you can now fold your own laundry!).

When we in the middle of life, whether it is a good day or a bad one, there is just so much we can choose to embrace - right now.

  • Practice gratitude
  • Learn contentment
  • Empower responsbility
  • Release expectations
  • Engage connection
  • Experience joy

The list feels trite and cliche', I know.  Yet these habits work to bring value to each day and each season.  It's overwhelming how quickly and unnoticed we slip into a new phase and time.  There is value in capturing the gifts here and now which will become treasures in the years to come.  Don't let today's gift go unnoticed.

Friday, May 4, 2018

I'm Still Here and Living the Life

I commented to Mr. Wonderful last night that I hadn't written in quite a while.  It makes me a bit sad and yet I have to admit that I don't even know why - very few people visit this blog any longer and my real world life is going well.

I would love to have greater interaction but for now, I'll simply let you know what's new in our family.



In the first part of the year, five of our four children have a birthday.  I've really sensed the shift of seasons as they grow, mature and face new challenges.  I love who each one is becoming!  We celebrate a couple more birthdays this May.  Parenting has also sent me back to talk with a therapist this year, and I'm so glad for the objective input.


With the family-seasonal-shift, the older step daughter is graduating college!  We all a bit shell-shocked and no one yet knows what the next steps will be...but we are celebrating the amazing woman she is!  Watch out world - here she comes!


Stepmom Score! I was able to attend Mother-Daughter weekend for the younger of my step daughters.  Her mother had a prior commitment and I was thrilled step in.  Never let being asked second steal your joy or your fun!

Mr. Wonderful and I are grateful for our jobs and the income they provide.  First world living is expensive!  So, worklife consumes a huge part of our lives and it isn't always fun. We try to do our best and be thankful for jobs that provide for our family.  My job has been the most consistent part of my life for these past thirteen years - who would have thought?

My firstborn is finishing middle school.  I'm so proud of his growth through this notoriously awkward season.  It's seriously mind-spinning to witness the changes.  Our other middle schooler is still in the awkward mess, but we are confident she will emerge with grace and grit.  We still get one more year of elementary bliss with our little guy.  It's a good season of family life.


Our home is our sanctuary, with all it's quirks.  It's about to become filled, once again with returning college students and summer break activities.  What is going on in your family life?  Summer is coming, do things change for you?