Thursday, December 3, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

To the Stepmother of My Children

To the Stepmother of My Children,

I am writing to you as the mother figure in my children’s lives in their dad’s home.  Children need mothers to be nurturing, comforting, and gentle teachers.  In fact, the root word for “discipline” is “teach”.  The two boys feel very stressed when visiting their dad for the weekend.  They feel they are barely tolerated and aren’t allowed to make small, normal mistakes without immediate punishment or constant  threats of punishment.  They feel they cannot respectfully speak up for themselves without being told they are “sassing”, when they are people who simply are trying to be understood.  I don’t know if you and their father truly understand how deeply stressed they are.  They love their father, but have an extremely difficult time when it is their weekend to be there.  Of course there will be some adjustment going from one household to another, and that is to be expected.  And there will always be things about each household that they don’t like, and that’s normal too.  But it has come to be that they are asking and pleading not to have to go to Indy when it’s their weekend to go.  And when they come home, they each break down sobbing about their time there.

I understand I am only hearing one side of how things are. This is their perception of how things are, and what they perceive is what their reality is.  What the boys are asking for is compassion, patience, and respect. 

Are they loud?


Are they bouncy?


Can they try our patience simply because they are children?

Oh yes.

Are they perfect?


None of us are.  As children, their brains are still developing, and they are still learning about the world around them; how things work, how to behave in various situations, how to read other people, how to handle their emotions.  As adults, when we make a mistake, or lose our patience, what helps us in that moment? Support?  Empathy? Understanding? Kind guidance? These two boys need these also.

The boys did not have a say in their father moving 100 miles away from them. They really didn’t have a say in whom he chose as a partner and to share their household. But when they told me that you and their father were marrying, they were very happy.  They liked you so much and always said how nice you were to them. Those two sweet boys asked me to teach them how to bake and frost a cake so they could make one as a gift for you.  They’ve never done that for anyone else.    

Being a parent is hard. Being a step parent is hard, too.  You are helping to shape their childhood and creating memories for them and with them. What kind of memories do you want to make?
When they are adults and look back on their childhood, how will they remember their time at home? How will they remember us? How will they speak of us?

You have such an influence on how these sweet boys grow up. As the mothers of our households, we truly set the mood for our family. The world can be a tough place, but we can make their home a safe and comfortable haven.  A place to be themselves, make mistakes, and have a soft place to land.  And learn how to do better the next time.  

I don’t know if this will affect how the interactions continue between you, but I needed to speak up on their behalf.  My sons are the most precious gifts God could have ever given to me. I love the way the older one thinks.  His imagination and cleverness is out of this world. He’s ridiculously smart, and has a thirst for knowledge and how things work.  And the younger one is so sweet and tender-hearted, things affect him deeply.  He’s very perceptive to people’s feelings and extremely compassionate.  And SO funny!  He makes me laugh every day, even when I’m starting to lose my patience with him.  

 I hope you are able to enjoy each of them individually for their own unique personality.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

A Week in Review, Summer Flashback

So this is an example of how I tend to not finish things. This post was mostly finished, but adding pictures is such a tedious pain, so I put it off. Sigh...this was a week from the end of our summer. We had a lot of fun and took lots of pictures. The main purpose of this blog is to document our joys and frustrations as a blended family.  I need to write more.  I have a few more "flashback" posts lined up. Until then, know that school is in full swing, and it's hard to believe it's almost October (!).

Sunday- A glorious, non-eventful day at the lake. We packed up the cooler and the kids and drove across the state line to a lake. It has a sandy "beach" area, and although we had to clear a path to the water that was free of goose poop, we all had a relaxing day of water, sandwiches, and sun. I actually sat in a chair and did nothing. For more than five minutes straight. I definitely need to do that more often. The kids made their own fun, and almost no one got sunburned (*cough* Batman *cough*).
Monday- Gabriel asked if we could go to the zoo. We used to have a zoo pass every year. It was wonderful! Our zoo has a small (and super fun) splash park. Perfect for hot summers! And with an annual pass, you don't have to make a day of it. You can pop down for a bit, stay or not stay, because there was always next time. Sometimes we would go once a week. Sometime the summer before last, the boys decided the splash park wasn't quite their thing any more. I was baffled.  With the exception of the one chin injury (Panic! At the Splash Park), I thought it was tons of fun, and that we would get at least a few more years out of it. 

This was probably the one day we would be going to the zoo this summer. So we made the most of it.  We stayed in the shade, caught the mist sprayers when we could, and experienced quite a bit while we were there. Gabriel couldn't wait to see the tigers, everyone wanted to see the polar bears, and feeding the lorikeets was definitely a must. When we were all hot and somehow couldn't find a water fountain, Dippin' Dots saved the day. 

Tuesday- the first day of Julian's middle school orientation.  Tours for the parents and team-building activities for the students. It was a good way to be introduced to all the newness that is middle school. The teachers seem really into looking after the students, and want to make sure everyone is adjusted. 
Maddie came over before dinner. And then... and then...
We saw it. 
The horrible, awful, every swear word I've ever known...nits. In her hair. Lice. Again
I can't even describe the rage that consumed me.  Poor Maddie, it wasn't her fault. When she came home from camp with lice, we treated her head immediately- before she spent any actual time in the house, and her mom had to handle all of her camp clothes, bedding, etc. Our best guess is it wasn't all obliterated from all her stuff. Then she stopped using the tea tree shampoo, and so here we were, again. 
So the next day and a half were completely spoken for.  Batman actually stayed home from work on Wednesday, so we could divide and conquer all the laundry. Was this covered in our marriage vows?

Wednesday- the laundry. That is all. Oh wait- Julian had another half day of orientation.  I watched as he walked all by himself to the bus stop (He's eleven. I know. I'm a mom. This is what we do). We did make a spontaneous trip to the park. It was beautiful outside. Not too hot, and not at all crowded. Took some great pictures of the kiddos. 

Thursday- Julian's 11th birthday! This is the first time he's ever had school on his birthday. Today was an almost-all-day orientation.  Fun activities, then a dance party in the gym. He came home happy and worn-out. We had a relaxing afternoon, watched a movie, and enjoyed pizza as a treat for dinner.  

Friday- a work day for me.  Batman worked from home and hung out with the boys.  They ran some errands, watched some TV, and went out for lunch. I got home and enjoyed some mellow family time before hopping in the car with my boys and driving them to meet their dad. 

Saturday- sleeping in, and a brunch date for Batman and me.  Relaxing, lovely...very nice.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Summer Daze

The end of July is here.  It's what I call the "leggy" days of summer.  The trees are dripping with green, the weeds are long, the corn tall with its leafy stalks. Crepe Myrtle blooms in pinks and purples.  The cicadas have been wound and let loose with their creepy, cackling buzz. Black-eyed Susans splash their orange faces across suburban fences. School supplies are appearing on store shelves.  These are some of the things I gauge my summers by.  Familiar things.  Signs I rely on and look forward to, reassuring me that summer is in full swing.

Some things are changing, though. Against my will, without my permission. Small and subtle, they are the tiny changes that make raising a family a fluid journey- ebbing and flowing with simultaneous familiarity and change.

My oldest child is entering middle school.  Middle school!  My sweet boy. I remember middle school as a hellacious misery.  His circumstances are different than mine were, and his school seems to be very student-focused, so I am confident his experience will differ from mine.

His hair is not nearly as blond as it usually gets over the summer. It's staying darker, apparently to match his more noticeable leg hair.  His handful of freckles are multiplying. He's growing up, and it's as beautiful to watch as it is difficult to accept.

Gabriel seems to get taller every day.  He is about to start fourth grade.  Yikes! He's still cuddly and affectionate, and I love that about him. His face (and his brother's) is still so soft.  I make sure and pet their baby-soft skin while I can, because I know in just a few years, stubble and scruff will take over their cherub cheeks. He tries my patience the most, but just about makes up for it with his ridiculous, goofy sense of humor.  

Maddie is entering seventh grade. She's growing and leggy, but still a kid, which I appreciate. She's all glasses and braces and quite independent. Even so, she's still a daddy's girl, and I love her giggle.

Summer is speeding right by, thrusting us right into the next school year.  I'm not ready. I love the slower pace of summer, with the entire day ahead of us.  What will we do today? Stay home? Go out for an adventure? Create our own adventure here at home? Make plans, but change our mind at the last minute? Unexpectedly let the kids stay up late because we feel like it? Really late, just this once? Because it's summer?  Pleeeeaaaase? 

I love saying yes. I relish being a fun mom. I get to say yes more during the summer, and we make so many beautiful memories together. The end of summer (and many times during a hectic part of the school year) always makes me reconsider if we could pull off homeschooling. It's not going to work for us anytime soon, and I suppose it just makes us grateful for the more relaxed summer, yet appreciative of the routine that the school year brings. 

At this moment, we are all outside and the kids have decided on a water gun fight! The weather is gorgeous, and everyone is getting along and having fun.  We have no schedule, no errands, no pressures.  I am ignoring the laundry and vacuuming, and just enjoying being outside. I'm loving every second of it!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

A Week(-ish) in Review...

This week:

A tree branch stole my sunglasses right off of my head.
My car tire rolled through some fresh tar. Now it's covered in gravel and debris and goes thump thump thump as I drive down the road.
A cucumber fell out of my grocery bag and onto the lawn.
Gabriel made me laugh.
Batman was a butt.
Batman apologized with cheesecake.
Julian broke his wrist.
Julian got a really cool cast.
Gabriel wants a buzz cut. He may be getting one later today.
I had a mini meltdown trying to be everyone and everywhere all at the same time.
I bought extra tissues for Julian's last day of elementary school.
I packed all the lunches, made all the dinners, signed all the forms, and did all the dishes.
Except for last night, when Batman did them.
I had insomnia twice.
The other night, the sky had a strange yellow glow to it.
I found a Sharpie in the dryer.
And a Lego guy.
And a rock.
And a dollar.
And a plastic bag.
My oldest child finished elementary school.
I survived the above without Xanax.
I realized there's no fighting Gabriel's musical side and everything in the house will always be a drum.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Busy Spring!

Spring is here! It's been a busy few weeks months.  Lots of school papers. Some mild illness. Homework. Bickering. Talking back. Food preparation. Cleaning. Work. Errands. Schedule juggling... is this really 40? There are days I think homeschooling the children would be more effective, then there are others where I believe it would be pointless. The bickering is driving me crazy. Gabriel was in a tree at the playground the other day, and Julian grabbed his shoe- right off of his foot. There was name calling and who knows what else. When Julian was told to give it back (after much shrieking from his brother), he hurled it only vaguely in Gabriel's general direction. This, of course, resulted in more shrieking from Gabriel. I suppose if this had been a TV episode, it might have been funny.  This kind of thing has been far too common lately, so it really wasn't funny, just exhausting.

Gabriel found a raccoon skull while at his father's, and was thoughtful enough to leave it on my pillow.  Have I mentioned how much I love having boys? And I don't mean that sarcastically. A raccoon skull on my pillow is parenting gold.  Gabriel got the idea from his brother, who a few months ago first put a raccoon skull on my pillow.  He snuck it there just before bed, then asked me in the morning why he didn't hear me scream when I saw it.  I told him it startled me, but I think he was expecting a TV reaction, not a real-life one.

Julian is eating and eating and eating.  Growth spurt! Fortunately, most of what he snacks on is fresh fruit and second helpings of (mostly) nutritious meals. I think I will measure all three kiddos tomorrow and see how much they've all grown (update- Julian has grown over 2" since January!).

Gabriel participated in a track meet the other night. He did well and had so much fun! It's an annual event, so I'm sure we will be going next year as well.

Julian is part of a Lego robotics team for his school.  They competed at the state level and came in second for their category. I know he will enjoy the robotics program next year in middle school (sniff!).

Maddie is enjoying her art class.  They work with a variety of media and techniques.  Her school posts her class work on a website so family can see what she's creating.  That would have been so neat when I was in school.

The school year is winding down. I can't believe how fast the time has zipped by.  The boys are signed up for a week of Camp Hi Ho, which is really exciting. Maddie has nine days of summer break before heading off to her month-long sleep-away camp. She had a blast last year, even though we missed her bunches. I'm really looking foreword to a fun, relaxing summer. And more help from the kids. Oh yes.

I took a week off from work to get some projects done around the house.  I have certainly accomplished a lot.  I treated myself to a coffee date to catch up with a friend yesterday. It was lovely.  Another friend reminded me that I should really take time for me today, and do something nice for myself.  I just took a walk with the dog- yes! We got a dog!  More on her later.  So I think I will get some lunch and go do something fun!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Thank Goodness for the Escape Hatch!

Out of the clear blue, Gabriel asked, "How are kittens born?"

I smiled and told him pretty much the way babies are born.

He frowned and worriedly asked, "So they have to have their tummies cut open?".

I sighed to myself before answering. Despite all of my preparation and determination to experience natural childbirth, my children were both delivered by completely unavoidable cesarean deliveries. I thought I had done an excellent job of explaining that while sometimes things don't go as planned and a mommy has to have an operation where the doctor can get the baby out, most mommies are able to push and push their babies out.  Their bodies are designed to do this.

I smiled at Gabriel. I reassured him that mommy cats can push their babies out just like human mommies.

"Out their bottom?"

I explained (again) that just like there is a way for pee to come out, grown up ladies have a way for babies to come out. You know, in the same general area.  I reminded him that's the usual way, but he and his brother took the "side door".

"Or sometimes, I tell people you took the emergency escape hatch."

"Oh good," Gabriel says, looking relieved. "Because that is not the first thing I wanted to see."