Tag Archives: blended family

It gets better. Right?

Standard

The older my kids get the harder it is to be a parent.

People with small children ask “It gets better, right?” and my answer is always “No. No it doesn’t.” And if they ask that same question about girls my answer is “No, it gets worse.”

Just for clarification, some things do get better. You don’t have to wipe their butts anymore. That part’s way better! If they’re hungry they can get food and feed it to themselves. That gets better. They can bathe themselves, it won’t be done very well and only when you tell them to, but they can, so that’s better. They can pretty much care for themselves. Which is better.

Other than that, not better.

When kids are small it’s a physical game. You are just wiped out. Every. Day. You’re up at the crack of dawn after you’ve stayed up half the night trying to get him to go to, or stay, asleep. There’s never any rest because you’re constantly chasing a toddler to make sure she doesn’t get into anything and try to keep her safe. You’re always feeding someone else then you forget to eat. You’re always taking him to the bathroom for the 5th time in an hour and answering the call to ‘come play outside with me’. And do you really want me to start talking about grocery shopping with three kids under the age of 4?

When those cute little ones turn into teenagers it’s a whole new ball game. It turns into a strategic mental game that will leave you emotionally exhausted for days on end. And they are ruthless. Teenagers don’t back down. They push and push until you back down. Then once you do it, even just that one time, they will never forget and push even harder to get you to back down again. Not to mention that the struggles with teenagers are bigger. Now it’s trying to get her to wear real pants, not leggings. Prying them away from electronic devices so I can remember what their face looks like. Not to mention the boyfriends and girlfriends and every unfortunate thing that goes with that. There’s riding in cars with other teenagers and worrying about road conditions and weather. Attitude and disrespectfulness, anyone? Watching them make decisions that you know aren’t the right ones. And let’s not forget the fact that they know everything and are never wrong.

So no…it doesn’t get better. It just gets different. Harder and different.

I have to admit though…As difficult and draining as it is to be parents of teenagers there are rewarding moments. Like little gems nestled in between the jagged edges of the cliff you want to jump off of on a regular basis. I enjoy having good conversations with them that were impossible when they were small. I look forward to sharing a meal with them every night and hearing about their day. I love going to their ceremonies and celebrating their artistic talents and accomplishments or watching them play sports and celebrate wins with them. I always watch in awe as they build a bow and arrow out of a rubber band, a pencil and shish kabob skewer or design and create an elaborate rubber band bracelet. And my favorites are family movie nights, going to the fair and spending holiday mornings together. Those are all the moments that make it worth it. And keep me from running away.

running away

Go To Bed. Please.

Standard

Bed time around our house is a bit like the Waltons. The only difference is there’s a lot more giggling, squeals and running around here than there was on the show. It didn’t take us long to realize we needed to come up with a plan to settle things down.

Before we put our routine into place bedtime was a little on the “Oh my goodness what the heck is happening?” side. Looking back now, I bet it was hilarious watching us put the kids to bed. It looked kind of like this~We’d tuck the girls in and then head to Chalon’s room and when we came out of his room one of the girls would be up. We’d put her back to bed then go tell the two little guys good night. When we came out of there the other girl and Chalon would be up chatting. We would shoosh them back to bed and then Matt or Cullen would be up. It was kind of like, oh I don’t know, trying to herd kittens. It was taking forever to get everyone to bed and we were seriously wearing down the carpet up and down the hallway. Our routine now is much more stream lined and, although we may have a rough night here and there, doesn’t take any time at all.

We have two different bed time routines. One for school nights and another one for non-school nights. Yes the kids have bedtimes on the weekends and when there’s no school. And you know what? They don’t have a problem with that. You see, the kids like having a routine. They aren’t going to tell you that, but they do. It shows. If you have a routine all through the week but not one on the weekends it makes it very difficult to get everyone back into the swing of things come Sunday night. It also makes for a much easier transition when school starts back in the [what is supposed to be] fall [but is actually still summer]. What I’m trying to say is the key to routine is consistency. That’s what makes it work. You can’t do it here and here but not there. Once the kids figure it out…you’re up the creek. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t ever stray from your routine under special circumstances. But you DO have to explain the special circumstances, how the routine is going to be different and when the routine will be resumed again. Kids like to know what’s going on. Kids need structure and routine. And you have to give it to them. Otherwise the kids will be in control all the time which means bad things will happen. Just trust me.

So on a school night the kids’ bed time is 9:30. By 8:30, no later than 9:00, we start asking the kids if they have their clothes picked out for school the next day and remind them to brush their teeth. At 9:25 they actually do it. Just kidding. Well sort of. We have to start asking these questions early because most of the time by 9:15 only a few of them have actually done it. Most nights they all have it done by then, but not always.

Now here’s a run down of how we actually put the kids to bed:
~Go into Matt and Cullen’s room and prepare the beds. [They each have a favorite blanket (Matt has two) and they each want their covers and pillows a certain way. They can do much of this on their own but still need a little help. Plus, it moves along a lot faster if we help. When they stop moving at the speed of a sleepy snail we’ll stop doing it for them. For now, I’m all about getting it done.]
~Say prayers with Matt and Cullen.
~Go to Chalon’s room shutting the hallway bathroom door on the way. Hug, kiss and tell Chalon good night.
~Go back to Matt and Cullen’s room and hug, kiss, scratch backs, answer 8-10 random questions about random topics, straighten out covers, say good night, turn light off and walk out door.
~Have my name called and walk back into Matt and Cullen’s room to answer 3 more random questions.
~Go to Emma and Paige’s bedroom. Hug, kiss, answer Paige’s 3-4 random questions, say good night, turn off light.
~Leave room praying that Matt doesn’t call my name again before I can make it into my bedroom.

Now there is a reason why we go to Matt and Cullen’s room first, then to Chalon’s and then back to Matt and Cullen’s to say good night. You see, Chalon’s room is on the end of the hall, then Matt and Cullen’s, and then the girls on our end of the hallway. If we say good night to Matt and Cullen and then Chalon we have to walk back past the boys’ bedroom. And we can notwalk by without one of them calling our name. Not even when we go all ninja and sneak by. So, we adjusted it so we tell Chalon good night first and then work our way back down the hall towards our bedroom. Which brings me to another good point. If something isn’t working…change it. You’re not going to come up with the perfect plan the first time. Wait, you probably will never come up with the perfect plan ever. But you will find what works and what doesn’t work for you and you can adjust accordingly. Monitor and adjust. A good teacher’s motto that seems to have stuck with me.

Just because the kids still have a bed time on no-school nights doesn’t mean it’s no fun around here on the weekends or school breaks. They have “sleep over movie nights”! They get to make pallets on the floor and sleep in each others rooms and watch movies. If they want to watch a movie then bed time is still 9:30. Of course the movie isn’t over until about 11:30 or so depending on the movie so it’s not like they have to go to sleep that early. If they don’t watch a movie then bedtime is 10:00. The reason for this is, well consistency. Plus, Gary and I need our quiet time together. And this is the only time we get it. I stand very firm on the notion that married couples with children need to must make time for themselves. It’s not an option.

After almost two years we finally have our bedtime routine down to a science. Or is it an art? Seriously, which is it? Anyway….we didn’t always have such a smooth transition to slumberland. It used to be the equivalent of pouring alcohol on a paper cut. You’ll hear more about that lovliness in my next post. Until then…sleep tight!

A truck, some friends and a lot of sweat

Standard

Moving into a new place is never a truly fun experience. Especially when it’s a thousand degrees outside. But this time wasn’t so bad. We had everything planned out, the truck reserved and friends on stand by. It was the smoothest, most uneventful move I think I’ve ever had.

This is all we got out of them. They were done.

When Gary and I returned from our honeymoon his mom and oldest son had almost everything in the house packed up. That was helpful! We were able to pick up the key to the new house a day early so we decided to take as much small stuff as we could. That way the big moving day would be just that. One day. Luckily Gary’s house is in the same neighborhood as the new house. Just down the street actually. So we would load the cars up, drive 5 blocks and unload the cars. The kids were so excited about the new house they wanted to stay that night. The only problem was we didn’t have any furniture in the new house. That was all to be moved the next day after we pick up the truck and all our friends. I was really hoping to spend our very first night in the house all together as a family. My kids were at their dad’s house for the week and wouldn’t be home until Friday or Saturday. Well, I was the only one holding on to the sentimental idea so I was out numbered. We went ahead and hauled the mattresses over and slept on the floor. It turned out pretty fun actually. Except for waking up with a huge centipede thing crawling up my arm in the middle of the night. Oh my gosh…I get the shivers just thinking about it. It got flung somewhere towards the kitchen but apparently not far enough, since Gary woke to the same experience a little later. Which I found quite amusing! The next day we got all the furniture into the house after two trips. One from Gary’s house and one from my parents’ house. Then we worked our butts off for days and days to get everything settled. Thankfully I don’t work in the summer so I had time during the day to work on the house instead of only the evenings and weekends.

Can't. Take. The. Mess.

The kitchen was the first room unpacked. One reason was I couldn’t stand the mess and the second reason is this family loves to eat. And you can’t cook and eat with all the stuff you need to cook and eat packed up in boxes. I tackled one room at a time. And slowly but surely the house started coming together! It was becoming our home and it was beautiful!!! And comfortable. For the last year and half all our time spent together, which was all the time, was spent in Gary’s small house. Eight people squeezed into 1100 square feet. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad. But having 3000 square feet to spread out in was better awesome!! We had elbow room now. Everyone had their own space.

The kids transitioned almost seamlessly. We literally were together all the time before getting married so it wasn’t that different. We were just in one house now instead of two and didn’t have to say good-bye every night. I can remember telling the kids one day that we were going home and someone said “Which ‘home’? Home-home or Gary’s home?”. So it was really nice to just have one home instead of two.
I think it also helped that we began parenting the kids together. We didn’t get married, move into the house and say “I’m your step parent now. DO AS I SAY!!”. The kids already knew we expected them to

Now this is more like it!

listen to both us. A lot of the time we even handled discipline problems together as well so by the time we moved into the new house as a new blended family the kids were already accustomed to having a step parent. I understand that moving to a new home in a new neighborhood is a tough transition for all kids, even ones with a traditional family. So we still helped the kids along. We always made sure to keep them well informed and that they knew and understood our expectations. Some rules were the same, some were new. But they knew them all!

As much as I hate moving in the heat of the summer I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I had more time to unpack and arrange the house and I’m very thankful the kids didn’t have to adjust to a new house and a new school at the same time. Not to mention that I didn’t have to adjust to all that too!!

How I Lived Happily Ever After

Standard

You never think it’s gonna happen to you
I never thought I would be divorced, remarried and a member of a blended family. The way I saw it happening was I would get married, have kids and live happily every after. And that I did. But I ran into a little snag somewhere between have kids and happily ever after. You see, I got married the first time at age 20. I was so in love. Or I thought I was. Actually, looking back I think I even had my doubts then. Something about the sight out of your hind end that lets you see things much more clearly. I wish you could somehow see clearly in real-time. It would save us all a lot of grief. Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, so in love or so I thought. I was in love and had to get married right away. I was still in college and was given the option of a)waiting till I finished school to get married and my parents would pay for college or b)get married right then and I had to pay for college. Yeah I chose b. Almost 18 years later, I’m still paying that stupid student loan and I don’t even teach anymore! Jeez. At the time though that’s what I really wanted. By the time I was 29 I had three beautiful absolutely gorgeous children. Two girls and a boy. I loved, and still do, being a mommy. Best. Thing. Ever. Most days. My marriage wasn’t the best though. My then-husband loved to work and he did it a lot. He’s a police officer so it was easy to work. Off duty job here. Off duty job there. Not to mention his off duty hobbies. I was always alone. After 5 months of what felt like hell it all just completely fell apart and he left for good in the early fall of 2008. It was awesome!! After 5 months of fighting and crying it felt good to start picking up the pieces and start putting it all back together again. I had never felt so alive and liberated. I emerged out of it a new, stronger person. I was ready to do what I wanted to do without having to answer to anyone. I was looking forward to being alone. Which, if you know me, and I’m guessing you might not, you know that I loathe being alone[that’s why I had kids actually. So that I wouldn’t have to go to McDonald’s and eat by myself]. I was just ready to sow my wild oats. I don’t even know what that means but I wanted to do it.

Didn’t see that one coming
Two months later I went to a party at a friend’s house. There weren’t really any oats to sow there, wild or otherwise. But there was this guy. I had already been there for about an hour or so and was actually trying to figure out how to duck out gracefully when he showed up. He walked in with his beer in one hand and baseball cap on his head and I decided I needed to

The night it all began

stay for at least a little while longer. Six hours to be exact! I have to admit there was no light from heaven, nor were there any angels singing or anything like that when he walked in, but something definitely happened. We flirted the entire night! It was awesome. The next day there was a friend request waiting for me when I opened Facebook. Awwww! I know right? Then the next night we started chatting and by the end of the week we were making plans for the future. It was crazy! We were up until 3 and 4 in the morning talking on the phone every single night. I don’t know how we did it. All my ideas of conquering the world on my own flew right out the window. Because I had found the person I was meant to be with. No, no…the real person I was meant to be with. Our week of late night chats revealed a lot to me. Not just about him but about me and my past. I figured out all the reasons why my first marriage didn’t work. And why I wanted to try it again. I found out that he and I both put the tea pitcher back in the fridge when it’s empty so we don’t have to wash it again before the next pot is brewed. That we both have the same values in life. That we both cherish our children and being a part of a loving family. And that you always put the knives in the dishwasher blade down so if you trip and fall on the open dishwasher door with the bottom tray out you won’t stab your eyeball and blind yourself. We were finishing each others sentences and all that other stuff that happens when you find your soul mate. And we just knew.

Blending it all together
We also knew that things weren’t going to be easy. But it didn’t matter. First and foremost we needed to get our divorces. Yeah, we were both that fresh out of bad marriages. Then there were my parents. I know they were only concerned about me but they weren’t exactly accepting of any of this. Then there was the matter of the kids. We each had a set of three. How were we going to ease them into this? We took everything very slowly. With my parents, with our kids, with our friends. It was sooo hard!! Oh my gosh!! None the less we did what was best for the kids. Because honestly we didn’t really care what anybody else thought. We did, however, want the kids to adjust well. So he met my kids, I met his kids then a few weeks later his kids met my kids. The kids had no idea we were “together”. We were just hanging out with some friends *wink*. We would steal kisses when the kids weren’t looking and then just pal around when they were. After about a month or so we started holding hands occasionally. Then we would add some more affection in a few weeks later. Really trying to ease them in. We were very mindful of the kids in this whole situation and wanted to make sure we did everything right. And I feel like we did. After about 6 months my daughter asked Gary to marry me. Yep, she wrote him a little note that read “Gary, please marry my mom.” He keeps it in his wallet. He says so that when she’s a teenager and gets mad and screams “I wish you had never married my mom!” he can whip it out as proof. Gary officially proposed in February 2010 at the Winter Jam concert in front of everyone and live on the local Christian radio station. It was the most special moment. We married 4 months later in the most amazing ceremony! It was saturated in love and the Spirit of God. We had vows for the children and a sand ceremony for the whole family. Amazing. Then we all moved into our new home together. I am not gonna lie to you. It has been the most awesome, rewarding thing I have ever been a part of! Blending two families together can be quite the challenge though. I guess it’s different for everybody. I was told it was going to be horrible and that it wasn’t going to work. I believe the reason it does work for us is because we put God first. I also believe it works because it’s His plan for us. And…we’re all pretty flexible. Not the kind of flexible our 13-year-old daughter is, but flexible.