Wednesday, November 26, 2014

It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like.....

Since Rick and I have been married we have always put up our Christmas tree after Thanksgiving. Normally, we decorate on the weekend following the November holiday. I have always liked waiting until after Thanksgiving, feeling like each holiday deserved its own special attention. I hate that stores start decorating and commercials for Christmas start running right after Halloween. So, on the Saturday after Thanksgiving we'd trim the tree and hang the stockings.

But, once the grandkiddos started arriving it became a bit stressful to host 2nd Thanksgiving and try to decorate all in one weekend. We normally go to my sister's for Thanksgiving Day, so we have a second Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday to be able to spend the holiday with Kaysen and Kiyah since they are with their Momma's family on Thursday.

Noah wanted to start listening to Christmas music as soon as Halloween was over in October. He couldn't wait until Hallmark Channel started running their Christmas movies and he was not sure why we had to wait until after Thanksgiving to put up the tree. I tried to explain to him that we always wait until after Thanksgiving to start any sort of Christmas festivities. He didn't really see my reasoning, so I obliged as far as the movies went, but insisted we wait to decorate.

We had plans to visit Devin in PA today for pre-Thanksgiving dinner, but some surprise snow changed that for us. So, today became the perfect day to trim the tree and decorate the rest of the house.

I am actually gald we did it today because now there will be no rushing this weekend. We can enjoy dinner and time with the grandkiddos.

And we are watching Elf while packing and cooking in preparation for tomorrow.

Traditions can always change.    

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Desires of My Heart

When Rick and I got married we had two cars that fit our new family of five, but if we added to our brood or if our kiddos grew (ha, ha), we would need more room. So, we went out and purchased a van that allowed our kiddos to spread out, us to add to our crew and me to haul around my day care kiddos for a few years before Noah arrived. It was the perfect van for us and served us well for 12 years.

As the time to look for a new vehicle grew closer, I really felt like a Honda Pilot was the way to go for our family. I wanted to get away from a mini van, but have a third row option for when we had the grandkiddos. My sisters both have Pilots, so I was pretty set on finding one and making it work for our family. Although, in the back of my mind, in the secret places of my heart, I really wanted a Chevy Traverse. Friends of ours had purchased one a few years earlier and I loved the look of it, the third row option and I just wanted one. But, I figured we could never afford one, so a Honda Pilot it was!

Rick decided that January 2014 was the perfect time for us to purchase a 'new to us' vehicle, so the search started on MLK's birthday while we had the day off from school/work. Some dealerships were having a few deals and we had a trade in and nice down payment, so off we went. We looked at several vehicles, including a Honda Pilot, but got settled on an MDX. Unfortunately, the financing was not working out, so we had to start the search all over near the end of the business day and with the possibility of a significant snow storm looming.

We ended up at a dealership that had a Town and County minivan that was exactly like the one we borrowed from friends' for our 2009 trip to TX. It had a lot more bells and whistles and was in our price range.   

But, when I drove it, it felt weird. I couldn't quite explain it, but it was not the car I thought our family needed.

Then the salesman told us a Chevy Traverse had just been brought in and had not even been processed yet, but we could test drive it and if we felt like it would work for us, he would make it happen.

As soon as I drove the car, I knew it was what we needed and what we wanted. I loved everything about it, even though it is not brand new, nor full of extras (I really wanted heated leather seats), but it is perfect for us.

And this week, as I contemplated how very differently my life has turned out since marrying Rick and blending our families, I was reminded that God does know and remembers our secret heart's desires, even in something so trivial as a car.

And I know that those other desires He planted will bloom when He determines that it is time and I am ready.

God is so BIG even in the little details of our lives. So in awe of that today.   

Saturday, November 15, 2014

One Year Later

Life as a middle schooler is hard. Sixth grade is a shock to the girl who was a big fish in a small pond, popular with the students she has been friends with since kindergarten. Especially, for someone who is starting at a new school where she only knows those she met during the summer bridge program. Add in having to open her locker with a combination lock and ride a bus to and from school for the first time ever and her mind will be blown and it will take a while to adjust and actually like school again.

But, then let her and her best friend of 6 years have a knockdown drag out fight that lasts a few months and makes an everlasting break in her heart and middle school becomes unbearable. She struggles to be happy and to even smile.

She learned to lean on new friends who suddenly understood her more than anyone ever had because now they were all dealing with growing pains and lost relationships and middle school woes. She grew and she changed and she blossomed. Even though, it was hard and heartbreaking, she did not let it completely break her.

She misses her best friend and the relationship they had, but has realized that people change and life is hard, but she can be joyful and smile again.

And she has.

She has started to sing and laugh and be social again. Going to birthday parties, hanging out at the mall, having sleepovers and inviting friends over to our house.

It does this Momma's heart good to see her daughter, who is quickly becoming a young woman, to surround herself with friends that she will probably have for a lifetime.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Where We Are

Life is heartbreakingly beautiful. And messy. Really messy. But, still beautiful. And here is where ours is right now.....

Our oldest son is a drug addict. He has suffered with addictions for a good part of 6 years now. His addiction has taken him to prison and taken him away from his family, true friends and children. He struggles with being accepted and loved for who he is, addictions, tattoos and all and it has broken him in many places. Just when he seems to be turning things around, he struggles. And his struggle is hard and it is real and it affects all of us. I know that he wants to break the cycle of addiction and be with his precious family, but sometimes what we want and what we choose to allow to happen are so different. I know that God's love is bigger than any rejection he has suffered at the hands of his biological father and his side of the family. And God is a loving Father that keeps His promises of redemption. I am believing with a mustard seed size of faith that God will save my son and allow him to be reunited with his family and have the future he was promised when I carried him in my womb. And for a job. He needs something he can be proud of for himself.

Our oldest daughter just started talking to us again after 4 years of a strained and broken relationship. It has been such a sweet thing to see her reconnect with her Daddy, her younger siblings and with me. She pursued us and desires for our family to be reunited and to grow. It will be a different growth process than we imagined as much time has past and much hurt has taken place, but she is in counseling and we have all had to set boundaries and begin to have a new respect for each other. The past has been placed behind us with a renewed desire for love and family. She is dating a remarkable young man and we are eager to see them continue to plan for their future. A 2016 wedding is in the works. And we are also eager for more grandbabies. Grandbabies are good.

Our middle son was just discharged from the Marines of his own volition. It became too hard for him to honor his commitment for four years and he asked his biological mother to hire him a lawyer that would advocate for his release. It took a few months, but he was released in September. Four months before his firstborn daughter will enter this world. At 19, he was without a job, but very much with a girlfriend and a child on the way. He has since moved back to MD, started driving school and secured a job, but is learning much about being in a long term relationship and becoming a parent. He also recently started talking to us again after a 2 month span of silence. There is much brokenness in his past as well and it was easier to try and bury it than face it. Now, we tiptoe through rebuilding a relationship with him and his gf, hoping for honesty and maturity as the guides for better, healthier relationships with me, his Daddy and his younger siblings.    

Neither of my stepchildren want to rebuild any type of relationship with my son and at first, that hurt and I was angry. But, for now, I know that our family dynamic is not what I would want or what I expected, but it is what it is. We spend time with my son and his children and enjoy our time with them. And we are planning the holidays for the first time in years with both my stepchildren. And I am okay with that. Now. I want real, authentic time with my children and if that has to happen in different segments, that is okay. I didn't choose it, they did. Their choices brought us to this place, but I am thankful to have time with each of them. Whatever that looks like. No blame, no regret, nothing fake.

I am cautiously optimistic about the holidays and my realtionships with my adult children. Parenting does not end at 18 or get any eaiser or less complicated as children grow up and move away. Especially if you want to be a parent that is continually vested in your children's future and wellbeing. The love and worrying is intensified.

Our youngest daughter is a beautifully, artistic and complicated 12 year old. She is amazingly creative and talented. She attends a performing arts school where she is pursuing her love of music/vocal. She is loyal and fiercely independent and opinionated. She spends more than the suggested daily screen time on her iPod and this summer we found out that she was accessing inappropriate sites and had maintained a internet friendship for 3 years that we were unaware even existed.  But, she desires to live purely and was so repentant and has made the proper changes with her internet access. She has tremendous compassion and such a tender heart. She cares deeply for her siblings and deals with depression at times due to our complex family dynamics and her obesity. She struggles with making the right food choices and being active. We do not help her, as my husband and I also struggle with obesity and being emotional eaters. She tries to not let it bother her, but most shopping trips end in tears.  I want her to be healthy, not be concerned or consumed with the number on the scale. I want her to be content with who she is, who God made her to be, but we are doing her a great disservice by not pursuing a healthier, consistently active lifestyle for ourselves and our family. I feel the heaviness of the guilt of her weight gain. As a mother, I should have never let it get to this point.

Our youngest son is a quirky young man with a bent for anime, video games and art. He is crazy talented and can draw like nobody's business. He has applied to attend the same performing arts school as his older sister. He is also wicked smart and enjoys science, technology, engineering and math, prompting him to also apply to the STEM program at my husband's school. I am praying he gets into the STEM program, as I think it would help the somewhat strained relationship that my husband and son have. My husband has a natural bent toward athletics and our youngest son does not. Although, he does like to dance like nobody's watching. He struggles with his emotions, wearing them on his sleeve, being overly sensitive at times. He feels very intimately and in such a big way. He is my snuggling buddy and very much the baby of the family. He loves his blanket, even at 10 and is offended when it is washed or left behind during an outing. He lives a very black and white life with not a lot of room for gray. He values honesty and expects promises to be kept. He is loyal and loving, as long as you are just as loyal and loving to him. He apologizes readily, but is not always as forgiving of others' mistakes. His lack of athletic prowess as caused him to gain some weight as well and he has become an avid snacker even with his newly diagnosed corn allergy.     

My husband is the rock that this whole dysfunctional family rests and depends on for stability and all the answers to life's daily problems and math/science homework. He is a dedicated husband and father, an intensely hard worker and wicked intelligent man. He is currently teaching three classes with no curriculum as a long term substitute and is doing a better job than the veteran teachers at his school. He is highly admired by his administrators and colleagues, alike. But, he struggles balancing work, home and leisure. He is also struggling with his weight which is affecting his health and energy levels. He desires to give 100% and is able to juggle his responsibilities most of the time, but has struggled with mild depression and become overwhelmed with being all for everyone lately. I see it, know it and yet struggle myself with motivation and desire to do well domestically and in my career, so I find myself judging instead of helping more often than not. The struggle is real. And marriage is hard, but we are dancing this life with each other and even though I forget to let him lead or step on his toes, we are doing it together and it is still beautiful. And he is good looking and awesome in bed, so balances out pretty well. He is also a man if integrity and does his best to lead us spiritually. He is also in his last semester of college. He is an inspiration for pursuing his dream to teach well after some would say he should be in school. He is such a great example of determination for our children.

And then there is me. My misplaced expectations has caused me to miss some pretty awesome parts of this 14 year journey that my husband and I have been on with our blended family. I was sure I could make sure everyone was happy and healthy, loving the Lord and changing the world. I never expected out story to include such brokenness. I thought the brokenness had come before our marital union. I was sure God was going to allow me to see that my children saved, sane and successful. But, I needed to get out of the way and let God doing the moving and the changing. I ignored my own brokenness and vulnerability and found myself depressed, bitter and riddled with guilt. It was all about me - my fault, what I didn't/did do, what I couldn't change/fix - such selfishness that caused me to sleep more than engage in my older and younger children's lives. And my weight got out of control and I allowed myself to pass the blame from myself to God. God and I have been there before and He is so gracious. I am slowly, but surely coming back to a right relationship with Him, realizing that I am the one that needs to change. By His grace and mercy alone.

I am currently working as a teacher's assistant and enjoy it, but secretly desire to be a stay at home momma. I know that is not an option for now or the near future and at times it angers and stifles me as a mother and wife. I know that where we are physically and financially is our doing and that there is a way that we are working toward to change it all, but it takes time. And I may never be able to be at home full time. But, I also know that my gifting is teaching and oh, how our world needs teachers dedicated to shaping our students for the future. I am afraid I will fail them, just like I have failed my own kiddos and that it is too big a task. Again, forgetting how amazingly big and awesome God is. He has a plan, is still writing my story and I need to actively get involved in it. I need to get back to school, get my Master's, start writing my book, finish my wedding scrapbook, develop that film....go back to living even when it is painful. There is beauty in the broken. 

Every time I update this blog, I feel stressed and get a headache. Getting my story out is exhausting. But, worth it, even though I am pretty sure no one is even reading here anymore. Maybe someone who needs to know they are not alone in this blended family journey will providentially find my blog. Someone needs my story. Not just me.              

Love Yourself

Yesterday was a bit hard on this Momma's heart. I finally took Noah to a PT to have his toe walking issue evaluated. Seems his muscle to...