To the stepmom bringing home her first baby…

I see you holed up in the dark nursery with your tiny newborn and sore nipples, learning how to breastfeed. You don’t have the option to sit and let it all hang out on your comfy couch in front of the TV like other new moms because you have a teenage stepson and that’s just weird.

I see you biting your tongue and clenching your fists every time your step kids want to hold your tiny, fragile bundle of joy. Did they wash their hands? Why do they need to hold him at all? Don’t breathe in his face! Don’t touch his face! Only touch his feet!

I see you guzzling down the diet soda as you figure out dinner not just for you and your husband, but for your growing stepchildren too. You wonder what it would be like to only have the stress that comes with a new baby instead of also feeling the weight of managing a household of six—the meals, the basketball games, the laundry.

Postpartum hormones alone are enough to make a woman feel overwhelmed, but throw in the complicated feelings of a blended family, and that is MORE than enough to make a woman feel completely CRAZY.

I am here to tell you that you are not crazy. You are going to feel a lot of different emotions when you bring your baby home from the hospital. Some of these feelings may even come as a surprise to you because you have a positive relationship with your stepchildren. You may feel like you walked into the hospital to give birth feeling one way about them and walked out hours (or days!!) later feeling a completely different way toward them.

You may not feel like sharing your baby. That’s okay. You may also be mourning the life you thought you would have – you know, the one where you get married and experience parenthood for the first time with your partner. It’s okay to be sad that he’s already done this before.

But mama, it will get easier. Your hormones will gradually level out. Your baby will become sturdier, and when you’re ready, you’ll let others hold him so that you can do things like brush your teeth and wash your hair. Now that’s a benefit most new mamas don’t have! Oh, and remember how you were sad that your husband has done this before? Now you are thankful that you have a partner who already knows what to do and is comfortable with a teensy tiny baby.

Not only will you start to find a groove, but you’ll also find sweet moments of joy. When your stepson makes your baby giggle like no one else can. When you find your 11-year-old stepdaughter is more nurturing than you ever knew. When your 14-year-old stepdaughter steps up and shows leadership. When they fight over whose turn it is to change the baby’s diaper or help with his bath. When you’re all on the floor, cheering him on as he takes his first steps. When they come home from their bio-mom’s house and can’t wait to see their baby brother.

I won’t lie to you. Blended families are no joke. It can be a lot to juggle, especially when bringing a tiny human into the mix. But I am finding that in between the moments of chaos, they can also be wonderful. The bond between siblings transcends DNA and in our case, a several year age gap, and it really is something special to witness.

So hang in there, Mama Bear. You’ve got this.

 

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Baby is Coming.

We’re all aware that winter is coming… but did you know that BABY is coming?!

In honor of the upcoming season premiere of Game of Thrones… I present you… our GoT-inspired pregnancy announcement.

We are SO excited to announce the upcoming arrival of our first baby together–a baby boy!

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Dear Taylor Swift…

So here’s the thing:  I love Taylor Swift and her music.  If you have been reading my blog for a while, then you probably already knew that from this previous post.  The kids also just so happen to LOVE Taylor Swift.  They decided to write her letters asking her to come to our wedding.  The best thing about kids is that they come up with these larger than life ideas, and they believe ANYTHING is possible.  I promised the kids I would do my best to get the letters to T. Swift, and with that in mind, I figured what the heck?  Let’s post this.  Here are the kiddies’ sweet letters and pictures 🙂

#1’s letter (our 11-year-old daughter)

#1's letter to T.Swift
#1’s letter to T.Swift

Text:

Dear Taylor Swift,

My name is —–, age 11.  My whole entire family loves your music.  My dad and his future wife “Christina” are getting married, we are wondering if you could come and sing some songs!  My sister and I went to your concert not to long ago and you are my favorite singer of all time!  I have a sister and a brother.  We also have an adorable puppy named Frodo!  We have lots of cousins, one of them is —-, as you can see she loves your music more than anyone, and again if you could come we would love it!

Sincerely,

—-

#2’s letter (our 9-year-old son)

#2's letter to T.Swift
#2’s letter to T.Swift

Text:

Dear Taylor Swift,

My dad and Christina are getting married and if you could come and sing that would be great.  My sisters went to the concert not to long ago but I diddint go I have wanted to hear you sing for a long time so once again can you please come.

Sincerely,

The … Family

#3’s letter (our 7-year-old daughter)

#3's letter to T.Swift
#3’s letter to T.Swift

Text:

Dear, Taylor Swift

My dad and his fiancée are getting married.  And I was at your concert last year.  And can you come and sing at the wedding?

Sincerely,

….

And Taylor Swift they are in deep love.

Reaping the Rewards

Last weekend I was making good on a promise I had made to #3 to take her to get her nails done as a special treat for a recent accomplishment. I planned on asking #1 if she wanted to come along, although I suspected she would say no as she hasn’t shown interest in these sorts of things.

Before I had a chance to ask #1 if she wanted to join, she enthusiastically said, “Can I come??”  I said, “Of course!  Do you want to get your nails done?”  And to my astonishment, she said yes!  Both girls shrieked with excitement while they hurriedly got dressed to leave.

In my recent T. Swift post, I mentioned briefly that I’ve had the most difficulty bonding with RM’s oldest—his 10-year-old daughter (#1).  She’s been very sweet to me 95 percent of the time, but the other 5 percent of the time, it’s been tough.  She is 10 after all—and the oldest—so it’s only natural that it’s a bit more difficult with her.

Over the past year, I’ve held firm to the “let them come to you” approach.  It’s been a difficult balance as the younger two have taken to me much more quickly and have become increasingly affectionate over the past several months—hugs, cuddles, “I love you’s”—the whole bit.  However, I began worrying that I was waiting too long for #1 to come to me.  Perhaps it wasn’t a good idea after all.  Would my newfound closeness with #2 and #3 make her feel isolated and do the opposite of what I was hoping?

Since #1 wasn’t ready for the same type of love as #2 and #3 were, I had to find other ways to show her love and affection.  I would stand up for her if she had been waiting patiently for her turn on the I-pad.  I would ask her opinion about things, even the inconsequential things like, “What do you think of this shirt?  Does it match?”  I shared “secrets” with her, like what I was planning for RM’s birthday, and told her that she was allowed to know because she was the oldest, creating the dynamic of trusted allies.

While the past year has not been filled with cuddle sessions between #1 and me, I am starting to reap the rewards of my patient approach, demonstrated by the turn of events at the T. Swift concert and last Saturday.  Hearing #1 sweetly thank me for taking her to the nail salon and seeing her look down at her toes and smile with excitement warmed my heart.  It didn’t matter what had happened up to that point.  At that moment, it felt like a solid “win” to me.

Here is a pic of the finished products:

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P.S. Those are my mammoth feet in the bottom right corner.  What was I thinking with that color?

T. Swiftly Changing My Perspective

Two years ago, I embraced my inner-tween and went to see Taylor Swift with two of my gal friends on the Washington, D.C. stop of T. Swift’s Speak Now Tour.  My friend P was nursing a broken heart at the time, and I was single but longing to meet my Mr. Right.  As I watched the tears stream down P’s face during T. Swift’s heart-wrenching rendition of “Back to December,” I remember thinking,

That’s it.  The next time I see Taylor Swift, I want to be in the arms of my soulmate.

Naturally, when T. Swift tickets went on sale last December for her Seattle stop on her Red Tour, I was more than a little excited.  It had been over a year since I went to the last Taylor Swift concert, and not only was I ready to see her in concert again, but I was lucky enough to have met “the one” during that timeframe.  Perfect!, I thought to myself as thoughts of RM and me smooching during “Love Story” swirled about in my head.

That fairytale came crashing down when RM decided to purchase not two tickets but three.  His reasoning?  “Well, I thought we could just sell the third ticket… or maybe, we could take #1?”  (#1 is what I’ll call RM’s oldest.)  Since we were relatively early on in our relationship, I didn’t quite feel comfortable enough to tell RM that I would actually prefer it just be the two of us.   (It’s been a challenge and delicate balance for me to learn when to speak up for my needs and when to put the kids/family time first.  A continuous learning process as a future stepmom!)

After nine months of many moments of RM’s youngest (#3), belting out many a Taylor Swift song, RM and I had a talk and thought that perhaps it made more sense for me to take both girls to the concert.  After all, #3 seemed even more excited than #1.

Wait a minute, I thought to myself.  This was supposed to be a romantic night of smooching my sweetie during the sweet melodies of T. Swift and screaming tweens.  I mean, I saw the logic—#3 was excited, and was it really a good idea to take #1 with RM and me when she seemed to be the one who was most competitive with me for RM’s attention?  Needless to say, despite the logic, I was having some difficulty reining in my Green Monster.

Then it came.  Saturday, 31 August 2013.  Concert day.  I sucked it up, told my Green Monster that she wasn’t invited—there were only three tickets afterall—and put on a happy face, ready to take the girls to their first concert.  My attitude quickly changed when we arrived at one of our favorite restaurants in Tacoma, called BJ’s, and looked around to see the restaurant filled with moms and their pint-sized daughters in cowboy boots.  There was no denying it—most of the patrons of BJ’s that night were headed to the same place we were.

When T. Swift took the stage, #1 looked at me with a big smile and gave me a thumbs up.  #3 stood on the seat next to me with her arm around me, singing “22” as loud as she could, and then spent most of the remainder of the night sleeping on my shoulder as I held her and swayed to the music.  The mom to the right of me, also holding her sleeping 7-year-old, nodded to me in the way that I can only imagine moms nod to each other.  I felt solidarity with her, as if I had gained admittance into the “mom club.”  Even though I’m not technically the girls’ mom, or even their stepmom yet, that night I sure felt like I was.  And it felt good.

Sometimes we have our heart set on something we think we want, and if we’re not willing to adapt and rein in that ugly Green Monster, we might miss out on something that is so much better.  I’ve gotten to listen to the girls’ gush over how much fun their first concert was over the past two days, and I imagine this is something that we’ll all remember for the rest of our lives.

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The very fancy souvenir bag we picked up off the ground.  We heart free stuff–even when it’s a bag!

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The view from our seats.  Not bad!  Even better when she took the smaller stage at the back of the floor.  We were only 22 rows up!

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The line at the merch table.  Hideous!  Can anyone say “online shopping?”  My thoughts exactly.

Lice Happens: Part Trois

We didn’t make it home from the lake until nearly 2:00 in the morning, following the infamous bat incident of 2013.  We were exhausted.  We were cranky.  We felt defeated.  Thus began a week-long event of daily 6-8 hour head checks/shampoos/mousses/nit combs and round-the-clock laundry.  The only saving grace during all of this chaos was when RM’s youngest randomly blurted out, “I love you” as I was treating her hair.  It wasn’t the first time she had said it to me, but it might have been the sweetest.  Here I was, stressed beyond belief, just praying to make it through the week, and she looked up at me with her big innocent blue eyes and said “I love you.”  That made it all worth it.

During the next several days, I continued to conduct several, and by several I mean at least 200, internet searches about lice shampoos, lice life cycles, natural remedies, cleaning your home, etc.  Obsess much, Christina?  You betcha.  When we started spotting newly-hatched lice nearly a week later, even after the second round of lice shampoo, we were at a loss.  Why couldn’t we kick this??

That’s when I found www.girlsgonechild.net’s post on her family’s experience fighting lice and finding Ladibugs Elimination Kit.  One word:  miraculous.  We haven’t seen any eggs or lice since treating.  We’ve done several more rounds of the mousse just to be sure we’re in the clear, but we’ve basically declared victory at this point.

While we’ve been in the clear for almost a whole week now (that is cause for celebration!), I’ve left out the culmination of the story.  There’s more?, you ask.  Oh yes, my friend.  You will be glad you’ve made it this far in my lengthy blog posts.  After our week from H-E-double hockey sticks, it was time to take the kids back to their mom (who from here on out I will refer to as EW for “Ex-Wife”) and her boyfriend.  Our biggest fear?  That EW would have lice and pass it back to the kiddies, therefore making all of our countless hours and hundreds of dollars spent for naught.  For this reason, I offered to check her head while we were there.  She said she had done three lice shampoos “just in case,” but that no one had actually checked her head.

EW graciously agreed and as she sat down under the light said, “Well, this is humbling.”  I assured her that we had all been in her position over the past two weeks, and therefore understood how she was feeling.  However, I suspected that her embarrassment was less about having lice and more to do with her ex-husband’s girlfriend picking the lice out of her head.  (What is it they say about Karma?)  I soon found that she was INFESTED with eggs, but thankfully, no live lice.  RM and I spent the next two and a half hours picking nits out of her hair, with me taking the lead and spending more QT with EW than I ever thought I would.  Next we were checking her boyfriend’s hair.  Let me just say, finding WHITE eggs on WHITE hair is equivalent to a needle in a haystack.  Thankfully, everyone was a good sport, and we all laughed about the awkward situation in which we found ourselves.  Although I can think of many things I’d rather do than shampoo my boyfriend’s ex-wife’s hair, I honestly think it was probably good for the kids to see all of us laughing together and helping each other.  Sure, the set-up isn’t your average, traditional family, but this will be our normal, and right now it’s working just fine.

Lice Happens: Part Deux

Just when we thought our plight could not worsen, we arrived at the entrance of the state park only to realize that RM’s mom was no longer behind us.  She had a tire blowout on her boat trailer and was waiting for a tow truck.   We opted to head to the boat launch where we would sail to our campsite before someone else snagged it and wait for RM’s mom there.

We treated RM’s oldest when we got to the lake, just for good measure—she was the one who had it a month prior, so we figured chances were high that she either still had it or had it again.  The next 48 hours were spent swimming, boating, relaxing, and pretending we didn’t have lice, to the best of our ability.  (I think this was easier for the kids than it was for me.)  We did countless, useless shampoos with tea tree oil in the lake, at my behest, thinking it might make a difference, only to find out we were probably just washing out the lice shampoo and making it less effective.  Apparently lice prefer clean hair.  Awesome.

We awoke the following day, eager to start fresh.  RM looked at me and said, “We made it.  Yesterday is over!”  There was no way it could get worse, right?  Little did we know…

We enjoyed a day at the beach—swimming, kneeboarding, and cliff jumping.  We went to sleep that night feeling fulfilled and happy, despite those bloodsucking buggers on our heads.  We awoke at 2:00 AM to three continuous hours of 30-40 mph winds, lightning, thunder, and hail.   I consoled the crying kids in the collapsed tent while RM held onto our sailboat for dear life, praying it wouldn’t tip over and break or damage the boats next to it.  We managed to get a few hours of sleep once the storm died down, but we awoke to a war zone, spending the next few hours sweeping sand out of the tent and collecting all of our belongings (and trash) that had scattered during the high winds.

After taking a peek at what that night’s weather report promised, we decided to hit the road.  But first, the kids and I would do one more lice shampoo.  I figured the house was safe by this point, so I didn’t want us bringing any of those suckers back with us.  What came next was a pre-teen breakdown from RM’s oldest, who couldn’t bear stripping down in front of me, followed by my own breakdown of feeling completely inadequate in my quest to take care of her.  Who was I fooling?  I wasn’t her mother.  I was soon comforted by RM’s mom singing James Blunt’s “So You Had a Bad Day.”  Boy, did I!

This brings me to the bat.  I know, I know—you were wondering when I was going to get to that, right?  After the girls were successfully shampooed by moi—we figured out a way to keep towels wrapped around them so no one was embarrassed—it was my turn.  There I stood, in those terrible hiking sandals, stifling back tears.  I was without a watch and alone in the bathroom, so I took a tip from the Friends episode, “The One with Ross’ Tan,” and counted.  One Mississippi.  Two Mississippi.  Three Mississippi.  Let me tell you, 10 minutes feels a lot longer when you’re counting by the second.

After my 10 minutes were up, I began to rinse when RM cracked the ladies’ room door open to ask me how it was going.  That is when he alerted me of the bat.

I slowly bent my knees and looked up cautiously.  Sure enough, I saw a bat, hanging upside down, only inches from my face.  Its furry little head nuzzling in its wings.  I proceeded to run out of the bathroom at full speed, carrying my towel in one hand, all the while crying, screaming, and laughing into RM’s arms.   What else could I do?

I was at the end of my rope.

Check back for the next post in the “Lice Happens” series to find out what we happened when we returned home and the experience in which RM and I never thought we would find ourselves!