Five Things: Memorial Day

ONE: We took the girls fishing for the first time this weekend… I was sure it would be a disaster, but they loved it. We used the live bait (worms) and bobber approach, and actually caught more fish than we had all year so far! They both loved holding the bass and throwing them back in the water. They loved grabbing the worms and watching their Daddy put them on the hook. SD4 actually caught about 4-5 bass by herself! Reeled them in and everything. It was wild. This was a day my husband and I will hold close to our hearts for many years to come.

TWO: There are major structural changes going down in my office. Some changes have been announced publicly, and some changes I know about because of my expert detective work. Regardless, I am hoping these changes will allow me to go for a promotion this summer! I am genuinely praying that the Lord will open up an opportunity for me where my career could develop for many years down the road. Wish me luck!

THREE: SD4 took her Kindergarten early entrance exam for BM’s school district about a week ago, and BM still has not told us how it went (although SD4 has told me twice that she did not pass). Maybe SD4 doesn’t know what she is talking about… or maybe BM is stalling to buy time, because she is dreading committing SD4 to our school district. Either way, I know the first real sit-down between my husband and BM in about two years is on the horizon [and I know I am not invited because I am a “distraction”]. The thought of a sit down (especially one I am not present for) terrifies me, but I know my husband can handle himself.

FOUR: My husband is working his tail off for us these days. We are going to the beach for a week at the end of June, and he has not let an “extra” work opportunity pass by, because he wants us to take as much “play money” as possible. He has actually said, “I want the girls to walk through the stores and buy whatever they want.” I am so thankful for everything he does for us, and really hope he thinks I pull my weight. Sometimes I question that about myself (i.e. a night home alone is much better spent with a Bud Light and Netflix than it is a dust rag and vacuum). But I don’t want to be a bench-warmer… I want to be a legitimate team player. Cheers to constant self-reflection and self-improvement!

FIVE: I’ve been dreaming a lot lately, which is out of character for me. Dreaming about the day when we have a big back yard and a grill. About the day we have a boat. About the day I get a baitcaster. About the day we have a Coke Zero fountain in the kitchen. About the day I am permanently tan without effort. Okay, maybe some of those won’t happen… but I’ve been dreaming! I know most people in their 20’s do not have “everything they have ever wanted,” but it is a little daunting to think about how many years it will take to make some of our dreams come true.

For now, I will keep prioritizing family, grinding at work, and keeping my chin up!

-Ashley

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Reasons to be Thankful.

I follow several different blended family blogs and social media accounts, one of my favorites being @stepmomquotes on Instagram. This page allows followers to direct message the admin questions, then the admin posts them for anyone to reply to.

As you can imagine, this page gets a little wild sometimes. But it has led me to realize that although our blended family is not yet a well oiled machine, we don’t have it as bad as others.

For example, BM has never once said anything negative about me to my husband, or to me directly. We see each other frequently, and our interactions are always neutral or positive. It seems like so many BM’s out there target their ex’s new significant other. Now don’t get me wrong, she was less than thrilled when I first made my entrance into the family, and she did have some expected words to say to my now-husband, but it was never anything off-the-wall.

Another example, anything high-conflict is always through email, texts, or calls (which we’re constantly trying to stray away from). And her “high-conflict” is never threatening, cursing, slandering, etc… her high-conflict is always just about her wanting to be in control of everything… she just wants the final say. Look, so what if she calls to pitch the exact same custody schedule that we pitched (and she denied) last month?! I don’t need the “credit” as long as time is continuously shared even. Do ya thang, baby-mama…

As far as we know, BM isn’t actively trying to turn the kids against us. This also seems to be a trend in the sites that I follow. I’m sure she tries to make herself seem more fun, likable, etc… but as far as we know, she isn’t downright telling the girls to dislike us, or saying negative things about us. SD4 is like a parrot, so I’m pretty sure we would know if BM was saying something crazy about us.

Last week, there was an article that went viral on social media about a family at Disney World (or Disney Land…?). There was a picture of the child, and then on either side stood her four parents, wearing shirts that said, “Mommy” “Daddy” “Stepmom” and “Stepdad.” I saw this post and “liked” it on Facebook, thinking “we could never be like this.” When my husband saw that I “liked” it, he sent me a screen shot of a text from BM that morning. She had sent him the article, and wrote, “I wish we could be like this.” I could not believe what I was reading… she actually wants things to be amicable! I was floored.

Again, we definitely do not have a perfect system. Our situation is a seemingly constant struggle for time- having shared physical custody- and a difference in parenting styles between the two households. We could have it so much worse. We are over two years into this, and the chaos has definitely minimized as the time has passed. I am looking forward to seeing how the conflict hopefully continues to minimize.

When things get tough, I remind myself of these facts. I remind myself that there is still hope for us to do this two-houses thing right, and to be great role models, support systems, and parents to these baby girls.

Mother’s Day Recap

Well, well, well…

What a long few weeks it has been! Things have been pretty crazy at work (different post for a different day), and I haven’t had a chance to see my therapist (i.e. this keyboard).

The first thing I want to write about and process is Mother’s Day. We’re about 9 days past Mother’s Day, but after the way I left you in the last post, I felt like a recap was necessary.

Mother’s Day, as expected, was a normal day for me and my husband. We drove about an hour away and spent most of the day fishing in new places. We ended the evening with dinner at our favorite spot from the town I lived in when we were long-distance. He did tell me “Happy Mother’s Day,” which was totally not necessary, but appreciated.

The girls were so sweet surrounding Mother’s Day. The two-year old (SD2) painted me a plate at school with her little handprint looking like a flower, and at the top was written, “Love Grows Here.” The back of the plate said, “Mother’s Day 2017.” She gave it to me the Thursday evening before Mother’s Day and obviously, I was shocked! It meant the world to me, and she was so excited to give it to me. When I dropped her off at school the next morning, I thanked her teacher for thinking of me. She replied that she is also a stepmom, and she “gets it.” She also went on to say how excited SD2 was to paint both me and BM a plate, and how she was very particular about what color handprint I had versus what color handprint BM got. That sounded just like my baby…

The evening before Mother’s Day, the girls gave me a card my husband had helped them to purchase. It was a surprise that we even saw them that evening, so I’m not sure how those logistics played out. The day after Mother’s Day, the four-year old (SD4) brought me a card she made at school with a little crafted heart inside, that read, “Mom, I love you to pieces!” She was so excited to give it to me! I love how big both of the girls hearts are, and how much they care about me and their Dad.

Mother’s Day, as with all holidays, is not about the gifts, but it was sweet to be recognized in those small ways. I can say that the time leading up to Mother’s Day was more dreadful than the actual day. I did not cry about the girls, or cry about my mom on Mother’s Day. In fact, I didn’t cry at all! It was a great day spent with my husband doing something we love to do. I have no complaints.

I am confident that over the years, things will become more routine and hopefully, I won’t overthink Mother’s Day as it approaches. I know there will always be certain voids in my heart, but overall I know that I have an amazing family in my husband and babies, and I will always be loved and supported through thick and thin.

Life is good, and I am a very blessed Stepmama!

Mother’s Day

I’ve been piecing this post together for months… Just as I’ve been dreading this holiday for months…

I’ve never experienced pain the way that I feel when thinking about being a motherless, childless stepmom on Mother’s Day.

I’ve hated Mother’s Day ever since 2003. My “Mumma” (my grandma who raised me as her own) passed away in March 2003… I was 12 years old. That Mother’s Day was rough for me. As the years passed, I relied more and more on the fact that one day, I would be a mother, and then the day would have meaning again. I would have kids that through thick and thin, would be there for me. Kids who would be doing life every day with me. I knew I would be a great mom. Ever since 2003, I’ve known that was the goal.

Flash forward to Mother’s Day 2017, which will be here Sunday. I am a stepmom [and I love my stepkids]. But I am what they call a “childless-stepmom,” meaning, I have no biological children. A motherless-childless-stepmom on Mother’s Day. Great. I won’t even get to see or speak to my babies on Mother’s Day.

What hurts the most is when I see posts from men talking about how seeing their wife carry and give birth to their child was this awe-inspiring event. When they say things like, “I thought I loved her before, but I had no idea how much I loved her until I saw her give birth to our child.”

I’m not just a motherless-childless-stepmom this Mother’s Day… that is all I will ever amount to. I will never have biological kids due to my husband’s vasectomy. My Mother’s Day’s will always be painful… they will always be a reminder that my mother is gone, and a reminder that my kids are “just” my stepkids. A reminder that their BM got to carry them and plan for them with my husband. With my prince charming. My better half, not hers. Mother’s Day will always remind me that when I’m old and gray, if my husband passes away before me, no one will be there to take care of me. I’ll be alone. Mother’s Day will always remind me that I will never get to look at my child and wonder if it looks more like me or my husband.

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My husband… *swoon*… prior to reading this post, will probably not have any idea that I’m dreading Mother’s Day… How could he? He has great parents, and his Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are nothing but positive. But how can he love me knowing that I’ll never give him a child? Literally every dad out there will tell you, “I thought I loved her before, but I had no idea how much I loved her until I saw her give birth to our child.” He will never have that with me. He had those feelings with someone else. What can I ever do to push his love for me over the edge like that?! Nothing. I guess he instinctively will have mediocre love for me forever, without even realizing it.

And me… Mother’s Day… ugh. Will I ever even know true love? Another thing parents always say is, “I never knew love until I had my child.” So are the rest of us just fake-in-love? Do I even know what love is? How can I even show my stepdaughters love if I don’t know what love is? One of our good family friends literally looked me in the face recently and said, “You can never love your stepkids the way you love your biological kids. You don’t get it because you don’t have kids.” Will Mother’s Day always just be me constantly revisiting this conversation? When I think about it, it’s so draining.

I have a lot of feelings surrounding this topic… I swear, I could write a novel. But I don’t want to. I don’t want to dwell on the things that are out of my control. I know normally I try to wrap my posts up with positivity, but for this one, it’s all pain. I can’t tie a pretty pink bow on this one, or smile as I write it. This is real, raw emotion.

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What I can say positive is that my husband is awesome. And the fact that he had a vasectomy was never a surprise. And I know if he could take the pain I feel towards this day away, he would. He will, actually. I definitely won’t be sitting around the house lonely and depressed on Sunday. We will be together and do life like we do every day… which I should mention, every day with him is pretty amazing. He shows me love every day that is far beyond “mediocre love.” So I don’t know what I did to deserve that, but it’s pretty great. And our girls are the best. They truly are my whole world, even though I apparently “can’t love them like my own.”

I am hoping that next year, I can reflect on this post, and see that I’m in a better place. I’m hoping that each year, this gets a little easier. I know this will always be a huge void in my life. I know that I will always have huge insecurities with my husband because I cannot have a child with him, and I know I will always resent BM for having those moments with him. I know myself, and I know this will always be tough. But I’m hoping that as the years progress, my hateful feelings can shift perspective. Sometimes all we need is a new perspective. It’s all in God’s plan and God’s timing. I am faithful.

The Proposal

It has been six months since my now-husband proposed to me, and I still flash back to that moment often. Wow, how shocked I was, and how well thought out his master plan was…

We had been planning a trip to Atlanta, GA for months. He told me that he had an “all-day Sunday surprise excursion” for us. He decided he would give me a “clue” every Friday for about 8-weeks leading up to the trip. Clues ranged from, “we will be ‘picked up’ at least twice during the day,” to “the sensation will be under your feet.” He told me this was a three-part excursion and that we were being picked up that morning and chauffeured around. He told me this was all booked through a top-secret company in Atlanta that was heard about through word-of-mouth only. He even created a fake email account, and emailed himself [to show me] with confirmation of the booking. All roads led to skydiving, which I had no interest in doing. Nonetheless, I was excited for the trip and knew I would commit to whatever he had planned.

Now, I really need you all to understand he was working on this for at least three months… between the clues and the talking it up, I was stumped. In the beginning, I was confident this was all a big cover up for a proposal. As the trip drew near, he finally convinced me that was not the case. He had to go deep for that, and let me know that “he wasn’t ready” to be engaged. I was hurt, but understood… and that was what finally got me off of the proposal trail. My friend CML and I researched for two months about what he could possibly be planning…

He kept all of this a secret from nearly everyone. I don’t even think he told his parents until a couple of weeks prior. And he had everyone lying to my face… his coworkers, his parents… it was wild. I thought I could read his mom like a book, but I was wrong.

That Saturday morning, we woke up early and hit the road around 3am for our 7 hour drive. I am not a morning person, and ended up sleeping through the whole state of NC (copilot fail, I know). We arrived at our hotel around 10:15am (too early for check-in), changed in the hotel lobby bathrooms, and immediately hopped on the MARTA to go downtown to the spot I was most excited about, Olympic Park. I absolutely love the Olympics. Neither of us had ever been to Atlanta, and when we finally stepped onto the park grounds and saw the Olympic ring fountain, I was so excited. He then said he was going to go ask a woman to take our picture. While he walked over to her, I stood at the fountain in awe, looking at the torches that surround it. What I didn’t know was that while he was grabbing the woman, he was also tipping her off to what was about to happen…

We took a “normal” picture, and then he looked at me and said, “You ready?!” and dropped down on one knee. I kid you not, I totally blacked out in this moment. I’m sure he said, “Will you marry me?” but honestly I don’t remember. I do remember him holding up a ring that literally blinded me. While the nice woman kept snapping pictures, I remember repeatedly asking him, “Are you serious?! Are you serious?!” and I remember him saying, “So, is that a yes?” Poor guy, what a response I had… I guess I was able to say “yes,” because then I remember him jumping up to hug and kiss me. I was shaking. What an amazing moment! I was in disbelief. He thanked our new friend, then suggested we sit down at the fountain. Apparently it was obvious I needed a moment to collect myself.

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Proof of my sheer disbelief…

Over the next several minutes, we called and text relatives and close friends to share our great news. The time stamp on the pictures started at 10:43am… this was the first thing that happened on our trip. He didn’t waste any time. He was so excited and knew this would make the whole 4-day adventure our best one yet. Once we got ourselves together (okay, once I got myself together…), we found a spot to eat lunch, then took a tour of the CNN Center (Side note: This was 3 days before the Presidential Election… at the CNN Center… so you can imagine how out of place we felt). The trip continued to be the most memorable once I’ve had to date, including all the tourist attractions, so much good food, and so many kisses. But mostly the trip was just me staring at my ring, or intentionally taking pictures in a pose that would show it off (#MillennialProbs).

Four days and one car-wrecked-by-the-valet later, we were headed back home to Virginia. I was on cloud nine (while he was mostly just mad about the car). I still cannot believe he kept this a secret from me. I cannot believe the planning that went into it, or how well he executed it. I still remember exactly how I felt when he dropped to one knee, and for the immediate days following. I remember how proud I felt to walk around town with him wearing my ring. I remember how confident I was that every single person we passed noticed my ring, then looked at him and went “wow, how did she get him?!” Seriously, how did I get so lucky?!

After weighing our options, we ultimately eloped six weeks later. Although the scenery wasn’t nearly as beautiful as where he proposed, my view was just as captivating. That day, in that real estate office of that crazy old lady officiant, was the best day of my life. My husband changed my life forever, and I love looking back at our crazy, beautiful ride. The best news is, this is still only the beginning!

I love you, babe. Thank you for everything.

Common Sense

One of my biggest pet peeves in life is when someone has no common sense.

I know, this isn’t always that person’s fault, but come on…

Like at work. There are always so many examples of this at work. The person who unnecessarily “Replies All” to an email. The person who screams across the room instead of getting up and walking over to the person, or chatting them. The person who does not possess critical thinking skills, so they process every project they do out loud, even if it’s as simple as adding 2 + 2.

And in my blended family, the list goes on and on as well. Like the person who puts the toddlers in flats and short sleeves in the snow, but long sleeves and tall socks with tennis shoes when it’s 80 degrees. The person who lets them wear dresses and sandals to the playground, so they continuously trip and fall and bust up their faces, knees, etc. The person who blames the ringworm reappearance on the fact that we bought store-brand medication, instead of on the fact that she admittedly did not apply the medication as frequently as instructed.

I’m a huge fan of the Bobby Bones Show, and he does a segment called “Judge Common Sense.” Callers ask all sorts of questions, and Bobby Bones makes an expert ruling, solely using his common sense. He is always spot on… every single time. Maybe those without common sense don’t think so, but I do. It’s a hilarious segment, but it is wild to me that there is even a need for this! Come on, people! Just think!

Common sense [or lack thereof] is totally out of our control, but what is within our control is how we respond… or don’t respond. As with most things in life, we are only in control of ourselves and our actions. We can choose not to hit “Reply All” just to say “Thank you.” We can choose to check the weather before we pick outfits for those who rely on us to provide for them. We can choose not to instigate an altercation around these issues, but rather, to internally process our feelings and move forward. (Or externally in writing… thank you, WordPress.)

So take a deep breath, relax, and stay smart out there, people! Happy Monday, Friends! Don’t let your annoying coworker get you fired… and listen to the Bobby Bones Show. And buy his book, Bare Bones. That is all. (No, this is not an ad) (But Bobby seriously you could sponsor my blog)

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