Life Changes

I am a huge country music fan.

A few weeks ago, my husband surprised me with Thomas Rhett concert tickets! Which was a huge shock, not only because it was for no occasion, but also because he really doesn’t care for country music.

Anyway, we went to the concert last weekend and it was amazing. He had Walker Hayes and Dan + Shay opening, and they both were great! Especially Dan + Shay… they should be headlining their own tour, for sure!

I follow Thomas and also his wife, Lauren, on social media. They seem incredible. They are the same age as me (which btw, at the concert, he said “I was born in 1990… any other 27 year olds out there?!” and I screamed so loud I could have popped a blood vessel). Their love story is so touching. He puts her in basically every music video. Within the past year, they adopted a baby from Uganda, then found out they were expecting… so they ended up getting a 1 year old then having a new baby within a couple months of each other. Lauren works with a charity called 147 Million Orphans, a Christian ministry serving children effected by poverty in countries such as Uganda. Seriously, read this blog by Lauren about this ministry… absolutely incredible.

At the concert, Thomas sounded so personable, and so thankful for the opportunity he had to perform for us. He spoke about his kids and Lauren, even saying at one point, “My wife’s going to be so mad she’s missing this!” He changed the lyrics to Life Changes to incorporate the birth of their youngest daughter. Everything was so sweet… I had chills- and even tears– through most of the concert.

So why am I writing about a concert? Well honestly, I don’t know. I think it began with the fact that I’m still thinking about it, and still get chills. Additionally, I feel like I can relate to Thomas & Lauren. Thomas said that his life experienced more change in the last two years then he ever could have imagined… and I feel the same way! They got two kids at the same time, and so did I. They hit 27 and so did I (btw guys, we’re way closer to 30 than 20 now… just let that sink in). They faced challenges and growth at a rapid pace, and so did my husband and I.

We all could take a lesson from the Akins family. Their unapologetic displays of love for the Lord, as well as for each other. Their bravery as they share so much of their personal lives with the world, which I can only assume is in the spirit of being “real people” and role models. Their philanthropic hearts. This family is great.

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Meant to Be

Maybe God was preparing me to help raise these girls all along.

No, he definitely was. I know that I was placed in their lives for a reason. But maybe, he was preparing me in ways I haven’t considered yet.

Growing up nomadic… living at different points with my grandma, great-grandma, great-aunt and third-cousins, uncle & aunt, cousins & their spouses, even friends for some college breaks… I’m used to being with a lot of people, but feeling alone.

That’s exactly what it feels like to be a stepmom, and know you’ll never have any other kids. Surrounded by people, but still oftentimes feeling very alone.

Now don’t get me wrong… I always had a room and a bed growing up, but never had a nuclear family. The many family members I knew had no relationship with each other, but all had relationships with me. I was the in-between. I was isolated. 

And I never had my mother as my partner in crime, or my father to be daddy’s little girl. It was always just me and whoever my legal guardian was at the time.

I went to college, and almost completely lost contact with my entire family. I worked to maintain relationships with everyone, but seldom had genuine reciprocation. I built tough skin. I built a confidence that I was all I needed. I built resilience that children lucky enough to grow up in a “happy home” could not even begin to fathom.

I used to wonder, “Why me?!” “Why is this my life?” “Why couldn’t I be raised ‘normally?'”

All this to say… I now feel confident this was all in preparation to be a stepmom-only. 

On the one hand, I am fit to support the girls as they transition from home to home. I will understand if they ever feel tossed around, or if they ever feel like the “in-between” to relay information. I will sympathize with them when they inevitably overhear “family drama” and feel like they’re stuck in between a rock and a hard place.

And on the other hand, I am used to being surrounded by many, but feeling all alone. I can embrace being an outsider. I can recognize that blended families are hard to navigate, and persevere, like I’ve always done. In my moments of solidarity, I can bask in the all too familiar feeling it brings, and know that although life isn’t perfect, it’s still an amazing life to live.

You never know how your life experiences are going to impact you in the long run, but it’s a great feeling when you catch a glimpse of reason.

Quick Update

Today’s the day.

Back in July, DH and BM decided to amend the custody agreement to correct custody/child support since SD4 began Kindergarten. It seemed like they were on the same page, for once.

As history is repeating itself, now that she’s single again, she has wavered in her reasoning, and I’m not sure if she’s going to agree to these proper adjustments.

Today’s the day, 2 months after filing, that DH and BM go to mediation to make these adjustments.

Will she agree, or will we find ourselves back in court? Will our lawyer fees delay our moving into a new house next summer? Will she become more high-conflict than ever following today’s mediation?

Will her lack of reasoning abilities and high anxiety tendencies spike more than ever? Will she continue using our kids as an emotional crutch? When will she see that she’s hurting them? Will she ever?

Only time will tell. Say a prayer for my family as today could make or break our routine and morale.

… and special shout-out to the real MVP, my DH! He is steady as a rock today, and fully prepared to keep advocating for the best interest of our kids no matter what the cost. I love you, baby!

Double Life

How do you cope with your kids having a totally separate life from yours?

How do you cope with the fact that when your children aren’t with you, they’re with another parent/set of parents? They’re making those people feel like a million bucks, the same way they do to you. They’re showering them with cuddles, compliments, and love, the same way they do you. They’re giving other people their little sweet kisses. Making memories, memories that you will never be a part of.

Those parents are serving as their caretakers… serving in your role. They [hopefully] are feeding them, keeping them safe, loving them, and providing for them. They are getting to pack their lunches, brush their hair, get them dressed, take them to school, cook them dinner… all the things that you look forward to. They have their own bedtime routine, which probably looks different from yours. How do you cope with having another set of parents in the picture, when they can’t communicate with you without it being a disagreement or production?

How do you cope with not knowing if your children are being taken care of at all times? Are they being bathed? Are they eating well? Are they being watched at the playground? Are they dressed weather and size appropriate? How do you cope with feeling like your home is the better home, but having shared physical custody, and no firm way to prove your home is “better enough” for primary physical custody?

When your kids aren’t with you, even you are living a different life… a “double life,” if you will. Your daily routine is completely different, and there is an unimaginable void. How do you cope?

How do you cope with your children constantly bringing up their other home? Is it a sign they trust you and want to share happy memories with you, or is a sign they miss their other home?

How do you cope with being a part-time parent, when in your heart, you’re a full-time parent? If you’re the stepparent, how do you cope with being a full-time parent in your heart, when friends and family only see you as a part-time parent? 

These are the thoughts that consume my mind. These are just a few the pressures and realities of a blended family.

Friday Thoughts

Disclaimer: I just learned that you can make playlists on YouTube two days ago. Yeah, I’m nailing this whole “millennial” thing.

First, let me start by saying that I do not feel this way about any of my ex’s…

 

… but I hope that one of them feels this way about me! LOL. Like, don’t you hope you messed up [at least] one of your ex’s like this?! #Petty

Anyway y’all… this song tugs at my heartstrings!! I know Blake didn’t write it, so allegedly it’s not directly about Miranda or anything (yeah okay, Blake…), but man. The emotion in this performance!

#TeamBlakeAndMirandaForever

I’ll tell you what song does directly apply to me, in reference to my husband…

 

For real, though.

This weekend we’re celebrating Father’s Day celebrating my husband and my father-in-law and all they do for our family. I even bought myself my husband a Father’s Day gift… we’re getting family pictures made! I am thrilled.

We’re also 9 days away from leaving for the beach! I’m not sure what I’m most looking forward to… playing in the sand with the girls, shopping, or the look on my husbands face when he realizes I really could just lay by the pool for 12 hours a day.

This will be our first family vacation, as well as the girls first big beach trip ever. So we’re pretty much as stoked as can be!

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There I am…

Happy Friday, Friends!

Let’s Meet in the Middle.

This post will be me talking myself off the ledge. As usual. Enjoy!

I’ve written about comparisons and feelings of inadequacy in the past. And I know that to be successful in a blended family, you have to let it all go.

But y’all… women are crazy!! Our brains are just wired so complicated that we give ourselves a headache sometimes…

I know it’s not just me, y’all…

When you look at the fine print, this weekend was a mix of everything I hate about being in a blended family. For starters, we didn’t have the kids this weekend (bummer). Then, I beat my husband to a cookout, and before he got there, all I got was questions about BM’s new boyfriend they all had seen on Facebook, and how quick it seemed for her to be getting serious. No worries, then my MIL chimed in to let everyone know BM & my husband’s timeline, and how quickly they got engaged and then married. I mean… she went into detail including exact proposal and wedding dates. Whew, I’m glad she cleared that up… *vomit*

We had a couple of conversations about how Kindergarten still hasn’t been sorted out for SD4. Logistical conversations are the worst, and when I feel the most powerless.

My husband had his share of what I call “unnecessary mentions” this weekend too. Referring to he and BM as “we” in talking about past experiences, referring to his wedding, but talking about his wedding to her, not to me… etc.

We all do these things. We all get nosy and ask intrusive questions. We all reference people or places from our past that we really don’t need to mention. I know I am guilty of unnecessarily mentioning BM a time or two [or 3,000] over the years. So I get it… no harm, no foul.

So let’s meet in the middle. We need to pick our battles. As stepparents, we have to tread lightly and understand that people (including ourselves) make mistakes. We cannot be overly sensitive… we must have thick skin for the war ahead of us. It is imperative that we meet in the middle, because that is the only way we can set a good example for our children. After all, that’s all that matters.

We also must aggressively fight for our families. We must remember that we will only be treated the way we allow others to treat us. We must stop comparing ourselves, and remember that sometimes first isn’t the best… sometimes last is the winner (Missing the Firsts but Saving the Best for LastSource: stepparentmagazine.com).

And when all else fails, we need to push forward with the tenacity of Todd Chrisley– a strong example of a father in a blended family- and heed his advice:

todd

Hang in there, friends! I’ll see you in the middle.

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