Redirection

Hello, old friends! It’s been awhile since I sat down and put my thoughts into writing. A lot has happened since we last met. Our 2 year old turned 3, we went on a week long beach vacation, I had a birthday, and I got a promotion at work! On deck, the latest news is that SD4 starts Kindergarten in 10 days! (Yes, we eventually decided on a school district by making a deal with BM… tit for tat, you know. That’s another story for another post…)

Another update that has shifted our family dynamic is that a few weeks ago, BM got engaged to her boyfriend of 3 months. I can’t say I consider him a part of the parenting team yet, but he is very nice and I hope that he doesn’t regret his proposal after he spends more time emerged in what is often our chaotic dynamic…

Through this summer, the [mostly] ups and the [occasional] downs (more affectionately referred to as “baby-mama-drama”)… I’ve realized that my feelings have taken a shift. Things that would have rattled me months ago now seem petty and like a non-issue. I have progressed in my feelings of “family,” and have continued developing my parenting style and abilities in this blended family.

The question that is always on my mind now is this big philosophical, and perhaps biblical one: What exactly is my role as a woman if I am never going to bear a child?

It seems silly, right?! I have two amazing stepdaughters. There are thousands of women in the world who are unable to physically bear children for one reason or another, and who are not as lucky as I am to have two beautiful girls to love on and care for. So why complain, Ashley?! Why worry about it?

Despite the obvious reasons above that my never bearing children should be a non-issue, the topic is still regularly on my mind. I’ve become more sensitive to pregnancy announcements, and have become hyper-aware to the fact that most TV shows and songs on the radio are about parenting to some degree. I feel absolutely sick seeing any post from a man about their feelings towards their wife/baby-mama in the form of “She is so strong… what a miracle… watching her carry then deliver our child…” My stomach is immediately in knots over things like this.

But why? There has got to be a way I can feel like I’m truly “a woman” without bearing children. There must be a reason God made me a part-time “second-Mommy” instead of a full-time “one-and-only.” There has to be a way that I can look back on my life when I’m old and gray, and not feel like there’s a void in my life because I never had a child.

So what is it? Where do I go from here?

I’m happy… so, so happy. I love my husband and my girls, and I love my job. We have family goals and I have professional goals, all of which are realistic and attainable. Life is good. So why is this issue always on my mind?

That’s what I’m going to explore, and process through this blog moving forward. I’d imagine that the content of my posts moving forward will remain similar to what they have been in the past, but know that I am writing from this place of personal hardship. Of grieving a loss that I ultimately chose. Of learning how I can be a woman without being able to do the very thing that makes me one.

This is my journey, and I hope you continue to follow along on this wild, beautiful, mess of a life I’m living.

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!

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!

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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Catching Up

Five[+] Things: Catching Up

Lately, things have been going really well.

I’ve been pretty busy at work, which has been making the days fly by. My office is responsible for Commencement, and we are anticipating our largest Commencement ever this year… planning for 50,000 people! I love the planning and execution of big events at colleges and universities… that is a huge reason why I pursued my Masters in the field. I am thrilled for Commencement, and it’s closing in… just a few weeks away!

BM has a new boyfriend who it seems things are progressing rather quickly with… so she has been super low key and non-confrontational with my husband and I lately (whew!).

My husband has just been the dreamiest person ever… he is so good to me. He works so hard, gives me the sweetest compliments… he’s the best. I am so lucky.

My friend KH had her baby a few days ago! A little girl… she is so sweet. KH’s husband works with my husband, so she has always been such a good friend to vent to… I love having her around (plus I cannot wait for my girls to meet her girl!).

Our family beach vacation is less than two months away now, and thrilled is an understatement. I cannot wait to spend one week disconnected from everyone except for my husband and our girls. This is a much needed vacation!

My husband and I have also been scheming about a Christmas/Anniversary getaway. Since we won’t have the girls this year for Christmas, we want to get away so we aren’t home without them. We will need a distractions… some “Us” time. Since it will be just after our one year wedding anniversary, it’s going to be perfect timing.

I had been leasing my car, but just went through with buying it! Praise the Lord for this blessing! Side note: Don’t ever lease a car… literally a waste of money.

No complaints… life is great.