Family

***

 

When I was about four years old, I came down with a nasty bout of pneumonia. I was hospitalized for a good while. I don’t know if I remember it all happening or if I’ve heard the stories so many times that I think I’m remembering. There is always an overlapping haze with moments like this. My mom has always said she’ll never forget my dad rushing into the house from work and leaping up the stairs to get me when they knew it was bad. I remember – or I was told – there was a giant tent over me in the hospital bed.

However, there are three things I do have specific memories of regarding this event:

  1. My dad’s college friend sent me a giant purple elephant with crayons in its front pocket, and I loved that purple elephant more than anything.
  2. The nurses gave me a (very old-fashioned) bell to ring when I needed something from them.
  3. The day after receiving the bell, it was taken away from me.

Apparently, I exhibited blatant abuse of the bell.

But here’s the thing: I didn’t ring the bell because I needed anything from them. I rang the bell so that they would come and talk to me.

I just wanted to chit-chat! I mean, who doesn’t want to sit and opine about life with a four-year old who’s stuck under a plastic canopy of refreshing clean air?!  I’m sure I had plenty of riveting things to say.

Their loss.

Eventually, I did get out of the hospital (quite obviously) and I didn’t need a bell to get attention at home. My little siblings greeted me with arms outstretched and waited on me and my purple elephant for endless days and nights.

Scratch that. It is a complete lie and I just made that up as I typed. But doesn’t it sound sweet?

I’m sure my family did take care of me quite well. And if they didn’t take care of me, I know they at least listened to me chatter.

These are my people.

So, here I am again… years and years later. I’ve had quite a few hospital run-ins in the last decade and since my appendectomy was about three years ago, I was due again. This time, I’ve done quite the number on my foot, of all things. I don’t want to rehash the whole story. Cliff note version: I was standing on a stool to get a shot of the girls and I fell off in the most unique way possible – thereby tearing apart the base of what holds your whole damn foot together.

The shot that did me in.

 

I had surgery last week and I’ve got a bit of a road to recovery ahead of me – though it could always, always be worse – and so I’m learning patience (at a snail pace).  And I’m also remembering (not that I need a reason to) why I love my family so much.

To my brother Ryan: thank you for the virtual exam (over FaceTime) and determining this may be a Lisfranc injury  – after it was not healing and had been misdiagnosed at the ER (not their fault, very common misdiagnosis). Thank you also for keeping your poker face on and cheerfully telling me to call a specialist “for peace of mind” when you likely knew the whole time I was going to need surgery. You knew exactly how to handle me (for real). And thank you for answering all of my calm (read: hysterical) texts in a dignified and soothing way (so as not to spook the crazy person).

Thank you also, Ryan, for telling me that you love me dearly, but I am the worst kind of patient. I needed to hear that. I’m so glad we’re in this together!

Ryan…?

Ryan…?

(Why is he running from me?)

Wasn’t taking any chances before surgery.

 

To my sister Michelle, thank you for listening patiently while I had a psychotic break over the phone during the uncertainty and frustration. As I went from laughing to crying to saying “it could be worse” to complaining to apologizing for complaining, you handled me like a pro. And for finally yelling, “Complain! You can complain! This fricken sucks!”  

To my brother Curtis, thank you for the spontaneous and hideous SnapChat videos of you and the check-ins. I love you, chicken.

To my dad – the first doctor in the family – thank you for your completely random (yet entertaining) selfies showing me how high the corn is coming in this year. And then following that text a day later with a huge, rambling rant of what drug I need to call in for pain and how people wouldn’t even let their horses walk around like this and this is “completely unacceptable in this odeon age.”

And thank you for then following up that text with the definition of “odeon.”  (Which I have since looked up and can’t confirm anywhere, but this does not surprise me as you once referred to the Taj Mahal as the Menage A Trois.)

#dadselfies

 

To my mama: who has swooped in – once again – to save the day. I swear to God, you eat pot-brownies for breakfast. I can find no other way to explain your complete calm and constant cheeriness. You play with Ivy for hours on end and happily go about picking up and letting the dogs out and catering to your child (me) – with not a bell in sight. You are a hybrid of Mary Poppins and Florence Nightingale… on steroids. I don’t deserve you.

To my husband – who has pulled so many all-nighters in the last three weeks trying to get work done while holding this house down in between traveling – you have proven yourself tenfold. I know this is so hard for you.

To Hannah, thank you for being one of the two best kids on earth! Thank you for taking care of your sister when you’re here and for surprising me with a clean bedroom to sleep in. You amaze me over and over, kid – and I love you to the moon and back.

To all of the family and friends (who knew) and have checked in and offered help, you are AWESOME and I love and appreciate you so much.

It seems like a silly thing – maybe minor, to some. (Look up Lisfranc injuries here. I like a good challenge and since only 1 in 55k people injure their foot in this particular way, I have outdone myself once again!)  But this has already proven to be a little more daunting than I imagined. I will be off my feet for six weeks and then (hopefully) have a boot for another six weeks. I also decided to up the ante and make sure I injured my right foot – so I won’t be driving any time soon. Taking care of a four-year old and two rowdy dogs while working from home full time in the legal field has always been a bit of an obstacle course. Doing it with one working leg just changed the game in a whole new way.

And… this is not how I wanted to spend the last month or so of summer before my baby begins school. (But I’m not allowing my mind to go there.)

Although surgery recovery has been painful, it is the dependence on others that is the most challenging. I absolutely hate needing help with nearly every single thing right now. Things will be so much better when I can bear a little weight on this puppy. Until then, I’ve bought a very chic knee scooter. So, if you see me rollin’, wave!

***

They didn’t give me a bell this time when I was in the hospital. Had they, I’m sure they would have realized their mistake quickly – just as when I was four. But who needs a bell when you have this family?

They know why the caged bird sings…

She just wants to have a chat, for chrissakes!

xo,

Jen

“This too shall pass.” – Hilda Borri

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

***

Dear Mom,

Remember that year you warned me for the hundredth time that if you caught me peeking at my Christmas presents again, I would wake up on Christmas morning and none of them would be wrapped?

Remember when I chose to peek anyway and you caught me?

Remember how I woke up Christmas morning, and as my siblings excitedly unwrapped their gifts with the element of surprise lingering over each one, I sadly gathered up my new alarm clock (exposed), my Cabbage Patch Kid horse (exposed)… my dented dignity (exposed). 

You told me that when I peeked at Christmas gifts, it hurt you. You told me that you put so much joy, time and effort into getting all of our gifts (and there were four of us, so that was no easy feat!).  You told me that I stole your reward of seeing the surprise and excitement. 

***

Remember when I was about eight years old and you had ordered a new necklace for yourself? It was a timepiece that switched plate colors and patterns.  Remember when it arrived, I couldn’t stop admiring it and, seeing how much I loved it, you told me that if I did chores around the house, you would eventually order me one, too?  I went straight to the kitchen and immediately started doing the dishes.

Remember when my matching necklace came? How excited and proud I was to have something like yours!

Do you remember how, a few weeks later, you were at the kitchen table – helping me with my homework?  I was so incredibly sad and could barely look at you. You asked me what was wrong – and I just silently shook my head. And then, after a few more minutes of silence, you asked me if I had a secret. I nodded as tears rolled down my face. You told me that secrets were terrible things to keep, especially when they made us sad. And you told me I never had to keep secrets. I burst out crying and admitted that I had accidentally broken my new necklace and I felt so terrible, because it was new and you had ordered it especially for me. 

Do you remember telling me it was just a necklace – and then hugging me and saying how sad you were that I felt so alone with a secret? 

***

Remember when I entered the teen years and I would get angry with my friends, and I would come home grumbling about so and so being so and so. Do you remember how you stayed silent? Do you remember waiting until I finished my rant and then calmly saying, “Well, what’s your part in this?”  

I quickly learned that you were my mom first and, though you were my biggest fan, you were not my peer.

***

Do you remember my horrible twenties? Do you remember watching me repeatedly struggle to find my way? The terrible mistakes I made, over and over. Do you remember them all? Do you remember the lies I would tell myself and then try to tell you? Do you remember cheering my (small) attempts at success – while quietly accepting my failures?

Do you remember watching it all – yet never giving up on me? Ever.

***

You have taught me so many lessons purely from your actions.  Consideration, compassion, personal responsibility, patience and pure love.

From the start, we should have known I’d be a bit of trouble. I came into this world ass-backwards (literally… breech). I was delivered by a nurse, because your doctor showed up drunk. I brought chaos from the start and I carried that theme for quite some time. 

I look at you and all you’ve done for me, and I hope I was worth all the pain. (And I’m not just talking about that epidural-free breech birth.) I look at my daughters now, and I don’t know how you survived me. The anxiety, the fear… the love.  I don’t know how you stepped back and let me grow – and then fall – and then grow – all on repeat. Over and over. For years.

I don’t know how you had such faith in me for all that time – when I had lost all faith in myself. 

You are good through and through. 

And you never, ever stopped being the biggest cheerleader to all of us.  You still haven’t.

You like to tell me how small my hands were when I was little – how you can still feel them holding onto yours. Whenever I grab Ivy’s hand to hold, I think of you. 

I think of your hands. 

And I can still feel them holding mine – from so many miles away. 

Love,

Jenni

***

Why is my house quiet? Why did I wake up this morning without my three year old, Ivy, staring at me ala The Ring?

The reason for this temporary euphoria is because my 13-year old step-daughter had a sleepover last night. And when big sister has a sleepover, Ivy considers herself a plus one and doesn’t leave her side. So, I have a house with teens and toddlers all sleeping away until likely noon.

Cue birds chirping and mice singing while making me a pot of fresh coffee.

A lot of people ask me how it is to have the girls so far apart in age, and my immediate response is always, “It’s great!” And I mean that. There is nothing I would change about their age difference, because the bond they have is so tight – even with those ten years between them.

This is what our family looks like. These two girls and us. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I think one of the hardest challenges for stepmoms may be the constant need to make our families feel whole in a dynamic where our husband or partner had a life before us that included a completely different family. I know it is something I have struggled with, especially in the beginning. It is absolutely normal to feel this way. Hey, the world is changing and what a family looks like is, thankfully, changing as well to encompass all sorts of lovely combinations. However, that doesn’t mean us step moms do not have human moments where we wish we were the first and last wife. The only wife, to be frank. And we wish we shared experiences with our spouse that he did not experience before.

These feelings are perfectly acceptable and no one should be ashamed of them. For some stepmoms, it can be really difficult to get over and past this mental hump. Your husband had a life before you. A wife before you. And I get asked quite often how I deal with it. This is always my answer:

Accept it. And respect it.

Respect it?

Yep.

Let’s be clear, I’m not telling you to throw your husband and his ex an anniversary party every year or have your spouse retell the story of how they met over and over.  *Shudder*  I am saying that it helped – and helps –  me, personally, to accept what was, compartmentalize it and move forward with a healthier perspective. Their relationship didn’t work out, but it did happen. Instead of dismissing it as a failure, so that I can feel superior, I choose to view it as a stepping stone that eventually led them down a better path. And bright side: that path eventually led my husband to me.

In the public stepmom world, we witness some pretty nasty views about “the ex.”

He never loved her anyway.
He was trapped in the marriage.
He was miserable the whole time.

I know every situation is different and there are definitely high-conflict situations where ugliness is being thrown about with reckless abandon.  However, if you are particularly struggling with the fact that your husband had a wife before you, then I urge you to look at it a different way.

Stop focusing on the fact that this woman is your husband’s ex and see her as the mother of your step-child(ten). 

Although I acknowledge my husband was married once before, that relationship had nothing to do with me, so it makes no sense for me to dwell on it or deny it.

And lets think about those ugly comments, in particular, for a moment. Would you want someone dismissing your marriage – whether it failed or not?  I’m pretty sure dismissing a first marriage feels just as lousy as someone dismissing the second. Also, and most importantly, let’s pretend that your step-child(ren) heard you saying those things. Is it okay to take one giant swipe to discount an entire relationship, one that happened to bring a child/children into this world,  whether it was successful or not? Children of divorce sacrifice so much.  Why would anyone want to dissolve or dismiss what may be one of the few happy memories or ideas they have of their parents being together?

Aside from a mindset trapping you in a sea of negativity and making you look petty and bitter, this outlook will also stunt you from growth, maturity and moving on, in general.

My husband had a wife before me. My husband had a family before me. And out of their love, I received one of the greatest gifts ever: a beautiful step-daughter and a wonderful sister for Ivy.  I will not discredit their relationship or past life. And though I certainly won’t dwell on it, I also won’t shut my eyes and cover my ears and pretend it never happened. Just as I wouldn’t want anyone to dismiss my marriage or family now.

If we accept our husband’s past and stop denying that it was real and that it happened, it will bring our mind peace moving forward.  More importantly, we will be a better step-parent for it.

Empathy is huge if you are to get by in this step-parent world. You have to have it or you will struggle constantly. Let’s push down these walls of us vs. them and put ourselves in their situation as often as we can (and, hopefully, they will provide us the same courtesy). I’m not saying this will solve all of our co-parenting issues, but I do promise – this will open a floodgate of newfound understanding, compassion and common ground.

Let’s do it for them and do it for us. But most importantly, let’s do it for our very whole families.

xo,

Jen

 

Ivy being Ivy.

***

See that photo up there? Funny, right? Ivy was literally trying out different “looks” for the shot. This is what she landed on intentionally.

After I took this and other photos, I uploaded them to my computer and I burst out laughing at Ivy’s face in this one. But then I looked over at myself in the shot and I immediately groaned.  While I saw nothing but beauty in Ivy’s funny little face, this is what I saw in mine:

Ugh, those puffy wrinkles under my eyes.
That sweater makes me look bulky.
I have a double chin.
I look really heavy.
Even my hand looks chubby.

I made myself post that photo anyway. I didn’t remove my wrinkles with a an editing app or “tweak” my double chin.  I posted it on Instagram – and every day since, I have willed myself not to remove it.

I’ve written before about my lifelong struggle with food and body image and, though I’ve come a long, long way from the days of checking calorie counts on sugar-free gum, I still have a lot of work ahead of me.

I promised myself the moment that I had Ivy I would never “diet” again and just find a way to eat better for my health instead of focusing on my weight.  I haven’t necessarily held to that promise, and so I’ve decided to right that wrong now.

Name a diet fad and I have done it. Every. Single. One. Some have worked (temporarily) for me, some have not.  What I do know after having tried everything is that I am at my most healthy when I am actually not paying attention to calories or fat grams. After I gave birth to Ivy, I actually whittled down to my pre-pregnancy weight without really trying. Why? I was busy.  And happy.  And not caring what the scale said.

I went back to work when Ivy was four weeks old. Yes, I work from home, but I work from home full time in the legal field. (Please don’t ever give me a wink and say “Oh, you work from home?” while doing the quotes sign with your fingers. I will cut you. I work from home.) And, while I work from home, I also decided not to put Ivy in daycare and keep her home with me. I look back at those early days now, and I have no idea how I did it.  But I did it.  We did it. And we’re still doing it three and a half years later.

Those days when she was a newborn were insane. And it’s no wonder I lost the baby weight so fast. However, as time went on and we fell into a rhythm of our schedule, each day became easier.  And I got lazier.  And, over the last two years, I’ve gained weight and just feel unhealthy.

It is a continuous struggle for me to retrain my brain to focus on health as opposed to weight; however, being healthy as opposed to being skinny is what I’m choosing to focus on moving forward. (But make no mistake: I’m hoping for a “thinner” benefit as well.) That said, I like trying new things – new challenges – and after doing some research, I landed on the Whole30 program.

* This is NOT a sponsored post. I am trying this solely on my own after reading the book. *

The Whole30 Challenge is not a weight loss diet and that’s why I chose it. It’s a program designed to make you eat healthier and find out what particular foods your body reacts to either negatively or positively.  It is not meant to be easy or a quick fix. It’s a challenge. For thirty days, you are not eating processed food, dairy, sugar or legumes.

Whole30 ain’t messing around!

Since posting about a private Whole30 Facebook group, I’ve had lots of messages and comments asking about it. So, I’m going to document weekly updates here with very quick breakdowns of my day. If you’d like to join our (very relaxed) Whole30 group online, shoot me a message and I’ll add you. We have people starting it on different days, we have people just prepping to start it, and we have people who are just eating healthier or creating their own personalized challenges, in general, and want to share recipes, ideas, etc.

Here’s my summary of Week 1:

Wednesday – It’s Day 1. I’m excited to start! I hard boiled eggs in my new Instant Pot (more about that later in this post) and I cut up two of those eggs, mixed them with avocado, olive oil and red pepper flakes and I’m good. I’m not much of a sweets person – especially in the morning – so this doesn’t feel particularly difficult for me. I would much rather be eating this on top of toast, but I’ll survive. Also, I drink my coffee black, which is going to be a huge bonus for me, since I can’t have dairy.  (Some people in our FB group who drink cream and/or sugar have found a fix for this.) Lunch is a salad. Dinner is a roast with carrots and potatoes (again, in the Instant Pot). I pass on the bread that Brian and the girls are eating. I go to bed feeling full. I got this! 

Thursday – It’s Day 2. It’s been a chaotic day with work and Ivy, and I forgot to eat breakfast. I have a late lunch of a cobb-ish salad I make and plan to cook a nice dinner. I forget it’s Hannah’s sports banquet where there will be a potluck.  I figure this won’t be hard for me to resist, because I have an aversion to food cooked by people I don’t know.  (I am suspicious of possible non-hand washers and spoon-lickers.) And then we get there. And everything looks good.  There’s fried chicken tenders and meatballs drenched in bbq sauce. I make a sad plate of vegetables (no dip), salad (no dressing) and three small pieces of salami. I remove Ivy’s cupcake wrapper for her and I get frosting on my hand. I wipe it off on a napkin instead of licking it. I want an award for this, but no one has noticed.

Friday – It’s Day 3.  I have the eggs and avocado thing again. For lunch, I have the same cobb-ish salad.  For dinner, I make this fantastic Butter Chicken in the crockpot.  Brian and Ivy eat it over arborio rice that I, again, made in the Instant Pot.  I eat mine over sautéed kale, which is actually really good. (I’m one of those freaks that actually likes kale.) I feel full and content – but I have a headache all day that won’t go away no matter how many Advil I’ve popped. I almost feel like I have a hangover, which makes me sad because I never got the benefit of wine for the hangover.

(Butter Chicken photo and recipe by One Lovely Life)

I am quickly realizing that food prep is key on this thing, so today I baked six chicken breasts in the oven and made Kitchen Sink Egg Muffins.  Just doing this (super easy and quick) saved me so much time for the rest of Week 1.

Saturday – It’s Day 4.  I eat two of my pre-made, glorious egg muffins topped with hot sauce and I’m happy. We get busy during the day and I forget to eat lunch (this is totally not normal for me, by the way, and unintentional). I grab a handful of almonds and eat an apple for a snack. For dinner, I make myself a spicy stir-fry while Brian and the girls order pizza. Normally, we all eat the dinner I make – however, my step-daughter is having a friend sleep over and what I made is far too spicy for the rest of the family. I have frozen grapes for a snack later, which curbs a sweet craving I’m having. It’s amazing how “sweet” grapes actually taste after having no sugar for 4 days.

My headache is still annoyingly present and I feel unusually tired. But I’ve read this is all normal.

Sunday – It’s Day 5.  Those egg muffins are worth their weight in gold and I’m not sick of them at all. For lunch, we go out to eat and I order a steak and steamed vegetables. I hear myself saying “no oil, no seasoning, no butter” to the waitress and I’m embarrassed and think she’s rolling her eyes (she’s not). I have leftover Butter Chicken for dinner and more frozen grapes as a snack.

My mood is super happy, but I’m …. soooo …. tired.

Monday – It’s Day 6. Hello, egg muffins. We meet again. And I’m still not sick of you!  I have another Chicken cobb-ish salad (ok, I’m starting to get sick of chicken…). I feel unusually hungry later, so I have an apple with almond butter. For dinner, I make a “hot wing” stir-fry. I totally made it up as I went. Brian and Ivy had pasta and Brian actually said, “Why does yours look better than ours?” 

Headache is gone and I no longer feel tired.

Tuesday – It’s Day 7. I’m quite sure someone put uppers in my coffee. I have endless energy and my mood is incredibly happy!  Food is same ol’ same ol’ – except for this fantastic Whole30 Chicken Salad I made (with homemade mayo that I also made – don’t be scared, it took five minutes!).

I’m not having cravings at all. Like, none. I see pictures of cupcakes and french fries online and I feel nothing. Later that night, I do feel really chubby and bloated, oddly. But, again, I read up online about the timelines of this program and this is normal. Apparently, my body is adjusting to the new way of eating and sorting itself out. This is why the program does not want you to weigh yourself throughout the 30 days. I weighed myself in the beginning and have been avoiding the scale ever since (full disclosure: I told Brian to hide it from me).  Besides, there is something about eating healthy that kind of erases the need to worry about that scale number. I’m doing my part. I’m hoping my body is following suit.

 

Whole30 Chicken Salad

 

So, here’s the deal: it may sound like I breezed through pretty easily, for the most part, this first week, but I’ve been lucky in that I have been unusually busy and when I’m busy, I don’t focus much on snacking or eating, in general.  Also, I have done Atkins before several times (told you… I’ve done them all!) and I am not unfamiliar with very restricted phases of eating, so I mentally prepared myself going into this.  If you are not used to restrictions, then this is going to be a bit tougher for you. You also need to be prepared to do a lot of prepping and grocery shopping. But I promise you, once you get going – you’ll hit a stride and know how to make this easier for yourself moving forward.

So, in summary, the benefits of this in Week 1 have been:

  • Increased energy (after initial slump)
  • Better mood (happy!)
  • General overall feeling of healthiness
  • My family is eating better as a whole (no more processed junk)
  • Eating whole, fresh food is changing the way I think about all food in general, especially what I feed my family

The tough parts:

  • I know I’m going to hit a rough patch soon – the Whole30 Timeline states that around Days 10 & 11 will be the hardest. I’m bracing myself.
  • This isn’t cheap. Buying fresh food is expensive. It’s ridiculous and horrible that it’s so much cheaper to eat crap…
  • It can be time consuming. Preparing ahead of time is key. But preparing ahead of time also saves you loads of time later – so this is actually a wash.
  • I miss wine. I want a glass of wine.
  • Did I tell you about the wine?
  • Wine.

So, Week 1 is down!  I’ll update again on Week 2. And, hey, consider our Facebook group… I love the little thing we have going!

***

Ok, onto the Instant Pot.

I posted on Facebook asking if any of my friends had a pressure cooker/Instant Pot and if they liked it.  I received a few responses from people who have it and love it, but the majority of responses were basically: “I’ve been looking at them, too – but I’m terrified, so you buy one first and let me know if you live.”

Assholes.

So, because I’m a loving, giving friend, I took one for the team (of assholes) and bought one last week.  I have to say, this thing is handy!  I haven’t made too many things with it yet, but each recipe/food I did make turned out awesome, so I give it a thumbs up!

Here is what I’ve learned so far:

1/ I will never make hardboiled eggs another way again. Put a cup of water in the instant pot, place eggs on the basket tray (included with the instant pot) and set manually for 8 minutes.  Eggs are perfect every time and peel perfectly.  I’ve done this twice now – and had flawless results both times.

2/ I will never cook rice another way. I made arborio (Italian rice) and, again, it took 8 minutes and it was perfect!  I got lucky on the amount of water to use (there are varying opinions online) – but you may need to tweak it on your results. There are instructions included with the Instant Pot that worked well for me.

3/ I made a roast and potatoes in under an hour. That’s pretty incredible. I was shocked that both the meat and the potatoes turned out perfectly. The carrots were a little mushy, so I’ll need to work on that timing.

4/  Drawback: Though the Instant Pot cooks super fast, sometimes it feels like forever for it to “preheat.”  I learned after reading a few articles online that this can be remedied by turning the Instant Pot on immediately before getting out your ingredients/food and setting it on the “sauté” mode. This will kick-start the pre-heat.

5/ Bonus: I have not blown up my house or scalded myself. The first night I tried it, I made Ivy go in another room just in case. Now that I have the hang of it, it’s pretty simple. Just make sure to read the instructions on how to release steam. You don’t want your hand in the way of that opening when you switch levers, trust me.

So far, I love this thing! I’m excited to try new things with it. In fact, I’ve been keeping it on my counter every day, because there is so much you can do! I still love my crock-pot, but the Instant Pot is a great tool for quick cooking. And the amount of dishes I save (no pots and pans to wash!) has been fantastic – especially with the amount of cooking I’m doing on Whole30.

***

Wow. That was a long, not-very-entertaining post.  Chalk this off to (hopefully) informative.

I’ll be back with my usual anecdotes again soon! Or maybe not… Day 10 is coming up. I may just come here to yell at you incoherently about cupcakes and wine. Stay tuned. You owe me… the Instant Pot thing and all.

I could have been maimed, for God’s sake. 

xo,

Jen

 

***

I hate scary movies.

HATE them.

I have enough anxiety in my life without the unnecessary trauma of monsters/zombies/ghosts/demons jumping out of nowhere and trying to kill someone.

For that very reason, I also hate Halloween haunted houses.  Once, when I was a kid, my friend Dani and I went to a nearby “haunted house” for Halloween. I was terrified, but she wanted to go through it so badly. We were with other friends of hers and I didn’t want to be the only wuss. So, we agreed to walk through it in a “train” formation. I kept my eyes closed the ENTIRE time and sang to myself as I held onto the girl’s shoulders in front of me, as Dani held on to my shoulders from behind.

When the nightmare was finally over, I stepped outside and turned around to celebrate only to find that Dani was nowhere to be found. About three minutes later, she came out of the haunted house and told me that one of the “zombies” had pushed her aside at the very beginning and was holding onto me the entire time. “His hands were all over you!” she cried.

WTF zombie?!

I’m gong to assume that the zombie was not, in fact, molesting me – but more so waiting for me to turn around, thinking I would see my friend –  and completely freak out when I saw him there in his (fake) bloody glory.

I think it is safe to say that it was best – for both of us – that I never noticed the zombie.

The moral of the story: I hate being scared.

Not in the “Oh, haha… don’t scary me… haha… I’ll hate you forever!” kind of I don’t like being scared. More like the, “I swear to God if you effin’ scare me, I will rip your eyeballs out, call 911 and then punch your shins for 20 minutes until the police arrive” kind of I don’t like being scared.

Do not, under any circumstances, scare me.

Are we clear?

So, the other night, I couldn’t sleep and Brian had just come up from downstairs and I suggested we watch The Visit, a “haunting story about a brother and sister discovering something deeply disturbing during a visit to their grandparent’s”, by M. Night Shyamalan.

Don’t ask me where this brilliant idea came from. I haven’t had carbs in four days, so I’m blaming that.

We watched the movie and, afterwards, I was obviously more awake than before – and completely terrified. I had to go the bathroom and I made Brian go in before me and turn the light on – as well as check for any stray Nanas or PopPops hanging around. (I actually first begged him to stay in there with me while I peed. Hey, I promised to turn the fan and sink on to mask the noise… I’m not a total monster!  He politely declined.)

Before he did leave the bathroom, I looked at him with the seriousness I usually reserve for Scientology documentaries (have you seen the Leah Remini series, by the way? So good!) and said, “Brian. BRIAN. Look at me. I swear to God with every ounce of my being, if you-“  I was cut off by his sudden burst of laughter.

“I won’t, I promise! I won’t scare you.”

“No, look at me, Brian. LOOK. AT. ME. If you choose to scare me when I come out of this bathroom, you will be single again. Do you understand me?”

And then I said something that I never, ever say – not even in joking.

I threatened him with the D word: divorce.

(I told you, I f*#@ing hate being scared!)

It didn’t even matter that I said divorce, because he was laughing so hard that he was bent over, struggling to breathe. It is super, super difficult to get my husband to laugh that hard (I try… a lot), so I was both endeared and also ready to kick his shins and make the 911 call.

But, he adhered. Either because he didn’t want to be single again – or because he was still laughing uncontrollably when I came out of the bathroom.

I spent the next thirty minutes telling him how terrified I was as he laughed his head off while trying to comfort me.

Let me just say that comforting while cackling is not effective.

That said…

…it felt so good to have those (hysterical) moments with my husband. As silly as that sounds, life has been getting busy.  The girls both have activities. There is lots of running around and, during the week especially, it feels like we get fewer and fewer moments all together – or alone with each other. On top of this, he is traveling more and more for work – and though I don’t mind it, I miss him.

Like, a lot.

I’ve said a thousand times before that I hit the jackpot when I met my husband. He’s funny, hilarious, kind… and hot, to boot!  There are more days than not that I know I don’t deserve him. He knows every dirty little secret about me – and he loves me anyway.

I recently told my sister, “I can be a bit much. I know this about myself.”  Hey, self awareness is a good thing, right?  But I can. I can be a bit much.  And I’m always going to be a bit too much of something to somebody, as the saying goes.

I am much too messy.
I am much too loud.
I am too much too irritable.
I am too much too stubborn.

Yet, with me being a bit too much of… a lot, my husband lets me be all of it. With no judging.

Ok, that’s a lie – he’s totally judging the mounds of my clothing sprawled across our bedroom floor right now. 

But other than that [slight] judgement, he has never tried to change me. He’s never asked me to… not be so much.

Yep, I landed a good one. And I don’t take the moments with him for granted.

He’s my very own Jake Ryan. 

And he didn’t scare me when I came out of the bathroom. So, there’s that.

Ok. Enough mush.

I’ve got a giveaway!

***

I just told you about what a saint my husband is. I also need to tell you that Valentine’s and his birthday are coming up this month and though he is a martyr for putting up with me, he is also the worst person to shop for.

This man is picky.

However, I think I finally found him a gift he loves. And it’s a win not only for him, but also for you!

Alright, so here’s the deal. I have made it a personal rule to never collaborate or promote anything on this blog or any social media that I don’t actually love.  I have turned down a few things in particular recently because they were not something I would genuinely use, wear or have Ivy wear.  SO… I was actually really excited when JORD Wood Watches contacted me to team up with them on a sweepstakes!

I love these watches. I keep seeing them online and in social media and I’m obsessed with how they look. They are unique and chic and incredibly well made. When I sent Brian a photo of one and told him about JORD contacting me, his immediate response was, “I’ve been seeing those and they are awesome!”  Since my husband is super, super picky when it comes to all things in his wardrobe – I knew this would be the perfect gift for him.

Buying something for Brian is hard. I am not exaggerating. He’s not a big “gift” person to start with – but he’s also super picky. (I’m sorry, did I say that already?)  We made a rule a long time ago to never buy each other clothing (we’re both super picky on that front) – and I’m clueless when it comes to buying him the right photography equipment, etc.  And let’s be honest, sometimes the ol’ Amazon wish list starts to feel a little unoriginal and ridiculous.

So, when Brian received his JORD watch (the Conway series in Kosso & Midnight Blue), it made me so happy to see that he actually loved it! It’s classic yet modern and it looks fantastic on him.

Brian has honestly been looking at watches for a long time, but he hasn’t been able to find anything that really felt like him.  This watch is undoubtedly him. And the bonus? JORD offers sizing and engraving. The engraving, in particular is awesome. They offer block or script or even your own handwriting. Come on! That’s pretty fantastic.

Here’s the thing: I really love this watch. I wouldn’t have teamed with JORD if I didn’t.  And I’m super excited that they are letting me do a giveaway and share the love!

One of my readers will win a $100 gift code to use on the JORD website!  EVERYONE who enters will get a $25 gift code to use on the JORD website after the contest. So, you win no matter what!

Click HERE to enter to win!

Listen, I’m not that cool. Your odds of winning the $100 toward one of these watches are pretty good, so go enter.*

These watches are a chic, unique and modern way to up your wardrobe and they aren’t just limited to men. Check out all of the women’s watches on the JORD site as well.  Also, no one said you can’t use that gift code on yourself!  (Do you think I could enter my own giveaway? Would that be wrong?) 

Brian is loving his watch and I’m getting extra love for this perfect gift. One might say he’s more affectionate than a rogue haunted house zombie circa 1987.

xo,

Jen

 

*The contest will close 2/26 at 11:59pm. Both the $100 and the $25 codes will expire on 4/30/2017.
Luxury Wooden Watch

***

’Tis the season… of chaos.

How is everyone hanging in there? I always think I have it so together about a month before Christmas and then all hell breaks loose about two weeks out. Shopping is done, for the most part. Baking, not so much. Wrapping? Not a single gift has been looked at since being shoved in the closet or hidden under a down comforter.

Ugh, I dread the wrapping.

I always try to psych myself up for it by convincing myself it will be peaceful, relaxed and merry. I pour myself a glass of wine, turn on the first of my annual gift-wrapping movie line-up (The Holiday, Love Actually and The Family Stone, to be exact) and then commence. Within three minutes, I’m calling the lost tape and scissors unimaginably inappropriate names and I can usually hear Brian from the other room cursing whatever he’s trying to put together.

It’s magic.

I really did think we were on the ball this year. Or, let’s be honest, I thought I was on the ball this year. I am the CEO of Christmas in this house. Brian is my executive assistant.  I know when I say that, it may sound demeaning, but I swear it’s not. I think a better description would be that I’m like a disheveled, drunk CEO who gets business done – but also leaves a trail of chaos in my wake.  And poor Brian is the poor assistant/AA sponsor that has to clean up behind me and get me back on track.

Have you seen Sixteen Candles? You know that scene where the two grandmas are making breakfast and kooky Grandma #1 is flipping pancakes while holding an incredibly ashy cigarette and talking away – all while Grandma #2 is holding a spatula under the cigarette trying to catch the ash before it falls into their breakfast.

I think you can guess whose who in the above scenario.

Anyway, one thing we did get done and off the list was our annual holiday card. We actually got this one done pretty early, because I was tired of laying awake at night worrying that a) it wouldn’t look exactly as I envisioned it; and 2) someone else would beat us to our idea.

That’s so ridiculous, right?  I mean, who else out there wastes time thinking up Christmas cards like this, right?

I’m not sure if you know this about us, but we take our holiday cards very seriously. Not a matching-pajamas-kind-of-serious (I think those are totally cute, by the way) or a nice-family-photo-where-everyone-is-smiling-serious.

I mean serious.

Here’s a few cards from Christmas past just so you fully understand.

 

Unfortunately, we did not break the internet that year.

img_6190

I’m kind of mortified how this one actually ended up being a prophecy of sorts. At the time, we didn’t know who the two primary candidates would be.

So, yeah. Christmas cards are kind of a big deal for us.

I’m not sure why we started to really get into them to this level.  I think about four or five years ago, we made a ridiculous one of us holding our pets and people thought it was funny.  And, we’ll kind of do anything for a laugh, so every year after, we decided to up the ante a bit.

This year’s card was, by far, my favorite.  We are huge Game of Thrones fans and so we knew nearly a year ago what this year’s card was going to be about.  I obsess over our costumes and the scene – and even the wording on the cards.  Luckily, my husband is nearly as obsessive as me.  So, we make a really great team in the weird department.

This year, I thought that I’d post some photos of the process.  A lot of people think that we take several shots of all of us together until we get a good one, but what they don’t realize is that we rarely ever shoot everyone in the same shot.  We usually have sessions one by one, so these photos are probably even trickier to do than people think.  This is where my husband gets all of the credit.  He’s a photography genius, in my opinion.  He knows exactly where everyone needs to be in order to have us look like we are all together in the final piece.  And his artistic eye, editing and photoshop skills are phenomenal.

We always shoot Ivy first and once she is done, we all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Ivy’s part is a big part of what keeps me up at night every year, because you never know what a toddler is going to do (or not do). She blows my mind every year – and she usually has the most complicated role.

Talent lunch break.

fullsizerender

What you can’t see here is me to the right, kneeling and showing her how to breathe fire – and her mimicking me.  Hannah is ducking behind the stool to make sure she doesn’t fall.

 

I’m not going to lie, I’m not above bribery when it comes to Ivy and these shoots.  This year I think we got away with just a cookie.  Last year, she got a trip to Target and the toy aisle.

Have you ever tried dressing your two-year old up like Donald Trump? Don’t you judge me! 

After Ivy is finished with her shot, things are a little more relaxed – though my husband would likely beg to differ. I readily admit I’m a bear when it comes to the shots we take and my opinion on if they look how I feel they should.  In my defense, I spend so much time and preparation studying the actual characters we portray and how they stand, what they wear, etc. that it would seem such a waste if we didn’t do it right.  Right?

Case in point: I’m irritated that my Lannister lion pendant didn’t show up in our finished photo.

See what I mean?

But we do have fun, I promise!  Hannah loves getting dressed up every year – even though half the time, she has no idea who she’s dressed as.  This year, she looked over some photos of Daenerys and she was really excited.  (I think she kept that wig on for a full hour after her shots were done.)

 

_q5a0199

It doesn’t look difficult, until you’ve been standing there for 30 minutes with one arm elevated while having your dad and step-mom repeatedly tell you to put your shoulders back, stand up straight and keep your elbow level.  

As you can see, we do these sessions from our house.  So, we clear out our living room and put up the backdrop.  And every year, as we are dressed up like strange characters, I pray that no one comes to the door.  It would be mighty awkward for Cersei Lannister or the Mother of Dragons to be greeting the FedEx guy at 10 am on Saturday in suburbia.

Brian was having a hard time trying to look menacing while also not looking narcoleptic.

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere. Am I right, Cersei?

Oddest GoT couple ever.

 

Besides Brian’s awesome photography skills, he also had double-duty this year as he was both Jon Snow and Santa.  It cracked me up how this confused so many people. They thought we brought an extra in for our family card!

Peace out, Santa!

So, there you have it. Some behind the scenes fun!

I hope you all liked our card this year.  I know that our cards can be confusing to people who aren’t familiar with the shows or current affairs we’re covering, but we try to make them just crazy enough that everyone will get some kind of amusement out of them.

As for next year, I can honestly say I have no idea what we’ll be doing.  But I’m guessing 2017 will give us something to work with.

xo,

Jen

So angelic, right? Yeah, keep reading.

 

First things first, I have eaten cheesy hash brown potatoes (leftover from Thanksgiving) for breakfast every morning since last Thursday.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to tell you that, but I thought I should cop to it somewhere.

I feel better.

Moving on…

The holidays are officially in full swing over here in the Farmer household and I couldn’t be happier. What is it about holiday music and movies and decorations that brings such a feeling of utopia to so many people?  It’s almost like earth pumps out uppers into the hemisphere getting most of us high for the entire month of December.

Inhale, people. INHALE.

The downers are getting pumped out in January.

I’m ahead of the game on shopping and decorations and prep, in general, which is shocking.  We already have our crazy Christmas card photo shoot in the bag (one of my all-time favorites, I think) and yesterday, we attempted – and semi-succeeded in getting – a real family photo.

Ugh.

Why is it so hard to get a simple family photo?!  I’m not going to lie – it was a total pain in the ass to get even one good photo of all of us. Not to mention, it was nearly impossible to get all – no, just – four of us together long enough to get a photo.  I’m just going to throw it out there that family photos are hard, in general, to get coordinated.  Family photos, when you have a blended family, seem nearly impossible.

When my step-daughter, Hannah, was younger, we all had a more structured and set schedule of time, so it was easier to plan things like family photos and holidays and trips, etc.  Now that she is older – with dance and school activities and a social life – every week is often up in the air. And when we do have time with her, she’s often tired (man, teenagers sleep… a lot).  And, so, in the midst of the chaos that is co-parenting, I have been frustrated and irritated lately.  Not at Hannah, or her parents, or anyone.  Just at the situation itself.

I’ve talked before about the roller coaster that is step-parenting (here), and a friend just wrote to me this weekend saying that she goes back to that post often to remind herself she’s not alone.  Her message actually made me go back and read it, and I am actually glad I did.  I was especially grateful to be reminded of this part:

 

You can be told a a thousand different times by a thousand different people what a wonderful step-mom you are. And you can still feel sad and angry and like a giant, fat failure.

Because, you are HUMAN.

You do not sign a waiver to FEELINGS when you become a step-parent.

 

The above was a good reminder that we are all human.  I often say, “We are all in this together as much as we are all in this apart,” because this is such a complicated role.  I really encourage you step-mamas to lean on each other.  I promise you that no one is going to understand these experiences better than another step-parent.  Those angry, selfish little thoughts running through your head that you never say out loud?  We all have them. And they are ok.  It’s how you choose to process them and react to them that matters.  And when you bounce your thoughts off other step-parents, you are more likely to process them clearly, feel validation and handle them in a way that is healthy for everyone.

I think the biggest thing I have learned about step-parenting is this:

The minute you think you have one area of this role mastered, the theme park opens a whole new wing of obstacle courses. 

Once you realize the above – and accept it – things do get better.  BUT they will never be easy or perfect. So, cut yourself some slack. Let yourself feel what you’re feeling.  And don’t ever stuff your feelings down below, because you are ashamed that they are not the right feelings.  Trust me, that will only build a volcano of resentment inside that will eventually erupt and hurt everyone.

As for that new wing in our theme park? We are currently entering the The Teenager Activity Phase Maze.  I highly recommend it if you enjoy sadism.

***

Aside from the complication of what felt like herding cats in order to schedule a family photo, can we talk about the chaos of trying to get a three year old ginger pterodactyl to smile?!

I totally had to look up the correct spelling of pterodactyl. I was not expecting that “p” to be there. 

Let me break down to you what ensued just to get that pained, posed smile where she looks like she’s enduring shock-therapy like a champ.  Because it was a living nightmare and I want you to suffer just reading it, so I feel less alone.

-Three year old is prepped all day that today is family photo day.
-Three year old seems cool with it all day.
-Three year old sits on a throne of lies.
-Three year old decides to be a dog for family photo.
-Request by parents is made to stop barking at the camera and panting.
-Giant sized meltdown ensues because three-year-old is forbidden to pose like a dog.
-Bribery is proposed by parents to end meltdown.
-Three year old refuses bribe.
-A threat to call Santa is made.
-Three year old calls bluff.
-A very heated phone conversation with Santa is overheard by three year old.
-Epic sized meltdown ensues (due to the above).
-A promise is made to call Santa back and secure three year old’s spot on Nice List IF three year old apologizes and participates in photo.
-Defeated apology is uttered by three year old.
-Three year old is suddenly giddy at reinstatement to Nice List.
-Several requests are made for three year old to “act normal” for just one photo.
-Parents give up and head to liquor cabinet.

I’m seriously exhausted from just writing that and reliving it in my memory.

I would like to raise my hand in solidarity to every parent out there trying to get a family photo. I would also like to raise my hand in solidarity to every photographer who has to try and get that one good shot of a family.  In this case, it was my poor husband – running back and forth to the tripod.  (He also had to endure me sitting next to him while he edited the photos. At one point, he actually asked me to bring him the bottle of scotch – the BOTTLE.)

So, there you have it.  I have officially broken every promise to myself I made before becoming a parent on things I would never do or say to my child.  Go ahead and judge away. We are all free to judge! In fact, I’m judging you for judging me.

So there.

I wish you all beautiful family photos capturing genuine beautiful smiles and love radiating from each tiny, happy face.

I also wish you a dancing unicorn who sneezes glitter and has four million dollars and unlimited gift cards to Starbucks in his saddle pocket.

May the odds be ever in your favor.

xo,

Jen

 

Photographic proof of our session:

its-ok-if-you-fall-down-and-lose-your-spark-4136020-2

It’s 11:30 pm and I have been sitting in the dark, staring at my open laptop – and the above quote – trying to figure out what it is I need to say.

I have been restless for a week.  Luckily, work has been extremely busy, so it has occupied much of my time – but in the few quiet moments I’ve had, I have sat in silence, my thoughts turning over and over in my head until I’m exhausted.

I have struggled with writing what I’m thinking, because I am aware that I have somewhat of an audience – be it little or large, it makes no difference when you know people are watching. And so I have grappled between being true to myself – or writing about what people want to read.

And then I remember…

I don’t owe anyone a damned thing.

I am not selling anything. I am not representing anything or anyone – other than myself.  This blog carries on from nearly ten blogs before it – when I had an audience of none – when I wrote for no other reason than wanting to write.

Recently, my sister-in-law said to me, after I followed up a post with some clarifications, “That is ridiculous. You don’t need to clarify anything. These are your own thoughts.”  And my response was, “Well, I would hate for anyone to think that I meant…” 

You know what?

You’ve got it!

Chuck it.

***

During my mom’s last visit, she brought out a stack of papers she found in an old desk of mine from high school.  Much of it was random musings of a teenager – overly-dramatic poems (which Brian and I had a good laugh reading through together), some school papers that included articles I wrote (they spelled my first name wrong in the byline), a start to a young adult book (that I only let my sister read, at the time, and she readily critiqued)…  and mixed in with all of it was a typed up letter I had written to the Voice of the People section of the local newspaper.

 

To whom it may concern:

I have a few things to say and I hope you find it important enough to put in your VOICE OF THE PEOPLE section in your newspaper.

I may be writing this a little late but I still think that what I want to say should be listened to.  It’s about the burning of the flag. Lots of people say that burning the flag is a horrid act. That the flag stands for freedom. A freedom in which men fought and died for. A freedom in which we worked so hard to get. The flag states our freedom to think and live as we please. A freedom to our own color, religion and our way of living. I agree the flag stands for all of this. I agree that the flag shouldn’t be used to get back at the government for something they are doing wrong. I don’t think the flag should be burned.  But isn’t every person who has a prejudice against anyone different than themselves also going against everything the flag stands for also? Every time a person curses another’s color, religion or sex, aren’t they also burning the flag?  Not physically so others can see them, but verbally when they hate those different from themselves.  So what is so different if people burn the flag through a match rather than through their mouths? I think that doing one is just as bad as the other. I think both actions are wrong.  So everyone out there who can say that they think that burning the flag is an outrage and wrong, but they themselves have gone against what the flag stands for, well, just think of the ways they’ve burnt it in one way or another.

Another thing, I am not some kind of ‘80s hippy who wants to go around and save the world. I’m just a fifteen year old kid who wants to be heard and not just seen.

J.B.

 

After reading this letter, I laughed at my then-15-year old self and set it aside. I had forgotten that I used to write letters every so often to the newspaper.  I never mailed one of them – but, as is the same case today, just getting my thoughts on paper was therapeutic.

However, a few days ago as I was sorting through my desk and I ran across the letter, I sat down and read it to myself again. And this time I felt a weight land heavily on my chest.

Make no mistake, I don’t think that letter was profound in any way. I certainly don’t think it had any kind of genius message.  But, I do want to know: why didn’t I mail it? 

I want to grab that 15 year old girl by the shoulders and scream, “MAIL IT!”  I want someone else to have grabbed that 15-year old and told her:

“Don’t be scared. Let them hear your voice. Act. If you believe in something, ACT.”  

Do not let the fear of how you may look sideline the truth of how you feel. 

So, here I am.  Decades later.  With little blue eyes watching now. And I am never going to make that mistake again.

I will say it and I will live it. And I am not going to keep quiet in order to appear gracious and neutral.

In our home, we don’t “tolerate” love – we embrace it.  
In our home, religious freedom is just that – freedom. For all religions.
In our home, your religious beliefs (or lack of them) do not define your humanity. Your actions define your humanity.
In our home, black lives matter.
In our home, we understand it is our responsibility to take care of this planet.
In our home, we understand and appreciate this country is made of a melting pot of immigrants, which include my great-grandparents and likely yours.
In our home, we don’t turn our backs on our suffering neighbors.
In our home, free thought is encouraged.
In our home, science is not just a theory.
In our home, women’s rights are human rights.
In our home, we don’t build walls.
In our home, we break down walls.

And another thing…

Peaceful protests aren’t the byproduct of giving kids participation trophies. They are the byproduct of the First Amendment.

Expressing sadness over a world turned upside down by election results doesn’t equate to “babies” not getting their way.  It equates to genuine sadness.

You don’t get to call yourself pro-life unless you are fighting for ALL lives.  (Perhaps click here for a better understanding.)

I don’t define all democrats by clusters of rioting in otherwise peaceful demonstrations, just as I don’t define all republicans by organized Ku Klux Klan “victory” parades celebrating the president-elect.

***

Listen, this is no longer about an election. I am not denying the president-elect won. He won. That part is over now. And, as I told Hannah tonight over dinner, Donald Trump is going to be our president and we have to respect that.  But I also told her that doesn’t mean we stop standing up for what we believe in or doing what is right.

I may be going to Washington in January to march – and if not there, the sister-march in St. Louis. (I would hope that everyone has read and realizes the Women’s March is not a protest against Trump – it is a march for women’s rights.)

If I do go, Ivy will not understand why right now.

But when she comes across a photo of it in a desk twenty years from now, she will know.  And I will have done more than mailing it in.

xo,

Jen

 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

 

 

 

***

Yesterday. It was nearly 5pm, I was under the gun with a work project. My three and a half year-old, Ivy, was being unusually high-maintenance. The dogs were being insanely rowdy. Our house was (and still is) a mess. Western stand-off music played in my head as I walked from the living room to the kitchen and tumbleweeds of dog hair rolled by.  Ivy’s underpants that I washed and folded three days ago are now scattered across the rug on the floor. Endless mugs of unfinished coffee cover my kitchen island.

When my husband came home, he grabbed the dogs and took them for a walk, so I could finish my work.  I finished up and, as they were still gone, I grabbed a glass of red wine and went upstairs to do something I never, ever do: take a hot bath.  I made a glorious, sudsy oasis (using dish soap, of course, because we have no bubble bath) and was about to step in when Ivy appeared behind me, back from what felt like the quickest walk in history.

“You takin’ a bath, Mom?”

Yes.

She looks over my shoulder and observes my glass, “You havin’ wine?”

Yes.

“Ok. Did you want one of my bath toys?”

I just started laughing. As much as I want my alone time, who can be annoyed with a tiny human offering you her bath toys?

So, she stayed in the bathroom with me – and played with her bath toys from the other side of the tub –  while I just sat there, sipping my wine and washing off the day.

***

Some days are harder than others. For all of us.  But, yesterday as I sat working – still in my pajamas with unbrushed teeth at 5pm – I looked around my chaotic, messy, home and I just said to myself:

Chuck it in the f*ck it bucket.

My husband is right: You’re not expected to do it all.  But, even more importantly, sometimes you don’t even have to do half of it.

  • Laundry: It gets done (on my end) in this house when I’ve officially run out of jeans or good underwear. Chuck it.
  • Cleaning: My husband often sings out “Nothing cleans like company!” when we are expecting people over, because that’s usually the only time we thoroughly clean this home.  Chuck it.
  • Ivy doesn’t seem to be phasing out of her I am terrified of everyone except my immediate family phase. She hisses at people in the grocery store and clamps her hands over her eyes when anyone looks at her. Because I have run out of excuses, I no longer make apologizes. so I basically just look like I’m raising a total asshole  Chuck it. 
  • I’m sure there are moms out there who just read the above and think I am raising a total asshole.  Chuck it.
  • Willow, our dog, is digging holes all over our backyard and nothing seems to stop her. Chuck it. 
  • I’ve killed every plant in this house out of pure neglect because unless you are a toddler telling me you are hungry 57 times a day or a dog nudging me incessantly at meal time, I can’t be in charge of your livelihood. Chuck it.
  • I watched four bananas die a slow painful death on my counter and I didn’t even make banana bread. Chuck it. 
  • We are retraining Ivy to sleep in her bed, because she’s suddenly scared of everything. I have done an army crawl out of her bedroom more often than I care to admit. Chuck it.
  • I owe about 50 friends, family, etc. emails, return texts, messages, etc. and I don’t even know where to begin. Chuck it. 
  • At all times, I feel like I have 50 balls up in the air – and I only catch about 7. The rest land on my head. Chuck it.
  • And, lastly, it is guaranteed I will have more than one person read this post and think, “You think that’s bad, try having….”  CHUCK YOU!

Here’s the thing: as much as we are all in this thing together, we are all in this thing alone. So, decide for yourself what you want to throw in the f*ck it bucket. It’s YOUR f*ck it bucket and you can do whatever you want with it! That’s the beauty.

You may care about a clean house more than I do (for the record, I think everyone on earth cares more about a clean house than I do). But I’m of the mind that as long as you are not living in filth that qualifies for a social services well-being check, you’re a winner in my book!

We all have things that appear higher on the list of priorities than others. And everyone gets to decide what tops their list.  A word to the wise: keep your eyes on your own list.  What matters to others may not matter at all to you – so don’t let other people’s priorities trick you into thinking they should be yours as well.

And maybe consider chucking all of those “How to…” articles in your bucket as well.  Then start a running dialog in your head that begins with “How I…”

xo

Jen

1431614278014

Please tell me you know what that quote is from. Otherwise, leave now.

Just kidding.

Go look it up and come back… We’ll wait.

Got it?

Great! Let’s move on.

I haven’t had the urge to write for awhile. At all.  This should probably always be taken as a good sign, as I’ve said before that I tend to write when I’m down or going through something.  But things have been going well – and busy – and every time I go to write lately, I fizzle out.  Or a squirrel runs by…

Also, honestly, sometimes I go through these phases where I feel cornered in my writing. I have tried very hard to stay true to my own path in what I choose to write about and, as I’ve also said before many times, I mostly write as a one-off purge. I write what I’m thinking or feeling at that moment, get it out there – and move on.  The minute I start to be “expected” to write about certain topics (step-parenting, in particular), I feel trapped and want to do the exact OPPOSITE.  I’ve been thinking a lot about why that is – and, after some serious soul-searching, I think I’ve figured it out:

I am not just a step-mom.

I don’t know why that matters to me so much to say (or type) out loud.  I don’t think anyone is even accusing me of being “just” a stepmom.  But sometimes I feel pushed into a corner, as if it’s some kind of niche I’ve hit upon, and there is so much more to me – and to all of us step-parents!

So, let me just have a general mom moment here.  Because I don’t go to the grocery store with Hannah and Ivy and think, “This is my daughter and step-daughter.”  In fact, I don’t think of it much at all, most days.  They are just “ours” – all of us co-parents’.

And there ain’t one “step” – and certainly no “half” – about it!

***

We’ve had a busy, busy few weeks – and I’m exhausted.  Brian and I just returned from a much-needed and much-appreciated (thank you, Mom and Tante Janet for watching our little red dragon!) getaway to New York.  We have been there many times together and so we’ve been to pretty much all of the “must do” tourist attractions.  So, when we go now, we both like to explore neighborhoods and go off the beaten path – and we had a great time!

img_5962

Brian doing what he does!

 

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Day-Date in Central Park

 

*I do want to note that we did tour the 9/11 Memorial, which I honestly cannot recommend enough.  There is no way to put the experience into words, so you will have to see it for yourselves.  It is so incredibly well-done – but know that you will be emotionally drained by the time you are through it.  Brian and I both were in awe, but also said we never wanted to have to go back – though we will, because there is no way we won’t take Ivy and Hannah. It is so incredibly important.

Since we returned from New York, the panic of not getting Ivy to a pumpkin patch before Halloween set in (so ridiculous, I know) and we headed to Eckert’s Millstadt Family Fun Farm.  Ivy had a blast picking her own pumpkin from the patch (she wanted a green one) and petting all of the animals. We also did the corn maze. (I can neither confirm nor deny if we cheated.)

Check Obligatory Pumpkin Patch visit off the list.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
She was very specific about finding a small, green pumpkin.
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Waiting for the pig races.

 

When looking at these pumpkin farm photos and others, I feel as if people often wonder where Hannah is in most of my Instagram or Facebook photos, and I’ve finally given myself a pass on worrying about it.  The simple truth is that Hannah is a teenager and also a very busy kid – and when she’s not at dance, or poms (she recently made Captain – woo hoo!), she has a more active social life than Britney Spears in 2001.  (Not that she’s doing anything Britney Spears may or may not have been doing in 2001!)  So, to wrangle her for candid photos – much less the mini-sessions I have with Ivy – is pretty much impossible.

It’s very rare that I get Hannah to myself these days – it’s very rare that any of us do! We’re all treasuring our time with our social bug when we can get it.  But sometimes I think back to when she was just 5 or 6 and Brian used to work every Sunday, so I’d have her to myself.  Those were such treasured, fun times.  We had little traditions every Sunday: swimming, shopping and having lunch.  I’d hear all about her friends and ideas, etc.  She’d tell me animated stories and I’d think how fast she was growing up – even back then.

We don’t get much one-on-one time these days. When she is with us, Ivy – of course – wants to be with her sister and vice-versa. I’ve actually learned to savor the small moments Hannah and I get.  When Brian is traveling for work, I pick her up from dance – and in those car rides and the nights she stays over while Brian is away, we pack in a lot of conversations and catching up.

Today was a day to savor.  Brian wanted to get yard work done – and I took the girls for a fun day at Chuck E Cheese’s.  I had forgotten how fun this place is!  Of course, Ivy dove right in.  And the sweetest part of the day was watching Hannah show Ivy all of her favorite games and rides from when she was younger.  And – can I just get an Amen! that you no longer have to deal with all those tokens?!  They now have Play Passes that scan at each game/ride.  (But don’t worry, those glorious, coveted tickets still spit out when you win!)

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

img_5939

img_5940

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
She quickly caught on to the appeal of the “tickets”.
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
I cannot adequately express the amount of danger Ivy poses while playing skee ball.
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Sisters.

 

We ate lunch, played for hours and came home exhausted.  It was a great day alone with the girls that I will savor – the joy of watching them together always makes my heart burst a little more.  There is such a love between them, a deep and true love. This is why I do wince a bit every time I over-hear someone use the term “half-siblings” – because I honestly can’t imagine any two sisters more whole.

xo,

Jen

 

:: Our day at Chuck E. Cheese’s was sponsored. The fun and quality time we had was priceless! ::