Hello Monday

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This past Saturday was the end of the A-to-Z Challenge with the letters U, V, W, X, Y and Z. When I ended the month of March I had 132 followers and 979 views. At the end of April I had 216 followers and 2,348 views! Holy cow! This just confirms what can happen when you blog with purpose! Here are links to the end of my A-to-Z Challenge: 

United – My husband and I are a united front when it comes to parenting the munchkins. He always has my back and I always have his

Village – “It takes a village to raise a child.” Each parent in our blended family has something truly unique to offer to the munchkins.

Waiting Room – James (Little Man) had his tonsils taken out last month and sitting in the waiting room opened my eyes to how thankful I am for my place in our family.

XOXO – I write the kids notes in their lunch boxes everyday. It’s the little things we do for our kids that really end up being the big things.

You Are Loved – Three words I want the kids to always know, “You are loved”. Every child deserves to know they are loved, heck, every PERSON deserves to know they are loved.

Zoo Field Trip – I ended the challenge sharing a picture of myself and talking about the amazing time my husband Matt and I had at the zoo for our little munchkin Jordan’s first field trip!

My most viewed post during the challenge was E is for Evil Stepmother. That was actually one of my favorite posts to write. The history of fairy tales about evil stepmothers was quite fascinating and I hope it will inspire others to try and banish those thoughts that all stepmothers are evil.

Last week was a great week for me, not just in blogging, but in my personal life as well. My (step)kids mom and I had a huge heart to heart after she discovered my blog. I was worried about how she was going to react to the posts I have made, but she blew my mind by how understanding and supportive she was. If you haven’t checked out her blog yet, you have to head over there! She’s funny, smart and an incredible writer. Her name is Stephanie over at Making Time for Me. We will be guest blogging on each others page on Mother’s Day this Sunday, be sure to keep an eye out for that!

The Kindness Challenge over at The Richness of the Simple Life starts May 9th. I’m excited to start a new challenge and even more excited to see where this Kindness Challenge takes me! It’s not to late to sign up!

Happy Monday!

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Z is for Zoo Field Trip

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This is it! This is the last letter of the alphabet for the A-to-Z Challenge. I cannot believe I wrote every day this month. I wrote passionately throughout this challenge for every single letter. Thank you to everyone who took this journey with me. It wasn’t always pretty but it was real. From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Now on to the letter Z!

Earlier this month, M and I helped chaperone Little Miss’s class at the Detroit Zoo. When the field trip permission slips were sent out, Little Miss came running out of her classroom that day yelling, “Jess! Jess! You HAVE to come to the zoo field trip with me! Please!! I realllllyyyyy want you to come with me!” I mean, how could I turn down a request like that? M saw the paper when he got home from work and asked Little Miss if he could come too. Of course she lit up like a light bulb and said “YES!”

I volunteer in Little Miss’s classroom every Thursday, so the kids in her class know who I am. They were all very happy to hear that Mrs Jess was coming to the zoo with Mr M. Little Miss’s teacher, Mrs. B, came up to me and said that since I have such a strong connection with one of the kids who has emotional outbursts in class frequently (apparently I am good with dealing with people who freak out), if she could put him in our group for the zoo. I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty nervous at first. Yes, I do have a special connection with this little boy. He listens to me when I talk to him, and when I’m in the classroom he actually gets work done, but I was kind of looking forward to a day with our daughter at the zoo for her first field trip. Of course I told Mrs B yes and then she said, “I think it will be good for R to be around you and your husband. You know he’s really a great kid, he just needs some love and attention, and I think you both will be able to give him that.” That really spoke to me. This teacher can obviously see what a great team we make and she feels it will really help this little boy. I felt honored she trusted us with that.

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Zoo day arrives and Mrs B comes up to us before we all head out to the buses. She told us R’s dad might show up at the zoo, and that he “isn’t suppose to be there” What? I have to keep a child from his parent? Then I thought, thank God M is with me, then I felt this ache in my heart for this little boy. I can only imagine what his home life is like. I know his parents are divorced and he has been acting out ever since. I also know Mrs B was right, this kid just needs a little love and attention and then he will relax.

So that’s exactly what we were going to do at the zoo. It was just Little Miss, R, M, and I in a group.  Each kid had a specific animal they needed to research at the zoo for a report they were putting together. R was fabulous the entire day! He was smiling ear to ear and had such a blast with Little Miss. No sightings of his dad, we saw every animal at the zoo, and we even saw the rain forest exhibit that was locked off to the public!  R finished his entire paper for his report (this is a huge win) and Little Miss had a blast with her daddy and I. It was an overall amazing first field trip for everyone!

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Little Miss and I at the zoo

When we got home, Mrs B emailed me and thanked my husband and I for taking such great care of R. I guess he sat next to her the whole bus ride home from the zoo and talked non stop about how much fun he had with us. “He had an amazing time filled with love and positive attention. Thank you for taking such great care of him. I knew you both would be perfect for him.”

My first field trip is now in the books! The zoo was in full spring swing and it was an amazing eye opening experience of how thankful I am the munchkins have parents who love them and give them the positive attention they need.

Y is for You Are Loved

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Three words I have always wanted the kids to know are, “You are loved”. Being shuffled between two houses most of their whole lives has been a routine for them. They are so lucky to have so many people who love and care about them.They didn’t understand what was going on six years ago, but no matter what I know they knew they were loved.

They have two sets of parents, four sets of grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins who love them to pieces. Every child deserves to know they are loved. Love is a powerful thing and feeling loved helps us get through our day. One of the first things a child learns, is to love. Kids have so much love to give, even when they are being little snots, they should know they are still loved.

Little Miss is pretty vocal about her love for everyone. She tells me at LEAST 100 times a day how much she loves me. I could be doing stuff for work, making dinner, blowing my nose, she tells me she loves me and I know she means it. Little Man has a huge heart. A huge yet gentle heart. He is the absolute best with surprise hugs and I-love-yous. We will be sitting at the dinner table and I will look at up him and he gives me a wink. A wink that no one else catches but me and it melts my heart. That’s his way, in that moment, to tell me he loves me. He’s going to be quite the ladies man when he gets older.

There are times when the kids get in trouble and we as parents get pretty pissed off at them. I know I have lost my cool too many times to count, but at the end of every discussion M and I have with them we tell them “You are loved. Even when you make us upset, you are loved.” I don’t think they ever really question if they are loved or not, but to make a point to remind them after some harsh words, always helps in my book.

Love is an amazing feeling. Love lifts us up when the world feels like it is bringing us down. There was a time I was pretty upset about something and Little Miss came up to me and wrapped her little arms around my waist and said, “You are loved, Jess.” I knew right then and there we must be doing something right! We are teaching them love and compassion, and they are nailing it right on the head!

So if you’re having a rough day today, remember you are loved. Smile and know that someone else loves you for who you are and that’s the best thing anyone could ask for!

“Don’t you ever ask them why, if they told you, you would cry,
So just look at them and sigh and know they love you.”

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

X is for XOXO

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Every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I pack the munchkin’s lunches and snacks. It’s something I have done since Little Man was in Kindergarten. After packing their lunches I will always write them a little note with something sweet or funny and then I will sign it “XOXO”.

One day I forgot to write them a note, and the first thing they both said to me when I saw them was “Why didn’t you write me a note today in my lunch?!” I honestly didn’t know if they really liked the notes or were just being nice because they didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Little Miss would mention something after school sometimes and knowing that Little Man was getting older and might not want notes anymore from me, I was surprised he spoke up too. I apologized to them and said I will make sure I put one in tomorrow. When we got home Little Miss took me into her room and opened a little box she has on her side table. Inside were tons of the notes that I wrote her. She told me that she is saving them all because she likes to reread them when she wakes up in the morning. And there she goes again….wrapping herself around my finger and tugging at my heart strings.

My mom use to leave me notes in my lunch box every day. It was seriously one of the highlights of my entire day. It was a special note she wrote just for me. Sometimes my dad would write the note, that was always a rare occasion, but when he did, they were always extra special. I wanted the kids to get that same special feeling I use to get in the middle of the school day. When the day would get away from you and you totally forgot about your parents, then there was that little note that reminded you that you are loved and thought about.

Little Miss told me the other day that she loves being able to read the notes I write her to her friends during lunch. Apparently my notes are a huge hit in first grade! LOL I will take what I can get. I’m actually suppose to have lunch with Little Miss tomorrow when I volunteer in her classroom. I thought maybe I could get out of it this week (horrible, I know, but I have a lot I need to get done tomorrow), but low and behold, Little Miss has reminded me five times since Monday. Looks like I’m dining with first graders tomorrow!

I love the little notes I write the kids. I love that they love the notes I write. I love that before they could read I would write them notes, but instead of words I would draw pictures. Like instead of “I love you” I would draw an eye, then a heart and then a giant U. It’s the little things for me. The little things that make me happy and smile. Seeing how much they look forward to my notes will just fuel me to keep writing them. So until they tell me to stop, they can keep expecting their notes from me. Signed….

XOXO,

Your Jess 

 

W is for Waiting Room

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About a little over a month ago, we found out Little Man needed to have his tonsils taken out. We have been very fortunate that neither one of the kids have ever been really sick before. The only doctor visits they have are their yearly check-ups.

A few years ago, I mentioned something to M (my husband) about Little Man’s snoring. It had got a lot louder and I can hear him at night two rooms away. Little Man also was making these weird sounds when he was just breathing while we sat on the couch. To me, it sounded like he was trying to breathe and was struggling. Little Miss on the other had a huge issue with her brother’s “noises”. I have seen her have a complete melt down because she couldn’t handle it. *insert eye roll* M said he would mention something to their mom before their yearly check-up that was coming up. Well, the doctor gave him a clean bill of health and that was that.

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Over the next couple years I kept noticing it was getting worse. It was starting to effect his ability to run for a long period of time. He loved gym class, but dreaded doing the half mile run. This kid loves to run, so I knew something had to be wrong. Little Man then went to the dentist and the DENTIST mentioned something along the lines of, his tonsils are pretty large this might effect the way his face is forming. Well, another PCP appointment and ENT specialist appointment later, we scheduled a tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (tonsils and adenoids).

I played soccer for about 19 years and broke about 14 bones. I’m no stranger to emergency rooms, doctors, specialist and operations. I’ve also had a 24 mm cyst removed from my ovary. (Un)Fortunately, I know the drill on how these kind of minor surgeries go. Long story short, I totally thought I was prepared for this entire scenario. Until I realized, “What if they make me stay in the waiting room because I’m not his mother?!” Cue instant anxiety.

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At 5:30 AM on the day of Little Man’s surgery, M, the munchkins, their mom and I, all walked in together and signed him in. My anxiety began to grow. We waited until they called his name then M and their mom walked back with Little Man. I stayed with Little Miss in the waiting room. Tears began to fall down my face. I wanted to hold his hand, I wanted to kiss his forehead and reassure him everything would be alright. But I had to wait.

After about 30 minutes go by, M came out and asked if I wanted to see him before they took him back. Um — DUH. I’m pretty sure I power walked the whole way back to his room. Little Man looked content in his hospital gown and blanket. I could see that he was already day dreaming about all the popsicles he was going to devour when he woke up. Typical kid move. I walked back out to the waiting room with Little Miss and a sense of calmness came over me. I wasn’t left out. No one forgot about me. I matter.

It was a quick surgery and they were wheeling Little Man out to his mom’s car. I hadn’t seem him yet, but I could hear him. He was wailing in pain. He made eye contact with me and just sobbed. There was nothing I could do to take the pain away. He was scared and in pain, and I couldn’t fix it. I did not cry in front of him though. I held it together. The second I got in our car is a different story, I cried like a baby and thanked God for two healthy children.

Their mom sent me updates the rest of the week, mostly every few hours. I was so thankful for that. She didn’t have to do that, but she did. I talked to him on the phone a few times and I could already tell having the surgery was helping him.

One of the days their mom sent me a text that said Little Man said, “This is the first time in my WHOLE life I’ve been able to breathe just out of my nose, with my mouth closed.” Hearing that brought more tears to my eyes. This poor boy has spent 8 years not being able to breathe, and now he can. This was going to change his perspective on everything! After a couple weeks went by he had his half mile run in gym class and shaved a whole minute off of his time. He was SO proud of himself and so proud that he could BREATHE the entire time!

At the beginning I was so caught up and worried about the waiting room, but in the end all I knew I really cared about was how Little Man was going to be. There will be times where I will have to wait, but I will be there waiting the whole time. I’m not going anywhere and I know the munchkins know that. I will always be there for them, even if I have to wait my turn.

V is for Village

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There was actually quite a lot of “V” words I wanted to write about. Vacation, because we have tons of great memories, with Cracker Barrel stories galore from the many stops on our way to and from destinations, “The Voice” because it is a family ritual every Monday and Tuesday and Volunteering because that is something I do weekly at the munchkin’s school. But I decided on Village.

I’m sure you have heard the African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” That statement rings with truth in blended and step families. Two sets of parents, four sets of grandparents, step siblings, half siblings, aunts, uncles and cousins. So many people who make up the village your children are being raised in.

Children are like sponges. They absorb every piece of information around them. The more love and positive influences in a child’s life the better. This isn’t always easy when both sets of parents don’t get along. Regardless if bio mom/dad is on board or not, YOU as a step parent need to find your place in this village. No one will find it for you and each family situation is different. YOU have to decide where you want to stand in helping to raise a child who is now apart of your life. What kind of parent do you want to be?

In your village you will need to have communication. Not everyone likes texting, but I personally like to have texts sent to me when dates change with the munchkins. It’s easier for me to look back at exactly what their mom said in a text so I don’t have to bother her later for information she already gave me. M’s ex wife communicates with me more than him. For us, it just works out better that way. Whenever she needs to change a day, she will most likely contact me first and I will pass it on to M. The both of them need to work on their communication skills with EACH OTHER, but until then, I don’t mind being the “buffer”. I’m a Libra, it’s what we do.

Also in your village, you will need to have respect. Respect for everyone who helps raise this child. Bio mom or dad is an ass jack you say? Well, that ass jack helped bring this awesome kid in your life, so they deserve at least your respect for that. It not only gives your inner soul peace, but it teaches your child to treat their parents with respect. Monkey see, monkey do.

Overall, your village needs to support, respect and communicate with each other. This child you are raising together will benefit from EACH parent in their life. Each person in your village has something unique to offer, a lesson that will help the child grow and navigate through this crazy world.

“It is not what you do for your child, but what you have taught them to do for themselves, that will make them successful human beings.”

Ann Landers

U is for United

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I am happy to spend this crazy thing we call life with my incredible husband. We are a united front and can conquer anything the universe throws our way. It might be hard and it might get overwhelming, but together we will get through it. We have been through some very difficult times and only came out stronger, because we worked at it. We didn’t give up.

My husband (let’s call him M for the sake of confusion) and I have been in a relationship for almost six years and I love that man more and more every day. I’m not a sappy love person, I don’t do PDA and I cannot stand hearing people use cliche sayings when describing being in love. Well here I am, being a total hypocrite because I believe in the cliche sayings now. Every time I see M’s face my heart still skips a beat. In a crowded room we can lock eyes from opposite sides of the room and everyone else just disappears. I know, I know, it sounds all mushy and too good to be true, but if this is what true love feels like, I am one lucky woman.

M always has my back. He is my biggest support and best friend. He knows what I’m thinking before I can even open my mouth. That really helps when it comes to parenting. The munchkins know how much their daddy and I love and respect each other. We don’t have any secrets and everything is always laid out on the table. There are times when the kids get in trouble when their dad is at work and they already know I’m going to tell him about what happened. It doesn’t mean they will get in double trouble, but he will be made aware of the situation. There should be no secrets in a marriage and we want them to see that.

When co-parenting you must remember two things. First, support and back your spouse. Second, respect the mother/father of your children. I understand you can’t make everyone happy and that’s not what I’m saying, but you have to keep both of those points in mind when handling co-parenting obstacles. You must stand united with your spouse, but you have to show your kids that you respect their other parent. It will benefit them in the long run, trust me.

There was a time when I was at Little Man’s sporting event and they were passing out a team sheet. M was an Assistant Coach on the team and was out on the field, so he couldn’t grab the paper. I walked over to the lady who was handing them out, introduced myself and asked for one of the papers. She looked at me and said “I already gave one to his MOTHER, I don’t want to get in the middle of anything so go ask her for the paper.” I sat there humiliated in front of all the parents. I didn’t know exactly what to say to her because I have never had anyone speak to me like that before and be so assuming as to my husband’s ex and I are fighting. We might not be best friends or agree on a lot of things, but we would never disrespect each other like THAT, especially in public. The ex had already left after she got the paper so I wasn’t able to talk to her about it right then. When M and I got in the car to leave the practice, (the munchkins were with their mom) I sobbed my eyes out. He asked me what happened and I explained the whole story. He was enraged. I have never seen him get so upset. M sure had my back though. He talked to the mom who insulted me, I don’t remember exactly what he said, but he stood up for me and things changed. We were a united front through out the entire situation and it made us even stronger.

We are going to come across many more obstacles through out our marriage. If we didn’t, then I would say we didn’t have a healthy marriage. As long as we stand united together, I believe love does conquer all.

Here is the letter I wrote my husband awhile back.

A-to-Z Challenge Round Up

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Congratulations to all of my fellow A-to-Z bloggers out there! We are entering our last week of the challenge and I must say, I’m super pumped with how this month went.

This past week I wrote about:

Order – Order is a must in our household. Without it, chaos will spread like wild fire.

Pregnancy – An amazing life experience I cannot wait to embark.

Quilts – Stories of my amazing mother-in-law who is an extraordinary quilter.

Responsibility and Reward– Step parents everywhere will understand where I am coming from here. Such little rewards with so much responsibilities.

Self-Reflection – This A-to-Z journey has taken me down memory lane of the times that were brutal but also times that I will always cherish.

Traditions – Every family has traditions, even the blended ones. We do it in our own way and that doesn’t make it any less important.

I also had a guest post on A Mother of All Trades! My very first guest post and I am proud to say I really poured my heart and soul into it and LOVED doing it! If anyone is looking to be a guest contributor, I would be honored to have you and I would be honored to guest post for you! My email is: notheaveragemama@gmail.com

My favorite post this week was from Proud To Be Step! Her letter T was for Television. She gives great insight from a parents AND teacher’s perspective. Screen time and technology with our little ones is really important to pay attention to!

If you missed any of these posts this week, check them out! Good luck to all of you on your last week of blogging A-to-Z! We are almost there!

T is for Traditions

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We have started a lot of family traditions over the past six years. My hubby and I decided early on that it was important to have these special traditions with the munchkins. I loved my family traditions growing up. When I think of my childhood, I miss our family traditions the most.

My mom is hands down the best about holidays. She started so many family traditions  with us growing up. Traditions that my brothers and I looked forward to the most during holidays or birthdays. Every Christmas my mom will make homemade cinnamon rolls from scratch. I have never had a cinnamon roll in my life that can compare to my mothers. Come to think of it, I’ve never asked her for the recipe. I think it’s because deep down I know I could never make them the way she does. It’s her special touch and the way she goes about the whole baking process that makes the cinnamon rolls even better. It is all done with love. Love is key to any successful family tradition.

Holidays are tricky in blended families. In most co-parenting situations, every year the parents alternate holidays and birthdays. At least that is the general rule in our state. I’m not going to lie, at first it was hard on my husband not to see the kids every year for their birthdays or holidays. As time went on, we realized they are just set days that the world decides to celebrate them. It doesn’t make it any less important if we celebrate on a different day.

We have been fortunate enough to have the munchkins four out of the last six Christmases. Every Christmas Eve, my side of the family hosts a huge family party. The kids look forward to it every year. For six hours they are showered with love, attention, and family traditions with Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, and Grandparents. We always have a White Elephant, Ornament Exchange, and a mean game of LRC (Left, Right, Center). Family time and traditions around Christmas will always have a special place in my heart.

Both of the munchkins are very particular about HOW they want their birthdays celebrated. They ALWAYS request a themed cake, made by me. I have made a Cars, Star Wars, Elmo, #5 with sprinkles, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle cake for them over the years. The birthday cake theme to them is more of a process to figure out then what they actually want for their birthday. They will draw out cake plans and designs they would like me to use. Let’s get one thing straight, I am not a professional cake baker and  I have no training or clue to what I am doing. I am straight up winging it, but for some reason they are mesmerized by the end result. It must be because they know it is made out of love.

The munchkins never really asked questions growing up as to why their holidays and birthdays are celebrated separately and sometimes on different days. When they did, we reminded them it’s not about presents and gifts. It’s about love and family, and they will always have both every day of the year, no matter whose house they are at.

What traditions do you and your family have? I would love to hear what the responses are from all of you amazing bloggers from around the world!