Friday, May 29, 2015

A Letter to My Graduate

Dear Morgan,

I know you never thought you would actually make it to this point. But you have. Today you walk the stage and get your diploma and close this chapter in your life. When we started this journey together four years ago, you struggled with believing that you were smart and capable. I never doubted for a second how smart you were - I could see a bright and talented girl in front of me who just needed to believe in herself. And I was determined that I would make sure that you saw your full potential and would have the confidence that you were so very smart. It took some time - and some frustrations - but along the way, your confidence started to soar. Your grades improved and for once, I could see that you believed in yourself just as much as I believed in you. And you have no idea how happy that made me.

When we decided to transfer you to Pittsburg halfway through your Freshman year, you never once questioned us. You put on a brave face, but I can still remember how nervous you were that first day as we were getting you registered. You were worried about not knowing anyone and making friends. But I never for one second doubted that you wouldn't fit right in and have a group of friends in no time. People are instantly attracted to your sweet personality, your super soft heart and that beautiful infectious smile. You have always been a leader, never a follower. Your faith and trust in God is inspiring to everyone around you. You don't back down from your convictions and you don't mind  being the one standing alone, if that means standing up for what you believe is right. I have never seen you do anything out of peer pressure or to fit in - and I don't know if you truly understand how special and unique that makes you.

You probably have no idea the impact you have made on my life. When people talk about being beautiful on the inside - that is you through and through. Even though your beautiful beyond words, its who you are, the fiber of your being, that makes you truly beautiful. You radiate compassion and joy. You are authentic in a way that most adults can't even be.

I know your Senior year is not ending the way you had envisioned. I know this next chapter in life is scary and unknown and overwhelming. But I also know that because of who you are, you will have the strength to overcome all obstacles and end up successful in your life - no matter what. There has never been one moment that I haven't been proud of you. You are such a blessing to me and I love you so much that it sometimes hurts.

 My promise to you is this: I will never give up on you. I will support you in every way I can for as long as you live. I will love you unconditionally and be there for you every step of the way on the journey of your life. I will be your rock and strength when you need it. I will be your shoulder to cry on when you need it. I will be there to make you laugh and encourage you. I will never, ever give up.

I am so proud of you Morgan. I cannot wait to see what God has in store for your future.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Infertility Struggle and Becoming A Grandmother

I never wanted kids. Truly, I didn't. I never had that urge to hold a cooing little baby. I didn't go crazy over other peoples newborns or toddlers. I had my mind made up that I would never have kids.

But God had other plans for me. He brought David into my life and with him came 4 kids. I never hesitated to take them in, move them in and take on the job of a full time Mom. It never occurred to me to question it or give it much thought. They needed me - and I stepped up to the plate.

But with David came this feeling - this little gnawing on my brain and heart, that I wanted one of my own. I wanted my own baby. Because I wanted the opportunity to raise a wee one with the man that I love. As much as I love my step-kids, I wanted the experience of raising baby with my husband. Being able to mold it and shape it. Instill my morals and values in him or her. Love it and nurture it. I wanted that! And it went from being a gnawing at my heart into a full fledged 'need.'

So, you can imagine my disappointment when after a year of trying, nothing had happened. No baby. No nothing. And so, much to my heartbreak, we had to go to our doctor and find out what exactly was going on. And I can't tell you the anguish I felt when we were told we would not be able to get pregnant without fertility treatment - and even then, nothing was promised.

I was MAD. I was so mad I can't even begin to put it into words here. I was so angry with God. How could He do this to me? It wasn't fair. It wasn't right. I cried and cried and cried - until I couldn't cry anymore. I was resentful - of David and my step-kids. I turned my anger on my husband. How dare he be able to have kids with someone else and to find out WE couldn't have kids. Needless to say, my emotions have run the gamut.

And so we decided to adopt. We picked an agency, went to the classes, paid our money and were ready to delve into the very lengthy and overwhelming world of getting our affairs in order to prove we could provide a good home to a baby. And I was excited about that. But several months after the initial meetings I started to have this heavy feeling on my heart that now was just not the right time. I didn't say anything to my husband for a while and just prayed on it. But still, I had this uneasy feeling that it was just not the time to move forward. And so I broached the subject with David and we decided to put it off. 

Finally I came to a place of semi-peace with our situation. And we started to think that maybe it was a good thing to not start over. In 4 years we would have a kid free home and still be in our late 30's and would be able to have a life - just the two of us. We've never had a life together minus children in the home, so that would be an amazing experience as well. We started to plan all the things we would do, where we would travel and the hobbies we would take up. I was content. I had faith in God's plan for us. 

Fast forward about a year - and my 18 year old daughter is pregnant. At one time, when I was in the grief of not being able to have a baby, I had this ongoing dialogue with myself that if one of the girls ever ended up pregnant in our home, I would have to walk away. I know that sounds horrible, but if you have never been in the middle of dealing with infertility, you have no idea the emotions that go with it. It's brutal. And I just never thought I could become a Grandmother before I had the chance to have a baby myself. And now I found myself in that exact situation. 

And at first I was fearful. I was afraid I would resent Morgan. That it would all be to painful and bring up all kinds of negative emotions I had tried to put behind me. But the reality is, I'm okay. And I'm going to be okay. I have had a lot of people tell me that this might be the baby I prayed so hard for - just not in the way I had envisioned it. We never know what God has in store. And I don't know if that's true or not, but I do know this - my daughter and my granddaughter are going to need me and I'm going to be there every step of the way. I will be the best damn GiGi I can be. And the good news, hubby and I still can be on our 4 year plan to a life of just us. I do trust in God's plan. I may not always understand it, but I have complete faith in it. I believe the doubt that came with the adoption was for a reason - so that I would be available and ready when my daughter needed me. 

So, all in all, I'm still content and at a place of peace. Even with the teenage pregnancy. 

I was given this life because I'm strong enough to live it. 

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tough Love Boot Camp

So, lets talk about me for a moment, shall we? I am 100% Type A personality. I am a straight up, no question about it, self confessed control freak. And if I ever start to forget, my husband so politely reminds me about 100 times a week.

So what does that mean? I thrive on structure, order and schedules. I am a chronic list maker. I plan everything. I'm always early. I absolutely loathe surprises or anything thrown at me at the last minute. I need to be in the know on everything that goes on in our house and I normally flip if my husband tells the kids they can do something and doesn't tell me. I'm telling ya'll - I'm basically straight up cray cray.

So, when I found out that our daughter was 25 weeks pregnant (and didn't hear it from her, by the way), instead of panicking I started preparing. I just went into straight planner mode. I called the doctor. I got her insurance sorted out. I started buying furniture to convert her room into a nursery. I picked up her prescriptions. I reminded her to take her vitamins.

Are you starting to see a pattern here? And all the time I was doing all of this, this is what 'ol Preggo was doing most of the time.

It only took me a few weeks to become basically enraged because I was doing everything and she was doing nothing. I think my favorite thing to say during that time was - your pregnant, not paralyzed. But as some of my lovely friends pointed out, 'why would she, you're doing everything for her.' 

Which brings me to Tough Love Boot Camp. You see guys, I am not going to be raising this baby. My hubby and I said it from the beginning and we have made it quite clear that she is going to be responsible for this new life and we will be here to provide help and support. But I was crippling her. And I saw myself going down a very slippery slope if things didn't change and I didn't force her to start doing all the things that needed to be done... On. Her. Own.

So, I've started to (try to) cut the cord. I made her go to her last doctors visit on her own (with her boyfriend) and take care of all the insurance stuff. When she text and asked 'have you picked up my prescription yet' I politely replied, 'no, because it's not my prescription.' She has picked up extra hours at work. She is now responsible for cooking dinner several nights a week. It's baby steps. But I know that if I don't show some tough love, she is never going to learn and be able to grown into a responsible and mature Mom. So, I'm trying.

It is soooo not easy! Sometimes it kills me. And sometimes I think she gets a little pissed off at me. But as my dear Mom said, 'you play, you pay.' I'm not going to let her fail. But I'm going to ensure that she can stand on her own two feet and be a successful woman and Mom. And the only way to do that is with a little tough love boot camp!

P.S. I do have to admit that when she text me today and asked me to bring her Ravioli to school for lunch - I did it! I mean, c'mon, she is still MY baby!!

Monday, May 18, 2015

My 5 Step-Mom Truths - How I Actively Parent My Step-Kids and It Works

In case ya'll didn't know, I'm a step-mom. A full time step-mom. We have 4 (3 are at home ages 14, 16 & 18 and one is old enough to be moved out on her own). That means we have our kiddos 365 days a year. That means I do everything from cook, to plan Birthday parties, have parent-teacher conferences, do homework at night, attend all the sports events and more. There is nothing I don't do of 'motherly duties' - I just simply did not give birth to them.

Here of late I've seen a lot of articles going viral about the 'truths of being a step-mom' and honestly, most of them have really just pissed me off. Apparently there are a lot of angry step-moms out there and a lot of really ugly shared custody situations. And not that I'm playing that down because I don't know that side of step-parenting. I've been blessed to get to raise our 4 with my husband and have very little dealings with their biological mother.

BUT, I thought I would share my 5 truths of what being a step-mom has been to me. This probably won't go viral, but I think there needs to be another side and perspective out there. Because no two families are alike - no matter if you're a blended family or not. And everyone is handling and dealing with their families and kids in the way that makes sense to them. So some of these articles are really 'irking' me and I've got to put my own truth out there.

So, here you go:

1. No, I'm Not Their Mom, But I'm the Only Mom Roll Model They Have: This one is such a biggie with me. I know I'm not their mother. I know that kids have a bond with their Mom that will not be usurped by me. And I'm cool with that. But my kids have never had and don't have a role model of what a real Mom should look like. And that's me. And I take that role beyond serious. I'm the one that models for them what a marriage should look like and how parents take care of their children. I'm the one that cheers them on in everything they do and directs their path when they get off course. I'm the one that is molding them to be productive, successful, healthy young adults. And that is what they need in their life right now more than anything. So you're right, I'm not their mother. But I'm the only person they have that is currently acting like one. And they NEED that.

2. My Husband and I Parent Together - A recent article stated that the step-mom should defer to the Father in all areas. Basically, just take a backseat. I will tell you, most days my husband defers to me. He works 70+ hours a week. I work from home (most of the time). I'm the one that takes teacher calls, signs report cards, deals with bad behavior, picks them up from practice - and the list goes on and on. My husband wants me to be an active parent. There are more times than not that I've implemented discipline and then fill him in when he gets home. We are a working parental team. When you have kids 365 days a year, you have to be empowered to act like the parent or you will have nothing but chaos in your home. My husband appreciates that I co-parent with him and our kids treat us both the same when it comes to anything.... they are teenagers with bad attitudes! My husband and I both get the brunt of it. At the end of the day, my kids appreciate that I set boundaries and structure in our home. They feel safe -- and that's what parenting is all about.

3. You Don't Have to Be the Evil Step-Mother - From Day 1 I've been so blessed. God's honest truth, I've never once heard from my kids 'you're not my mother.' I don't bad mouth their biological mother. From the beginning I've done nothing but give guidance, structure, discipline and tons and tons of love and support. And they have blossomed and grown into such amazing kiddos. My husband tells me all the time, 'I don't know where they would be today without you.' And I'm not trying to pat myself on the back, I just want people to understand that I don't treat our kids delicately because I'm their step-mother. I don't hold back on anything. I give them all of me. I don't hold back. And I truly believe for that reason, I've got kids who treat me as an equal to their father.

4. Love Your Spouse, Love His Children - I can't speak for other people and their circumstances, but when I started dating my hubby, I knew it was a full package deal. I didn't date him, I dated him plus 4 kids. And when we moved in together, I knew that my life was going to change dramatically. I didn't kid myself to think that everything would be easy. The first 6 months was the hardest of my life. But I was committed. These kids have been let down so many times in life by women figures,  I vowed to myself  I wouldn't be the one to do it. I understand why 70% of blended marriages fail. Because it's hard work! You can't go in thinking the love you have for your husband will be enough. Take it from me, it's not. It's a long tough road. But I committed not only to my husband during our vows 'to love him for life' but I made the same commitment to our kids. If you aren't willing to commit to the kids - you may be in the wrong relationship.

5. It's Damn Hard Being a Mom - I don't care if you're a step-mom, bio mom, adopted mom, gay mom, black/white/purple/blue mom.... this stuff is damn hard. We are all struggling with our own situations - and it's getting tougher and tougher to raise kids in today's society. Moms of toddlers. Moms of teens. Moms of infants. You guys, none of it is easy. We should be empowering each other and building a community. I get told more times than you can believe 'well, you're not a real Mom.' And I let it get to me every single time. The truth is, I'm dealing with the same things as the 'real moms' out there. I have moody teens. I have picky eaters. I have sports injuries and runny noses and sore throats. I have teenage heartbreak and rebellion. I'm dealing with the age of technology and trying to keep up to keep my kids safe. It's hard for us all -- we are all fighting the same battles. Why can't we just support one another instead of tearing each other down.

In the end, I've decided I'm not reading any more 'step-mom' articles, because they don't know me and they don't know our situation. You cannot generalize the role of a step-mom because each blended family is so very unique. We all are finding our own way through what life throws at us.

I love the family we've created and the story we are creating. And that's all that matters.

Monday, May 11, 2015

So, About Mother's Day

So yesterday was Mother's Day. And like most things with the word 'mother' in them, I feel the need to go on a small rant and once again bring to light that so many people are so narrow minded and ignorant when it comes to families in 2015. Yep, sorry, but it has to be said. I was going to just do a Facebook post, but I think there are some points that need to be made here.

See, last time I checked I didn't know that Mother's Day was a day just for biological parents. But it seems I missed the memo somewhere. I had never thought this, even well before I became a step-parent (and once again, I loathe the word 'step' anything). I thought in the year 2015, with all the different ways we make families - blended, adopted, biological and more - that we could all just celebrate Mother's Day and not have to put any focus on how someone 'became' a Mother.

So, in case you were confused, here is the definition of Mother:

It's a Noun. It includes:

1. a female parent
2. one's female parent
3. a mother-in-law, stepmother or adoptive mother
4. a term of address for a female parent or woman having or regarded having the status, function or authority of a female parent
5. a woman exercising control, influence or authority like that of a mother
6. something or someone that gives rise to or exercises protecting care over something else

I particularly like #4 and #6.

You see, I believe that giving birth in no way makes you a Mother. Giving birth has nothing to do with the act of being a Mom to someone. Here's how I know. A biological mother gave birth to some kids years ago but has made the choice to not participate in the act of mothering for over 6+ years. I however, did not give birth to our children, but I made a conscious decision to become a Mom to our kids 4 years ago and I mother them daily. See my point?

I was spoiled rotten on Mother's Day. My husband and kids celebrate me on this day every year. Because I am the woman in #4 from above. I don't want any kind of special attention because I took on this role in life, I just want people to understand I'm no different than the mother who gave birth and is raising her kiddo. I'm raising MY kiddos. Biology doesn't make a mom, dad, grandma or grandpa. Biology has nothing to do with being a parent.

Want further proof? Here's an excerpt from the letter I received from my oldest daughter yesterday:

'There are no words to describe how thankful I am to have you as my Mom, not 'step-mom.' Biology doesn't matter when it comes to us. Biology does not mean that you are not my Mom. 

God put you in my life for a reason, and I'm starting to understand why He did. To make my broken family whole again, to make me a better person and to hopefully become and amazing mother one day, just like you. Thank you for that all you've done for me Mom. All that 'behind the scenes' things that I couldn't see and all the love that you have shown me. Thank you for being the loving and caring person you are and thank you for being my Mom when you didn't have to.' 

And as I type this and read her sweet words all over again, I am starting to realize one very important thing. It doesn't matter what you  or any other people that are not a part of this family think (no offense). What matters is what my kids think. And my super amazing daughter has summed it up best. So, I will leave it at that.

I will leave it at knowing that I am so truly and abundantly blessed. God hand chose 4 kids for me to raise. And he blessed me beyond measure by doing so. So, Happy Mother's Day to me. And for all you confused people who still don't understand that biology doesn't make you a parent, I'm just sitting here SMDH.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

An Open Letter to the Parents Who Think It Will Never Happen to Them

Dear Moms and Dads Everywhere:

I know as a parent we want to think that the 'bad things' will never happen to our own kids. We all believe that we have raised them better, taught them better and have a better relationship with them than all the 'other parents' out there. Believe me, I understand this. I was this exact type of Mom up until 3 weeks ago.

I thought I was doing everything the 'right' way. I have always been very open and honest with our teenagers on all the hot topics - especially sex. Sex is not a taboo topic in our home. I talk about it openly and honestly. See, I was raised in a home where anything related to sex was hush hush. I didn't want to create that type of atmosphere in our home. My belief was if we talked about it openly like it wasn't an embarrassing or 'off limits' topic, we would open up lines of communication and the kids wouldn't be embarrassed to broach these topics or come to us. I have never been under the belief that my teens would abstain from sex, but I thought we had educated, talked about and instilled that with sex comes responsibility and that we were always there to get them what they needed to have protected and responsible sex.

When our teenagers entered into relationships, we would talk about the physical side of being 'in love' and about making the choice to have sex and what all that meant - emotionally and physically. I was a teenager not so long ago. I remember the feelings that accompanied those first 'love' experiences and how consuming it can be. How I thought my high school sweetheart was 'the one' and we would spend forever together. I also know the reality of that and most times, we don't end up with our 'first loves.' So I would try to convey the reality of those relationships with our children so they could attempt to keep their heads on straight and not make a decision that would affect the rest of their life.

When my 17 year old daughter became serious with her boyfriend 10 months ago, I had the same conversation with her. Both her and her boyfriend are heavily involved in church and have always been proponents of waiting until marriage. They were the two that people used as examples of how to stand up for your beliefs and live your beliefs out loud each day. But even still, I talked to her about sex. I asked the questions as things got serious between them like, 'have you two talked about sex?' In one of these conversations she told me they had discussed it and maybe wouldn't wait until marriage but didn't feel like now was the right time. I told her, please come to me and talk to me before you guys take that next step. If that's a choice you make, lets do it the right way and be prepared for that step in your relationship. I told her she would never be in trouble if that's what they chose to do, but to keep an open dialogue with me.

She looked me in the eye and promised me that she would. And I believed her. Because I thought I was doing everything right.

Fast forward to 3 weeks ago. That's when I learned that what I thought could never happen to our family, has in fact happened.

My daughter is 27 weeks pregnant and hid it from her father and I for 25 weeks. I am going to be a Grandmother at 35.

Shocked. Devastated. Hurt. Pissed. I can't even put into words here what I felt at that moment and what I'm feeling right now. All I could keep thinking to myself is, 'how did this happen to us?' Never in a million years did I expect my Senior in high school to be pregnant. Not her - not the athlete and and the girl who lived to go to Wednesday night youth and wanted so badly to do missions work this summer. Not the girl who had plans to play college softball. Not the couple who so vocally for so long stood for waiting until marriage. Not these two. How could it be happening with these two?

Over the last 3 weeks I keep looking back to the last 10 months and all I can keep asking myself is 'what did I do wrong.' What could I have done to prevent this? Why did my baby girl feel like for 25 weeks she couldn't come to us, who have done nothing but love and support her. Where the hell did we go wrong?

I've cried. I've been pissed. I have had heart to heart talks with my best friends (who by the way, I would not have survived these 3 weeks without). I've had individuals reach out to me who I never in a million years would have thought would have so many kind words of wisdom for me. And here's what I've figured out.

There is nothing we could have done differently. And her choice is not a reflection on us as parents.

Teenagers are teenagers. And at some point, they are going to make decisions, good or bad, based on what they want. We have done our best to instill a value system that we think should guide them through life and decision making, but the reality is, at some point they make decisions based on what they want to do and feel like doing. I've struggled with why she didn't come and talk to me, but no matter how open I hope the lines of communication are, they are still kids and there are things they just don't want to talk to Mom and Dad about. There comes a time when they step out on their own and start to live their life in the way they want to live their life.

I never thought it would happen to us. But the reality is, it did. We thought we were doing everything right, but the truth is, all we can do as parents is try our very best.

Where do we go from here, well that's probably another post for another day. I will say we are 100% on board with supporting our daughter and her decision to raise her baby. We will do everything in our power to ensure she gets her higher education and is successful in life for her and her child. Because, at the end of the day, we love our kids, even when they disappoint us. We are moving forward and making the very best out of our situation at hand.

But, I just want to caution everyone, don't ever say, 'that will never happen to us.' Because you just never know. There is no 'type' of teenager that this happens to. Teenage pregnancy is not an issue that only affects a certain race, socioeconomic status or only happens to 'those' families. It happens and can happen to any of our kids. Teenage pregnancy doesn't result from bad parenting or a lack of parenting. Teen pregnancy happens because they are teens.

So, for all who think it can never happen to you, I was right there with you 3 weeks ago.


The Momma Who Has Had to Eat Her Words

Monday, October 28, 2013

Learning to embrace McDonald's and Ramen Noodles

A few weeks back I put a post up on Facebook:

"If I had known 2-1/2 years ago that all I had to do for Derrick to get A's on his tests was to buy him McDonald's - we would have had a lot smoother last 2-1/2 years! "

You see, I didn't know any better 2-1/2 years ago. I had this naive notion that I was going to take 4, half grown children, and change them all overnight. We were going to start eating all our veggies (versus the years of eating mainly fast food), we were going to make straight A's (when our 4th grader was nearly failing the 4th grade), we were going to keep spotless rooms (after never been made to clean up after themselves) and we were going to do it all with a good attitude (yeah right).

When everything didn't happen just like I wanted, immediately, my first response was always anger. And then frustration. I mean, these were smart children. How could they not understand what it was I wanted and execute those things. For almost a year, we had a nightly war at the dinner table between ourselves and the youngest one over taking one bite (yes, just one bite) of the dinner I had made. Homework brought screaming and tears and fighting - nightly. Cleaning our room was a chore that included my husband physically sitting in the kids room and instructing them on what to do. To say I was flabbergasted by all of it - that's an understatement.

What the hell was going on here?

It took a long time (and it's a continuous learning process) for me to understand that: 1. all these changes couldn't take place overnight 2. some things may never change 3. it's all in how you approach the situation.

The only thing I knew about growing up was how I had grown up. My upbringing was about as opposite as you could get for these kiddos that came into my life. When I first met them, each one told me of their future plans - they were going to stay here in East Texas. They had no college plans or aspirations. No dreams. No goals. And it made me so sad.

So, I dug in. And what seemed like every day my husband and I would tweak the way we were doing things. We would try different things to see what encouraged them or motivated them. We tried taking things away, we tried giving them monetary incentives, we tried praise and unfortunately, did a lot of yelling along the way. What we learned is that no one way works for all the kids. They are each unique individuals who have their own things that drive them.

My biggest challenge from the get go has been the youngest one. He is hard headed, stubborn and ornery. Did I mention stubborn? I've learned several things with him. First of all, there is no point in making my entire family miserable at dinnertime each night over him eating the meal I have fixed. 9 times out of 10 these days, after we sit down, he makes himself a bowl of Ramen Noodles, and everyone is happy. It still drives me crazy he won't even try things, but my sanity is worth far more than that child eating a piece of corn.

The second thing is the right motivators can do wonders. That 4th grader who came into my life almost failing, is now the star student in our house. He has turned into an A/B student, who is so proud to come home and study and to do well in school. Junk food is a motivator for him - sad but true. We keep or eat very little junk food at home, so it's a big treat for him. If he knows he can get a 12 piece nugget meal out of an A on a test, he is all over it. So, it's working well for all of us.

Maybe most importantly I've learned that everything takes time. We still never have clean rooms, but all 3 of our kids now have big plans for their future. All plan to go on to college - and none of them want to stay anywhere near East Texas. They all have huge dreams and goals now - and that makes me happier than any veggie they could ever eat. This journey has brought us to a place where they finally see a huge value in themselves and know they are capable of doing anything they dare to dream.

And, if it takes a little McDonald's and Ramen Noodles to get us to that point - I would say that is a pretty good trade off.