2014 in review! Thank you friends for making my blog so special. I’m on a brief hiatus, due to new job, but will be back strong in 2015.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 47 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Rules For Dating My Sons…

I’ve seen a couple different lists, written by mothers, that contain rules for dating their son. Most of the rules seem to imply that the girlfriend reading them is either money hungry, dramatic, stupid or manipulative. On one of the lists there was a rule that stated “Remember, I can be your worst nightmare”.

How stupid.

We live in a world full of “men” who can’t have a healthy relationship because of their mothers. Trust me – I have seen it within my own family. Why is that? Because we have helicopter moms who refuse to cut the umbilical cord so their boys can become men and love a woman. What I find most ironic is the women who hang on tight to their sons are the same women who are married to mama’s boys – and they bitch and complain about them all the time. Instead of changing the cycle, they grasp on to their son with talons so tight that the boy never really learns to fly on his own, thus creating another mama’s boy and another wife to complain about it. See the pattern?

I have five boys and while I only gave birth to one of them, I want them ALL to grow up and find someone that they can share the rest of their lives with. I think as a mom we want to believe that our son will never love ANY woman as much as he loves us. What we should understand is our son will never love another woman with the same capacity as they love us, there’s a huge difference. I want all my sons to love their wives more than they love me and their birth mother. Anything less than that love is unacceptable. When he marries he will become a family and my sons should always put his family first.

Here is a list of rules for my five sons potential girlfriends/wives:

1. Respect his boundaries: We live in a world full of sex, sex, sex. The pressure to sleep with a mate is woven into almost every movie, song and t.v. show out there. My husband and I are raising our son in a Christian household and we would like to hope that he waits until he gets married to have sex. We are not naïve enough to disregard the fact that it may happen a lot sooner than his wedding day. I ask that if my son doesn’t want to sleep with you that you admire his morals and boundaries and that you respect them. Don’t pressure him or degrade him, please, he is showing you respect.

2. He’s not an ATM: Ok, I admit, this sounds a little harsh but give me a second to explain. I am not assuming that you are money hungry. What I am trying to say is let him live within his means. His father and I had to learn the hard way about saving and living within means and it is a lesson that we have tried to pass on to our son. I am sure he would like nothing more than to wine and dine you, buy you flowers and jewelry and make you feel like the most special girl in the world. But if he can’t do that right now then please don’t make him feel bad. Maybe one day he might be able to do all of those things, maybe he won’t, but either way please don’t pressure him into making decisions that could potentially ruin any good credit he has.

3. Forgive his buttheadedness: Yes, I know, every once and a while he his a butthead. I know this, I was raising him in his teen years so I got to see it regularly. He also is his fathers son and his father can be a butthead too, a really big one! But my husband is also loving, kind and has the biggest heart ever! He is hard working and loyal. All traits that he has SHOWN our son, not just preached them. We all have our moments of brokenness, yourself included, please extend to him the same Grace you would want given to you.

4. Make him laugh: There is something very sexy about making your man laugh. Whenever I make my husband laugh I feel like I’ve won a prize. Laughter is very powerful and I believe that it’s a very important component in a relationship. I got to listen to my son laugh as he grew up and it was amazing. Please keep that going.

5. Love life together: Strengthen your bond by learning to love life together. Find a common bond, whatever it may be; cooking, hiking, reading… and always try to grow it. Explore life and all the amazing things that it has to offer. Having a hobby you can share with each other will strengthen your relationship and give you both something to look forward to.

6. Learn to be apart: Just as important as learning to love life together is learning it’s ok to do things on your own. It’s ok to do things with your girlfriends and for him to do things with his guy friends. Have separate hobbies that allow you time to yourself or with friends. I promise you this will make you stronger as a couple.

7. Never stop learning: He is not the same person he was 10 years ago and neither are you. As you both will be different people 10 years from now. Keep learning as much as you can from each other and from life. Each obstacle life puts in front of you, learn from it. Don’t let the world tear you guys apart, learn from your mistakes forgive and move on.

8. I am not your enemy: Whether you are my sons girlfriend or wife I will never purposely hurt you. I will not always side with my son because he is my son. I am fair and honest and want nothing but the best for both of you. Please do not be afraid of me or afraid to talk to me. I encourage open communication and would love nothing more than to have a great relationship with you.

9. Let him be a knight: Society has this push for women to be as independent as they can be, and I don’t disagree. I have a daughter, I want her to be able to function on her own; change her own tires, live by herself etc. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t want a man to show her respect and love, which is what you and her both deserve. I know you are fully capable of opening your own doors, pulling out your own chairs and pretty much anything else in life, but if my son wants to show you his love by doing those things for you, please let him. He isn’t seeing you as an incapable person, he is showing you a high level of respect. Chivalry is almost dead in this world, I’ve worked hard with my son to try and keep it alive.

10. Put God first: We raised our son in a Christian home. We have taught him that with God, anything is possible. We have prayed together as a family, built homes for the needy as a family, helped the less fortunate as a family – and we did it all in Gods name. Keep Him first in your relationship and you guys will be ok. You both will stumble and fall but if your foundation is strong from the beginning, nothing can tear you down. Remember, a family that prays together, stays together.

One day my sons will be married with kids… I look forward to those days and being a part of their amazing lives.
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Bittersweet is an acquired taste.

“If I was a stay at home mom I would work out all the time. My house would be spotless. I would have all my things organized. My laundry would be clean all the time.”

I wish I could’ve put salt on these words when I had to eat them, it might have made them taste better.

Here’s the reality: I don’t work out nearly as much as I’d like to, if at all. Matter of fact, I’ve actually gained about 10 pounds since riding the SAHM train. My house is spotless for about two hours, twice a week. Really. And I consider it a great day when all the clothes are washed, dried AND put away.

As my stay at home mom journey is about to end I am becoming increasingly sad and happy. It’s a crazy thing when you have two completely opposite emotions running through your body at the same time. Just when I am excited about going to work and pushing myself to learn new things my daughter will crawl on my lap and randomly stroke my face and it makes me sad that my alone time with her will be no more.

For years I longingly looked at the greener grass, sighing, and wishing I could grow it. Oh the things I could do… So when the opportunity presented itself, my husband and I decided it was the best thing to do for our family. Suddenly I found myself in unfamiliar territory – greener grass. Or was it? The first two weeks I was rocking it; getting up early and making breakfast, working out and cleaning like a mad man. Then I thought “wait, you have been nonstop for years, take a breather”. Suddenly, sleeping in until 7:00 was ok, my warm bed was enticing and I had no regrets letting it lull me back into a peaceful slumber when my husband would leave for work. My pace that was normally set to “manic” was turned down a couple notches to “normal”.

Then the honeymoon phase ended quickly and my new job of being a SAHM started to show signs of actual “work”. It seems like my manic tone set in again. 5 kids in school meant a lot of driving, a lot of laundry and a lot of cleaning. To help with finances I started working a side job at home. I’ve never worked with a toddler before and they don’t make your job very easy. When I was managing 19 people I can’t recall any of them following me into a bathroom stall and then throwing a fit when I asked them to step out. Having this little person around me 24/7 definitely made my job a lot harder. Yoga pants became my best friend and so did a ponytail. I had make up but it was something that I wore on Sundays, when I finally got out of the house and went to church.

I don’t want to sound like all my time at home is stressful, I was, and still am, fully aware at how blessed I am to be at home. Whenever I walk to the park, go grocery shopping in the middle of the day, meet up with a mommy for a play date or stay at home with one of the kiddo’s when they are sick I ALWAYS have this overwhelming sense of gratitude. My favorite part is when I rock my daughter to sleep for nap time. Watching her delicate features as they drift off to dreamland, feeling her slow and steady breathing and laying her in her crib with her dolls – no amount of money can ever replace that time or feeling.

Here is what I have learned: being a stay at home mom is hard work. It’s harder than I ever imagined it to be. But the greener grass I had been looking at was something I had the whole time – I just used different fertilizer to grow it. Staying at home is the most rewarding feeling in the world. It has given me more highs than I could’ve ever imagined. And as I am counting down the days for my return to work I am soaking in every moment possible. But I am also looking forward to getting out into the world again, finding my identity and becoming a financial contributor to the home. Pushing myself, learning and growing outside of my house is a wonderful thing and I can’t wait.

I know I WILL be ok. I have worked full time jobs with my kids. To have a year that I was able to stay home is such a miracle and something that most working women would take in a heartbeat. Life will go on, I will love my job and things will be alright. However, I am allowing myself the opportunity to grieve these two weeks because I feel the transition from home to office will be a smoother one if I have most of my “boo-hoos” out of the way. And if the amount of times I have broken down today is an indication of what’s in store, I still have a lot of boo-hoo’s to get out of my system. Soooo… better get to get them out in the comfort of my home than having a breakdown amongst my new coworkers, right? It wouldn’t be fair to show them that quickly how crazy I am 🙂
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13 Years Later I’m More Terrified Than Ever…

September 11th, 2001 I woke up and got ready for work. I kissed my boyfriend goodbye, got in my car and drove off. I hadn’t made it out of the neighborhood and I was already annoyed by the morning show I was listening to. Kiss FM, Krazy Kid and Ruben S were normally upbeat, laughing and played the best hip hop. But that morning they were in serious discussion, no music, just talking. I pulled up to the stop light that turns out of my neighborhood, was checking my make up in the rearview mirror when I heard Krazy Kid say “If you’re just tuning in, early this morning America was attacked by terrorists”

Wait, what!?

Panicked I hurried to work. At the time I was working as a contractor at Honeywell. I was 23 and minus a pretty crappy childhood I had never witnessed anything like I was hearing on the radio. Planes flying into buildings?! What in the hell… I got to work and called Fernando and broke the news to him. He and I sat on the phone as we both watched TV, simultaneously taking in the horrific views. Different channels, same nightmare.

I had heard that a Honeywell employee was somehow involved in the 1993 bombing of the WTC, not caring to get that piece of “history” confirmed I told my boss I was going home. I wanted no part of work that day. No one was really working anyway, we were all in the break room watching the TV. I wanted to be home with my boyfriend because at that time in my life, he was my world. I drove home and sat with him until he went to work (he worked the night shift) and I stayed up until he got home. We stayed up late, watching the news, horrified by images that would be forever burned into my memory.

I remember a lot of random things after 9/11. I remember Fernando and I sitting on our driveway and lighting a candle for the deceased, being sad and discussing what a tragedy it all was. I remember a year or so later we took a trip to Vegas. The New York, New York casino has a wrought iron fence around the outside. The fence was covered with letters, tv shirts, flowers, balloons, candles – you name it and it was there. People wanted to send their love to New York and did it in the best way they could, leave some love at a New York themed casino. The Bellagio fountains were set to the song “God Bless the USA” by Lee Greenwood. I watched it countless times, tears streaming down my cheeks. I remember the day after Fernando and I got married we were getting ready to board our red-eye flight to Antigua. The man checking in next to me looked like a terrorist. Yes, I was profiling but at the time I didn’t care. I was more concerned about his “luggage”, a cardboard box that looked like it had been thrown down a flight of stairs and ducked taped together. I was even more concerned when the guy had a seat right next to me on the plane. Certain he was going to bomb the plane, I watched his every move, ready to pounce on him if he so much as looked like he was up to no good. Luckily the flight had no issues, we landed safely and enjoyed a week in the Caribbean. I remember in 2007 Fernando’s company flew me to New York. They were thinking about relocating Fernando out there and wanted me to check it out. It was love at first sight for me and the Big Apple. I loved the hustle and bustle, loved the people, the food and the energy. I remember walking out of Grand Central Station and how you could still see remnants of the explosion. The black on the walls and cracks in corners. I remember walking outside and seeing ground zero. The gaping hole where two mighty buildings had once stood. On one side there was a timeline that listed everything that happened the day of 9/11. I was disgusted by the people standing there smiling, taking selfies and pictures with these big grins on their faces. I wanted to scream at them “DON’T YOU REMEMBER WHAT HAPPENED HERE?” I remember the downfall of the economy, the layoffs and the turmoil. I remember my boss at Prudential, Ted, was from New York. I didn’t like him, he annoyed me and we never really got a long. But one day he told the story of where he was on 9/11. He was in the tower when it was hit and he described the chaos, confusion and fear. It was gripping. He was in tears and so was I. I remember so much about that time. But during all that time I never felt anxious about it happening again. I trusted that our troops would keep us safe and the government was on top of everything. I remember being at my friend Gingers house the day of Shock and Awe, we watched as the bombs started flying. I remember feeling like it was going to be ok.

Then I became a mom.

January 24th, 2008 my son was born. Along with his birth came an onset of anxiety that has only gotten worse. And I’d like to say that it is a “normal” anxiety like being socially awkward or being afraid of crowded elevators, but it isn’t. At least to me it isn’t normal and I don’t think it seemed normal to Jason, my second husband, when I told him about the things I struggled with after Adan was born. Like my fear of asteroids hitting the earth before I could get to him. Yes, that was a legit fear I had. I would drive home with watchful eyes on the sky. Jason’s exact words were “That’s really messed up”; confirming my fear that my anxiety isn’t on a “normal” level. I fear post apocalyptic situations, terrorist attacks, public shootings and anything I have NO control over. I have woken up in the middle of the night, scared that someone will come in and take my daughter. I can barely watch the news anymore…between the Ebola outbreak concern, murders, kidnappings and school shootings I feel sick to my stomach.

We live in a world where our children have to practice “lock downs”. My son started kindergarten last year and had his first practice lock down. That night he broke down in the shower, crying and terrified because he was scared and he didn’t want to experience one in real life. I soothed my son, my sweet, sensitive child, and told him it would be ok and what they are doing was good practice. Better safe than sorry. Once he calmed down I went into my closet and cried because I am frightened about the same thing.

The older I get the more I realize how ugly this world is becoming. I almost feel like I owe my children an apology for bringing them into this scary, selfish place. I know the best thing I can do is raise them to know God but it’s hard to do that with everything they’re surrounded by. Nothing in this world hit me, I mean really hit me, until I became a mom. Now I am constantly terrified. I envy my husband and his über laid back attitude. His insane ability to fall asleep before his head hits the pillow, to not care about the things that play in my mind, over and over again. This anxiety is exhausting and it’s robbing me of enjoying everything I should be enjoying.

There are the people who laugh if off and tell me to “just not worry about it”. It’s concerning, really, the lack of knowledge people have about anxiety. Rest assured, if someone with anxiety could just “not worry about it”, we would. But I’ve seen the nightmare in real life, the people jumping from buildings, planes flying into buildings… The ugliness goes on and on. Because I know what’s happened in the past, I fear what can happen in the future. And what scares me the most is not being able to protect my children in those situations.

I read a post this morning from one of my friends, he said something to the effect of “don’t forget the bad things that happened that day but also don’t forget the good that happened afterwards”. I needed to read that because it’s true. There was a lot of good that happened after 9/11 and there still is a lot of good left in this world. There is a silver lining to every cloud, I know this, but sometimes you have to look really hard to find it. And sometimes my fears won’t let me find it.

If you struggle with anxiety you know what I’m talking about. You know the tightness in your chest, the racing heart, the wave of heat that flows through your body. The stomach that turns upside down and the dizziness you experience. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, let’s make a vow to think more positively. Let’s promise each other that we are going to fight the evil thoughts with good thoughts and get the help when we need it (yes, I take medicine now and then – there’s zero shame in that). For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about but have a friend who suffers from anxiety, give them a hug and let them know you love them. Please don’t try to give advice on how to “make it better”, just be a loving, caring friend.

To the terrorists, and all the other evil people out there, I’m doing everything in my power to not let you steal my sanity. You will NOT win.

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Crosswalk Etiquette

I was dropping my kids off at school the other day when it hit me how incredibly awful the process was. For most people it isn’t a big deal but I have five kids that attend four different schools. The middle two are a fairly simple process, I pull up to the sidewalk and they hop out of the car, no big deal. It’s the oldest and the youngest two schools that have me frustrated.

My oldest one attends high school. Leaving the parking lot, after dropping him off at the curb, is insanity. But, unlike the elementary school, the problem with high school is the students complete lack of consideration for the drivers. While parents are lined up, driving somewhat faster than a snails pace, the students just walk out into the road without so much as a sideways glance. Unfortunately, I know there really is no way to correct that, it is what it is and I was probably the same way. In high school you are invincible, cocky and above reproach (for the most part) and you have a hard time getting things through your thick skull. So I will choose to stew in my own grumpiness with this one.

The elementary school is a different story. Every day I am reminded of two things: 1. I am easily angered when people do not follow rules and 2. I will be a very crotchety old lady. I took my frustration out on Facebook saying “Dropping kids off at school is worse than a trip to the airport. People need to write a book about school zone etiquette” to which my friend replied “write a blog about it”. *smacks forehead* duh – why didn’t I think of that. So that is what I am doing…writing a blog about it and spilling all my frustrations out onto the world wide web. But I wanted to do more than just spew ugliness, I wanted to give some kind of solution to the problem. So I thought of 6 simple tips that are easy to follow and will help your morning drop off go more smoothly.

1. Mind the speed limit: You see that white rectangle sign with 15 MPH on it? That speed isn’t optional, it is law. And do me a favor, don’t ride my butt when I start slowing down prior to actually reaching the first of the speed limit signs. I drive slower than the posted speed limit once I am anywhere in the vicinity of a school zone. You want to know why? Because children are reckless. They dart across the street without looking, they fall off their bikes into the street, they play chicken with cars and they aren’t mature enough to realize the severity of doing all of the above. And if minding the posted speed limit is such a big hassle to you it might be time to find another way out of your neighborhood. And if you’re running late for work please don’t compromise the safety of my kids so you don’t get written up.

2. Understand what a crosswalk is: Where I pick my kids up there is a small street that people line with their cars. I noticed one lady would continuously line up in a way that would block the crosswalk. I’m not sure why the crossing guard didn’t say anything to her. My guess is that they are told to keep their mouths shut to prevent any issues. But me being me and me hating to see people break rules, got fed up. I drove past her one afternoon and motioned for her to roll down her window. When she did I yelled “DON’T BLOCK THE !@&%$@ CROSSWALK”. Admittedly not my finest moment as a Christian but one of my prouder moments as a mom. I don’t like yelling at people but I will if I feel it will keep my children safe. And, for what it matters, she doesn’t block the crosswalk anymore. Impeding the crosswalk is just rude and blatant rudeness makes me insane. A crosswalk is just that – a walk way for you child(ren) to safely cross the street.

3. Accept the fact that little children act the equivalent to drunk frat boys: Remember seeing them at parties? The big group of drunk frat guys, shirts off and loudly making their way to another party. Kids are pretty much the same way when they get out of school for the day, but they keep their shirts on, for the most part. They travel in these packs ranging from two kids to seven and when they split off they always have extreme ways of saying goodbye. They get so caught up in the exits that they don’t focus on anything else. I have seen kids literally walk right in front of a moving car while waving goodbye to someone. There are the few kids that like to travel alone, whether by foot or bike, and they are just as dangerous. They walk with such purpose that anything happening outside of the ten feet in front of them becomes invisible. I point this out because as the adult in a 2000lb vehicle YOU are the responsible one. You have to make sure that when you are in a high traffic area, like a crosswalk, YOU need to be careful. Don’t expect the 6 year olds to be careful when crossing the roads. Should they? Yes. Will they? Probably not.

4. Stop signs are helpful, really: Especially the four way stop signs. What’s not helpful is when some jerk thinks he doesn’t need to follow the rules and wants to go before it’s his turn, almost causing a crash. Don’t be that guy. Just stop at the stop sign I promise it won’t kill you.

5. Crossing guards are special people: I don’t know how the crossing guards get chosen. Do all the teachers draw straws, do they play a tournament of ‘rock, paper, scissors’? However it comes to be, I don’t know, but what I do know is I wouldn’t want to do it. The heat, the cold, the rain, the snow (other places, not in Mesa, lol), crazy drivers and hyperactive kids wouldn’t be something that I would volunteer for. So when you see them, be nice to them. Wave hi, smile, say something that isn’t corny like “sure is hot out here” (their sweat drenched face is self explanatory). I loved the crossing guards last year. I talked to them every day. Because right now it is still 900 degrees I sit in my car and wait for my kids. When it’s cooler I will get out and walk to the school to get them and that’s when I will chit chat with the crossing guards. Remember that they have a part in your child(ren)s safety – so be courteous.

6. Patience isn’t a four letter word: The other day I was dropping off my junior higher. Normally this is a cake process. But this time, when he hopped out, he stopped because he suddenly remembered he needed to tell me something. We had a 15 second exchange, seriously it was super quick, and the person behind me beeped their horn. I threw my hands up in the air like “are you kidding me!” If the person in front of you is dropping off kids cut them a little grace. People who are dropping off their kids need to be respectful of time too. Don’t block the only outgoing street and have a full blown conversation with your child standing outside of the car but do be as quick as you can with any exchanges that may need to take place. You’d be surprised, or maybe you wouldn’t be, at how easily kids “forget” to tell you something until the moment you drop them off. It happens – regardless of which car you’re sitting in, don’t be a dolt about it.

Yes the sarcasm is pretty thick. As I’m writing this all I can think is “why do I even have to write this?!” Common courtesy has gone wayside and it makes me angry and sad…but mostly angry.

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5 Crucial Things Every Step Parent Should Know.

My life changed drastically the moment I married my husband. I went from having one boy to five boys! All the cooking, cleaning and laundry that I was used to doing, grew… exponentially! Much like everything else in life, I learned, through what I like to call “baptism by fire”, how to be a stepmom. Some of these lessons were positive experiences and some were negative, but they were lessons nonetheless. In an effort to save blended families emotional turmoil I wanted to share some important points I have learned these past few years.

Here are five crucial things that, I believe, make your “blending” easier.

1. NEVER speak negatively towards the “exes” in front of the children: When Jason and I got married, I told him “I don’t care if your ex is the devil in a small, black dress – you will never speak bad about her in front of the kids”. Spare me your horror stories about what your spouses ex has done because I don’t care. How they act and talk is a reflection on them, not you. You are not doing yourself a favor by talking ill about your spouses ex in front of their children. What you’re doing is creating hostility that will surely backfire on you. It’s your responsibility to teach your children (birth children and step children) how to behave like an adult. Life brings lots of adversity, we ALL know this, and we are accountable for how we handle it. Let’s build our children up by teaching them healthy ways to work through life’s issues. If you have negative things that you need to get off your chest, then you can do one of two things: 1. Take your spouse into a room where the children can’t hear or 2. Call your friend, grab a beer and vent. Whatever your method of relief is, you need to keep it away from the children.

2. Don’t speak about financial matters in front of the kids: Honestly, this point should speak to all family types, blended or not. I remember one time Jason was standing in our kitchen talking to me about bills and our lack of income. I saw the oldest child’s head pop up and his attention honed into our conversation. My nonverbal communication kicked into overdrive. Hand motions, eye motions – anything I could do to get my husbands attention. He stared at me for a moment, I’m fairly certain he thought I was having a stroke, and finally said “what?” I took my husband upstairs and told him what I’m going to tell you. Kids need to be kids. They do not need to stress about financial matters. If you and your spouse are stressing about cash and bills then you need to discuss your affairs in the privacy of your bedroom/office. Your children’s home needs to be their safety nest. Don’t add undo affliction in their life by making your problems their worries. Kids have more than enough to worry about in today’s day and age. Also, for blended families, no snide remarks about “Your father/mother should be paying for this.” (Please see #1).

3. You will have to compromise: This was a tough one for me. I mean helloooo, I’m a perfect parent, why do I have to change anything. When I was raising my son from a previous marriage, I had a staunch meal rule: 1 meat, 1 starch, 1 veggie. My husband and his ex had no such rule when they were married. I advised my husband, then fiancé, that this rule would stay intact when we were married. Meal time was stressful, but tolerable, until the, as I like to call it, Great Green Bean Debacle of 2011. My first time serving green beans to my blended family caused an uproar. There was rioting, pillaging and teargas. Ok, not really, but there were tears and fighting. I went to bed that night feeling defeated. The next day I was crying to a friend about it. She said “Pick your battles wisely. These kids have gone through enough in the past year. Are veggies something you really want them to be stressed about?” I was really motivated by that statement. I have a conviction for children to be healthy; meals, exercise and behavior, so I knew if I wanted to keep my conviction strong I would have to find ways to work around the veggie issue. I admit, it’s still a work in progress, but they have come a long way. The veggies that they do eat I will serve. If I make a veggie they don’t like but are willing to try it – lots of praises. For my husband, his compromise was bedtimes. When he and his ex were married the children got to go to sleep whenever they wanted. I was afraid when we started to enforce this rule, in our newly blended house, that we would receive pushback from the kids. But to my surprise it was a complete non-issue.

4. Your feelings will change on a daily basis: It’s hard being a step parent. No one said that to me before I married my husband. It wouldn’t have changed my mind but I would’ve been more prepared for my feelings. There are days my step sons make me feel like Iron Man and there are days they make me feel like the village idiot. But that’s true to having kids whether your birthed them or not. The difference when you’re a step parent is you always feel like you have something to prove. The boys love their mom dearly, why wouldn’t they? She’s laid back, does a lot of fun stuff with them and her house rules are drastically different than ours. I am not laid back, can’t afford to do a lot of fun stuff and I run a tight ship. For me, it’s about raising Godly men, not being their friend. This obviously has it’s ups and downs. When it’s good, it’s great. When it’s bad, well, it’s heartbreaking. The eye rolls, sighs and “I can’t wait to go to mom’s house” threaten to break my will every time. When I am upset I will talk to my husband and he always gives me the same advice “You won’t be thanked for it until their adults.” He’s right, I probably won’t be thanked for anything I do until their older, but that doesn’t make it easier. But then there are the days were we have a major break throughs; the oldest will finally have a real conversation with me, one of the kids have a have an epiphany about my tooth brushing nagging, the kids will step up and help each other, you get a hug and an I love you when they go to bed without having to ask. Those are the days that make the bad days tolerable.

5. Communicate with your spouse: I don’t know what I would do if Jason weren’t as strong as he is. He is my rock and refuge in this rollercoaster of life. There have been times that I have completely melted down about something the kids said to me. He has always talked me through each incident with patience and love. He has to remind me that I take too much in, I feel too much and I take things personally. Kids will be kids and I have to remember that. The times that were rocky for us was when I was trying to make him parent Adan, my son from my first marriage, a specific way. I wanted him to be touchy feely and affectionate. Jason had to constantly remind me that he isn’t like that with his own kids, why would he do it for my son. His unwavering declaration was “let me bond with Adan in my own way.” It took me a while, and lots of arguments, to realize he was 100% correct. He had to bond with my son in an organic way, not a forced, uncomfortable way. In the beginning, our discussions weren’t always smooth, it took a long time for both of us to learn how to hear what the other person was saying. Not just immediately get defense because we thought they were talking bad about our children. Over time it has become much, much easier.

Being a blended family can be hard, there is no question about that, but hopefully these points will help you “blend” a lot easier. A blended family is a beautiful thing.
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Finding the silver lining.

My eyes opened. It was still dark outside so I knew it was still early. I rubbed my eyes and rolled onto my back. I was stressed and when I’m stressed I don’t sleep well. I had been tossing and turning all night. Our finances, or lack thereof, had me worried and I hated that I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I was able to doze off for a little bit but woke up again. I rolled over and snuggled with my husband. I love listening to him breathe and his warm skin always comforts me. But just as I start to doze off again my princess started yelling for me and I knew there was no sleep in my immediate future.

I get up and start the Sunday morning routine. Get the little girl her cereal, fumble with the coffee pot and sit down for a cup. When the rest of the house is up I start getting ready for church. Midway through getting ready I head over to the younger boys room and tell them they need to start getting ready. I receive an attitude so, in turn, I yell. Frustrated I stand in my bathroom, looking at the bottle of my anxiety medication. About three weeks of the month I don’t need it but we are creeping closer to that one week I do. For some reason I take a double dose, I just had this feeling that I was going to need it and turns out I was right, and I continue getting ready. A couple of moments later I hear a knock on my bedroom door.

“What?” I grumble.
“Lori” says Payton, “I just want to say sorry for giving you attitude earlier”.
“It’s ok. Thank you for apologizing”.

That’s weird. Very rarely do preteen boys apologize on their own so quickly. When Jason came in I asked if he had said something to Payton that prompted his apology.

“Nope”.

As we were leaving for church we took two separate cars. Jason was taking the boys to a football camp right after church and I was staying at church to help. I had most the kids with me in the car and as we are driving, they apologize. Their unsolicited apologies about their attitude earlier make me feel better and when we get to church I start to relax. My church is my home away from home and I always feel better when I am surrounded by my church family. In the beginning of service I sneak off to the back to help with offering. On the way to the back of the sanctuary Christina, my best friend, follows me. She helps with offering as well so we walk over to where we need to be and wait. Because she knows me well she immediately sensed my aura.

“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Just same old thing. I’m tired of talking about it”.
“I’m sorry honey”

After church I hang out, talking to my friends. Jason says he is going to take our larger car, with the working AC, to the football camp. I agree and we swap car keys. When I am done with helping close out the drawers for our churches grill (another thing I do to serve), Christina asks if she can ride with me to my house and grab her daughters bottle that she had left there. I tell her no problem and then give her the warning that the car we are driving has no AC so be prepared.

Christina, my two-year old princess Aliya, my six year old son Adan and I get into the blistering hot car. Luckily I live a short distance from church but in the Arizona summer, driving in a car with no AC can make even the shortest of trips seem like a walk in Dante’s Inferno. As we pull into my driveway I had a horrible realization. I didn’t have my house key and the garage door opener doesn’t work. I call Jason and ask if he had hidden the house key somewhere in the car. I hear the stress in his voice when he tells me that the house key is in his pockets.

“I’ll turn around and bring the key to you”
“Don’t” I say, agitated, “I’ll figure it out”

I hang up the phone and just look at my door, then at Christina, there are a million places I’d rather be than where I am at. I grab the garage door opener and tell her I’m going to take it to Walmart to get new batteries, I’m convinced that’s all I need to do. Just as we are about to get back into the car, Christina’s husband pulls up. I tell him my solution and he graciously grabs my controller and takes it to his parents house, just a few streets away, because they have new batteries. So the four of us wait in the scorching heat for our knight to return. After what seemed like an hour, but was maybe five minutes, he returns. My solution to getting into the house was a complete failure. I pushed and pushed the button, stood close to the garage, away from the garage…nothing worked. Defeated I told the kids to get back into the car. My voice cracked and tears leaked out my eyes. Christina walked up and wrapped her arms around me. I start to cry as my sweet friend thankfully takes control.

“Here’s what we’re gonna do. Follow us to my in-laws house. I will give you the keys to my house and you can hang out there until Jason is done”

So that’s what I did.

On my way driving to their house I realized that I was going to be okay. I felt so convicted to let my husband know that I wasn’t mad at him that I pulled over on to a side road and texted him. I didn’t want to take away from the fun that he was supposed to be having with the boys. I made it to Christina’s house and walked into the cool air-conditioned living room and smiled. Because they are like family to me, I felt no hesitation in making myself at home. I got the kids drinks, put a movie on and then made my way into Christina’s room where just the day before we had been going through her clothes. I knew there was a small pile that was mine and I knew that pile had shorts and a tank top in it. Relieved to be out of my hot outfit I sat on the couch with a glass of ice water and rested. When Christina and her family got home I got to hang out with them, something that I cherish.

Jason calls me when the football camp was over and tells me to meet him at Ross so we can take the kids back to school shopping. I put my kids in the hot car and drive to Ross with a big smile on my face. You see, a couple of days earlier I received a letter in the mail from a dear friend. She knew we were tight on cash and wanted to do something nice for our family. Enclosed in this letter was money for each kid. With her financial gift we were able to take all the kids to get new clothes for school. So even driving to the store in that ridiculously hot car made me grin ear to ear.

So easily I can let my situation, whatever it may be, get the best of me. I don’t want to trivialized what happened that Sunday – it was tough in those moments, but I was taken care of the whole way. My kids made me upset, but quickly apologized. I got locked out of my house; went to my best friends house, which is like my second home anyway. We are tight on money; we got blessed by a friend and we were able to take our kids shopping. I ended up having a really, really great day. Every time a cloud threatened to reside above my head something positive happened and the storm passed. My reminder to always find the silver lining in life.

Sunday was blatant proof that GOD IS GOOD. In the midst of all my struggles he nudged me and said “hey, I got this”. While my problems in life are anything but solved, I know that I will be okay. I will still have my bad days, I am human after all, but I will definitely be making a more concentrated effort on my view of things. I have got a beautiful family, a wonderful church family and a loving, forgiving Father. I need to remember those things when I am faced with adversity.

James 1:2-3 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

What makes a true Christian?

A couple of days ago I asked my Facebook friends for ideas on blog topics. I had a lot of good suggestions but one stood out to me more than the others. The question was “What makes a true Christian?”

My assumption is you can ask that question to 100 people and you’ll get 100 subjective answers. My answer is a subjective one as well. I am not a religion expert, haven’t gone to school for it and I don’t know the bible front to back. But I knew I had to answer this question because I had been struggling with it as well.

I started thinking of all my Christian friends that I look up to and want to emulate. What about them made them “true” Christians. Was it their ability to quote bible verses at rapid fire speed? Is it the way they are nice to everyone they encounter? What about helping out someone in need? Sure – all of those are amazing qualities that my “true” Christian friends have. But you know what? So do my atheist friends. I have an atheist friend – and his atheist wife – who can run circles around me when it comes to the bible, it’s amazing. They’re nice people, do great things, have Christian friends – but they aren’t Christians. Ok… so if those qualities don’t make a true Christian, then what does? I’ll get there, I promise.

Two nights ago my husband and I had a heart to heart talk about some of the things that were happening in our life. As Jason talked about how he felt, he brought up something that our pastor had said in church that Sunday; “The version of reality we adopt is based on the series of relationships we allow”. We both came to realize that something we had changed in our life was something we should’ve changed a while ago, but didn’t, because it was convenient. The changes we have made in our life have rocked the boat – and we are okay with that – because we know it’s the Godly thing to do. We were steadfast in our changes and discussed them with our close, trusted friends. We didn’t broadcast it or make a huge public production. What we did do, though, was rely heavily on each other, and God, to resolve this. And what could’ve been a messy situation for Jason and I was anything but. We were a team and came out of it stronger.

Yesterday was a crazy day for me. I traveled with four kids, all under the age of six, spent five hours at my sister in laws house, where two more children under the age of six were, and tried to sort through clothes and shoes and AAUUGGHH!!! It was hectic, hectic day and I wanted nothing more than to relax. But later in the evening something happened that turned my hectic day into a bad day. I was mad, and I mean mad, to the point my hands were shaking. I told Jason I needed to go for a walk to calm down (no, he was not the reason for my anger) and I texted my best friend and said I was extremely upset and I was going to the park by her house for alone time and if she wanted to join me she could. Shortly after I texted her she responds back “I’m on my way!” Two hours later I head home with a clear head and a happy heart. I curl up in bed with my love, have another heart to heart and I pray for us before we fall asleep.

So I’ve yet to answer the question: “what makes a true Christian?” After everything I have thought about this week and the things that have recently happened, this is my answer: A true Christian is the humble, and faithful, hands and feet of Jesus. It’s the husband and wife who make the tough decision to change something in their life. It’s the friend who hears how upset her friend is and drops everything to be with her, no questions asked. It’s the family that takes you and your child in when you are going through your divorce and can’t afford to live anywhere else. It’s the small group who shows up at your door with money because they know you’re on maternity leave and times are tough. It’s the friends who have given you money without stipulation, just because God placed it on their hearts. It’s the friend who prays with you and says “I believe in you”, when you are in a dark place. It’s the husband who leads his family and does everything he can for them with a Godly heart.

ANYONE can do a good deed. You don’t have to be a Christian to do something amazing. But a true Christian does all their deeds with a God driven purpose and doesn’t just stand there boasting “I’m a Christian”; you have to live your life in a way that proves it. Your good deeds should be done with a grateful and Godly heart, because we are to “Love our neighbors as ourselves” (Mark 12:31), and he wants us to “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God” (Micah 6:8) while we do it. He wants us to “consider it joy when we face trials because the testing of our faith will produce perseverance” (James 1:2-3) and when we can’t be joyful in our trials God wants us to “subject ourselves to the elders” because “God opposed the proud but shows favor to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). God tells us “Do not judge so that you will not be judged” (Matthew 7:1) and to “Guard our heart because everything we do flows from it” (Proverbs 4:23). And when we just can’t handle it, when we are at our end, when we feel lost, down and out, God reminds us “Come to me all who are weak and weary and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Let me end this by saying: I AM NOT PERFECT. There are days where I fail…miserably. There are days where I am nowhere close to what I describe above. But those are the days that I pray, ask for forgiveness and understand that I am human and I WILL makes mistakes. A “true” Christian will never tell you that they are perfect and above reproach. A true Christian is humble because “when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:12).

God – help me continue to be a true Christian. I ask that you give me the wisdom and strength to put you first as I make my decisions and walk through life. Thank you for loving all of my heart, even on the days that I fall flat on my face.

How a tote bag changed me.

The kids and I were getting ready to go to a friend’s house and go swimming. Getting six kids out the door, on top of swimming items (towels, sunblock etc.), is quite a task. As I am frantically gathering all the stuff I need for everyone, my son, Adan, comes up to me.

“Mom?”
“Yes sweetie?”
“I’m part of this family, right?”

I stopped and looked at him. I did a quick inventory of the mornings activities to recall if anything had happened, I didn’t remember hearing any yelling prior to him coming to me… What in the world?? Adan just stood there, the youngest boy, my son from a previous marriage, his big brown eyes staring at me as he patiently waited for an answer.

“Of course you are” I said gently “why in the world would you ask me that question?”
“The bag downstairs. It just says Ray Family. It doesn’t say Ray and Salcido”

Oh my gosh, immediate tears. I knew exactly what he was talking about. A month earlier my friend had held a Proverbs 31 party at her house. I ordered this large, beautiful tote bag. All black (my favorite color) with large pink embroidered letters that spelled out “Ray Family”. Let it be known that I am a sucker for personalized items. I can’t help it. I love stuff with my name on it! I also have a large Proverbs 31 organizer that hangs in my pantry that’s personalized as well.

I got on my knees so I was eye level to my son. I scooped him up in my arms and through my tears I told him that he is absolutely a part of this family. I explained to him that Jason and I are husband and wife and we make up the head of the family. Since our last name is Ray we are the “Ray Family”. Because Adan is my child and Jason is his step father, he is a part of our family.

“Your last name doesn’t decide what family you are a part of” I tell him “It’s what’s in your heart that makes you family”.

For the next hour I was upset. I know I didn’t intentionally try to hurt him and maybe I was a little hormonal and that’s why it upset me so much. But I do know that I learned a valuable lesson from this interaction. It’s not that I will stop getting stuff personalized with “Ray Family” but I should’ve thought about what that might’ve looked like through Adan’s eyes. Next time I get anything personalized I will make sure and remind him that he is part of the “Ray Family”, WHATEVER his last name is.

Another learning curve in this beautiful, blended life.
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My Changing Face

About a week ago as I was getting ready, putting my make up on, I started to get agitated about my face. I could feel the pimples coming and I was angry. That “time” of the month was coming and my face was the first to show signs of it. I had run out of my face wash/moisturizer and hadn’t had time to go and buy more. With no time to do anything about it, I finished getting ready and headed out with the family.

One of the stops we made that day was to the dollar store. The boys had been so good that, as a treat, we let them all pick out some candy. While checking out I saw what I thought to be name brand face wash. Relieved that I was able to find face wash and moisturizer so cheap, I grabbed two boxes and smiled knowing that I would soon be able to properly wash my face.

After two days of using the face wash I noticed my skin tightening, but not in a “wow, this stuff is amazing” kind of way. It was more of a “holy crap, why is the skin under my eyes on fire and my face looking like the Sahara Desert?” In a panic I got a fraction of an inch away from my husbands face and said “oh my gosh – look at my skin! It looks so gross! Why is this stuff not working?!” To which my loving husband replied “you look beautiful, stop stressing”.
“But Jay, my skin looks like it’s cracking!”
“Lori, you look beautiful but it’s the dollar store brand what were you expecting?”
“no, it’s (insert the brand name), it must’ve been an overstock or something”

Jason just shook his head and continued to do what he was doing. I went about my business but still stressed about the burning under my eyes. A couple of nights later as I was starting my nightly face washing routine I looked at the product I had purchased at the dollar store. To my embarrassment, it was, in fact, the dollar store brand. Much chagrined, I wandered downstairs to Jason.
“The jokes on me” I told him.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“You were right – it was the dollar store brand”
He didn’t say anything, but he gave me “that” face. You know, the one that makes me want to simultaneously kiss him and punch him.

The next day I was able to go to the store and purchase my much-needed face wash, moisturizer and under eye cream. I’ve only used it for one day and I already feel the difference in my skin. But for one week I was in a panic about my changing face; the lines that were showing up, the dryness and the redness. I’m not really one that freaks out over aging, I happen to like the laugh wrinkles on the sides of my eyes and my mouth. Maybe it’s because I’m always told that I don’t look my age (I’ll be 37 in October) or that I truly haven’t noticed that much of a change. Whatever the reason I just haven’t cared – until last week when this face wash debacle happened.

There have been times in our relationship that I have been upset at my husband for not “reacting” about things. He doesn’t show excitement, well, rarely shows excitement. I’m on the other end of the spectrum – I’m easily excitable. This was one of those times where I was grateful my husband is who he is. Through this whole week of me freaking out it was his simple, but strong, statements that I needed. I was walking through unfamiliar territory; feeling like I was growing old and unattractive. Each time I stressed about it to my husband, he simply stated “you’re beautiful”.

I never want to stress about aging again. I’m going to age – it’s inevitable. Instead of worrying about it I’m going to embrace it. I thought I had been doing that this whole time until I was challenged by cheaply made face wash. And like other challenges in my life, I freaked out. It was one of those times that I really should’ve relied on my faith and my God. No, I’m not saying I should’ve prayed to God over better moisturizer but I should’ve asked him to give me comfort over aging. Yes, it is important to use healthy products on your body, but it’s more important to have a healthy attitude about life.

I’m an habitual stresser, it’s something I’ve had to consistently work on. When I am stressed I need to remember what it says in Matthew 11:28 Come to me all who are weak and weary and I will give you rest.

Thank you, God, for creating me and loving me, even in the midst of my troubles (and wrinkles, lol).

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